For me, the fun of food comes from not just the creative combination of colors, textures, smells, and flavors, but also the sharing of it with friends. Tonight I cooked with some friends and had a lot of fun assembling and eating these composed salads. They look great, taste great, and are a good way to get everyone involved in the kitchen. And did I mention they're healthy and easy to make? You can assemble your stacked salad using whatever is in season or catches your fancy, but here's a mighty successful recipe that was eaten with gusto tonight. I love pairing cooked and raw vegetables, and here I put together eggplant (roasted to bring out a great depth of flavor), sauteed zucchini, cool slices of heirloom tomato, tangy-sweet balsamic vinegar, creamy goat cheese, and crunchy radish sprouts.
Eggplant, Tomato, and Zucchini Stacked Salads
makes 4 servings
1 large purple eggplant, sliced 1/2" thick (8 large slices)
4 small zucchini, sliced diagonally 1/4" thick
2-4 oz. soft goat cheese
1/2 cup loosely packed torn basil leaves
2 medium heirloom tomatoes, sliced 1/4" thick
4 tsp. balsamic vinegar
salt and freshly-ground black pepper
Sprinkle both sides of eggplant slices with salt and arrange on a large cookie sheet. Bake at 450 F for 30 minutes or until golden brown and flesh has shrunk from original width, flipping slices over once during baking. Meanwhile, season zucchini with salt and saute until golden brown spots appear. Let eggplant and zucchini cool slightly.
To assemble the salads, place a large eggplant slice on each of four plates. Divide half of the goat cheese over the four slices and scatter the basil over. Arrange half of the tomato slices over, sprinkling with salt and pepper and 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar per stack. Divide the sauteed zucchini slices among the stacks for the next layer, then sprinkle over the remainder of the goat cheese. For the next layers, add the remainder of the tomatoes (sprinkled with salt and pepper) followed by the radish sprouts. Top with slices of roasted eggplant.
Alongside I served a potato coconut curry soup with shrimp and fresh corn and garnished with a basil chiffonade. Now that was a fun soup to eat. It definitely involved shrimp tails ending up in some crazy places, which shall remain unnamed.
Potato Coconut Curry Soup
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 1/2 inches fresh ginger root, peeled, thinly sliced
1 Tbs. Thai yellow curry paste
6 medium-large Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2" cubes
4 cups chicken broth
1 (14 oz.) can light coconut milk
3/4 lb. pre-shelled medium shrimp (cooked or raw, tail may be on)
2 ears fresh corn
1/2 cup (packed) basil chiffonade
In a large, heavy-bottom pot over medium heat, saute the onion and ginger in a tablespoon of vegetable oil until onions are soft and translucent. Stir in the curry paste, then add the potatoes and chicken broth. Cover pot and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and continue cooking until potatoes are fork-tender.
Scoop out the ginger slices and half of the potato cubes, setting aside in a bowl to keep warm. Using an immersion stick blender, blend soup until remaining potatoes and onions are pureed. Return reserved potato and ginger to the soup, then add coconut milk and shrimp. (If using raw shrimp, let shrimp cook until pink and opaque.) Slice corn kernels from the cob and add kernels to the soup; season to taste with sea salt.
To serve, ladle into bowls and top with a generous garnish of basil chiffonade.