Trouble With Toast

Recipe: Grilled Eggplant with Caramelized Onions and Fennel | July 7, 2011

One of our favorite couples to go out with has a big problem – the Mrs. is a vegetarian.  I know what you’re thinking – they must be VERY cool for us to hang out with them in spite of such a glaring personality flaw.  ;-)

I kid, of course.  We wanted to have this dynamic duo over, so I took on not one but TWO culinary challenges.  First, I would make sure the meal was both vegetarian AND delicious.  And second, since the weather was warming up nicely, I would make sure that every course – including dessert – had some sort of grilled component.

This was the appetizer I served, and it was very light and refreshing.  For those of you who are not fennel fans, have no fear – caramelizing it with the onions mellows it out significantly.  Plus, there is so much good stuff going on in this salad, you won’t taste any licorice-esque flavors at all.

  • 1 (1 1/4-pound) eggplant (about 4-inch diameter), peeled
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 2 3/4 cups chopped fennel bulb (about 1 large bulb)
  • 2 cups finely chopped yellow onion
  • 2 cups trimmed arugula
  • 1 teaspoon white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon extravirgin olive oil
  • 1 cup quartered cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled goat cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

Prepare grill to medium heat.

Cut eggplant crosswise into 8 (1/2-inch-thick) slices. Lightly coat both sides of eggplant slices with cooking spray; sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Place on a grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 7 minutes on each side or until browned. Set eggplant slices aside.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add fennel and onion; sauté 8 minutes or until vegetables are tender and lightly browned.

Combine remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper, arugula, vinegar, and oil in a medium bowl; toss gently to coat. Divide arugula mixture evenly among 8 appetizer plates; top each serving with 1 eggplant slice. Arrange about 1/3 cup fennel mixture on each eggplant slice; top with 2 tablespoons tomatoes and 1 tablespoon cheese. Sprinkle the chopped basil and thyme evenly over cheese.

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