In between eating roasted pumpkin and winter squash in everything possible because it’s already November, I finally used up all the garden’s eggplants. There were as many growing in my tiny space as were in the school garden and given their late start last spring, they took seriously forever to ripen.
The real question is why did I plant so many in the first place? Quite simply, I like eggplant. Most people don’t. Like a little girl, I could say I like it because the fruit is purple and a funky shape and that name, egg plant. But there’s more. I began my eggplant-eating-tendencies years ago after trying it for the first time at The Olive Garden. My group thought I was crazy for ordering, of all things, something vegetarian and with a slimy vegetable as the main show. I was just beginning to show the “let’s-eat-all-the-weird-to-rural-Eastern-Oregon-food” side of my personality, and everyone else’s strong opinions made me like the vegetable even more.
All these years later, I still love eggplant because it’s often unloved and misunderstood–and because it can be seriously good. It pairs especially well in Middle Eastern food, and according to Ottolenghi, in Jerusulem it is often featured in every meal.
I whipped roasted eggplant into baba ghanoush a few weeks back and then, needing something for lunch on a busy day, threw all these ingredients in a dish before running out the door. I suspected something magical was in the works, and though leftovers for lunch is not always exciting, this combination of baba ghanoush, millet, chickpeas, za’atar, and kale goes together super well. It was so good that a decent amount of all that eggplant made its way into baba ghanoush for the sole purpose of making this.
If you’re at all like me and tend to have beans and grains and random spreads and spice mixtures like baba ghanoush and za’atar hanging out, this will go together super quick. If not, it will take a bit more time, though it’s definitely worth it!
The New Book of Middle Eastern Food 1 lb. eggplant (about one large) 2 cloves garlic, crushed salt, to taste 2 Tbs. tahini Juice of one lemon 1/3 tsp. cumin Split the eggplant in half length-wise and roast, cut side down at 425 degrees F, until very soft inside (about 30 minutes). Let it cool slightly and then peel the skin off and discard. In a small dish, mash it all up with a fork and then stir in the remaining ingredients until they come together. Adjust seasonings to taste. Za’atar You can buy this spice mixture, but it’s easy to make yourself. Combine 1 part ground dried thyme, 1 part lightly toasted sesame seeds, 1/4 part sumac, and salt to taste.