I’ve never been so happy to eat eggplant. I mean, served like this it looks celebratory.
The eggplant is roasted until it’s soft and browned. Cumin and raw garlic give this some heat. The yogurt and buttermilk sauce is refreshing, a bit sour, and spiked with pomegranate seeds bursting with a subtle sweetness. The taste of every ingredient seems to come through.
This eggplant is as delicious as it is beautiful, and I plan to make it again and again.
This recipe calls for za’atar, a Middle Eastern spice blend with many variations. I couldn’t find it at the store but it was easy enough to make. You’ll end up with a lot left over, which can be rubbed into meats and breads or mixed into sauces. How about aioli?
I blended 1 tsp. each of salt and pepper with 1 tbsp. each of dried oregano, dried marjoram, ground cumin, ground thyme, and toasted (black) sesame seeds. I couldn’t imagine eating this eggplant without those flavors.
Cut a criss-cross pattern into the eggplant to help it soak up the olive oil while roasting.
One cut into this and buttermilk sauce floods the plate. Next time, I’ll be ready to scoop it up with warm pita bread.
roasted eggplant with buttermilk sauce
serves 4 as a side or appetizer, adapted from “Plenty” by Yotam Ottolenghi
- 2 large and long eggplants
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, plus a few whole sprigs to garnish
- sea salt and black pepper
- 1 pomegranate
- 1 teaspoon za’atar
for the sauce:
- 9 tablespoons buttermilk
- 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
- 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, plus a drizzle to finish
- 1 small garlic clove, minced
- pinch of salt
Heat oven to 375°F. Cut the eggplants in half vertically, cutting straight through the green stalk. Use a small sharp knife to cut four or so parallel incisions in the cut side of each eggplant half without cutting through 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 the halves with olive oil until the eggplant absorbs all of the oil. Sprinkle with thyme leaves, salt, and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes to get the flesh soft, flavorful and nicely browned. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
If you’ve got a whole pomegranate, get the seeds out while the eggplant is roasting in the oven. Cut the pomegranate in half horizontally. Hold one half over a bowl with the pomegranate’s cut side down and use the back of a wooden spoon or rolling pin to gently knock on the pomegranate skin. Keep beating with increasing power until the seeds start to fall through your fingers into the bowl. Then, sift through the seeds to remove any part of white skin or membrane.
For the sauce, whisk together the buttermilk, Greek yogurt, olive oil, minced garlic, and salt. 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. Garnish with a few sprigs of thyme and a drizzle of olive oil.