This recipe is adapted from "Eggplant with Buttermilk Sauce" from Yotam Ottelenghi's fantastic vegetarian cookbook Plenty: Vibrant Recipes from London's Ottolenghi, with a few minor tweaks. If you've flipped through it, you'll recognize it as the cover recipe. It's a beautiful book with fantastic photographs and everything just looks and sounds so good.
Because I don't ever have cow milk or buttermilk on hand, and didn't want to pick up a whole thing of buttermilk just to make this, I whisked the greek yogurt with a little almond milk and a bit of lemon juice to give it a little tang. Feel free to use buttermilk or other combinations - I'm sure it'll be delicious!
I loved the author's description of how to get pomegranate seeds out. When I was a kid, getting a pomegranate every so often was a big treat since they're always a bit expensive, and they are just messy. After splitting your pomegranate in half horizontally (go around the circumference with a knife not too deep without cutting all the way through, then put your fingers in and pull apart), Ottolenghi describes the method by basically taking a rolling pin or a bit wooden spoon and, with the half cut wide down in the palm of your hand, tapping on it slowly at first and then increasing the speed and intensity until everything falls out! It's still a bit messy as you inevitably crush a few in the process and there's a little bright red juice splattering a bit so don't wear anything white and do it over a big bowl.
The recipe calls for a sprinkle of za'atar or zahatar at the end - if you haven't come across or used this before, I recommend giving it a try sometime. I love the combination of sesame seeds, sumac and thyme and I love just mixing it into some labne or really thick greek yogurt with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt to dip pita into or sometimes serve it with grilled fish or meat. I mix some right into the yogurt sauce here and sprinkle a little on top to serve.
The pomegranate seeds on top give the dish nice little bursts of sweetness and tartness, but if you can't find a pomegranate, feel free to skip - the dish is still delicious without them.
Adapted from Yotam Ottelenghi's Plenty: Vibrant Recipes from London's Ottolenghi
Serves 3 as more of an entree (1 eggplant per person) or 6 as an appetizer
- 3 small to medium sized eggplant, sliced in half lengthwise
- Olive oil for brushing the eggplant
- salt and pepper
- 2 tsp. thyme leaves(or lemon thyme if you have it), plus a little more to sprinkle on at the end.
- 3/4 cup greek yogurt (6 oz. small container) or labne, Lebanese yogurt
- 1/3 cup milk of your choice (I use almond) plus 2 Tbsp. lemon juice OR 1/3 cup buttermilk, more if you want the sauce a little thinner
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 large clove garlic, finely minced
- 2 tsp. za'atar, 1 tsp. to mix into the yogurt sauce and 1 tsp. to sprinkle on top
- Pomegranate seeds to garnish
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Slice your eggplant in half and score each half with diagonal lines, not cutting through the eggplant, into a diamond pattern. Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or foil.
Brush generously with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and scatter some thyme leaves on top.
Roast them in the oven for 35 to 40 minutes until they are tender and browned. Let them cool completely.
Whisk the yogurt, milk, lemon juice or buttermilk, 1 tsp. of the za'atar, salt, and garlic together, taste and adjust with more salt or lemon juice, or add more milk or buttermilk if you want a thinner consistency. Store covered in the refrigerator until you're ready to use it.
Spoon the sauce over the eggplant halves. Sprinkle with the remaining tsp. of za'atar, pomegranate seeds and thyme leaves to garnish. Drizzle a little olive oil over them at the end.