Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Eggplant with Buttermilk Sauce

First and foremost, I wanted to say how excited I was when we bought Yotam Ottolenghi's new-ish vegetarian cookbook, Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London's Ottolenghi.  All of the recipes in there looked so interesting and the pictures were so beautiful, but I kept picking it up and putting it down because we already have so many freaking cookbooks.  I just didn't want to buy another.  But I am really excited that I finally caved.  Second, my pictures of this dish look awful compared to the pictures in the cookbook.  Just look at the cover of Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi and you can't help but be impressed by how utterly gorgeous his food (and the pictures of his food) is.  And then you look at my picture.  And the eggplant kind of looks like a... well I'm not going to say it because it's not at all appetizing.  But my pictures are nowhere near as pretty.   

Since this recipe is the picture on the front cover of the book and therefore a large part of the reason that I bought the book, I thought it was a fitting first dish for us to make.  And if this dish is representative of the other recipes in the cookbook, I am infinitely glad that we did.  Of the two of us, I thought that I would be a bigger fan of this dish but it turned out that Alex was.  He said that love was too strong of a word, but he "enjoyed" the dish and described it as having an interesting blend of flavors - the buttermilk/yogurt sauce was kind of tangy and the pomegranate gave it a nice sweetness without the whole thing being too sweet.  I would agree with all of his comments, but add that the fresh thyme was a really nice herbal (slightly floral) addition.  The eggplant itself was almost creamy and with the pop of the pomegranate seeds you ended up with a nice textural contrast as well.  My one complaint is that some bites of the dish just weren't as well seasoned as others, but you run into that problem with most roasted vegetables.  I know we make that comment/criticism of a lot of roasted squash recipes.  The layer of eggplant at the top that really absorbed the evoo and buttermilk sauce was delicious.  The layer that you scraped off the bottom (even after the addition of more buttermilk sauce) was less so.  All things considered it was a really interesting dish.  It was not my favorite dish that we have ever made, but the recipe is definitely worth trying.

Recipe after the jump!

Eggplant with Buttermilk Sauce
Adapted from Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London's Ottolenghi
By Yotam Ottolenghi

2 large and long eggplants
1/4 cup olive oil, plus 2 tbsp lemon evoo
1 1/2 tsp thyme leaves, plus additional sprigs for garnish
sea salt
black pepper
pomegranate seeds
1 tsp za'atar
For sauce
9 tbsp buttermilk
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1 1/2 tbsp evoo
1 small garlic clove, pasted with a pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise, cutting through the stalk.  Use a small sharp knife to make three or four parallel incisions in the cut side of each eggplant half (without cutting through the skin) and then repeating in the opposite direction to create a diamond-shaped pattern.

Place the eggplant halves, cut side up, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Brush with olive oil until the oil is absorbed by the flesh.  Sprinkle with thyme leaves and season with s&p.  Roast for 35-40 minutes, until the flesh is soft and nicely browned.  Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

While the eggplants are roasting, whisk together all of the ingredients for the sauce.  Taste for seasoning.  Keep cold until needed

To serve, spoon plenty of buttermilk sauce over the eggplant halves without covering the stalks.  Sprinkle with za'atar and plenty of pomegranate seeds.  Garnish with additional thyme leaves.  Finish off with a drizzle of lemon evoo

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