This weather is summer perfection.
I’ve also allowed myself to reacquaint myself with the oven since turning it on no longer feels as if I am standing at the gates of hell.
I’ve missed it.
Eggplant is one of those vegetables the needs to be cooked in order to be eaten and the addition of heat (i.e. ovens and stoves and grills) is what turns eggplant into one of the most magical and versatile foods. It can be meaty or creamy, soft or hard. My preference lies with the soft and creamy form of eggplant, the version that results after a slow roast in a hot oven where the heat renders the meaty eggplant super tender. This eggplant recipe does exactly that which is why I love it so.
Yotam describes this dish as rustically elegant which is a pretty apt description. The pomegranate seeds look like ruby jewels against the milky buttermilk sauce and the eggplant looks particularly earthy all roasted and charred. I would describe this dish as a unique riff on eggplant dip. The boy and I scooped spoonfuls of tender eggplant, creamy buttermilk sauce, and crunchy pomegranate seeds onto rounds of warm sourdough baguette, shoving each piece of bread into our mouth in quick succession. We then scraped the interior of the eggplant clean, ensuring we got every last bite of roasted eggplant perfection because this is a pretty perfect dish.
Eggplant with Buttermilk Sauce
Recipe via Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi
2 large and long eggplants
1/3 cup olive oil
1 1/2 tsp lemon thyme leaves, plus a few whole sprigs to garnish
Maldon sea salt and black pepper
1 tsp za'atar
9 tbsp buttermilk
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil, plus a drizzle to finish
1 small garlic clove, crushed
½ tsp Aleppo pepper
Pinch of 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—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 allow to cool down 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 to 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.