Michael's Roasted Eggplant and Watermelon Salad
- 1/2 cup canola oil, plus more for greasing the grill grates
- 3 medium Japanese eggplants, stems removed and halved lengthwise
- Kosher salt
- 1 small seedless watermelon, peeled and diced into 1-inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons black sesame seeds
- 10 mint leaves, sliced into ribbons, plus more for serving
- 1 cup seasoned rice wine vinegar
- 1/2 tablespoon peanut butter
- 1/2 tablespoon Korean red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon sate chili paste or 2 tablespoons sambal oleck
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 head garlic, roasted and peeled
- 1 finger fresh ginger, peeled and minced
- Zest and juice of 1 orange
- 1 shallot, minced
- 3 cups canola oil
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- Kosher salt
- Sugar, for seasoning
For the salad: Prepare an outdoor grill or cast-iron grill pan for medium-high heat, and brush the grates heavily with canola oil.
Toss the eggplant halves lightly with the canola oil and salt to taste. Place them cut-side down on the grill. Cook until lightly charred, about 6 minutes. Flip the eggplant and cook for an additional 6 minutes. The eggplant should be tender all the way through. Remove the eggplant from the grill and let cool. Carefully cut the cooled eggplant into 1-inch slices.
For the vinaigrette: Place the rice wine vinegar, peanut butter, red pepper flakes, chili paste, minced garlic, roasted garlic, ginger, orange juice and shallot in a blender. Blend at high speed until the mixture is completely smooth. With the blender at medium speed, slowly pour in the canola and sesame oils. Once all the ingredients are fully incorporated, season with salt and sugar. (Makes 1 quart.)
To assemble the dish, toss together the eggplant, watermelon, sesame seeds and mint in a large bowl. Fold in enough of the vinaigrette to coat the salad evenly and add salt to taste.
Cover the salad and place in the fridge for at least 10 minutes and up to 1 hour. Serve chilled, topped with freshly sliced mint.