Arugula and Eggplant Salad and Pomegranate Dressing

I had this salad for the first time in Lebanon last year. We had gone to visit family and generally the first week or so we stay away from any raw fruits and vegetables. We were invited to my aunt’s house for a delicious lunch one day. I don’t know if it I loved this so much because this was the first raw veg I had in a week or because the combination of flavors was so delicious. I’d like to think it was both because when I made this salad again back home, it was just as delicious as I remembered. The tartness of the dressing, the bite from the raw onion, the creaminess of the eggplant, the spiciness of the arugula, and the saltiness from the olives. I think the only thing missing here was a sweet flavor!

This recipe originated from a Lebanese cookbook author, Marlene Matar (which I didn’t even realize until after I had made the salad from memory recently).

I chose to pan fry the eggplant with a little bit of oil but you could just as easily throw the slices on a grill/grill pan or bake them in the oven. Some other great additions to the salad would be some fresh mint and oregano. I didn’t have any at the time but that would add even more flavor to it. Just go sparingly on the fresh oregano as it is strong.

The pomegranate syrup is something I brought back from Lebanon, made fresh by a local grocer’s family. But I’m sure you can find this online or at a local middle eastern market. If you don’t have the pomegranate syrup, I would suggest using a really good, aged balsamic vinegar in place of the pomegranate syrup. I bet that would be delicious as it would add a slight sweetness to the dressing.

Ingredients

3 small eggplant (or 2 medium)
5-6 cups of arugula
2-3 tablespoons fresh parsley (roughly chopped)
1/4 red onion sliced very thin
10 black/calamata olives, pits removed
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tsp pomegranate syrup (dibs el rimman)
1 tsp hot water
salt/pepper to taste

Directions

Heat a nonstick pan on medium-high heat. Slice the eggplant lengthwise into about 1/4 inch slices. Brush both sides with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place a 4-5 slices at a time into the pan (or on grill pan) and cook for about 3 minutes per side until light golden brown. Remove from pan and place onto a plate and sprinkle with a little salt. Repeat the above steps until all eggplant is cooked. The eggplant is served at room temperature so don’t worry about keeping them hot.

Mix pomegranate syrup, hot water, a pinch of salt & pepper, and olive oil in a bowl. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking.

Place arugula and parsley in a mixing bowl and toss with dressing. Arrange eggplant around the outside of a serving dish or bowl. Place salad in the middle and top with onion and olives.

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