Since 2010, I have been eyeing Plenty, a vegetarian cookbook from Yotam Ottolenghi. Every time I went into a bookstore, I would flip through it, thinking to myself, “I NEED this book.” Yet being a college student with little to no time for cooking, I refused to let myself buy it. I just couldn’t justify buying a cookbook when I had no kitchen to even cook in.
This year I finally managed to get myself a copy of Plenty (thanks Dad!). I was pouring through the book, and I kept getting drawn back to the recipe on the front cover. Roasted eggplant, tangy sauce, and sweet pomegranate seeds…it sounded like summer dinner party heaven.
Ottolenghi calls this recipe “rustically elegant,” and I couldn’t agree more. Serve this with pita or bread as a starter for your next dinner party (whether its two or four people).
Eggplant with Buttermilk Sauce
2 long eggplants
1/3 cup olive oil
1 1/2 tsp lemon thyme leaves, plus a few whole sprigs
Maldon sea salt and black pepper
1 tsp za’atar
9 tbsp buttermilk
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 small garlic clove, crushed
pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise, cutting straight through the green stalk. 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 it to cool down completely.
To make the sauce, whisk together the buttermilk, yogurt, olive oil, garlic and salt. 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.