Every element of this vegetarian pack-and-tote lunch—except for the yogurt—can be left out at room temperature until you’re ready to eat. Your lunch will be all the more flavorful for it. If you don’t have enough eggplant, supplement with roasted summer squash or bell peppers.
For the eggplant and tomatoes:
3 medium Japanese or Chinese eggplants, sliced into 3/4 inch thick rounds
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh rosemary
For the cucumbers:
1 medium shallot, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 small cucumbers, peeled in stripes, halved, seeded if necessary, and sliced 1/2 inch thick
fresh lemon juice, to taste
1 cup plain whole-milk or low-fat Greek yogurt or labneh
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
extra virgin olive oil
pita or crusty bread
Roast the eggplant and tomatoes: Season the eggplant slices generously with salt and put them in a colander in the sink to drain for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, position oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and heat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Tap the colander against the side of the sink to remove excess moisture and salt. Transfer the eggplant to a large mixing bowl, toss with 4 tablespoons of the olive oil, and let sit for five minutes to absorb the oil. Lay the eggplant slices in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet. In a pie plate, combine the cherry tomatoes with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, the rosemary, and 3/4 teaspoon salt.
Place the eggplant on the upper oven rack and the tomatoes on the lower rack. Roast the eggplant until light golden and beginning to soften, about 10 minutes. Flip and roast until completely soft and light golden, about 15 minutes more. Roast the tomatoes until many have collapsed, 40 to 45 minutes. Transfer the eggplant and tomatoes to separate containers and let cool.
Prepare the cucumbers: Combine the shallot, vinegar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a small bowl. Let sit for 10 minutes to soften the shallot. Add the cucumber and mix well. Season to taste with lemon juice and more salt.
For each serving, pack half of each vegetable separately in a segmented lunch box or in its own container (or mix them together). Put half of the yogurt and pine nuts in separate containers (refrigerate the yogurt), and bring along a little jar of olive oil and some pita or crusty bread.
To serve: Spread the yogurt in the bottom of your bowl and top it with the eggplant, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Sprinkle with the nuts, drizzle with olive oil, and eat with the pita or bread on the side.
From “Fine Cooking 111,” pp. 69, May 5, 2011, courtesy of Tamar Adler.