Charles Phan's Roasted Eggplant and Leek Salad


[Photograph: Eric Wolfinger]

The name "Roasted Eggplant and Leek Salad" in Charles Phan's Vietnamese Home Cooking is a bit of a misnomer. Yes, this dish has eggplant and leeks, but no, it is not a roasted salad. (Unless, of course, you count grilling as roasting.) If you happen to live in a wondrous state with no real winter (cough, California, cough), grilling in January is a non-issue. In other parts of the country, however, it may be necessary to bring the dish indoors and under a broiler. Either way, this silky, smoky salad should go on your to-make list, stat—soft eggplant meets pleasantly squeaky leeks in a vibrant sauce of soy, chiles, and cilantro. What's not to love?

Why I picked this recipe: A grilled (or broiled, as the case may be) salad makes for a welcome taste of summer in the middle of winter.

What worked: Smoky grilled eggplant plus sweet leeks makes for a silky side dish packed with vegetal flavor.

What didn't: I would have liked a little more spice in my spicy soy, but this is just a minor quibble.

Suggested tweaks: If you're not into grilling in the middle of winter (I feel you), the dish works well when prepared under a broiler. The cooking times work out about the same as written in the recipe, but you will miss out on some smoky charcoal flavor. The salad tastes great slightly warm as well as cold from the fridge.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Vietnamese Home Cooking to give away this week.