I don’t think I can adequately express my undying gratitude to ‘blank canvas’ foods and dishes.  You know, the kind where it provides a base, and you can just sprinkle with this, dollop with that, add a handful of chopped whatever, and serve.  Things like omelets or scrambles, quesadillas, stir fries, soups, and salads.  They’re like the dumping grounds of foods.  Except way more positive and edible than that.  How about, they’re like loving grandmotherly foods, waiting with open arms to accept whatever you have to add to them.

Salads, in addition to having achieved this reputation as healthy meal extraordinaire or carb counter’s best friend, are amazingly willing receptacles for other ingredients.  All it takes is a good salad dressing and you can tie together salad greens with almost any other vegetable, meat, cheese, nut, fruit, legume, or cooked grain you can produce!  In the summer I like to throw a gratuitously huge spectrum of chopped fresh vegetables into my salads – no simple lettuce salad for me, thank you!  In the winter, on the other hand, most of the vegetables I have around require cooking.  But that doesn’t mean they can’t go into a salad.  I make a lot of roasted vegetables because my general belief is, if it’s not best fresh, then almost any vegetable is better roasted.  So, I often have the odds and ends of leftover roasted veggies, and these (or sautéed vegetables) are a perfect addition to a salad.  Which is how I ended up with this deliciously Mediterannean-y roasted eggplant and artichoke salad for lunch.  I had leftover roasted eggplant from one pasta dish and leftover artichoke hearts from another, so woopsy! Onto a bed of spinach they went, along with a stray half tomato that was totally non-seasonal and therefore not particularly good, but did add lovely color.

My go to salad dressing is a balsamic vinaigrette with mustard and maple syrup – it’s an awesome blend of tangy, salty, sweet, and smooth.  But, I really wasn’t feeling the combination of maple syrup with artichokes.  Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t really think artichokes are great with many sweet flavors, unless they’re citrusy because it’s acidic.  Which is when I remembered I had a half of a lemon.  And when I checked, I found that it had definitely submitted an application for the job of acidic-part-of-salad-dressing, and it’s resume was very convincing.  So, I whisked together a Tablespoon of fresh lemon juice with a couple of teaspoons of olive oil, and a healthy dose of salt and fresh ground pepper to bring out the other flavors.  If only I’d had feta cheese.  Brie on bread had to suffice (I know, really tough life).

Roasted eggplant, artichoke, and spinach salad

  • ½ small eggplant, chopped into small cubes, tossed with olive oil and salt and roasted in the oven at 400?F until browned on the outside and soft (around a half hour)
  • 2-3 canned artichoke hearts (or fresh if you have them for some reason!), broken into pieces
  • ½ tomato, chopped
  • a couple of cups of spinach leaves, washed
  • 1 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  1. Put the spinach in a bowl and top with the other veg. 
  2. Whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper  and toss the salad with it. 
  3. Other things that would be good with these Mediterranean style flavors: feta or goat cheese, roasted red peppers, basil, sautéed zuchinni, orange slices, olives, grilled chicken, chick peas , whatever suits your own fancy!
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