August 31st, 2014

Warm Eggplant-Tomato Salad with Fried Tomato Skins

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It’s the last day of August, and my summer garden is looking ragged. The ongoing battle with Johnson grass is over and I’ve surrendered: a thick border now entrenched along the fence row, and tall clumps reside undisturbed among the tomatoes and wax beans.

Arugula, long since bolted, has reseeded, trying to bully its way up through the weeds. One by one flourishing squashes have collapsed, victims of those dreaded borers. Two large tomato plants yellowed and died, seemingly overnight, the reason unknown.

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Nonetheless, my visits remain fruitful and full of wonder. My stand of Mexican sunflowers continues to put out astonishing blooms in copper, bronze, and blazing yellow, even when their primary heads are bare, petals dropped, seeds picked clean by feasting goldfinches.

The slow-growing Italian roasting peppers are showing streaks of bright red, their fiery signal for harvest.

A few heavy rains have inspired the tomatoes to produce again, although not in the gargantuan sizes of July, and their skins are a bit tougher.

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And my lone eggplant, which weathered an early onslaught of flea beetles, is forming plump white and purple streaked fruit. Sweaty, dusty, but excited, I return home with my pouch filled with just-picked things for dinner.

What to make?

Today’s recipe comes from my cookbook: Caroline’s Warm Eggplant Salad. It uses my garden spoils so well! I’ve embellished only slightly–having found a genius idea in the Farmer’s Market issue of Cooking Light (June 2014).

Chef Deborah Madison shared a simple beefsteak tomato salad with fried tomato skins. It’s those fried skins that caught my attention. They are easy to prepare, and add a welcome bite as a garnish-a clever use for these late summer-tough skinned “maters.”

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After you plunge your tomatoes in boiling water, quickly cooling them in an icy bath, you slip off the skins. Your tomatoes are ready to cube for the salad. Dab the skins dry and pan fry them in a small amount of oil. They’ll become like thin glassy pieces of cellophane, crisp–and when drained and salted–almost “bacony.”

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Even without the fried skins, the salad is simply delicious. A splash of sherry vinegar (a nice change-up from balsamic or red wine,) minced garlic and salt coax out the sumptuous tomato juices. Chunks of roasted eggplant gain a rich brown crisp, and soft sweet flesh.

If you’d prefer this to be vegan, omit the fresh mozzarella. I like the extra meatiness the cheese brings. It turns the salad into a one-dish meal, especially if you serve it with crusty bread to mop up all those lush juices.

I haven’t tired of the tomatoes—not yet. In fact, knowing that their time is waning makes me savor them all the more. The seasonal shift is soon to come.

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WARM EGGPLANT-TOMATO SALAD WITH FRIED TOMATO SKINS
adapted from Third Thursday Community Potluck Cookbook

1 large eggplant, unpeeled, cut into 1-inch cubes
3 tablespoons olive oil
Coarse kosher salt and black pepper to season eggplant
5 ripe heirloom tomatoes, skins removed* and cubed
2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup fresh mozzarella, diced

*Recipe to follow

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl combine the cubed eggplant with the olive oil in a large bowl and toss well to coat. Spread the eggplant out on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper. Bake for 12 minutes. Turn the eggplant over and bake until soft, with browned edges, about 12 minutes longer.

While the eggplant is cooking, toss the cubed tomatoes, minced garlic, and chopped basil together in a large salad bowl. Add the extra-virgin olive oil and sherry vinegar along with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Toss gently to blend.

Allow the eggplant to cool slightly, about 5 minutes. Add warm eggplant to the tomato mixture and toss. Let this sit at room temperature for about an hour before serving to allow the flavors to marry.

Right before serving, fold in the diced fresh mozzarella. Garnish with fried tomato skins and serve.

Serves 6

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FRIED TOMATO SKINS
from Deborah Madison for Cooking Light

5 heirloom tomatoes
1/4 cup vegetable oil
kosher or sea salt

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Core tomatoes; discard cores. Place tomatoes in boiling water for 15 seconds. Plunge tomatoes into ice water; drain. Peel; arrange skins flat on a jelly-roll pan. Cut peeled tomatoes into 1/2-inch-thick slices; arrange on a platter.

Heat 1/4 cup oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of skins to oil; cook 2 minutes or until crisp, turning occasionally. Drain on a paper towel; repeat procedure with remaining skins. Discard oil in pan. Sprinkle skins with 1/8 teaspoon salt.

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Posted in Recipes, Salads, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian Dishes

21 Responses to “Warm Eggplant-Tomato Salad with Fried Tomato Skins”
  1. Kath Says:

    I am intrigued by the fried tomato skins. I must try them. My garden is much the same. The nasturtiums are beautiful but unruly. The wind blew over our giant sunflowers and I still have to get in there amongst the borage that has taken over the courgettes to sort it all out. But the harvests are still happening and for that I am very glad. Winter will be upon us before we know it and the garden will once more be mostly dormant.

  2. ernestine Says:

    Love this recipe and must try.
    As I read your sharing
    you must be describing my garden:)
    Take care and thank you for your
    special words on my journal.

  3. Barbara Says:

    Fried tomato skins? What a clever idea. Nancy! I do miss having a garden, but remember exactly how my Michigan one looked this time of year. You’ve made good use of the last of your garden with this lovely salad. I do love eggplant.

  4. JP & Lynn Evans Says:

    Another winner Nancy, we can’t wait to try it!

  5. Johanne Lamarche Says:

    Love all the veggies and mozzarella in this 1 dish sald but am intrigued by the fried tomato peels and will definately try this! Thanks for sharing this new to me trick!

  6. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Kath—Unruly is the perfect word to describe the garden at this stage!

    Ernestine—I think this is just way a garden must be, this time of year.

    Barbara–I love eggplant too. And the fried tomato skins were really pretty tasty!

    JP&Lynn-thanks so much; I think you’ll enjoy it.

    Johanne–you are so welcome–I hope you will experiment with the tomato skins!

  7. Joyti Says:

    I suppose the summer’s almost over. The garden turns a bit unruly at this time of year.

    My mom showed me the boiling water trick for tomato skins when I was still little, I never thought of using the skins. Fried tomato skins sound delicious. This salad sounds great :)

  8. Denise | Chez Danisse Says:

    I just love this fried tomato skin idea. A must-try! Thanks, Nancy. I bet you are going to do something delicious with those Italian roasting peppers.

  9. Adri Says:

    Well, it sounds like you had a seriously bountiful garden this summer. They do get a little scruffy at the end of summer, but just the same it is a joy to walk out in the morning and collect the glory that is the end of summer. I have to say I am utterly intrigued by the fried tomato skins. This is something completely new to me. Thanks for that!

  10. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Hi Joyti–I had never thought of such an idea, but the fried skins really are delicious, and a great way to use the whole tomato

    Denise–Those peppers are looking pretty–and deserve something special done with them. Soon!

    Hi Adri–You are welcome. I just came from your blog, and OY what a mess. You deserve many beautiful cocktails.

  11. Teresa, foodonfifth Says:

    Eggplant! I think we all have some vegetable or fruit that we just do not particularly like…mine is eggplant! I have tried to enjoy it’s flavor, it’s texture, it’s color, but alas just have not yet found a recipe that appeals to me. But, this recipe just might turn the tide for me…it’s the tomatoes of course that do it. They make my least favorite veg very palatable looking as well as the fried skins. Great recipe for eggplant lovers from your book Nance, but your new version is muy bueno my friend. Lovely photos and story of your garden.

  12. Kitchen Belleicious Says:

    eggplant and tomatoes. That is a wonderful combination and i love how you fried the tomato skins. GENIUS! Never seen that done before but can;t wait to give it a try

  13. Caroline Trost Says:

    Wow – I too can’t wait to try the fried tomato skins! The flexibility of this recipe is why I love it. (And I usually use feta or goat cheese instead of mozzarella. All work well!)

  14. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Caroline–I love the idea of using goat feta–it would give it a nice pungent bite. Such a great recipe–thank you!

  15. Michele | Cooking At Home Says:

    A beautiful and delicious dish for an end of summer meal.
    Though at the end of its fruitfulness, your garden sounds amazing.

  16. paulette Says:

    wonderful!

  17. Juliana Says:

    I have never heard of fried tomato skin…this is such an interesting way to use the tomato skin…now that I got used to the idea…I think I actually would enjoy it.
    Warm salad really sounds delicious…
    Have a wonderful week Nancy :D

  18. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Juliana–I know what you mean. When I first heard of “fried tomato skins” I shuddered a little bit. But when you see what they are, and then taste their crisp sweetness, you get it.

  19. Manali @ CookWithManali Says:

    What an interesting salad Nancy! looks amazing!

  20. Dedy@Dentist Chef Says:

    Damn delicious!
    the tomato skin chips is totally awesome!
    the photograph really tickle my taste buds….

  21. Beth Says:

    What a beautiful salad! I love the addition of mozzarella here.



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