I know turning on the oven during summer sounds like a bad idea but sometimes a recipe is so delicious that it’s worth the added heat. For me, this spiced eggplant salad with lemon cashew cream is one of those.
This recipe is perfect for when you get a craving for something comfort-food-y but don’t want something too heavy and want to take advantage of seasonal produce. Roasting chunks of eggplant in a warming spice blend creates the most amazing flavor and texture. Add in the crunch from some crispy chickpeas and the creaminess of the cashew cream and you’re basically hitting all the right comfort-food notes.
Why I Like This Recipe
- I mentioned a few of eggplant’s health benefits in a recent post. But including fiber and antioxidants (and all the health benefits that come with them), eggplants are good sources of manganese (10% of the RDI), folate (5% of the RDI), potassium (5% of the RDI), vitamin K (4% of the RDI) and vitamin C (3% of the RDI).
- Chickpeas are probably my favorite legume. They’re just so versatile! They’re also a great source of fiber and plant protein and also super high in folate, phosphorus, and iron. Hello, nutrient density!
- I love arugula in this spiced eggplant salad recipe because it’s peppery flavor really complements the other flavors in the dish. Among a fairly long list of nutrients, arugula has vitamin C to support the immune system, vitamin K and folate to protect the heart, and calcium for bone health.
- If you’re avoiding dairy (or even just want to switch things up), cashew cream is your new best friend. Blending soaked raw cashews with a bit of water creates this gorgeous, velvety-textured cream with a mild flavor. It’s incredibly customizable for whatever flavor combo you want to try. Plus, cashews are high in fatty acids and antioxidants and are another great way to add in some extra protein.
- You can easily double this recipe. The leftovers are still incredible the next day (though the chickpeas do lose some of their crunch). Cook up some quinoa or grilled chicken and you’ve got your meal prep done for the week!
- Garam masala might not be a spice you keep on hand but I highly recommend you change that. It’s a spice blend originating from Southeast Asia containing spices like cumin, fennel, cinnamon, and cardamom, among others. The spices in garam masala are known to aid in digestion, reduce inflammation, and provide high amounts of antioxidants. Plus, it’s just freaking delicious. If you don’t want to use garam masala, you can substitute one teaspoon of cumin and a quarter teaspoon each of cinnamon, allspice or cloves, and nutmeg.
Spiced Eggplant Salad with Lemon Cashew Cream
- 1 cup raw cashews
- 1/2 cup water
- Juice from 1 lemon
- 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 large eggplant (or 2 small)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala*
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 3 tablespoons avocado oil, divided
- 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (or 1 15-ounce can)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 small handful mint
- 1 small handful basil
- 3-4 cups arugula
- Juice from half a lemon
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- To make the cashew cream, place cashews in a jar and cover with water. Let soak overnight. Drain soaked cashews and combine with ½ cup water in a blender and blend on high in 30-second intervals until smooth and creamy, scraping down sides between intervals. You can add a bit more water if it’s not blending up properly.
- Place cashew cream in a bowl and add lemon juice, garlic powder, salt, stirring to combine. Cover and place the bowl in the fridge until ready to use. This will help it firm up a bit more.
- Remove the green tops from eggplant and cut into 1-inch cubes. Add diced eggplant to a colander and sprinkle with salt. Stir to coat and allow to sit for 30 minutes. This will help pull some of the bitterness out of the eggplant. Rinse eggplant to remove excess salt and pat dry.
- Set the oven to 450° Fahrenheit, space two racks evenly in the oven, and place a cookie sheet in it while it preheats.
- Drain and rinse chickpeas and pat them very dry. Then add them to a bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon avocado oil, about ½ teaspoon salt, and several grinds of black pepper.
- In another bowl, add the eggplant with the remaining 2 tablespoons avocado oil, garam masala, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt, to taste. Toss to coat evenly. Spread the eggplant over a second cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (not the one that’s preheating in the oven).
- Carefully remove the other baking sheet from the oven and spread the chickpeas over it in an even layer. Return to the lower rack of the oven. Put the baking sheet with the eggplant on the upper rack. Let eggplant and chickpeas roast for 20-30 minutes, until chickpeas are golden and crispy and eggplant is beginning to brown on the bottom. You’ll want to shake the pan with the chickpeas on it at least once while they cook.
- While eggplant and chickpeas cook, roughly chop the mint and basil and set aside. Add the arugula to a bowl (you can reuse the one you used for the chickpeas) and toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, the juice from half a lemon, salt and pepper to taste.
- Once the chickpeas are golden and crispy and the eggplant is starting to brown, remove trays from the oven and set aside to cool slightly. Once cooled, toss eggplant and chickpeas together.
- Spread a bit of the cashew cream on each plate and top with eggplant mixture and herbs. Divide dressed arugula evenly between the plates and serve!