I fell in love with eggplants at an early age. Growing up in an Iranian household, eggplants were often blistered on the grill or smashed into dips laced with sizzled mint and salty Kashk, a dry, fermented yogurt product from the Middle East that gets rehydrated with water.
I crave them regularly when the hot summer months roll around—and now that we're in the peak of summer, there is a variety of eggplants to choose from at the market.
One of my favorites, the Japanese varietal is perfect for the grill. I simply rub it with a spice mix made up of cinnamon, cumin, coriander and cardamom, then throw it on the grates for a touch of smoke. A finishing drizzle of lemony yogurt and a bright salad of tomato and cucumber make this a summer dish to be remembered.
To learn more, read "Aubergine Dream."
Grilled Spiced Eggplant with Yogurt and Tomato-Cucumber Salad
Recipe from the Tasting Table Test Kitchen
Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
¼ teaspoon cardamom
4 medium Japanese eggplants, halved lengthwise
Salt, to taste
1 small shallot, very thinly sliced
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 pint sun gold or cherry tomatoes, halved
2 medium cucumbers, thinly sliced
½ cup loosely packed parsley leaves
Zest from 1 lemon
1 cup of whole fat Greek yogurt
3 tablespoons water
Toasted sesame seeds, for garnish
1. In a small bowl, combine the olive oil and garlic; set aside for 20 minutes to allow the garlic to infuse into the oil. In a separate bowl, combine the cumin, coriander, cinnamon, red pepper flakes and cardamom.
2. Using a pairing knife, score the flesh of each eggplant, making crisscross marks, each ½-inch apart. Sprinkle the spice mix over the eggplant halves and drizzle each half with the garlic-infused olive oil.
3. Build a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill or heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Place the eggplant flesh-side down and cook, turning once until tender and charred, about 8 to 10 minutes.
4. While the eggplant is cooking, place the shallots in a medium bowl with the vinegar and allow them to macerate until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, cucumbers and parsley and season with salt. Toss and set aside.
5. In a small bowl, stir together the lemon zest, yogurt and water and set aside.
6. To serve, spoon a dollop of yogurt on 4 plates. Place two halves of eggplant over the yogurt and top with a little tomato-cucumber salad. Drizzle with more oil and garnish with toasted sesame seeds.