Roasted Eggplant With Tahini Sauce

Normally, this is where I’d insert photo after photo of lovely ingredients.

Imagine then, the plump aubergine, the cream-colored garlic, the crisp onion.  Imagine the anchovies, swimming eerily in olive oil.  Imagine the cumin seeds, the sunny lemon, the putty-hued tahini, the jarring red of the tomato.

You’ll have to imagine these things because I was foolish enough to think that this thrown-together mess wouldn’t be worth mentioning.  While running an errand yesterday afternoon, I realized that I hadn’t even thought about dinner yet.  Not wanting to go out a second time for any ingredients, I quickly scanned my mental inventory of the refrigerator, and remembered the jar of tahini left over from these beauties.

Stopping in at the grocery store, and without really knowing why, I picked up one eggplant and one tomato.  Something about the persistent (though lessening) chill in the air suggested something roasted.  Eggplant seemed to match the tahini that nagged at me to be used; the tomato would lend freshness and acidity.  Somehow.

Back home, I surveyed the refrigerator, pulling out anything that seemed like it would play nice.  Out came the tahini.  Out came a container of cooked brown rice.  Three lonely anchovy fillets in a jar, risking expiration, joined in.  There was an onion, chopped and frozen.  Cloves of garlic and a naked, previously-zested lemon followed.  And then I let them tell me what to do.

The eggplant demanded to be chopped, and roasted with the onion and the garlic.  The few anchovies decided that the hot oven was far too much for them to handle, and asked to be melted into some sort of sauce.  The tahini insisted on being used raw, with no heat applied, as did the tomato, while the rice politely offered to play a supporting role.  From the spice cabinet, cumin seed, dried thyme, and oregano cried out to be used, and I was more than happy to accommodate them.

I knew I couldn’t exactly go wrong with roasted eggplant; but the scents wafting from the pan as the anchovies gently simmered with the cumin, mingling with the sweet smell of the caramelizing onion and eggplant, told me that I had something special on my hands.

But after tasting the finished sauce, the boldness of anchovy mixed with nutty tahini and vibrant lemon, punctuated with the smoke of cumin, and I knew I couldn’t keep this one to myself.  With the somehow meaty flavor of the roasted eggplant, over a plate of brown rice, it was the best kind of simple dinner: the one you didn’t expect could possibly taste so incredibly good.

And then, I started kicking myself.  Why, oh why, hadn’t I taken even one picture?

(Good thing there were leftovers for lunch today.)

 

Roasted Eggplant With Tahini Sauce

Yield: 2 to 3 servings

This earthy mixture of roasted vegetables is extremely versatile. Serve it over rice, with a dollop of yogurt and a garnish of parsley, as pictured; serve it tossed with pasta and bits of salty feta; purée it and garnish with mint for a dip to go with toasted pita wedges; use it as is for a flavorful side dish with simply-prepared pork, fish, or chicken.

Ingredients

    For the eggplant:
  • 1 eggplant, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 medium onion, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste
  • For the sauce:
  • 3 olive oil-packed anchovy fillets, with 1 tablespoon of the oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole cumin
  • 2 tablespoons well-stirred tahini
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and black pepper (optional)
  • To finish:
  • 1 medium tomato, diced

Instructions

1. Preheat the oven to 450º F. While the oven heats, prepare the vegetables.

2. Toss the eggplant, onion, and garlic together in a large roasting pan. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, and toss to combine at once, before the eggplant soaks up the oil. Add the remaining tablespoon oil if the mixture looks very dry; do not be tempted to add any more than that, however. Add the thyme, oregano, cayenne, and bay leaf. Salt and pepper to taste, and toss until incorporated.

3. Roast the mixture at 450º F for 30 to 40 minutes, or until well-browned and very soft. Set aside to cool slightly.

4. While the vegetables cool, make the sauce. Heat the anchovies in their oil in a small pan over medium heat. When they begin to sizzle and break down, add the cumin and reduce the heat to low. Let cook until the cumin is fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, and add the tahini. Stir until smooth, then stir in the lemon juice. Taste, and add salt and pepper if needed.

5. Pour the sauce over the roasted eggplant. Add the diced raw tomato, and toss. Serve warm, or at room temperature.

http://www.onehundredeggs.com/roasted-eggplant-with-tahini-sauce/

6 Comments

  1. pity
    March 10, 2010 at 3:46 PM

    this is comfort food, at its best! aubergine and rice, two of my favorite foods ever! well done, it really looks delicious, cheers from london

  2. Elisabeth, Greece
    April 16, 2010 at 5:19 AM

    I am dying to make this, but I just spotted the word “anchovies”, which the sound only makes me shivering.. :) Are there any other suggestions for replacing it or should I just skip it?

  3. Beth
    April 16, 2010 at 1:49 PM

    Elisabeth: The anchovies are very much in the background, flavor-wise. All they do is add an umami, almost nutty depth to the sauce, they don’t really stand out at all. They literally melt away into the sauce, and taste nothing like they would if you just popped one raw in your mouth.

    If you absolutely can’t even stand the thought of them, though, you could absolutely leave them out; alternatively, try some other non-shivering-inducing and deeply-flavorful ingredient, maybe dark miso paste, finely chopped capers or oil-cured olives, or Worcestershire sauce. I almost hesitate to suggest Asian fish sauce, as the flavor profile here is more Mediterranean; but you never know, it might go quite nicely, especially with the tahini. Give it a shot, maybe! I’d love to hear about any variation!

  4. Elisabeth, Greece
    April 29, 2010 at 2:56 PM

    Ok, so for the first time I tried substituting anchovies with finely chopped sun dried tomatoes preserved in olive oil. I decided that in this case it would be better to leave the fresh tomato out, and I was not disappointed. The flavour was earthy, loved it!

  5. Beth
    May 3, 2010 at 10:38 AM

    Elisabeth: Sun dried tomatoes sound perfect in this! Can’t believe I didn’t think of those; I’m anxious to try it myself!

  6. Elisabeth, Greece
    May 4, 2010 at 9:33 AM

    Oh! And the second (and better) version was to substitute anchovies with white miso, and fresh tomato with the sun dried ones. So the sauce was more saucy-like and the whole dish…perfect! Thank you!

Post a Comment

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *

*
*