The days are growing shorter, as happens every year. 🙂 And every year I go through the same emotions of letting go of the robust summer garden with its avalanche of tantalizing vegetables. In July and August I had to harvest every day to stay ahead of the ripening abundance. Now I walk through the garden knowing that another day or two are necessary to get the maturity I desire in a vegetable.
Squash literally grew over night in the dead of summer. Now they take three days. The eggplant flowers, sets fruit, and takes what seems like a month before it is large enough to pick. At least it seems like a month. My standing over the plants plaintively does not seem to help.
The other morning I felt fall in the air for the first time. Clad in cool weather clothes I went to the garden. Small eggplants, glistening dark purple, met me at the top of the garden. It was as if they knew what I knew: There was not enough warm weather left for them to put on any size.
We returned to the house together, me and the little eggplants. The season was closing. We needed a ritual. What kind of ritual can you create with a half grown eggplant? Our decision was to try a totally new recipe with eggplant rather than the few great favorites that we usually fall back on. What a treat! The selected recipe is adapted just a bit from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi. In fact, it is the recipe pictured on the cover of that superb cook book.
Yotam is a vegetable-cooking genius so I followed the recipe closely, making the only real adjustment on the sauce. He calls for buttermilk and Greek yogurt. I used kefir and kefir cheese. My approach is called “make do with what you have.” Yotam would totally approve!
In following the recipe I discovered that eggplant can be quite tasty without the addition of a mountain garlic. In a household of garli-holics, that is a major discovery. There is garlic in the sauce, but very little.
The flavors are rich but subtle, a blend of fresh lemon thyme for the roasting and zaatar (recipe here) for sprinkling at the time of plating. The sweet of the pomegranate and the sour of the sauce sings beautifully with the earthiness of the roasted eggplant.
Leaving the stems on the eggplant halves not only adds an intriguing visual element to this dish but if the eggplants are small enough, the stem can be used as a handle for picking up the eggplant to eat. That’s what we did — we picked up the eggplant with a thumb and index finger, balancing the load with the little finger. It works and it’s fun!
You may not have need for a season-ending ritual, but if you are searching for a simple and simply amazing recipe for eggplant, this is it!
Roasted Eggplant Ingredients
- 4 medium eggplant
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Several springs lemon thyme
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 pomegranate, seeded
- 1 teaspoon zaatar (recipe)
- 1/2 cup kefir or buttermilk
- 1/3 cup kefir cheese, yogurt or sour cream
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 finely minced clove of garlic
- An additional pinch of sea salt
- Olive oil for drizzling
Roasted Eggplant Steps
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Cut the eggplants in half. Cut right through the stem so that each half still has a visible stem. You will find it easier to cut through the stem end first.
- Make several cuts into the eggplant flesh, slicing into the cut, fleshy side of each eggplant. Go lightly, keeping the skins intact. These cuts help the eggplant to absorb olive oil and to roast more evenly.
- Rub the olive oil into the cut sides of the eggplant. Use all of the oil.
- Sprinkle the eggplant with salt and pepper (to taste) and then press the lemon thyme sprigs into the cuts on the eggplant.
- Arrange the eggplant halves, flesh side up on the baking dish. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes until the eggplant flesh is soft and browning.
- While the vegetables roast, prepare the sauce, mixing together the kefir, kefir cheese, olive oil, salt, and garlic.
- To plate the roasted eggplant, dollop some sauce down the middle of each eggplant half. Drizzle with a touch of olive oil. Sprinkle on the zaatar. Scatter some pomegranate seeds and add a few sprigs of fresh lemon thyme.
Enjoy this dish warm or at room temperature. Use it as a meal starter or a side dish. Enjoy! Enjoy!