The hotel we stayed at in Haifa kept to the tradition of having an enormous salad buffet at all three meals. Israeli salad offerings usually include many cooked and raw salads in addition to sliced vegetables. My idea of a good Israeli salad buffet is at least three kinds of eggplant dishes, and our Haifa hotel usually had four. There's often a strong Moroccan influence in many of the salads, and this eggplant goes in that direction. I loved this spicy-tart mixture, and blended several recipes to arrive at this rendition. I also cut way down on the oil. Seriously, one recipe I looked at called for 2/3 cup oil. If you want the finished dish to be silkier, add a few more spoonfuls of good olive oil.
Spicy Eggplant Salad with Tomatoes and Peppers
1 large firm eggplant, peeled and cut into rounds
3-4 Tablespoons olive oil, divided in half
1large red or yellow sweet pepper, thinly sliced
1 large onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 small can chopped tomatoes in Winter, or, preferably, 4-5 large garden tomatoes in Summer
1/2 can tomato paste
a few spoonfuls water
2 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes, more to taste
1/4 cup wine vinegar
handful chopped parsley
1. Salt the eggplant slices, and layer them between paper towels. Place a heavy plate on top, and let drain for 1/2 hour. Wipe the liquid and salt from the slices.
2. Heat half of the oil in a large skillet, and cook the onions and peppers until soft. Remove from pan, leaving the oil.
3. Add the remaining oil to the skillet, (I also sprayed it with Pam between batches) and saute the eggplant in batches until very brown.
4. Return the onion/pepper mixture to the pan, along with all the additional ingredients except for the parsley. Cook at a gentle simmer for 30-40 minutes, (add water if it seems to be drying out) until everything has fallen apart and the vinegar has mellowed. Add more crushed red pepper if you like.
5. Let sit overnight in the fridge. Let come to room temperature before showering with parsley and serving with pita, feta cheese, hummus, other vegetables. Pretend you're in a cafe in Israel.