Smokey Aubergine With Hummus, Simit & Za’atar
Okay. Let’s talk about aubergines. Aubergines, also called eggplants, are part of the nightshade family (just like tomatoes, potatoes and goji berries). So far, I’ve oftentimes used aubergines in curries, stews or thrown them in the oven along with other veggies. I always kept on buying them and cooking with them but I never really enjoyed their taste or texture. I found them too spongy, too oily, not crispy enough but instead soggy and bland. What can I say, guys, I am delighted to tell you that I finally found a cure! The recipe I am about to share with you made me understand what all that aubergine-fuss was all about!
the bitterness debate
Generally, aubergines aren’t very bitter, it is only the old and overripe aubergines that taste bitter to some extent once their seeds turn dark. If you buy smaller and younger eggplants, you won’t find them to taste bitter. While some people enjoy this slightly bitter side effect, others find it disturbing in their dish. The common way of getting rid of the bitter note is by generously sprinkling salt on aubergine slices or cubes, letting them rest for ~30min and then draining the liquid that has come out of the aubergine, along with the bitterness. The salt leads to osmosis, which means that water molecules will be pulled out of the aubergine. After the 30 minutes have passed, wrap the aubergine pieces in a kitchen towel to absorb the water and remove the excess salt. If you press down on the aubergine to drain even more moisture, small air cells will collapse and allow the eggplant to absorb less oil when being sautéed. However, oil is an important and tasty factor when preparing aubergines, as it creates a soft and buttery texture that will make you fall in love with this dish (if you haven’t already ♥).
Prep Time: 10 min
Resting Time: 30 min
Cooking Time: 20 min
Total Time: 1 hour
For this recipe you will need:
1 medium sized aubergine
~2 tsp salt
2 tablespoons flour of choice (I used coconut flour)
3 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons fresh mint
2 tablespoons fresh parsley
2 tablespoons za’atar *
2 tablespoons hummus (homemade or store-bought)
simit (Turkish bread topped with sesame seeds) or flatbread
1 lemon or lime wedge
handful of mixed black & green olives
* za’atar comes from the middle east and is a herb mix consisting of hyssop, sumac, sesame and salt. I love to use this on top of my hummus and using it as a topping for salads, roasted vegetables, avocado sandwiches and anything savoury, really. You can buy it in most middle eastern supermarkets or spice shops. Be careful: once you start eating this you won’t be able to stop. I warned you, now let’s dish up and dig in!
- Cut the aubergine into 1cm thick slices. Place the aubergine slices in a big bowl or another deep dish and generously sprinkle salt over it. Give it a shake to make sure that the aubergine is evenly salted. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and set aside for ~30min.
- Finely chop the mint and parsley and set aside for serving. You have some time to kill here because the aubergine doesn’t need you yet. I suggest that you make yourself some lovely hot tea, take a comfortable seat on your chair or couch and find a moment of peace.
- When the aubergine slices have waited for your loving attention for long enough (and you have finished your tea), drain the liquid that will have gathered in the bowl and get rid of excess salt by placing the slices in a clean kitchen towel. You can gently press down on each slice to allow even more moisture to get the hell out of there! ( I can’t write these instructions with a straight face, I hope you know that)
- In a large frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons of sesame oil. While the oil is heating, spread the flour of choice on a small plate. Cover each aubergine slice with flour by pressing them into the flour one by one and turning to the other side. This will prevent excessive oil absorption and create a crunchy crust, yum!
- Fry the flour-covered slices in the heated pan for about 4-5 minutes on each side. Once you turned them onto the second side, add another tablespoon of sesame oil. You want to achieve a crunchy outside and a soft inside without burning your little piece of aubergine-perfection, so stay close to your stove and check every now and then. (You’re cooking a delicious meal, you really don’t have anywhere else to be, right?)
- To serve, place 3-4 aubergine slices on a plate, top with a generous sprinkle of za’atar, mint and parsley along with a Turkish simit (flatbread works too), a handful of mixed olives and a dollop of hummus! Now drizzle some lemon or lime juice over it all and enjoy what you have created, you talented, sophisticated kitchen magician!