This week at I Heart Cooking Clubs, we're all about Mezze - those delicious "small plates", which might be served on their own as a single appetiser, or as part of a whole spread of small dishes. Such eating lies at the very heart of many Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food cultures and is, to my way of thinking, a sublime way to eat. Dish after dish of wonderful flavours and textures; hours of conviviality around the "shared table"; what's not to love?!
No such repast would be complete without a bowl of hummus or some of this deliciously smoky, garlicky, lemony, herby aubergine dip.
Now, I'll be the first to admit, that this dish wins no prizes in the looks department - in fact it bears more than a passing resemblance to something the cat brought up. Serve this up and, to a person, everyone will regard the bowl somewhat suspiciously before recoiling in horror and asking "What. Is. That?!!" Of course, I know that this is not really the kind of reaction with which you want your food to be met. But it's worth it to see that look of disgust transformed into a look of transcendent joy, and sighs of deep satisfaction, at the first mouthful. I promise you, before you know it, the bowl will be empty and everyone will be fighting over the last mouthful. I have even known those who claim to not really like aubergine, to be amongst those trying to just about scrape the pattern off the bowl in their efforts to get every last morsel of this.
This recipe is adapted, only slightly from Ottolenghi's recipe for Burnt Eggplant with Garlic, Lemon & Pomegranate Seeds from Jerusalem: A Cookbook. The garnish of pomegranate seeds would be a wonderful addition, and one I would definitely have gone for, but for the fact that they are out of season right now. And since I am presently holidaying in California (yes, I know, pinch me), I didn't have ready access to the stash of pomegranate seeds I keep in my freezer for dipping into in the off-season.
Burnt Aubergine with Garlic, Lemon & Herbs
Adapted from a recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe
3 large aubergine
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1x lemon, finely grated zest and juice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
generous handful flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
generous handful mint, finely chopped
flaky sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
Begin by burning the aubergines. Cut a few long slashes through the skin of each one, and put onto the grill of a hot barbeque. Turn regularly and cook until the skin is black and flaky, and the flesh is soft - about 15- 20 minutes. This is my preferred method for doing this - by far the easiest and least messy. Alternatively, after slashing the aubergine skins, place them on a baking sheet in the oven under a hot grill (you may call it a broiler in your part of the world). This will take about an hour in the oven, and you should turn them every 15 to 20 minutes so that they become blackened all over.
Remove the aubergines from the heat and leave until cool enough to handle. Cut in half lengthwise, scoop out the soft flesh in long strips and discard the blackened skin. Put the flesh into a sieve set over a bowl and leave to drain for at least an hour - longer if you have the time.
Put the drained flesh into a medium-sized bowl, mash with a fork, and add in the chopped garlic, grated lemon zest (reserving a little for garnish), lemon juice, olive oil, a generous pinch of flaky sea salt and a good grind of black pepper. Set aside and allow to stand for a good hour or more at room temperature for the flavours to develop.
Stir in the herbs, adjust the seasoning as necessary, and pile into a serving bowl. Drizzle over a little extra olive oil and garnish with the remaining lemon zest.
If you would like to get to know Yotam Ottolenghi a little better, then do go and visit my friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs and see what they've all cooked up ...
... or check out Jerusalem and Ottolenghi's other great titles available from Amazon USA, Amazon UK or Fishpond NZ.
I'm also sharing this post this week at See Ya In the Gumbo hosted by the lovely, and very amusing, Michelle at Ms. enPlace.