FreshTartSteph Recipe: Eggplant with Yogurt Sauce

I’ve had my eye on this recipe ever since I acquired the lovely cookbook Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi. If you’re looking for mouth-watering ways to add vegetables to your life, this is your book. Not only are the recipes clever and inspired, the photography is simply stunning. Earlier this summer I took a cup of coffee out on the deck, into the morning sun, and decided to affix post-it notes to the dishes I wanted to try. My husband watched me from the kitchen window for a bit, then popped his head out to say that perhaps I should mark the recipes I wasn’t interested in.

Truly, I was tagging the entire book.

This rustic dish is basically a ready-to-eat spread: Melting eggplant, creamy yogurt, zippy za’atar spices, and tangy-crunchy pomegranate seeds. Nothing less than a flavor-texture explosion, it’s also a breeze to make and eat, just simply roasted eggplant drizzled with a little of this and that.

Serve with a pile of grilled bread and attack right off the baking sheet. That’s what my family did—in a rather aggressive way, we wiped out both eggplants, looked at each other, and declared ourselves stuffed. Dinner! You could do that too for a simple meal, although I’m looking forward to making it again and serving it as an appetizer ahead of grilled lamb.

Eggplant with Yogurt Sauce

Adapted from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi
Serves 4 as a starter

2 large, long eggplants, cut in half lengthwise through the stalk
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. lemon thyme leaves, plus a few whole springs to garnish (use fresh thyme if you can’t find lemon thyme)
1/4 c. pomegranate seeds
1 tsp. za’atar (recipe below)
Yogurt Sauce (recipe below)
coarse sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
warm pita bread

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Slash the flesh of each eggplant half 3-4 times the long way, but don’t cut all the way through to the skin. Repeat at a 45-degree angle to make a diamond-shaped pattern.

Transfer the eggplant halves to the parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush the olive oil over the eggplant halves until all of the oil has been absorbed (several passes). Scatter the thyme leaves over the halves and sprinkle lightly with coarse salt and a few grinds of pepper. Place the baking sheet in the oven and roast the eggplant for 35-40 minutes, until the flesh is very soft and nicely browned. Remove from the oven and cool.

For the za’atar:
1 tablespoon roasted sesame seeds
1/4 c. dried sumac
2 Tbsp. dried thyme
2 Tbsp. dried marjoram
2 Tbsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. coarse salt

Grind ingredients together in a food processor, spice grinder, or clean coffee grinder. Store in a plastic zip bag or in an airtight container.

For the yogurt sauce:
1/2 c. Greek yogurt
1/4 c. buttermilk
2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 small garlic clove, crushed
pinch of salt

Combine yogurt, buttermilk, 1 Tbsp. olive oil, garlic, and salt in a small bowl and stir together until smooth.

To serve eggplant, spoon yogurt sauce over eggplant halves. In a small bowl, stir together za’atar with remaining 1 Tbsp. olive oil and drizzle over yogurt. Scatter pomegranate seeds on top and serve with warm bread.