Eggplant, Taro Root, Mango and Basil Salad
Periodically I like to shake things up a little by inviting my Facebook community to challenge me. The rules are simple, “name your favorite fresh, seasonal – available – ingredient* and I will incorporate the first four ingredients posted into an original recipe on my food blog. (*vegetable, fruit, herb).”
This go round, the four ingredients I was challenged with were eggplant, taro root, mango, and basil. At first I thought, “Yikes! How am I ever going to pair eggplant with taro root?” I’m pleased to say that I rose to the challenge and was able to dream up several ideas, one of which follows. First, a little background on the ingredients.
Eggplant (Solanum melongena) is a species of nightshade commonly known in British English as aubergine and also known as melongene, garden egg, or guinea squash. It is known in South Asia, Southeast Asia and South Africa as brinjal. It bears a fruit of the same name (commonly either “eggplant” in American, Australian English and sometimes Canadian English, or “aubergine” in British English and Canadian English) that is widely used in cooking, most notably as an important ingredient in dishes such as moussaka and ratatouille. It is related to both the tomato and the potato. It was originally domesticated in India and Bangladesh from the wild nightshade, the thorn or bitter apple
Delicious, crunchy taro root is one of the nutrient-rich root vegetables that is eaten in many different cultures around the world. With a rich history and many possible recipes, this tuber is also known as the cocoyam, dasheen, colocasia, eddo, kalo, and elephant’s ear (plant and leaves). This root is most well-known as the ingredient of the Hawaiian dish poi, which is mashed taro root. Young taro leaves and stems can be eaten after boiling twice to remove the acrid flavor and the leaves are a good source of vitamins A and C and contain more protein than the corms.
The mango is a juicy stone fruit belonging to the genus Mangifera, consisting of numerous tropical fruiting trees, cultivated mostly for edible fruit. The majority of these species are found in nature as wild mangoes. They all belong to the flowering plant family Anacardiaceae. The mango is native to South and Southeast Asia, from where it has been distributed worldwide to become one of the most cultivated fruits in the tropics. Mangoes are packed with antioxidant vitamins C and A, and folate. The fruit is also a good source of fiber, copper, and vitamin B6, along with 20 other nutrients.
Basil, Thai basil, or sweet basil, is a common name for the culinary herb Ocimum basilicum of the family Lamiaceae (mints), sometimes known as Saint Joseph’s Wort in some English-speaking countries. Basil is native to India, China, Southeast Asia, and New Guinea.It was originally domesticated in India more than 5,000 years ago. The word basil comes from the Greek βασιλεύς (basileus), meaning “king”. There are many varieties of basil. The type used in Italian food is typically called sweet basil, as opposed to Thai basil (O. basilicum var. thyrsiflora), lemon basil (O. X citriodorum) and holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum), which are used in Asia.
And now for the recipe, a colorful and tasty salad! I used the taro root two ways, shredded for a garnish, and sliced for taro chips.I used raw Thai eggplant, it tastes similar to cucumber, only crunchier. I used sweet basil and fresh mango. For a little contrast and color, I tossed in a few blueberries and some amaranth nano greens – which are actually magenta! I used fresh squeezed lime juice for the dressing, it was perfect and brought everything together nicely. Serves two.
2 Thai eggplant , washed and cut into thin wedges
4 small taro root, peeled (about the size of a red potato)
1/3 large mango, peeled and diced
3 large fresh basil leaves, cut into thin ribbons with scissors
Half of a lime
2 romaine leafs (one per person)
A few leaves of fresh mint
Handful of fresh blueberries
Amaranth seed shoots
Preheat the over to 400 degrees F.
Peel and wash the taro root. Shred one of the taro roots with a grater and thinly slice the remaining corms with a mandolin, food processor or by hand.
To make the taro chips: place the taro root slices on a baking sheet, drizzle lightly with olive oil and dust with salt. I used truffle salt. Toss by hand until well coated and then spread into a single layer. Place into oven and bake for 20 minutes. Turn slices over and cook another 4 minutes. If any slices are already looking fairly browned, remove them before returning pan to oven, so they don’t burn.
While the taro chips are baking, make the taro root garnish: heat up a tablespoon of olive oil (I used duck fat) in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the shredded taro root to the skillet and toss gently to coat with oil. Cook for several minutes, only turning once they start to brown. Keep separating the shreds with a fork so you don’t end up with hash browns. As soon as they are nicely browned, transfer to a paper towel. Set aside until you’re ready to build the salad.
Wash the eggplant, cut away the stem. Slice each eggplant in half, then quarters, and then eighths. Basically, you are cutting each little eggplant into thin wedges. Place into a small mixing bowl.
Slice off several wedges of mango. Cut away the skin and discard. Slice and dice the mango into half inch cubes and add to the bowl containing the eggplant. Add the blueberries, ribbons of basil, mint, and amaranth shoots. Squeeze half of a lime over the contents and gently stir to coat everything.
Place a nice flat leaf of romaine on a salad plate, one leaf per plate. Spoon half of the eggplant-mango mixture over each of the lettuce leaves. Add some of the shredded taro root as garnish. Arrange some of the taro chips on the side and the salad is ready to serve.
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