Seared Eggplant with Mint, Basil + Walnuts in Yogurt Olive Oil Dressing
Go for a refreshing dinner recipe that leans on local produce at the height of its ripeness.
Its glamorous and vaguely sinister-sounding name notwithstanding, the nightshade family boasts several of my favorite fruits and vegetables, including bell peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants, which hit peak ripeness during the hot and humid late summer months. Keen eggplant spotters at farmers’ markets will discover alternate colors—white, green, and orange, for example—as well as shapes and sizes that run the gamut beyond the familiar aubergine oblong. The great thing about eggplant is that its mild flavors and satisfying texture take on aspects of whatever you do to or put with it. Here, that’s a delicious array of flavors, from the sweet (honey) to the sour-tangy (yogurt, mustard, vinegar), to the fragrant (herbs, garlic), to the smoky (char from the grill). Serves 4.
1⁄4 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 tablespoon grainy mustard
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
1 small garlic clove, peeled and minced
1⁄4 teaspoon Aleppo chile flakes
Flaky sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 to 5 small eggplants (about 1 3⁄4 pounds total), such as Italian, graffiti, or any variety that looks good or is in season
3⁄4 cup raw walnut halves
1⁄2 cup fresh basil leaves, torn if large 1⁄2 cup fresh mint leaves, torn if large
In a medium bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, mustard, vinegar, honey, garlic, and chile flakes. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
Cut the stem ends off the eggplants and cut vertically into 1⁄4-inch-thick slices. Set aside.
Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat and cook the walnuts, stirring a few times, until toasted and almost charred in parts, about 4 minutes. Remove to a small bowl and set aside.
Drizzle the eggplant slices lightly with olive oil. With the heat still on medium-high, add the slices to the skillet in batches and let cook, flipping halfway through cooking, until charred in parts, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer the eggplant to large plates or a serving platter and sprinkle very lightly with salt. Continue cooking the remaining eggplant, placing it on the platter and sprinkling with salt, until all the eggplant is cooked.
Drizzle the eggplant all over with the yogurt dressing. Use your hands to break and crumble the walnuts over the top. Sprinkle everywhere with the basil and mint. Serve warm or at room temperature within a few hours (garnish just before serving).
Excerpted from Eat Cool: Good Food for Hot Days by Vanessa Seder (Rizzoli, 2021). Reprinted with permission from the publisher.
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