Sunday, August 14, 2011

Chermoula eggplant with bulgur and yogurt

Happy second birthday, blog! Two years ago, the gift of some delicious home-grown cherry tomatoes prompted me to start writing about my culinary experiments. Today's recipe is another lovely summer dish, Ottolenghi's Chermoula Eggplant with Bulgur and Yogurt.

During July and August, my shopping basket each time I visit the farmer's market looks pretty much the same: eggplants, zucchini, corn, tomatoes, stone fruit. I never get tired of them, because summer produce is always bursting with flavor. But I love to try new recipes with them, so that I get enough variety. This salad is a wonderful make-ahead dish that can be served warm or cold. I had it for lunch, followed by a ripe juicy peach - the perfect summer repast. But it would also be a lovely first course for a summertime dinner or as part of the salad buffet at a barbecue. Like many of Ottolenghi's dishes, this dish combines many contrasting flavors and textures with interesting results. The eggplant is roasted with chermoula, a North African spice mixture with notes of citrus, cumin & coriander. The bulgur salad is bright with fresh herbs, while sweet sultanas and almonds add a fruity-nutty counterpoint. The toppings of cool yogurt and olive oil complete the Mediterranean feel. I used a sheep's milk yogurt that I found while browsing at a local health food store - full-fat and decadent, but worth it!

What made this dish stand out for me was the technique used to cook the eggplant. The eggplant is halved, scored and topped with the spice mixture before roasting in a 350F oven for about 30-40 minutes. This yields a crisp skin and meltingly soft interior, almost like it's been deep-fried, but with none of the guilt! Together with the bulgur and yogurt, it makes for a healthy and satisfying meal. I look forward to trying this technique with other spice blends, like harissa, niter kibbeh or this Sichuan peppercorn-infused chile oil.

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