As these glorious pops of baby eggplants are slowly roasting away in a sweet yet tart homemade tamarind sauce, prepare the burgundy tipped red oak lettuce, crunchy pomegranate arils and sweet fresh raspberries. What a feast!
- Why You’ll Love This Baby Eggplant Salad
- What Is Baby Eggplant?
- Different Types of Eggplant
- Can You Eat Seeds in Eggplant?
- How To Roast Eggplant? Tips And Tricks.
- Tamarind Paste Substitute
- Recipe Overview
- How to Make the Rest of the Salad
- How to Make Tamarind Dressing
- How To Assemble The Salad
- Variations and Substitutions
- Great Mains for This Salad
- Frequently Asked Questions
Why You’ll Love This Baby Eggplant Salad
If you love eggplant or aubergine, this baby eggplant salad is for you. It’s a great way to try it differently as opposed to the usual miso glazed, baba ganoush or in some sort of a curry.
Baby eggplant was selected for this salad because it was easier to pick up as a serve per person as opposed to sharing a large globe eggplant. So it’s perfect for entertaining.
The tamarind sauce is delicious. The sweet yet tart flavours offer a contrasting taste to the sometimes slightly bitter taste of the baby eggplant. Its spongy flesh is the perfect vehicle to absorb the tamarind, and when slowly baking away in the oven, it forms a lovely layer on top.
The rest of the salad is straightforward to put together. The gorgeous reds of the pomegranate and raspberries against the backdrop of soft buttery leaves of the oak lettuce are perfect for a Christmas setting.
What Is Baby Eggplant?
Baby eggplant belongs to the nightshade family Solanaceae, and these plant species are grown for their fruit. Eggplant comes from the same family as tomatoes, zucchini and okra, and they are all botanically a fruit but consumed as a vegetable.
Contrary to popular belief, a baby eggplant refers to its petite size rather than how mature it is. They are sometimes also referred to as Indian eggplant.
This fruit thrives in warm climates and comes in varying shapes, sizes and colours. Its glossy and smooth skin is usually a lovely deep purple colour, but it does come in light purple, white and a mixture of the 2.
Its flesh is spongy, which makes the perfect ingredient to cook with if you want something that will absorb all sorts of flavours and sauces.
Although the skin can sometimes be a bit bitter, we usually eat the whole fruit. Skin, flesh and seeds, just like you would a tomato.
Different Types of Eggplant
There are quite a few different types of eggplants, which you have no doubt noticed when you are grocery shopping. Other than baby eggplant, here are some of the more popular varieties:
Globe eggplant: This is perhaps the most common one. It’s the larger teardrop-shaped fruit with the deep purple, glossy skin. It has a thick cap, and its size is sometimes fat and huge! This variety is perfect for Roasted Asian Eggplant with Gochujang Glaze or Asian Eggplant Salad with Miso Dressing.
Chinese or Japanese eggplant: This is the long and thin variety of the fruit. The colour of the skin is a light violet hue, and it is sometimes preferred because it has fewer seeds, thinner skin and has a creamier flesh when cooked. I personally prefer this over the globe eggplant purely because of its size! It’s hard to finish one whole globe eggplant in a family of 3!
Thai eggplant: These are small, round and usually green in colour. You can find these easily in Asian grocers and are perfect for a good Thai curry.
There are many others too, such as the heirloom fairytale, graffiti, little finger, black beauty or even the green or white eggplants.
Can You Eat Seeds in Eggplant?
Yes, you can eat the seeds of the eggplant.
However, some people do like to remove them as the seeds (as well as the skin) is why eggplant can sometimes be bitter. As they start to brown, the more bitter it becomes. Just use a spoon to scoop it out, although that does mean you’re also removing some of the flesh.
How To Roast Eggplant? Tips And Tricks.
Space them out: Eggplants are spongy and very high in water content. If you don’t space them out far enough and ensure they are only one layer, they will steam rather than roast.
Too much oil: As eggplants are highly absorbent, a quick baste of oil for roasting disappears very quickly. We, therefore, tend to over baste them which inevitably means they will end up being a soggy, oily mess. Don’t overdo it.
Too much topping: Eggplants don’t do well if you over season or overload them with sauces or ingredients. This will all end up being too gooey.
Turn them halfway: Eggplants don’t roast evenly too well, especially if they don’t have their skin on. The top side will caramelise, but the underside will be wet and soggy. To have an even spread of roasting bliss, you have to flip them halfway through the cooking process.
Salting: Like cucumbers and radishes, salt helps to draw out the moisture from the eggplant. This will allow for the roasting process to work better when it’s drier. After slicing, rub some salt and let it stand for about an hour, and you’ll see beads of water start to form. Wipe off and then roast.
However, I have found this isn’t entirely necessary for baby eggplants. They roast perfectly without this process.
Peeling eggplant: The skin of an eggplant is not pleasant to digest when roasted. You can remove the skin prior to roasting or you can leave it on and then scoop out the flesh. Skin off does mean a more even roasting through the fruit.
The skin is left on for this baby eggplant recipe to help retain the shape as it is already so small. Scoop out the flesh when you’re ready to eat.
Scoring: For event roasting and ensuring your coat of sauce, whatever it may be, seeps into all the grooves and gets absorbed evenly through the eggplant. Even for baby eggplants, this is a vital step.
Tamarind Paste Substitute
Tamarind is one of a kind hence its popularity, especially in Southeast Asian and Indian cuisine. The best tamarind paste substitute would have to be a homemade concoction of lime or lemon juice mixed in with a small amount of brown sugar.
Flavour/Texture: This eggplant salad has such a unique flavour. The baby eggplants are well basted with a sweet and tangy tamarind dressing, giving the baked eggplant an Asian taste. The baby eggplant is soft as you scoop them out to be enjoyed alongside sweet and tart pomegranate and raspberries.
The fruit offers freshness and marries well with the tamarind dressing. The oak leaves are soft, while the pepitas provide a healthy crunch.
Ease: The baby eggplant is relatively easy to make as they don’t require de-seeding, nor is there a requirement to remove the skin. Just cut in half, score and baste with tamarind dressing. The oven does all the hard work. All the other components are easy to put together.
Time: For the baby eggplant to be roasted to perfection, it will take about 50 minutes. A little planning will be required.
These are the ingredients you need for Tamarind Roasted Baby Eggplant Salad.
Baby eggplant: Try and get even sized baby eggplants so that they can roast evenly. Ensure the colour of the skin is vibrant and it hasn’t started to wrinkle, which is a sign it is no longer as fresh.
Oak lettuce: A small head of lettuce will do. Red or green will be fine.
Raspberries and pomegranate: Adding these gorgeous red fruits just makes the whole eggplant salad all the more fresh, sweet and tart. Not to mention the lovely reds for a great Christmas salad.
Pepitas: Offering some healthy crunch.
Olive oil: Needed for basting and the tamarind dressing.
Tamarind paste: If you’re wondering where to buy tamarind paste, the best post would be an Asian supermarket. You can find tamarind paste in the Asian aisle of your supermarket too.
Brown sugar and honey: The sweeteners that work in tandem with the tartness of the tamarind.
Soy sauce: Adding umami flavours to this eggplant salad by making roasted soy pepitas.
Apple cider vinegar: For the tamarind dressing to pour over the salad.
Step by step instructions for how to make Tamarind Roasted Baby Eggplant Salad.
Preheat the oven at 180°C or 350°F.
Cut baby eggplants in half, lengthways.
In the flesh of the baby eggplant, score on vertical cut down the length and 2 to 3 scores horizontally. By scoring the eggplant, it allows the sauces to seep right into the flesh.
Baste a ceramic baking dish with 1 tsp of olive oil.
Place baby eggplant on a baking dish, skin side down.
In a small mixing bowl, add tamarind paste, brown sugar, honey, 1 tbsp soy sauce and 1 tsp olive oil. Whisk until well combined.
With a basting brush, brush half the sauce on top of the baby eggplant.
Place in the oven for 50 minutes.
How to Make the Rest of the Salad
In a small mixing bowl, add pepitas and 1 tbsp of soy sauce. Mix well. On a sheet pan, lay out the pepitas and place in the oven with the eggplant for the last 5 minutes.
Deseed a pomegranate.
Wash and dry the red oak lettuce leaves.
How to Make Tamarind Dressing
With the remaining sauce for the baby eggplant, add 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar to make salad dressing.
Mix until well combined.
How To Assemble The Salad
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, add the tamarind dressing to the red oak lettuce leaves. Toss until well combined.
On a nice, large platter, place the lettuce to cover the whole platter. Make sure the soft leaves face the outside of the platter and the stems in the middle of the platter.
Add the roasted baby eggplants on top.
Add half the raspberries. Tuck some in between the leaves.
Sprinkle half the roasted soy pepitas.
Then add the rest of the raspberries, followed by the rest of the pepitas.
Season with salt and pepper.
Variations and Substitutions
Baby eggplant substitute: If you’re not able to find baby eggplants, any eggplant will do. You can cut the long, skinny eggplants into 4 or the really large ones into 10-12 pieces. You can even present the large eggplant in its large half, too, if you like.
Oak lettuce replacement: Any lettuce would do but try selecting one with soft leaves. Iceberg lettuce, for example, wouldn’t be a good choice.
Tamarind paste substitute: The best tamarind paste substitute is lime or lemon juice mixed in with some brown sugar.
Raspberry alternative: You can use strawberries as a substitute for raspberries.
Vegan option: Maple syrup or organic rice malt syrup will work instead of honey if you need a vegan recipe.
Gluten free option: Substitute soy sauce with tamari for the pepitas if you need a gluten free recipe.
Great Mains for This Salad
What to serve with Tamarind Roasted Baby Eggplant Salad? Try these delicious main dish recipes:
Irish stout beer braised lamb pie: This recipe is absolutely delicious! This savory pie is loaded with tender braised lamb, potatoes, root vegetables and herbs in a rich, flavourful gravy and topped with a golden, flaky pie dough. The tamarind roasted baby eggplant salad is the perfect side to cut through the rich flavours of the pie.
Sous vide short ribs: Sous vide short ribs are well worth the 48 hours it takes to cook them to fall-apart perfection. The bone-in short rib cut will give you all the traditional braised short rib flavors in this hands-off cooking technique. Our tamarind roasted baby eggplant salad, with all it’s sweet and tart flavours will make a great side for the ribs.
Cornish hen with homemade classic stuffing: Don’t want to roast a whole turkey this year for Thanksgiving? Try this Cornish hen recipe instead. Serve up with the gorgeous colours and flavours of our tamarind roasted baby eggplant salad for a holiday table your family and friends will love.
Frequently Asked Questions
There are several ways you can cut eggplant, and it depends on how you wish to cook them and for what purpose.
You can slice eggplant lengthwise from top to bottom. You can keep them that way, or you can cut them further into long thin slices. From there, you can even continue to cut them into small cubes. That would be great for frying or adding into a curry.
You can also slice eggplant crossways so that they are in nice, round/oval discs. Great for adding them onto a grill or BBQ. Perfect for laying them flat on a baking dish for roasting.
The fastest way to cook eggplant is to steam them. Slice them into smaller pieces and a double layer will steam in about 3-5 minutes.
Eggplants also do very well in a stewing and braising environment as they cook evenly and absorb all the wonderful flavours. However, don’t cut them up too small as they will disintegrate and lose their shape.
You can also deep fry, sauté, stir fry and grill this fruit, which makes the eggplant a truly versatile ingredient to cook with.
You can purchase tamarind, either as a paste or pulp, from your Asian grocery store. They are becoming more readily available in some mainstream supermarkets. So, if your supermarket has an Asian aisle, you should be able to get it.
The 2 most common names eggplants are also known as are aubergine and brinjal.
Eggplant is commonly used in the US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
Aubergine is commonly used in the UK, Ireland and Quebec.
Brinjal is commonly used in South Asia, Southeast Asia and South Africa.
Now, doesn’t this all sound so beautiful both in flavour and in presentation? The sweet and tart component of the recipe makes for a great side dish to any main fare that is really rich. The baby eggplants are simply delicious, while the entire salad is a gorgeous addition to any dinner table.
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Tamarind Roasted Baby Eggplant Salad
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- Preheat the oven at 180°C or 350°F.
- Cut baby eggplants in half, lengthways.
- In the flesh of the baby eggplant, score on vertical cut down the length and 2 to 3 scores horizontally. By scoring the eggplant, it allows the sauces to seep right into the flesh.
- Baste a ceramic baking dish with 1 tsp of olive oil.
- Place eggplant on baking dish, skin side down.
- In a small mixing bowl, add tamarind paste, brown sugar, honey, 1 tbsp soy sauce and 1 tsp olive oil. Whisk until well combined.
- Place baby eggplant on a baking dish, skin side down.
- Place in the oven for 50 minutes.
- In a small mixing bowl, add pepitas and 1 tbsp of soy sauce. Mix well. On a sheet pan, lay out the pepitas and place in the oven with the eggplant for the last 5 minutes.
- Deseed the pomegranate.
- Wash and dry the red oak lettuce leaves.
- With the remaining sauce for the baby eggplant, add 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar to make salad dressing.
- Mix until well combined.
- In a medium sized mixing bowl, add the salad dressing to the red oak lettuce leaves. Toss until well combined.
- On a nice large platter, place the lettuce to cover the whole platter. Make sure the soft leaves face the outside of the platter and the stems in the middle of the platter.
- Add the roasted baby eggplants on top.
- Add half the raspberries. Tuck some in between the leaves.
- Sprinkle half the roasted soy pepitas.
- Then add the rest of the raspberries followed by the rest of the pepitas.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- If you’re not able to find baby eggplants, any eggplant will do. You can cut the long, skinny eggplants into 4 or the really large ones into 10-12 pieces. You can even present the large eggplant in its large half too if you like.
- Any lettuce would do but try selecting one with soft leaves. Iceberg lettuce, for example, wouldn’t be a good choice.
- You will be able to find tamarind paste in the Asian section of your supermarket or any Asian grocer.
- If you only like to use the pulp, don’t add too much water as we need it more like a paste than of a thin viscosity. This will enable the eggplant to roast nicely.
- You can use strawberries as a substitute for raspberries.
- Maple syrup or organic rice malt syrup will also work instead of honey if you need a vegan recipe.
- Substitute soy sauce with tamari for the pepitas if you need a gluten free recipe.
*Disclaimer: Nutritional information provided is an estimate only and generated by an online calculator.
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