Many years ago I received Plenty, a cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi, as a Christmas gift. One of the first dishes I made was this recipe for Eggplant with Buttermilk Sauce. I was recently reminded of this recipe when I spotted beautiful baby eggplant at our local farmer’s market. I was inspired to make this delicious and simple dish.
Great produce year-round
In Hawaii we are blessed with many things, one of them is a year-round growing season. It doesn’t mean that everything will grow year round but we don’t have the strict seasonality that is defined in other parts of the world. You will find us visiting the KCC Farmers’ Market on a weekly basis and it was on one of these trips that I picked up some beautiful baby eggplants.
Fresh ingredients cooked simply
For this dish, the eggplant are prepared very simply, roasted in a relatively low oven until the eggplants are buttery-soft, seasoned with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme.
The roasted eggplant are served with a sauce that is also quite simple – Greek yogurt, buttermilk, garlic, za’atar. Together they make a delicious first course.
This recipe is adaptable. The original recipe called for two large, long eggplant and instead I used eight small eggplant. In the past, instead of the more round eggplant, I have made this dish with the long Japanese eggplant. Cook with what you find that is fresh – that’s what will make the biggest difference.
We serve the eggplant on a platter, drizzled with the sauce, with extra sauce available on the side. We can’t always find pomegranate (although we hope to grow our own soon) so we sprinkle with additional za’atar to give the dish a bit more color.
The eggplant are good on their own as a first course along with some crusty bread. They would also be delicious as part of a larger tapas-type spread.Print
This is a delicious way to start a meal – warm, roasted eggplant, topped with a delicious yogurt-buttermilk sauce, finished with pomegranate seeds or a sprinkling of za’atar. Modified slightly from the original recipe.
For the eggplant
8 small and long eggplants
1/3 cup olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons thyme leaves*
Sea salt and black pepper
For the sauce
9 tablespoons buttermilk
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small garlic clove, crushed
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon za’atar
Olive oil, to drizzle
Za’atar, to sprinkle
Whole thyme sprigs, to garnish
Preheat the oven to 200°F. Cut the eggplants in half lengthways, cutting straight through the green stalk (the stalk is for the look; don’t eat it). Use a small sharp knife to make three or four parallel incisions in the cut side of each eggplant half, without cutting through to the skin. Repeat at a 45-degree angle to get a diamond-shaped pattern.
Place the eggplant halves, cut-side up, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush them with olive oil—keep on brushing until all of the oil has been absorbed by the flesh. Sprinkle with the lemon thyme leaves and some salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, at which point the flesh should be soft, flavorful and nicely browned. Remove from the oven and allow to cool down completely.
While the eggplants are in the oven, cut the pomegranate into two horizontally. Hold one half over a bowl, with the cut side against your palm, and use the back of a wooden spoon or a rolling pin to gently knock on the pomegranate skin. Continue beating with increasing power until the seeds start coming out naturally and falling through your fingers into the bowl. Once all are there, sift through the seeds to remove any bits of white skin or membrane.
To make the sauce. Whisk together all of the ingredients. Taste for seasoning, then keep cold until needed.
To serve, spoon plenty of buttermilk sauce over the eggplant halves without covering the stalks. Sprinkle za’atar and plenty of pomegranate seeds on top and garnish with lemon thyme. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil.
*The original recipe uses lemon thyme but it is difficult to find so I substitute with regular thyme.
**During certain times of the year it is difficult to find pomegranate so I substitute with an extra sprinkling of za’atar, for color and flavor.
From Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi © 2011 by Yotam Ottolenghi
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 40 minutes
- Category: Vegetables, Starter
- Cuisine: Mediterranean
- Calories: 360.04
- Sugar: 20.23 g.
- Sodium: 110.08 mg.
- Fat: 25.72 g.
- Saturated Fat: 4.06 g.
- Carbohydrates: 29.79 g.
- Fiber: 9.91 g.
- Protein: 7.2 g.
- Cholesterol: 4.96 g.
Keywords: eggplant, Greek yogurt, buttermilk, Ottolenghi