Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Grilled Eggplant with Lebneh

Somehow we never cook Middle Eastern at home.  I don't know why.  Actually I guess I do know why - it's just not something that occurs to me when I am planning dinner.  I don't stock most of the ingredients and spices at home.  So I have to make a conscious decision and effort to make Middle Eastern food.  Generally it involves a shopping trip to Kalustyans and some degree of forethought.  Forethought isn't always my friend.  But I decided yesterday that we were going to make a vegetarian Middle Eastern meal - this eggplant dish and a spinach and pomegranate salad.  The meal evolved around this eggplant dish because we got three eggplants from our CSA last week and thus far had only managed to use one of them.  And I am trying to be extra good about using all of our CSA and farmers' market produce this summer.  I also needed to free up some space in our refrigerator, which is verging on crazy full right now.  So we picked up the few ingredients we were missing and we made ourselves some Middle Eastern food.  And this eggplant dish was the clear winner of our Middle Eastern experiment.  It was very easy to make.  And it was delicious.  I have never tried lebneh before but it was delicious, similar to Greek yogurt but not quite.  Both yogurts are tart and thick, but the tartness is a little different.  And I think it is even thicker than Greek yogurt.  But it was delicious on the eggplant.  The mint really was the perfect touch.  This recipe is definitely a keeper.  And it provided me with enough incentive to add more Middle Eastern recipes to our repertoire.  Just eggplant today, but who knows what we will be making tomorrow?

Recipe after the jump!

Grilled Eggplant with Lebneh
May 2004
    1/2 cup lebneh or labne (thick Middle Eastern–style yogurt) or 1 cup whole-milk plain yogurt
    1 garlic clove
    1 teaspoon salt
    2 to 4 tablespoons water
    2 lb eggplant (2 medium), cut crosswise into 3/4-inch-thick slices
    1/2 cup olive oil
    fresh mint leaves, for garnish
      If using whole-milk plain yogurt, drain in a paper-towel-lined sieve set over a bowl, covered and chilled, 8 to 12 hours.
      Mince garlic and mash to a paste with a pinch of salt, then transfer to a bowl. Whisk in lebneh or drained yogurt, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and enough water to make mixture resemble well-stirred sour cream.
      Prepare grill for cooking. If using a charcoal grill, open vents on bottom of grill, then light charcoal. Charcoal fire is medium-hot when you can hold your hand 5 inches above rack for 3 to 4 seconds. If using a gas grill, preheat burners on moderately high, covered, 10 minutes, then reduce heat to moderate.

      Brush eggplant slices generously with oil on both sides and sprinkle with remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt. Grill slices on lightly oiled grill rack, covered only if using a gas grill, turning over occasionally, until eggplant is tender, 12 to 15 minutes total.

      Transfer as cooked to a platter, arranging slices in 1 layer. Put a spoonful of yogurt mixture on each eggplant slice and top with a mint leaf. Serve.

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