Barley Salad–Topped Eggplant Boats with Crisped Chickpeas and Feta
These eggplant boats are a showstopper vegetarian entrée. Not only are they versatile and adaptable to what you have in your fridge, but they are also incredibly healthy while tasting great. The crisped chickpeas are optional, but add a nice crunch and a source of protein. Likewise, the feta can be subbed for ricotta salata, or omitted entirely if only using the haloumi cheese. The barley salad can also be customized to your liking. Add tomatoes and cucumbers to give it more of an Israeli salad vibe, or sub couscous for the barley if you can’t find it at your grocery store. Regardless, the soft, charred eggplant topped with the briny, crunchy salad and salty cheese is sure to make its way into your dinner rotation.
- Eggplant Boats
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup chopped scallion (from 1 bunch)
- 2½ teaspoons ground cumin
- 1½ teaspoon ground coriander
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (adjust this to your desired spice level)
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika, divided
- 1¼ cups pearl barley
- Salt and pepper
- 1 14-ounce can reduced-sodium vegetable broth
- ¾ cup water
- 3 large eggplants
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- ¼ teaspoon sugar
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 1/3 cup Kalamata or other brine-cured black olives, pitted and halved
- ½ cup thinly sliced red onion, rinsed and drained if desired
- 1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus more for garnish
- ½ cup chopped fresh mint
- 1 package feta or ricotta salata, cubed or crumbled, or haloumi, sliced, or a combination
- Spiced Chickpeas (Optional)
- 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and patted dry
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Make the barley: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a 3- to 4-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat until hot, but not smoking, then add scallion, cumin, coriander and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add barley, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring until well coated with oil, 2 minutes more. Add broth and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until all of liquid is absorbed and barley is tender, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, 5 minutes.
- Make the eggplant: Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil and drizzle some olive oil on it. Cut each eggplant in half lengthwise, then cut it in half lengthwise again, so that you have 4 long wedges (or 6 if your eggplants are large). Place eggplant pieces onto the baking sheet, skin side down. Use a knife and cut diagonal slits into the flesh, but not through the skin. Season eggplant with salt, pepper, cumin, coriander, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika and optional red pepper flakes if you like it spicy. Don’t be afraid of seasoning the eggplant very well with the salt and spices. Eggplants are like a sponge and love to absorb flavor. Then use a pastry brush to liberally brush olive oil onto the eggplant. Place the eggplant in the oven for about 40 minutes. You will know that it is done when it’s very soft and the top is lightly browned.
- Make the chickpeas (optional): Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Toss the chickpeas with the olive oil and spices. Roast in the 400-degree oven for 20 minutes, shaking the pan once or twice during roasting to roll the chickpeas around so that they cook evenly, until lightly browned and crispy on the outside.
- Assemble the salad: Whisk together 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, lemon juice, garlic, sugar, ¼ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper and 3 tablespoons oil in a large bowl. Add barley, red pepper, olives, onion, parsley and mint to bowl with dressing and toss until combined well.
- Assemble the eggplant boats: Place the roasted eggplant on a platter. Top with the barley salad, crisped chickpeas, cheese of choice (if using haloumi be sure to grill it on the pan over the stove first and put slices on top) and a shower of parsley.