I wasn’t completely sure what to expect from the Toss your Own Salad cookbook and his Moroccan eggplant salad in tomato sauce. The writing and recipe titles were generally hilarious, as you would expect out of the author’s Tumblr account and this resulting cookbook, but eggplant salad can be challenging to pull off well. I’ve eaten an unfortunate number of boring or unappealing eggplant dishes. Happily for myself and my generous testers (thanks Mom and Dad), Toss your Own Salad’s Moroccan eggplant salad was surprisingly good.
While simple to execute is just about 30 minutes total, this vegetarian dish packs a ton of flavor. The ingredients list doesn’t read like much, but the tomato sauce adds a lovely dimension to the fried eggplant slices. While it’s called a “salad with sauce”, it’s really more like a ratatouille or a meaty (without the meat) tomato sauce that you could put on just about anything: thick slices of peasant bread, fresh cooked pasta, rice, quinoa, or any other grain (or spiralized vegetable) of your choosing.
I made a few minor adjustments to the recipe, like using Japanese eggplant instead of the more common Italian globe eggplant, and salting the eggplant slices to draw some of the water out. I also multitasked the sauce and the eggplant “frying” (my fry was more like a pan-sear), which cut down the total time required for making the recipe by about half.
My version of this Moroccan eggplant salad in tomato sauce is spicy. I opted for hot Hungarian paprika rather than smoked paprika, and didn’t adjust the amount I added, so there was some definite heat. If you like spice but are unsure of how much heat you want, or are feeding kids, I recommend dialing the amount of hot paprika back by about half.
Adapted from Toss your Own Salad
Moroccan Eggplant Salad in Tomato Sauce
- 4-6 tablespoons Coconut oil, extra-virgin olive oil, or ghee for frying
- 2 medium eggplants
- Kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large yellow onion
- 4 cloves garlic
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons hot or smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 28 ounce can crushed* tomatoes including their juice
- 2-3 fresh roma tomatoes if in season, deseeded
- 1/4 cup sliced green olives about 15 whole olives
- 1-2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 heaping teaspoon oregano
- handful (2-3 tablespoons) fresh basil julienned, for garnish
If using globe eggplants, peel the eggplants. If you're using the smaller Asian eggplants, you can leave the peel on. Slice off the top, then slice the eggplant crosswise into 1/2-inch thick rounds as evenly as possible.
Salt the sliced eggplant rounds with a generous dusting of Kosher salt, toss to distribute, and place in a colander over a large bowl. Set aside for about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, dice the onion and mince the garlic clove. Heat a wide Dutch oven or other deep pan over medium heat and drizzle in 2-3 teaspoons of oil. Add the onion plus two generous pinches of salt and freshly ground pepper. Saute for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute another 3 minutes. Next, add the cumin, paprika, oregano, tomatoes with their juices, fresh tomatoes (if using), olives, and another generous two pinches of salt. Allow the mixture to simmer for 15 minutes.
Once the tomato sauce is simmering, the eggplants should have released some liquid. Lightly blot them with a paper towel to remove some of the salt. In a large saute pan with sides, heat about 2 tablespoons of oil over medium/medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add one layer of eggplant slices (you may need to fry them in batches) and fry until soft and lightly browned on one side, about 3 minutes. Flip the slices over to soften and brown the other side. Transfer the finished rounds to a plate lined with paper towels. Add another 2 tablespoons of oil and repeat the process with the remaining slices. If the eggplants begin to stick to the pan, you'll need to add more oil.
After 15 minutes of simmering the tomato sauce, stir in the tomato paste and oregano. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired. Increase the heat a little so the mixture begins to bubble (careful it doesn't spatter everywhere). Add the fried eggplant rounds, stir to incorporate and gently break up the eggplant into "rustic" bite-sized pieces as you do this. Cook another 2 minutes.
Remove the Dutch oven from the heat and fold in the julienned basil. Taste again and adjust seasoning if desired. Serve immediately or cool to room temperature, chill in the refrigerator overnight, and then serve reheated or cold on top of grains, toasted bread, pasta, veggies, or as a side dish.
*Either crushed yourself by hand or pre-crushed in the can.