Parmesan cheese cups not only hold the hearty eggplant salad here but also add a salty crunch. To make them, Nick Nairn melts small rounds of grated cheese on a baking sheet until golden, then drapes them over an inverted ceramic or glass bowl to cool and harden.
More Eggplant Dishes
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
One 1 1/4-pound eggplant, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 ounces mesclun greens (4 cups)
3 scallions, thinly sliced crosswise
1 cup red and yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
How to Make It
Preheat the oven to 350°. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil until shimmering. Add half of the eggplant in a single layer, season with salt and pepper and cook over moderate heat, undisturbed, until browned on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Stir, cover and cook until the eggplant is tender, about 5 minutes longer. Scrape the eggplant onto a large plate and repeat with 2 more tablespoons of the olive oil and the remaining eggplant.
Lightly oil a large rimmed nonstick baking sheet. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese into a 6-inch round on each side of the baking sheet. Bake for about 3 minutes, until the Parmesan is melted and golden brown. Let the cheese rounds cool for about 30 seconds to firm up. With a spatula, carefully lift each round off the baking sheet and drape it over an inverted 4-inch-wide bowl. Let the cheese stand until cooled and crisp, about 2 minutes. Repeat with the remaining Parmesan to make 2 more cheese cups.
In a small bowl, whisk the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil with the vinegar and season with salt and pepper. In a large bowl, toss the mesclun, scallions, tomatoes and cooked eggplant with the dressing. Carefully spoon the salad into the Parmesan cups and serve at once.
The recipe can be prepared through Step 2 up to 4 hours ahead and kept at room temperature.
A crisp white is the perfect foil to Nairn's rich eggplant and Parmesan salad; one particularly good choice is a Pinot Grigio from Friuli, a cool region in northeastern Italy.
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