Oh have I got a good one here! This dish is smoky, sweet, spicy, crunchy-salty, a touch bitter and a little fresh at the end from a sprinkling of mint. That’s a whole lot of things going on, but it works for sure. This is a personal riff on a dish served at Ma Peche (of the Momofuku gang) sans the raisins. I just ramped up the honey to really bring in the sweet aspect and balance the chili eggplant. Eggplant skeptics: just trust.
The dressing gets a spicy kick from sriracha in this little side dish, but the honey mellows it out so nicely. The smoked paprika is optional but highly recommended. It really enhances the smokiness of the grilled eggplant and the vibrant, red colour of the dressing.
The fried shallots really bring it home for me though. If you are a fancy lady and possibly health conscious, it’s fine without it, I guess. But think about it: peppery arugula, spicy and sweet grilled eggplant with crunchy, salty, fried onion-y sprinkles on top. C’mon! It’s like putting a bourgeois onion ring on a salad! There is nothing wrong with that.
sweet chili eggplant and arugula toss
notes: I tend to go minimal on oil for grilling here because eggplant just sucks up anything you put on it. You’ll be dousing it in dressing so there’s no need to go wild. Also, I like the taste of the eggplant’s skin once it’s grilled (and in general), but feel free to peel pre-grilling.
1 large eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch slices
salt and pepper to taste
1 medium shallot, peeled and cut into thin rings or half moons
2 tbsp flour
grapeseed or other high smoking oil
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
juice of 1 lime
2 tbsp sriracha or sambal oelek
2 tbsp honey or agave nectar
1/4 tsp smoked parika
1/4 cup olive oil
3 generous handfuls of arugula
1 green onion, sliced thin
1 sprig of mint, sliced thin (the leaves on mine were teeny so I left them whole)
Grill the eggplant: lightly drizzle the slices with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and place on a grill heated to high. Grill until marks are achieved and eggplant is soft but still holding its shape, about 4 minutes per side. Remove from grill, cut into bite sized pieces and set aside.
Fry the shallots: heat about 2 inches of grapeseed oil in a small saucepan over medium-high. Toss the sliced shallots in the flour, shaking off excess. Drop a couple slivers of shallot into the oil to see if it’s ready. If it bubbles away and the shallots float, it’s ready. Gently drop about half of the shallots into the oil (no overcrowding!). Stir them up so that they brown evenly. Once adequately browned and crisp, remove from the oil and drain on paper towels. Season with salt and repeat process with remaining shallots. Set aside.
Make the dressing: whisk to combine all dressing ingredients (except the oil) in a small bowl. Slowly drizzle in the oil while simultaneously whisking the mixture. Once combined, set aside.
For the toss: mix the eggplant pieces, green onions, mint and half of the dressing in a bowl with your hands and set aside. Place arugula on serving plate, season and drizzle some of the dressing on top. Mound eggplant mixture on top of arugula and garnish with the fried shallots.