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Roasted Eggplant Salad with Smashed Cucumbers and Chicken

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SKILL LEVEL :
Medium skill
I was inspired to develop this roasted eggplant salad recipe after developing my Smashed Cucumber Salad with Avocado and Tomatoes. The chilled, smashed cucumbers marinated in an Asian dressing was inspiring and got me to thinking about how I could create a smashed cucumber-based salad that would be hearty enough for dinner.
Roasted eggplant salad with smashed cucumbers and shredded chicken | Something New For Dinner
About that time and interesting chilled Korean roasted eggplant salad recipe called  Gaji-Namul showed up on my news feed from Serious Eats. I thought a  mash up of the crunchy cucumbers, savory eggplant, a bright Asian-inspired rice vinegar dressing and some shredded chicken for protein would make an awesome roasted eggplant salad. If I do say so myself, it is quite lovely and just the thing for humid end-of-summer weather.

There are a Few Steps to This Salad, But Some Are Done in Parallel

Yes, there are a few steps involved in making this salad. The good news is several of the steps can be done in parallel with each other. Likewise, the salad can be made in one fell swoop or in steps over the course of a few days. Roasted eggplant salad with smashed cucumbers and shredded chicken | Something New For Dinner Start with roasting the eggplant. Smashed cucumber salad with avocado and tomato | Something New For Dinner Seed and smash the cucumbers while the eggplant roasts. Roasted eggplant salad with smashed cucumbers and shredded chicken | Something New For Dinner Poach the chicken and make the dressing while the cucumbers are draining. If you have the time, I recommend tossing it all together a few hours before you serve so the components have a chance to soak up the dressing.

Why This Roasted Eggplant Salad Works So Well

There is a lot going on in this roasted eggplant salad, but the different elements complement each other and the flavorful Asian-inspired dressing brings all the ingredients together. Smashed cucumber adds irresistible crunch. Roasted eggplant provides a smooth and savory contrast. Shredded chicken adds both umami and substance. The smashed cucumber, torn eggplant and shredded chicken all have nice irregular surfaces, just right for soaking up the delicious dressing.

Shortcuts

There are two good shortcuts for making this salad if you are short on time or energy:
  1. Substitute store bought roasted chicken. Never underestimate the value of ready-to-go chicken when you are in a hurry. Still, if you want to poach your own chicken it is really easy. Check out my poached chicken article for some tips. Note: in this recipe I use a little soy sauce in the poaching liquid to impart some Asian flavor and add a little saltiness. No extra salt is needed if you use soy sauce.
  2. Use your food processor or Mini-prep to mince the garlic and ginger. The job will be done before you can blink an eye. If you are considering purchasing a food processor and are on a tight budget, the Cuisinart Mini-Prep is excellent for small jobs. Or, if you are ready to make a more sizable investment in a food processor, I recommend the 14-cup or 16-cup Breville.
    Note: SNFD is an Amazon affiliate and we may make a small commission when you purchase through our links. Know that we only recommend products we use and love.

Serving Options for this Chilled Roasted Eggplant Salad

Roasted eggplant salad with smashed cucumbers and shredded chicken | Something New For Dinner There are several serving options for this salad. If you want to increase the amount of healthy veggies, consider serving on a bed of baby spinach. For contrast, you could add some cold thin rice noodles. Optional toppings include crispy shallots or crispy onions, or some chopped roasted and salted peanuts. If you try this roasted eggplant salad, please let us know how you serve it. I am sure there will be some great community suggestions coming out of this recipe.  

Roasted Eggplant Salad with Smashed Cucumbers and Chicken

Prep

Cook

Total

Yield 4 Servings

This chilled roasted eggplant salad pairs crunchy smashed cucumbers with savory roast eggplant, shredded chicken & a bright rice vinegar dressing. This is a perfectly refreshing meal for the dog days of summer.

Ingredients

For the eggplant:

  • 1 pound eggplant, preferably Asian eggplant, but globe eggplant will work well too. 
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt

For the cucumber:

  • 1 pound Persian cucumbers, about 10 depending on size
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 pinch sugar

For the chicken: 

  • 2 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
  • 2 t black pepper corns, 2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 3 slices ginger, unpeeled and lightly smashed
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce

For the dressing: 

  • 2 T honey
  • 6 T rice vinegar
  • 1 T soy sauce
  • 3 T toasted sesame seed oil
  • 1 T Chinese chili oil
  • 2 T Asian fish sauce
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely minced or grated
  • 2" piece of fresh ginger, peeled and either finely minced or grated
  • Black pepper to taste

For the salad:

  • 1 red pepper, seeded and julienned
  • 5 green onions, thinly sliced, both green and white parts
  • 1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 handful chopped cilantro
  • Red pepper flakes to taste

Optional:

  • Serve on a bed of baby spinach or toss spinach in with the salad.
  • Add cold, cooked rice noodles.
  • Garnish with crispy shallots or onions (available in Asian super markets and on Amazon)
  • Garnish with chopped roasted, salted peanuts

Instructions

For the eggplant: 

  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees F. If using Asian eggplant slice in half lengthwise. If using globe artichoke slice in quarters lengthwise. Lay a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Using your hands generously coat the eggplant with olive oil. Work quickly to coat the eggplant as it will rapidly absorb the oil. Season with kosher salt and lay eggplant cut-side down on the parchment. Roast until tender, about 20 - 30 minutes. If you are using quartered globe eggplant, turn after about 15 minutes so that both cut-sides have a turn cooking on the pan. Remove and allow to cool, about 15 minutes.
  2. Peel the skin away with your fingers and discard. Cut the eggplant lengths in half and shred with your fingers. Eggplant shreds will be moist and fragile. Don't worry! Store in the fridge until you are ready to toss the salad.

For the cucumber:

  1. Trim ends off cucumbers and slice in half lengthwise. Use a small spoon to remove the seeds. Cut each cucumber half into 2" pieces. 
  2. Using the blade of a cleaver or chef's knife, press down on each piece of cucumber to split the skin. Smashing down two or three times for each piece and rocking your hand back and forth to break down the cucumber.
  3. Put cucumber pieces in a colander in the sink and toss with a generous pinch of salt and sugar. Fill a plastic bag with ice and lay the bag on top of the cucumbers, allowing them to drain for about 15 minutes. Remove the ice bag, shake off any excess water and store the smashed cucumbers in fridge until you are ready to toss the salad.

For the chicken: 

  1. Place two chicken breasts in the bottom of a lidded skillet or sauté pan. Pan should be deep enough to just cover the chicken with water. Add black pepper corns, ginger slices, and soy sauce. Place pan on the stove and pour in enough water to just cover the chicken.
  2. Bring the water to a boil, flip the breasts over, reduce the heat to low and cover with a lid. Set time to 5 minutes. Remove chicken breasts from the pan and check internal temperature in thickest part of the breast. Your goal is 155 - 160 degrees, chicken will continue to cook after you remove it from the pan to reach the safe temperature of 165 degrees. If chicken is less than 155 degrees, return it to the pan and continue checking every few minutes until desired 155 degrees or more is achieved. Remove chicken from the pan and allow to cool. Note: The higher the temperature above 165, the dryer and tougher the chicken will be. 
  3. Once cool enough to handle, slice breasts in half across the width of the chicken and against the grain and shred into bite-sized pieces. Set aside until you are ready to toss the salad.

For the dressing: 

  1. Mix dressing in a bowl large enough to hold the cucumbers, eggplant and chicken. Whisk together honey, rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame seed oil, chili oil, fish sauce, garlic and ginger. Season with black pepper.

For the salad: 

  1. Add torn eggplant, smashed cucumber, shredded chicken, julienned red pepper, green onion, sesame seeds, cilantro and red pepper flakes. Toss until everything is well coated. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve. Can be made one day in advance.

Notes

Serving suggestions and garnishes:

This is a very flexible salad. You can eat it as is or serve over a bed of spinach, or add some cold rice noodles. Additional garnishes include crispy shallots or onions and chopped salted roasted peanuts. 

Courses Dinner, lunch

Cuisine New American, Asian

2 COMMENTS

Comments

  1. Kat says:

    I made the roasted eggplant salad with smashed cucumbers last night and it was the best salad I’ve had in a while! Loved the texture and flavor, thanks for getting me out of a salad rut. Great leftovers for lunch, too!

    1. Kim Pawell says:

      Thank you for writing in Kat. I am so glad you enjoyed the recipe. I agree, leftovers are delicious with this salad!

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