I’m a tiny bit Lebanese, (the part that decided my taste buds and arm hair), which is why I think I am so drawn to the flavours of the Middle East. When I am out, I always order the eggplant. It is sometimes overcooked and often a greasy disaster, but when it is right, it is like magic. And unless I’m with my sisters, I usually don’t have to share :)
I also pay attention when I see people making recipes with eggplant that don’t involve deep frying (why is it always deep fried?). These dishes often fall into the Middle Eastern category, an area of the world that knows how to love and respect their eggplant.
Inspo for this particular recipe definitely comes from that area of the world. Usually the eggplant would be charred on the outside to give it a smoky flavour on the inside. Although, I do like what the smokiness brings sometimes, I don’t find it’s totally necessary, especially if you’re trying to avoid the carcinogenic compounds that come with smoked food. That being said, it is a small amount in this case (I mean, we even used smoked paprika around here, occasionally), and if you want to try charring the eggplant to mix up the flavour, just make sure you peel all of the blackened part off before serving.
Done our way, the eggplant is roasted whole until it is soft and smooth on the inside. We then slice them open and drizzle and sprinkle all kinds of flavours and textures on top. Eggplant is nothing if not mellow, so a little bit of ‘type A’ herbs and spices go a long way in helping it reach its full potential.
The fresh herbs on their own, totally transform the eggplant into something vibrant and alive, flavour-wise. The mint is also great for digestion (it can even help relieve vomiting!), while the cilantro is also great for digestion and nausea, and is known for its ability to remove toxins safely from your body (if you don’t like the taste, sub with parsley, which is pretty awesome too).
The green onions add a fresh and savory element (along with its Allium family powers) and we all know about the lycopene content of tomatoes, right? Although, if good pomegranates are easier to find than good tomatoes (depending on where you are and when you make this), feel free to trade them out. Pomegranates would be delicious in this recipe and are a great protector against cancer (just don’t wear your favourite white t-shirt when de-seeding them).
The tahini sauce is really simple but a good punch of flavour and nutrition. Sesame seeds are rich in bone-supporting minerals (more than milk!), including both calcium and its synergistic buddy, magnesium. The garlic and turmeric are both famous cancer-crushers, boasting powerful anti-inflammatory properties and helping us get through cold and flu season unscathed. The vitamin C in the lemon (and the other fresh veggies) helps with this too.
This ‘sprawled’ eggplant makes a fun and different side dish/meal/salad alternative that can be enjoyed warm, cold or room temperature. It is a nice mix of cooked and raw (my fave), it travels well, is just as good on day two and three, and also blends deliciously into a flavourful dip (literally dump the leftovers into your blender with maybe some extra virgin olive oil).
I’m not kidding when I say we love our eggplant around here. Check out these other eggplant-heavy recipes if you feel the same way:
Herb and Lentil-stuffed Eggplant Baked in Tomato Sauce
Lentil Salad with Roast Squash and Babaganoush
Zahtar Roasted Veggies with Golden Buckwheat
- 5 small or 2-3 large Eggplants
- ¼ c Tahini
- ¼ c Water
- 1 Garlic clove, minced
- 1 Tbsp Lemon Juice
- ½ tsp dried Turmeric (1 tsp if using fresh)
- Several grinds of Black Pepper (to enhance turmeric absorption)
- Sea(weed) Salt, to taste
- 1 c fresh Cilantro, coarsely chopped
- ½ c fresh Mint, coarsely chopped
- 1-2 large Tomatoes, diced
- 4 Green Onions, thinly sliced
- ¼ c Walnuts (preferably soaked overnight, drained and rinsed well)
- 2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 Tbsp Lemon Juice
- 1 Lemon, zested
- Sea(weed) Salt, to taste
- Preheat the oven to 350*F
- Lay the eggplants out on a parchment-lined baking sheet
- Bake for 45-60 minutes or until soft.
- Let cool until you can handle them and then squish them without breaking the skin to break up the insides.
- Slice open lengthwise on one side and pull open with your hands.
- Splay it out, flesh side up, on a plate or platter.
- Drizzle tahini sauce on top, and sprinkle in the topping.
- Serve warm, room temp or cold. Leftovers are good in a collard wrap, or even puréed into an eggplant spread (for real!).
- Whisk together until smooth.
- Sprinkle the toppings on top of the splayed out eggplant with tahini.
- Drizzle the olive oil and lemon juice on top (or toss everything together with the lemon and oil before you top off the eggplant).