Thursday, January 19, 2012

Roasted Eggplant with Buttermilk Sauce

I have a long-standing relationship with eggplant.  Until I was well into my 20's, I wouldn't get near the stuff.  All I could associate with it was overcooked slimy-ness and breaded slices from my grandmother's freezer that were always bitter.  As I started cooking more and tried new applications for it, I discovered that I really enjoy eggplant.  That being said, I am still picky about the preparation, and am rather sensitive to the bitterness that can sometimes be overwhelming to the other flavors.  Fortunately for all of us, most of the bitterness has been bred out of eggplant, and good technique partnered with flavorful sauces takes care of the rest.  We've even come across a couple of varieties of Japanese eggplant that produce an incredible amount of fruit, even in the northwest.  I can't wait to try this recipe with eggplant straight from the garden!  Right, the eight inches of snow and the sheet of ice covering the entire Puget Sound region will have to melt first...  

The following recipe is a new favorite of mine.  It is simultaneously luxurious and lean, rich and tangy, earthy and bright.  Oh, and fruity from the pomegranate.  Sounds kind of weird now that I think about it...  This is from the book Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi.  I'm sure I've posted recipes from it in the past, the author is a contributor to British and US newspapers, and his book was a huge hit last year, so you've probably heard of him! 

Roasted Eggplant With Buttermilk Sauce
yield: four servings
  • large and long eggplants
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon thyme leaves (regular thyme is ok), plus a few whole sprigs to garnish
  • Maldon sea salt and black pepper
  • 1 pomegranate
  • 1 teaspoon za'atar


  • 9 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, plus a drizzle to finish
  • 1 small garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 pinch salt

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cut the eggplants in half lengthways, cutting straight through the green stalk (the stalk is for the look; don't eat it). Use a small sharp knife to make three or four parallel incisions in the cut side of each eggplant half, without cutting through to the skin. Repeat at a 45-degree angle to get a diamond-shaped pattern.
Place the eggplant halves, cut-side up, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush them with olive oil and keep on brushing until all of the oil has been absorbed by the flesh. Sprinkle with the lemon thyme leaves and some salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, at which point the flesh should be soft, flavorful, and nicely browned. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.
While the eggplants are in the oven, cut the pomegranate into two horizontally. Hold one half over a bowl, with the cut side against your palm, and use the back of a wooden spoon or a rolling pin to gently knock on the pomegranate skin. Continue beating with increasing power until the seeds start coming out naturally and falling through your fingers into the bowl. Once all are there, sift through the seeds and remove any bits of white skin or membrane.

To make the sauce, whisk together all of the ingredients. Taste for seasoning, then keep cold until needed.

To serve, spoon plenty of buttermilk sauce over the eggplant halves without covering the stalks. Sprinkle za'atar and plenty of pomegranate seeds on top and garnish with lemon thyme. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil.

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