In the Middle East there’s a saying that a woman is not ready to wed until she can cook an eggplant (i.e. aubergine) 1,000 ways. Before you start huffing and puffing about the gendered implications of this adage, I think the New York Times explained it well: “The saying is less about preparing women for marriage, though, than it is about the amazing versatility of the eggplant.” Indeed, living in Israel my appreciation for these humble, purple-skinned vegetables has skyrocketed. On a single dinner table they can appear in countless forms. Usually it begins with flame roasted eggplants, but after that they can be pureed with tahina for baba ghanouj, mayo for an entirely different dip, or lemon juice and olive oil for eggplant “caviar.” Israelis make a convincing vegetarian chopped liver (devised in the 1940s when times were tough and meat was rare) using fried eggplant and hard boiled eggs.
And then there’s this dish. In the repertoire of anyone who has ever visited Israel I’m sure, it’s simple and delicious. Broiled or flame roasted eggplant is topped with rich, nutty tahina, sweet-tart pomegranate seeds, and herbs. Beyond its simplicity, one of the many things that’s brilliant about it is the fact that nearly everyone who wishes (barring an eggplant or nut allergy) can eat it. This dish is vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, and parve. It can make a light supper or superb side.
- 1 eggplant
- ¼ cup best quality tahina
- 3 tablespoons chopped parsley, divided
- 1 tablespoon water, plus more as needed
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- ¼ cup pomegranate seeds
- Preheat the broiler.
- Put the eggplant on a baking sheet and broil, turning occasionally, until softened and slightly charred. (Alternately, do this over the open flame of your gas stove.)
- Remove from the oven. Carefully hold the eggplant over a bowl and cut a slit in the bottom to release the liquid. Allow to drain for a few minutes in the bowl.
- Meanwhile, whisk together the tahina, 2 tablespoons of parsley, water, and lemon juice in a small bowl. The tahina may seize up slightly. Continue adding water 1 tablespoon at a time until it is a smooth, pourable consistency.
- Cut the eggplant in half and score the flesh (not skin) with a knife. Put on a plate or serving platter skin side down.
- Drizzle with the tahina mixture and sprinkle the pomegranate seeds and remaining tablespoon of chopped parsley over. Serve immediately.