Lordy Lou. Hold the damn boat. Holy Moly. Sweet Lord Baby Jesus. Insert other absurd Chef Kefi, RN exclamation here. Ready for a recipe that comes from one of the world’s most revered vegetarian kitchens and requires NO culinary skill whatsoever? Read on, young grasshopper.
|So many amazing pictures of this recipe all over the internet that I just couldn’t choose! My rendition is the bottom right photo.
The background: A few weeks ago, JetSet Kef implied that I would never reach full yiayia status until I pick up a copy of of Plenty, the vegetarian cookbook written by Yotam Ottolenghi, and master several recipes. I was, of course, indignant–sure, this guy has 4 incredibly-successful London restaurants and grew up growing his own garden in Mediterranean soil…but I am Chef Kefi, RN for chrissakes. Hmph.
And then I saw the cover photo. Halved eggplant roasted and smothered in some delicious creamy sauce (which, you already know, we love in Keftown), then topped with POMEGRANATE seeds? Uncle Frank…Is this a joke?! Where the eff has this book been all my life?
I became bewitched, body and soul, by this recipe. Within minutes of the cookbook’s arrival I was at Whole Foods, where I have been scoffing at the out-of-season $6 pomegranates all winter–ONLY TO FIND THEY WERE OUT OF POMEGRANATES IN MY MOMENT OF NEED. Undeterred, I went to three more grocery stores, after which it became evident that the entire food industry conspiring against me and my dream of making this recipe. I called an audible on the whole thing and switched the pom seeds for a balsamic-pomagranate reduction, and this was still one of my favorite things to come out of my kitchen. All’s well that ends well, I suppose–but I won’t pass up one of those $6 out-of-season gifts from the Gods again.
This is hide-your-kids-hide-your-wife good. If Oprah invited me on her show right now, I would jump all over that damn couch proclaiming my love for this. I keep trying to wrap up this post but can’t find the right punctuation for my new beloved–so just go find some pomegranates and get to it!
Roasted Eggplant with Yogurt Buttermilk Sauce
- 2 eggplants, large and long
- 1/3 c olive oil
- 1 bunch of fresh thyme (the minipack is enough for the whole recipe)
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Greek season, za’atar, or other spice sachet you like, to taste
- 1 1/2 c balsamic vinegar
- 8 oz pom juice
- 5 sprigs thyme
- 5 garlic cloves, minced
- 9 TBS buttermilk
- 1/2 c Greek Yogurt (FIBBYDY)
- 1 1/2 TBS olive oil
- 1 small garlic clove, minced
- pinch of salt
1. Preheat oven to 400F. Cut eggplants in half lengthwise, even cutting through the green stem (which you won’t eat–it’s just there to look nice). Use a small sharp knife and cut three-four parallel lines across the width of the eggplant, careful not to go through the skin. Repeat 45 degree angle with 3-4 more cuts, making a diamond-shaped pattern (think of it as 4 tally marks and then parallel diagonal lines like you use to show 5 in when keeping tally).
2. Put the eggplant skin-side-down (flesh up) on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Distribute the entire 1/3 c olive oil between the 4 pieces by brushing it on until the entire amount has been absorbed (which will not take much time, as eggplant is about the most liquid-greedy vegetable out there). Sprinkle with thyme leaves (I put about 2 tsp of fresh thyme on each) and Greek seasoning or za’tar. Roast for 35-40 minutes, until flesh is soft and a nice-looking brown. A knife should very easily move through the roasted flesh. Remove from oven and let cool.
3. While roasting eggplant, whisk together all the sauce ingredients. Taste and add more season for flavor if you feel so inclined. Keep cold until serving.
4. Prepare your pomegranate seeds or balsamic reduction. To learn how to separate seeds, watch this video. To make balsamic reduction, combine balsamic vinegar, pom juice, leaves from 5 thyme sprigs, and garlic cloves in a medium pot. Bring to boil, then simmer for 12-15 minutes, until liquid has reduced by about 1/3. This will make way more than you need–keep the rest in fridge and put it on everything or use as a salad dressing.
5. To serve, put lots and lots and lots of buttermilk over the eggplant. Season with more Greek seasoning or za’tar and generous amounts of seeds or reduction. Spread the love for this recipe far and wide!