Cook with your hands. I’m convinced that there’s an invisible pipe that goes straight from your heart directly into your fingers, and there’s nothing better than eating a dish that has a little love running through it.
Using your hands teaches you about your ingredients – how things should feel when they’re raw, cooked, and combined. Having said that, there’s probably no food that I manhandle more than the eggplant, or aubergine as many refer to it. No matter what you call it, eggplant is something that I love, and has become somewhat of a staple in my kitchen. Grilled, roasted, baked, or all sauced up – there’s so much you can do with this plump, purple-skinned fruit, yes, its actually a fruit. I am talking about the dark shaded eggplant here as I have yet to try the white variety.
With a bitter taste and flesh that absorbs oil faster than moisturizer on cracked dry skin, cooking with eggplant can be tricky. Fortunately, there are ways to circumvent its challenges by learning how to choose your fruit wisely.
Look for eggplant that is light in weight, with shiny, smooth skin free of bruises and blemishes. It should be firm but not hard with a round brown mark on the fat, bottom end – a brown slit on the bottom might mean more seeds.
Some say that you have to salt the eggplant to remove bitterness. If I have the extra time, I’ll add this step, but more often than not, I skip it. I don’t find salting it makes that much of a difference. If you want to try it, cut your eggplant into slices, salt it generously and let it hang out in a colander for 30 minutes to an hour. Rinse it and pat it dry before cooking.
Add your oil right before cooking so that that it coats the surface of the flesh – that will help give your eggplant that beautiful brown finish.
Roasted Eggplant with Garlic Yogurt and Pomegranate
Serves 4 to 6
For the eggplant:
- 2 to 3 medium eggplant, washed, dried, and cut into 1 ½ inch slices (salted, drained, and rinsed if desired)
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons dried oregano
- Juice of half a lemon
- 1 & 1/2 teaspoons salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
For the garlic yogurt:
- 400 grams plain yogurt
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 cup pomegranate seeds
- 1/4 cup pine nuts (optional), lightly toasted
Preheat your oven to 210 Celcius, 410 Farenheit. Position your rack in the lower third of your oven.
Cut eggplant into slices and toss generously with olive oil.
Add salt, pepper, lemon, and oregano.
Place on a large baking tray, and bake for approximately 15 to 20 minutes or until the bottom of the eggplant has started to turn brown.
Turn the eggplant over and cook for another 15 minutes or until brown and soft. At this stage, you can eat the eggplant as they are (great as a vegetarian side dish). If you want to add the garlic yogurt, keep reading.
For the garlic yogurt:
Combine yogurt with garlic and salt. Taste and adjust salt if necessary.
Place eggplant on a large dish or platter. Spoon and scatter the garlic yogurt over the eggplant and garnish with pomegranate seeds and pine nuts (if using).
Serve warm or cold.
Photos by: Tara Atkinson Photography