Sunday, February 26, 2017

Roasted Japanese Eggplants with Feta, Mint, and Onion

Last fall we drove out of the city for a foliage-bedecked long weekend getaway in the Berkshires with our friends and their adorable Westie. Along with a healthy supply of alcohol and board games, our friends brought the cookbook Jerusalem. Cooking was a focus since we had been hyping up the charcoal grill and smoker we were going to be able to use, two cooking apparatuses generally frowned upon in New York City. Along with our grilled steak, we adapted an eggplant recipe from the cookbook, charring halved bulbs over the coals until they rivaled the smoky meat.

We've recreated a version that's apartment-friendly so that even sad urbanites with no outdoor living can enjoy the char of caramelized eggplant skin paired with fresh bursts of lemon pulp and mint leaves, along with some ingredients, like za'atar spice, that are not available in the Berkshires. While we had this with our crispy chicken thighs and are dying to have it with roast lamb, it's substantial enough to enjoy as a main course. 

Roasted Japanese Eggplants with Feta, Mint, and Onion
Adapted from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

Cooking Time
~30 minutes


2 despondent Americans who bought a ton of spicesincluding za'atarfrom Penzey's as a form of political activism

Chef's knife and cutting board
Rimmed baking sheet with rack
Parchment paper
Small bowl
Heavy-bottomed skillet

3 Japanese eggplants (~1.25 lbs. total), halved lengthwise
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons za’atar seasoning
4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) extra virgin olive oil
1 lemon, peel, seeds, and membrane removed, flesh finely diced, juice reserved
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 serrano pepper, seeded and minced
2 medium onions, halved and thinly sliced
4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
Large handful mint, coarsely chopped or torn

1. Heat oven to 500 degrees. Lightly score flesh of eggplant in a cross-hatch pattern. Season eggplant flesh with 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon za’atar. Drizzle flesh with two tablespoons oil.  Arrange eggplants flesh side-up on a rack set up inside a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Bake until soft and very well browned with some char, ~20-30 minutes. 

2. Meanwhile, stir together lemon flesh and juice, 1 clove garlic, half of chili pepper, 1/2 teaspoon za’atar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1 tablespoon oil in a small bowl. Set aside. 

3. Heat remaining tablespoon oil in heavy-bottomed skillet until smoking. Add onions and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and very well browned, ~5 minutes. Add remaining 1 clove garlic, remaining 1/2 chili, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon za’atar. Cook until fragrant, ~30 seconds. Remove from heat.

4. Top eggplants with onions, lemon sauce, and feta. Garnish with mint and serve immediately or at room temperature. 

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