I have been wanting to make Yotam Ottolenghi's Eggplant with Buttermilk Sauce for quite some time. Partly because it looks so darn pretty as the cover of Plenty, partly because I love a good eggplant dish.
I didn't always love eggplant. We weren't an eggplant-eating family that I can recall--probably due to my dad. I'm am guessing that he wasn't a fan, in which case it wouldn't get a rotation on the meal menu. I don't remember exactly where I was when I first had it but, I do remember eating a really bad Eggplant Parmigiana early on in my eggplant experiences. It was mushy, with soggy breadcrumbs and no flavor and that pretty much sealed the deal with me and eggplant for many years. I couldn't understand why people would even want to eat the stuff. I'm not sure when it changed but I think it was when I moved to Oahu with a plethora of Asian dishes with long, skinny Japanese eggplant in them on every menu. Then I had some well cooked eggplant dishes--Moussaka and Baba Ganoush from my favorite Mediterranean restaurant, Ratatouille, and a delicious Eggplant Parmesan Tartine at a favorite lunch spot. My loathing for eggplant turned to liking then finally to love.
That made eggplant the perfect choice for this week's I Heart Cooking Clubs theme: "You Made Me Love You"--ingredients that that over the years, we have come to love or at least like. This simple dish features roasted eggplant flavored with thyme, topped with a creamy yogurt-buttermilk sauce and sprinkled with flavorful za'atar spice blend and tangy pomegranate seeds. Spooned onto some whole grain naan bread, it makes a quick and easy starter or a light dinner.
I made a few changes to the recipe--noted in red below.
Otttolenghi says, "I can't think of a more rustically elegant (is that a contradiction in terms?) starter. Serve with some robust white bread or pita and you are, literally, in foodie heaven. In the recipe you'll find Sam Tamimi's technique for getting the seeds out of the pomegranate, which I am afraid now is a very well-known secret."
Eggplant with Buttermilk Sauce
Adapted from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi
2 large and long eggplants
1/3 cup olive oil (I used 2 Tbsp for 1 eggplant)
1 1/2 tsp lemon thyme leaves, + whole sprigs to garnish (I used regular thyme)
sea salt and black pepper
1 pomegranate (I used frozen pomegranate "seeds")
1 tsp za'atar
(I added 1 Tbsp toasted pine nuts)
***"Hungry"--Giveaway Winner***The randomly drawn winner of a copy of "Hungry: What Eighty Ravenous Guys Taught Me About Life, Love, and the Power of Good Food" by Darlene Barnes is Janet of The Taste Space who said, "My favourite meal in university was a black bean and salsa soup. So easy... I should make it again :)" Congratulations Janet! Email me with your shipping address and I'll have your copy sent to you!