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Saturday, October 4, 2014

The Cusp

Yep, it's that time of year when confusion runs wild at the farmer's market. Not wanting the good times to end, it's hard to let go as the vibrant colors of summer slowly segue into the muted tones of fall. For a short time (the cusp), it's a crazy game of mix and match when gorgeous pumpkins, buffed chestnuts, decorative gourds, and leafy wild celery vie for the attention of a few late season plump tomatoes. Throw the dice. Bang the drum slowly. The colors are changing. We're dancing on the cusp.

That said, as the seemingly somber hues of winter squash, pumpkins, gourds, and green beans take over the farm tables, regal jewel-toned varieties of eggplant are still going strong. I've seen several varieties of eggplant (Globe, Thai, White, Graffiti, Japanese, Chinese, and Indian)  at the farmer's market. Smitten by their smooth purple skins glistening in the early morning light, I snagged a few bundles of slender Asian eggplant from Stonehedge Farm for a simple cusp season oven-roasted eggplant salad.

Farmer's Market Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Salad.
After rinsing a pound (total) of Japanese, Chinese, and Graffiti eggplant on the bias, I scattered them onto a sheet tray. Because they were so tender and fresh, there was no need to salt them. I pulled a handful of Henkle's Herbs and Heirlooms Red Zebra tomatoes from the window sill, quartered them, and tossed them with the eggplant slices before  tumbling a pint of whole Garey Farms cherry tomatoes into the mix along with slivers of Casey County candy onions.

After drizzling the tomatoes, eggplants slices, and onions with olive oil, I showered them with salt and cracked black pepper. I gave everything a quick hand toss and slid the sheet pan into a preheated 400 degree oven to roast for 45 minutes, turning the pan every 15 minutes.

I pulled the caramelized onions, collapsed tomatoes, and softened eggplant slices from the oven to cool.  When the fragrant steam lifted, I scooped them into a bowl, added 1/2 cup capers, a handful of halved fresh mozzarella bocconcini balls, purple basil leaves, quartered Green Zebra tomatoes, and fresh parsley before tossing the salad with a basic vinaigrette ( 1/2 minced shallot, 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1 teaspoon dijon mustard, 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, salt, and Pepper).

As the roasted tomatoes melted into the earthy eggplant, the juices wrapped the slices with a slight sweet acidity that countered the sweet tart perkiness of the fresh Green Zebras. While the halved bocconcini provided firm creaminess, the capers added subtle briny crunch.

Dancing on the cusp with a simple eggplant salad.

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