Photo by Joseph De Leo; styled by Mariya Yufest
Eggplant has long been a popular choice for vegetarians because of its "meaty" texture. It's pleasantly spongy, ensuring that it absorbs flavors with ease, and it's nutritient dense: high in fiber and rich in vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients whose benefits range from lowering cholesterol to protecting important fats in your brain cells. Those are as good reasons as any to eat it in a spicy coconut curry or Classic Ratatouille. Eggplant's applications are endless, and we haven't even gotten started with all of the different types!
When it is roasted, the flesh of the highly adaptable aubergine (as eggplant is often called in Europe) turns to a tender pulp. It's the base for the well-known Levantine dish Baba Ghanouj, but regional variations of this creamy creation are found across the Middle East and northeast Africa. Kalamata olives, feta cheese, and pine nuts reinforce this supple salad-turned-sandwich-filler's Mediterranean roots. Packed into a pita, it makes for a flavorful and texture-rich pocketed meal, at once creamy and chewy, smoky and bright, sweet and salty. Leftovers (facilitated by a double batch) become a chunky topping for crostini, meatless layers in a lasagna, or bed for grilled lamb kabobs, to name just a few ideas.
Note: Substitute regular lemon zest and juice when Meyer lemon is out of season (as is currently the case). Also, if you're looking for a fun baking project to tackle alongside this recipe, here's a recipe for chewy-fluffy homemade pita bread from a fellow cook at FOOD52.
Mediterranean Pita Sandwich by solitarycook
Sea or kosher salt and pepper
1 yellow onion, 1/4" dice
Pinch red pepper flakes
1 to 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, minced
2 garlic cloves, smashed, peeled, minced
2 handfuls grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1/4 cup pine nuts
Roasted eggplant, pulp scooped out
Zest & juice of 1 Meyer lemon
1/4 cup Kalamata olives, lightly chopped
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
2 pita breads, purchased or homemade
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This is Pinot Noir food. Grenache or Barbera would work well, too. I find eggplant-based meals to be really good when you have a light- to medium-bodied wine with not too much acidity or tannins, and some earthy and fruity flavors. The rest of the ingredients in the mix here -- namely garlic, thyme, and olives -- are well suited to the aforementioned wines. If you want something more robust in structure (with higher acidity or tannins), a plush Sangiovese would also be delicious.
2009 Domaine de la Janasse "Terre d'Argile" Côtes du Rhône Villages, France
2010 Rickshaw California Pinot Noir
What are your favorite ways to serve eggplant? Share your cooking tips and serving suggestions in the comments section below.
Like this post? See the Make This Tonight topic from last week: Summer Corn Salad with Toasted Grains.