Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Baby spinach, eggplant, asparagus and roasted peppers salad

I've started writing this entry three times and three times I have erased what I've written. I'm sorry, there's a soccer game on that I'm dying to go watch -- the English boys are playing the Spanish boys in a World Cup friendly, and if you've ever seen pictures of either team, you will know that the only thing that would elevate a match like this is seeing some Italians in the stands (this is the point where most of the male readers sigh and roll their eyes -- don't worry, guys, I like the sport for itself; I just like it better when Iker Casillas is on the field).

So, in short, this salad - make it now. It's perfect for the winter. There are textures here, and flavors and colors that are subtle and exciting at the same time, and most importantly, it tastes so much like comfort food that you will want to forget that it's chock full of healthy things and curl up on your couch with the salad bowl, whispering sweet nothings into it's... er... ear (?). First, you start with some chopped baby spinach, a tough leaf that can stand up next to the sauteed garlic and eggplant and asparagus that you're going to pair it up with. Then, you carefully slice tender roasted peppers, toast some pine nuts, throw in a handful of feta cheese and spice the whole thing up with a basic vinaigrette that's enlivened by a touch of creamy horseradish and a spritz of lemon juice. It's not a recipe so much as a base for your winter cravings. It's light but filling, and the flavors, though complex, support each other instead of shoving and pulling each other's shirts, like some unruly footballers I know (you know who you are, boys, I've got my eye on you).

Baby spinach, eggplant, asparagus and roasted peppers salad
(serves 2)
2 cups baby spinach, roughly chopped
1 medium sized eggplant, cubed
3/4 sticks of asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 red pepper, roasted (or if you are lazy like me, you buy yours at Trader Joe's)
A small handful of pine nuts, toasted
A small handful of feta cheese, crumbled
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon of chopped cilantro
Zest of 1/2 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

For the vinaigrette:
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon creamy horseradish
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

Roughly chop the spinach and put into the salad bowl. Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet on medium heat and saute the cubed eggplant for about 5 minutes, until it just starts to soften. Toss in the asparagus, garlic and cilantro and saute for another 2/3 minutes until warm and fragrant. Sprinkle lemon zest on top and saute for an additional minute. The asparagus should still be slightly crispy, but the eggplant should be very soft.

Take off the heat and add to the salad bowl. Slice the roasted pepper thinly and also add to the salad. Toss in the toasted pine nuts and feta.

Make the vinaigrette by whisking all the ingredients together until incorporated. Toss and season the salad.


Peabody said...

What vibrant colors in that salad.

Ash said...

What great colours! healthy and delicious!

Anonymous said...

What a stunning salad. I would love to try the dress with the balsamic and the creamy horseradish. Yum, a great combination.

brandin + kari said...

Yum! I bet the warm veggies completely wilt the salad greens! I am not a huge roasted red pepper fan, but I could always do a sun-dried tomato for the red color.

Eileen said...

This is my kind of salad!

Irene said...

Yep, the greens do wilt a little -- that's why I chose spinach, so it can retain some of that nice crunch. :) Sun-dried tomatoes would be really great too!