Eggplant, tomato and cucumber salad

Just today it has begun to feel like fall is not far off which means one of my favorite cooking months is ahead. I love this time. The sun light glows differently and the air is changing. I also love it because it's when eggplant really shines. It combines so wonderfully with peppers and tomatoes and does well in the oven, grill, or pan and holds together ratatouille which will be on repeat until late October (I hope). 

There are a couple of eggplant dishes that I eat on repeat from here on out until squash and greens season and this has been this year's. Eggplant and yogurt smothered with herb oil is simple late summer produce at its best. 

Eggplant, tomato and cucumber salad
serves 4
Adapted from Ottolenghi via Epicurious

Early in the summer, I made this with baby eggplants that were tender enough to not really need salting; however, the more mature ones that are out right now benefit from this extra step. 

1 cup of herbs (any combo will do...parsley/cilantro, cilantro/basil, basil/parsley)
1 garlic, minced
pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil + 2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
1 lb of tomatoes, cut into wedges
2 cucumbers, thinly sliced
1 large eggplant, diced
3/4 cup full fat Greek yogurt
1 TBS lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon
salt/pepper
olive oil for cooking eggplant

Start by salting the eggplant. This breaks down the cell structure and helps make the end product less oily and more unctuous. In a colander, sprinkle 3/4 tsp of sea salt over the diced eggplant and let sit for an hour. Briefly rinse and dry thoroughly, making sure to press down with some pressure to get all the water out. While the eggplant sweats, cut the tomatoes and cucumbers and place in a large bowl. 

In a small food processor, blend together the herbs, garlic, red pepper flakes and oil until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. 

Mix yogurt with lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil and season to taste. You want it to glisten and be smooth. It may need an extra drop or two of oil.

Now, cook the eggplant. In a heavy pan, add enough olive oil to reach up about 1/4 inch. Cook eggplant, in batches, about 5-6 minutes until golden brown. You want to see gentle bubbling around each piece. Turn them frequently so that they cook evenly. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Let cool to room temperature and add to bowl with cucumbers and tomatoes. 

Add a good spoonful of the herb oil to the vegetables and toss to coat. Spread the yogurt sauce on the platter/plate. Top with the veggies and dollop remaining herb oil over. Serve.