Ottolenghi's Burnt Eggplant w/Tahini & Pomegranate

by Maja Lukic in


DSC02187.JPG

Today, I am sharing one of my absolute favorite recipes from Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty. Plenty, if you haven't read it yet, is a completely inspiring, gorgeous cookbook that features some of Ottolenghi's best vegetarian recipes. I can't rave about it enough. In my very humble opinion, Ottolenghi sets the standard for what vegetarian/vegan cooking should be: seasonal, inventive, beautiful, and delicious.

The recipe combines roasted eggplant flesh with a delicious mix of tahini, parsley, lemon juice, garlic, and pomegranate molasses. The end result is an addictive, creamy, smoky, tart, sweet, salty, and aromatic spread. It can stand on its own as a dip or condiment (far superior to any hummus I've ever had) or as a side to meat or fish. Or, as Ottolenghi suggests (and I highly recommend), it can be served as a refreshing Middle Eastern inspired salad with some chopped tomatoes and cucumbers.

DSC02208.JPG

The only downside to this recipe is that it requires the use of a broiler in the middle of summer. (If you have a grill, you can certainly char the eggplant that way. I live in a studio in New York so that was not really an option.). Fortunately, the weather has been entirely unpredictable as of late. I took advantage of a chilly night in late July to char some eggplants under the broiler.

The salad hits you with a refreshing sweet/sour double dose of pomegranate. First, through the use of pomegranate molasses in the eggplant spread itself. (If you are unfamiliar with pomegranate molasses, as I was, do yourself a favor and pick up a bottle. Obsessed.). To finish, it's topped off with arils (or seeds) from a fresh pomegranate.

DSC02181.JPG
DSC02176.JPG
DSC02191.JPG

I know what you're thinking. The pomegranate seems like one of those foods where the end result doesn't really justify the effort required to extract the edible portions (I'm putting grapefruit in this category, too). But it works so beautifully here that it would be a shame to leave it out. Removing the seeds can actually be pretty simple and, in fact, there are at least two easy methods for doing so.

The first is my own, gentler method. Fill a large bowl with water. Cut the pomegranate in half horizontally. Then dunk each half of the pomegranate into the water, cut side facing down, and use your fingers to separate the arils from the membrane. Discard the hard red pomegranate skin. The arils will sink to the bottom while the loose bits of white membrane will float to the surface. Use your hands or a small strainer to skim the white membrane bits from the surface of the water and discard them. You should be left with a bowl full of clean little red jewels. Strain the remaining water and arils and if there are bits of white pith membrane left on any of the seeds, gently remove them. I like this method because it's quick, clean, and will not bruise or damage the pomegranate seeds.

The second is Ottolenghi's more aggressive approach. Cut the pomegranate in half horizontally. Hold one half over a bowl, with the cut side against your palm, and use the back of a wooden spoon or rolling pin to knock the pomegranate skin. Continue beating until the seeds start coming out naturally and falling through your fingers into the bowl. Once all of the seeds are out, sift through the seeds to remove any bits of white skin or membrane.

You choose.

DSC02198.JPG

I ended up making a double batch of this. I advise you to do the same.

Ottolenghi's Burnt Eggplant w/Pomegranate and Tahini (v/gf)

Adapted from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi

Serves 4 as an appetizer/salad

1 large eggplant

1/3 cup organic tahini paste

1/4 cup water

2 tsp pomegranate molasses

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 garlic clove, crushed

3 tbsp chopped parsley

sea salt and black pepper

seeds from 1 pomegranate

Optional: a handful of mini cucumbers, sliced in half moons (peeled if not organic), 1 cup organic cherry tomatoes, halved, olive oil to finish

First, you will need to roast or char the eggplant. You have some options here. To cook the eggplant on a gas stovetop, line the area around the burner with foil to protect it. Put the eggplant directly on a moderate flame and roast for 12-15 minutes, turning frequently with metal tongs, until the flesh is soft and smoky and the skin is burnt all over. Ottolenghi suggests you keep an eye on it the whole time so it doesn't catch fire. I concur.

Alternatively, if you have an electric stove, you can broil them. First, pierce the eggplant skin all over with a sharp knife (if you skip this step, you will have exploding eggplants - I am just saying). Then, place the eggplant in a foil-lined tray directly under a hot broiler for 1 full hour, turning it every 15 minutes or so. It will be done when it is completely deflated and the skin is broken and burnt.

When it's cool enough to handle, cut the eggplant open and scoop out the flesh and drain (the eggplant will release a lot of water as it cools). Ottolenghi suggests letting it drain for at least 30 minutes but there's no reason to time it so precisely. Basically, just make sure it's fairly dry before you proceed.

Then chop the eggplant flesh roughly and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add tahini, lemon juice, water, pomegranate molasses, garlic, parsley, and some salt and pepper. Mix well with a whisk. Alternatively, you can take the easier route (like me) and pulse everything together in a food processor. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more garlic, lemon juice or molasses, as needed. The salad should be a delightful balance of sweet and sour flavors.

At this point, you can serve as is, topped with pomegranate seeds. Or you can go further (you should go further) and add sliced cucumbers and tomatoes to the eggplant mix. Then, top everything with pomegranate seeds and drizzle with olive oil. Devour. 

And your song to cook to? This awesome track by Sam Smith that I cannot get out of my head. 


Beet Carrot & Apple Juice

by Maja Lukic


DSC00218

This gorgeously hued crimson juice is delightfully sweet and totally refreshing. Upfront disclosure: the recipe was adapted from Gwyneth Paltrow's new cookbook It's All Good. In my defense, all of her recipes (at least the ones I've tried) are excellent. The book is good and the recipes work.

DSC00212
Beet Juice2
Beet Juice1

Second disclosure: I am not the biggest fan of red beets. This is why I generally prefer to work with golden beets as they're much prettier and will not leave pink stains everywhere. But I have to admit that red beets work perfectly in juices - they give the juice a delicious sweet flavor and lend a gorgeous fuchsia color to it. And I tend to like pretty pink things so here we are.

DSC00208

Another point about beets - the juice may seem wasteful at first but you can save your beet greens and the vegetable pulp. The greens can be served alone or added to a soup and they'll be completely delicious. The pulp can be used in baked goods or veggie burgers (I'm working on a recipe, in fact).

Beet Juice3

 

Beet Carrot & Apple Juice (v/gf)

Serves 1-2

Adapted from It's All Good 

2 large carrots (the largest you can find), scrubbed and chopped

1 large or 2 medium beets, peeled and cut into wedges

1 organic apple

1 small pear or 1 cup chopped honeydew melon (optional)

1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled

1 lemon, zest and pith removed

Juice the carrots and beets first. At this point, you can remove the vegetable pulp if you need to repurpose it for another recipe (I had to).

If not, proceed with the fruit, ginger and citrus.

Because the carrots and beets are pretty dense, I find it helps to add a pear or some melon or other juicy fruit to lighten the whole thing. But you can leave it out, if you want the original Paltrow treatment.

Serve immediately. 

DSC00217-900x1200.jpg

Yes - that is the Eiffel Tower. I manically collect postcards and this is my dish towel equivalent of a Parisian postcard.

Drink your beets & leave me a comment (or send me a postcard).