Grilled and drizzled with multiple Middle-Eastern flavors, this vegetarian eggplant side dish gets raves every time.
I first ate eggplant with tahini and labneh in a tiny Jerusalem restaurant, where the chef allowed me into the kitchen to watch him making it.
While we chatted, he quickly grilled the eggplant, peeled it in a trice while it was still hot, and carefully added those flavors so beloved to the Middle Eastern palate: garlic, cumin, tahini and labneh. (See our recipe for labneh here.) Sitting down again to taste this casual-looking dish, I discovered that the flavors come through in distinct layers yet melt together in a fine, subtle mixture of smoky, sharp, and sweet. Wow.
Side Dish Eggplant with Tahini and Labneh Recipe
serves 2-4 as an appetizer
1 large or two medium eggplants
1/2 lemon to squeeze
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons labneh or plain yogurt
1 small clove garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon silan date syrup or pomegranate molasses (recipe here), or more if needed
2 tablespoons tahini per eggplant if medium-sized; 4 tablespoons if large
Grill whole eggplants in the oven or directly over a flame. The charred taste of flame-grilled eggplant is more authentic. Use a tongs to turn the eggplant from side to side, ensuring that it’s cooked and soft all over. Place the hot, grilled eggplant in a paper bag or inside a covered dish and allow it to cool slightly. This makes it easier to peel.
Remove the eggplants to a plate and get a small bowl of water ready. When it’s just cool enough to handle by its cap end, wet your fingers and pick off the charred peel. Cut it in half horizontally. Lay the eggplant down again and press a fork through the flesh, make striations along its length.
Squeeze some lemon juice over the surface.
Sprinkle cumin, salt and pepper over it.
Add garlic to labneh and mix very well.
Drizzle it up and down its length with tahini. Criss-cross the surface with a trail of labneh.
Drizzle it with date syrup or pomegranate molasses, or lacking that, honey diluted with a little water. You want only a little sweetness. Drizzle from side to side, or diagonally, so that it makes a pretty pattern.
Eat while it’s still warm.
More delicious Middle-Eastern side dishes and delights
Photo by Miriam Kresh