Okay so when was the last time anyone called the appearance of cooked eggplant "stunning"?! It's the pomegranate, of course, also the creamy sauce and thyme leaves that give this dish its "look". But it's the combination of rustic eggplant, juicy pomegranate seeds, creamy sauce, fresh herbs and the Middle Eastern spice za'atar which make this dish stunning both in appearance and an explosion of flavors in a single bite.
Fans of Otam Ottolenghi will recognize this eggplant dish, it's the cover of Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London's Ottolenghi. And it's an eggplant recipe I have wanted to make f-o-r-e-v-e-r, especially after my dear friend Sharon last year or maybe even the year before mentioned that she "loves" it!
And so did we, so did we! I made it twice, once with a large globe eggplant for a vegetarian Meatless Monday main dish, then again with smaller eggplant for a simple summery side dish. Both times? I was thrilled to have leftover Buttermilk-Yogurt Sauce afterward, too. So good!
PS Even though it happens every year, I’m always still surprised to “fall in love” with a new vegetable. Not a new-to-me vegetable, one that I’ve always loved and cooked with but somehow, that season, am especially smitten with. In 2015? Eggplant. Yeah, pretty plump eggplant. Like Roasted Eggplant Salad with Tomato-Caper Salsa. And now Roasted Eggplant with Pomegranate & Buttermilk-Yogurt Sauce. It’s a great summer.
RECIPE for ROASTED EGGPLANT with POMEGRANATE & BUTTERMILK-YOGURT SAUCE
Time to table: 4 hours
Makes 4 entrée-size servings, easy-easy to divide for fewer servings or multiply for more
2 large globe eggplants, about 1 pound each
Olive oil, about 4 tablespoons
Fresh thyme leaves + four thyme stems
Salt & pepper
1/2 cup (115g) buttermilk
1/2 cup (110) non-fat Greek yogurt
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
Roasted & cooled or chilled eggplant halves
Za'atar, recommended but not essential
Pomegranate seeds, see The Quick & Easy Way to Remove the Seeds from a Pomegranate
Fresh thyme leaves
Drizzle good olive oil, optional
EGGPLANT Set oven to 400F/200C. Cut the eggplant in half, stem to stern, cutting the stem in half (keeping the stem intact helps hold the eggplant together when it's roasted). "Score" the eggplant with a small, sharp knife, cutting through the flesh but without piercing the skin, cutting one direction first, then the other to form diamond shapes. Brush the surfaces with olive oil, letting it soak into the flesh. Place the eggplant in a baking dish. Sprinkle with thyme leaves, then lay thyme stem (also with leaves) across each half. Roast for about 45 minutes until eggplant is fully cooked. Let cool completely, refrigerate if more than a couple of hours.
BUTTERMILK-YOGURT SAUCE Mix the sauce ingredients, cover and refrigerate. Best made at least an hour or two ahead of time, keeps for several days.
TO SERVE Drizzle Buttermilk-Yogurt Sauce over the eggplant halves, about 1/4 cup per half. Sprinkle with za'atar, then "rain" with pomegranate seeds and fresh thyme leaves. Just before serving, drizzle with a little olive oil. Yes, it's served at room temperature ... so good!
ALANNA's TIPS & KITCHEN NOTES
SERVING SIZE So the big globe eggplants are about perfect for an entré-size serving but way too big for a side dish. Sure, you could slice them up (we did ...) but then you lose the gorgeous presentation. So for a side dish, use small small eggplant, either small globes (which can be found at farmers markets, I've never seen one in a grocery store) or the longer, thinner Japanese or Chinese eggplants. The roasting time will vary, of course.
BUTTERMILK-YOGURT SAUCE So good! Both times, we found ourselves using the leftover sauce all week long, so simple and yet so useful to have on hand.
ZA'ATAR The first time I made this, I forgot to mix up some za'atar, a Middle-Eastern herb blend. Since the "main" herb in za'atar isn't easily found in North America, it's approximated with dried thyme or dried marjoram. You'll find all kinds of recipes for DIY Za'atar around but the one I tried, the second time around, was a 1:1 proportion of sumac, dried thyme and toasted sesame seeds plus a touch of sea salt.
OLIVE OIL That last drizzle of olive oil adds so many calories, I'm going to call it "optional". I do think it's important to use olive oil to roast the eggplant, also to loosen the Buttermilk-Yogurt Sauce a bit. But just for drizzling? I can live without it and think you can too!
POMEGRANATE SUBSTITUTES So the reason it took me so long to make this eggplant is that in my world, eggplant and pomegranate don't share a season, in fact, they're pretty much opposite. Sure, eggplant is available year-round but it's especially pretty in the spring (imported) and in late summer and early fall (local). Pomegranates show up mostly around Christmas. I did find a nice pomegranate at a good price, I snatched it up! But I'm aware that it might not always be possible. So what to substitute? You want something wet, something sour. Sour cherries? Rhubarb? Maybe pickled blueberries? They wouldn't be as wet but I do think that late-summer plums would work too, they're slightly sour. A little out-of-the-box would be tomatillos. Any more ideas???
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~ Slow Cooker Vegetarian Lentil Sloppy Joes ~
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from Kitchen Parade, my food column
COOKING IN SEASON: THIS SAME WEEK ACROSS THE YEARSTurkey on Pita with Tomatillo Sauce Veggie Burritos with Cilantro Sauce (< Meatless Monday pick!) Tomato-Tomato Roasted Nopalito Tomatillo Salsa Pepper & Tomato Salad Baked Parmesan Tomatoes Elise's Tomato Gazpacho (< every summer, so good!) OOO Zesty Green Beans Summer Borscht Roasted Baby Eggplant Halves with Herbs Old Liz's Old-Fashioned Cucumber Salad (< Pinterest loves this!) Homemade Blueberry Vinaigrette Tomato Platter with Olives & Feta (< easy + pretty!) Cool-as-a-Cucumber Avocado Soup Chilled Zucchini Soup Shooters
famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.
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