The recipes on The Way are intended as an East meets West look at food and its relationship to health and nutrition. Food is powerful, and every bite can either greatly benefit your system or effectively work against it. In Chinese Medicine, each grain, vegetable, meat, fruit, and spice has unique properties that can be harnessed to help us achieve and maintain balance in our bodies. Our recipes seek to incorporate some of the age-old principles of Chinese medicine into the culinary practices more familiar to the West.
Today we're featuring a vegetable that's near and dear to our heart's (particularly one of our co-founders, John McGarvey): eggplant! In the late summer, eggplant is bountiful and perfect, which along with a handful of other vegetables, are great for grilling! Eggplant is known for it’s sponge-like qualities and how it absorbs anything around it. Grilling changes the texture and dries the eggplant so it doesn’t get as soggy or bogged down by what ever dressing may accompany it. It also removes much of the bitter flavor. The slender Japanese variety is also widely very popular in Chinese cuisine – and also quite impactful and powerful in the world of Chinese medicine.
According to Chinese medicine theory, the defining characteristic of eggplant, like many gourds and melons, is that it is “cold.” Distilled from generations of empirical observations, heat and cold are the two most important qualities for food as medicine in Chinese theory. The warming and cooling properties of foods actually depend on several different qualities. They change substantially with time, with the part of the plant or animal used, with the nature of the meal preparation and even with where and how it was raised and harvested. It also “moves and cools the Blood.” Together, these properties make it ideal for treating skin lesions, and other warm, swollen conditions.
We suggest matching the eggplant with red peppers and Roma tomatoes in a classic Sicilian style salad. Bell peppers are distant cousins of the hot pepper, but considerably less “pungent” and “warming.” Tomatoes are slightly “cooling.” It is important to make sure this salad is not too hard on the spleen and stomach, which are the key organs of digestion in Chinese medicine. We suggest balancing the cold tendencies of this salad, first by grilling the eggplant and roasting the red peppers.
Then we dress the vegetables with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and garlic. We have specifically chosen vinegar and garlic as seasonings because they are both “warming” and help to balance the “cold” eggplant. For those who wish to be extra cautious, adding a little bit of chopped scallions could add additional warmth to this dish.
We hope those readers with skin conditions of various sorts find some relief with this recipe and that the rest of us just enjoy this great blend of vegetables.
Grilled Eggplant and Roasted Red Pepper Salad
Prep Time / Cook Time
15 minutes / 30 minutes
1-2 Japanese Eggplant
1-2 Roma tomatoes
1 Small red bell pepper
½ teaspoon garlic
4-6 Leaves of basil
1 Ounce of balsamic vinegar
1 Ounce of virgin olive oil
1 Ounce of water
Fresh cracked black pepper
1 Romaine heart
Fire up your grill and char the red bell pepper. This can also be done on an open flame, on the stove top or under a broiler. Place the charred pepper in a bowl and cover to allow it to steam for about 10 minutes (this will allow the skin to peel easily). Peel and remove the seeds from the pepper, julienne and set aside.
Thinly slice the eggplant at a 45-degree angle, lightly oil, season and grill on both sides until it is cooked through, a few lightly charred spots are actually perfect and adds great flavor. Cut the romaine heart in half lengthwise, lightly oil, season and grill briefly just enough to get some grill flavor into it, so it begins to wilt, chop and set aside. Repeat the same for the scallions.
Slice the tomatoes, basil and chop the garlic. Place everything in a bowl (except the romaine), add the remainder of the ingredients and mix so all the flavors begin to come together.
Place a handful of the grilled romaine on your plate and top with the grilled eggplant and roasted red bell pepper salad.