I love eggplants (aubergines) and have written about them a lot. They are versatile and adaptable, featuring in the cuisines of many cultures. We have an eggplant bush in our garden that’s had a crazy growth spurt. This recipe for a warm Middle Eastern Eggplant Salad is a quick way to deal with an unexpected glut. Perfect for a weekend lunch or as part of a mezze platter. Ideal when you are asked to ‘bring a plate’.
An Eggplant By Any Other Name
Eggplants are part of the nightshade family, that includes potatoes, tomatoes, capsicums and chillis. The word eggplant itself is not really used much beyond Australia and the US. The name originated when the white variety, which indeed looks very similar to an egg, was first exported from Europe. Elsewhere you will encounter is as the aubergine, brinjal (India) and the amusing brown-jolly (West Indies). The Italian word, melanzana, is a corruption of the Roman ‘mala insana’, the apple of insanity. This is because the Romans thought the eggplant was poisonous, given it is a nightshade.
An Eggplant Glut
After a very dry winter, we had a big downpour of rain just before we returned from a European holiday. As a result, my eggplant bush was groaning under the weight of over a dozen fruit. I picked and cooked them, went on holidays again for 12 days and came back to another bumper crop. I love eggplant but that’s a lot!
This recipe is best made with the thin ‘Japanese’ or ‘Chinese’ style eggplants. If you only have the traditional larger eggplants, cut them into even sized chunks. Salting isn’t necessary as modern cultivars don’t have the bitterness or old-fashioned varieties. This dish would look lovely with a scattering of pomegranate seeds on top but as they are seasonal, I have suggested pomegranate molasses as something you may have in your cupboard.
Middle Eastern Eggplant Salad
This is a great make ahead dish when you have been asked to ‘bring a plate’, as it requires no refrigeration.
- 4 – 6 slim Japanese eggplants
- ½ cup olive oil
- 1 tbsp tahini
- 1 tbsp natural yoghurt
- ½ tspn lemon juice
- 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
- 1 tbsp fresh mint, roughly chopped
- 2 tbsp pine nuts, toasted (optional)
- Salt and pepper to season
- Split the eggplants in half, lengthwise. Place in a bowl of tap water and allow to sit for 30 minutes (this helps with cooking). You may need to put a plate on top of the bowl to keep the eggplant submerged.
- Drain eggplant and place in a microwave safe container. Cook on high for 2 minutes. This starts to steam and soften the eggplant.
- Place eggplant back in the bowl, add the olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss the eggplant to coat in oil.
- Place eggplant face down on a hot grill pan of barbecue and cook for several minutes, before turning to cook on the other side. Baste with residual olive oil if necessary. You are finishing the cooking process plus getting some nice grill marks on the eggplant at the same time.
- Take eggplant off grill and place in bowl (with olive oil, if any). Set aside.
- Mix tahini with yoghurt, add lemon juice and mix again. Sometimes the mixture will stiffen when you add the lemon juice. Just keep stirring and it will loosen again.
- Slice eggplant into thirds and return to bowl. Add dressing and toss eggplant in it.
- Place eggplant in serving bowl or platter. Drizzle with extra plain yoghurt of desired. Drizzle pomegranate molasses over the eggplant before scattering with mint and pine nuts over the top.
- Serve the eggplant salad warm or at room temperature with warm pide or flat bread.
Serves 2 as a meal or 4 as a side
Managing a Glut
Other ways with an excess of eggplants… Click on the photos below