A few months ago, I read that Harvard was going to have a free online class on science and cooking through the edx.org. I was intrigued by the class and so I signed up for it. When I almost forgot about it, I got the email that the class has officially started! The introduction was quite interesting and I believe the class has potential to teach me quite a few things. You see, while I am a scientist, when cooking I rely more on my experience and common sense, because that’s how I learned to cook. In my home, you measured ingredients often ‘by eye’ and adjusted based on taste. I do, of course, use my skills as a chemist while cooking, most of the time probably fully unaware of it, but I believe there is room for more science in my cooking 🙂 If you want to check it out the class is SPU27x Science & Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science and among the teachers there are Harold McGee and Feran Adria himself! It does help to be a chemist/biologist, but if you’re not, they do provide enough background information and additional material for anyone to be able to follow the class.
The first homework used this buttermilk eggplant recipe to help you get more familiar with nutritional facts. While it was not required to make it, I figured it was worth a try. You see, I barely eat any eggplant. My mom loves eggplant salad (the Romanian version of Baba Ghanoush), but I used to find it disgusting as a kid. It wasn’t until I made it college that I gave it a second try. One of the Romanian students invited us over to have some eggplant salad and with everyone raving about it, I felt bad saying I don’t eat it and my more mature eater self, gave it another try. It wasn’t as bad as my memory believed, but it was still not something I would go out of my way to try. Since now I am an even more mature eater, and since over the years I did turn dishes I didn’t like into edible ones when cooking them myself, I figured this recipe was a good opportunity to give the eggplant another chance. And this was indeed the perfect recipe as the eggplant tasted delicious, no bitterness at all, and I was/still am quite impressed with it. My husband also admitted this was one of the better eggplant recipes he’s tried, but it still tasted like eggplant (duh? :-)). It will probably not become a regular dinner, but I will definitely serve it again as an appetizer so non-eggplant eaters like ourselves can still enjoy it without feeling overwhelmed by too much eggplant 😉
Also, while reading this recipe it sounded very familiar. That’s when I realized I saw it recently on REMCooks, so feel free to check out his pictures and story as well here.
Recipe notes: original recipes calls for 2 eggplants to make 4 starters, but I ~halved the recipe and used one big one to serve 2 as dinner. There was some ambiguity about the temperature of the oven: Epicurious says 200F (which is quite low), class website says 200C (390F), and REMCooks says 350F according to the Plenty cookbook. I ended up using 400F since my eggplant was quite big and I was getting hungry, but 350F should work as well.
Ingredients (serves 2 as dinner):
- 1 giant eggplant
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- several sprigs of fresh thyme (or 1-2 tsps dried)
- 1 tsp za’atar
- 41/2 Tb buttermilk
- 1/4 cup Greek yogurt
- 1 Tb olive oil + some for drizzle
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400F (or 350F). Meanwhile, slice your eggplant in half and make 3-4 parallel slices without cutting the skin, followed by 3-4 more at a 45 degree angle. I was a little conservative in my cuts, but if you go skin to skin, they should form a diamond pattern.
Place eggplant halves onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper/foil/non-stick mat. Brush the eggplant with olive oil until it soaks up all the oil, and it will! This thing is like a sponge, I swear it could soak up an entire bottle 🙂
Season eggplant with salt, pepper, and sprinkle with the thyme sprigs.
Roast anywhere between 35 min – 1hr depending on the size, until the flesh is soft and delicious, and the top is starting to brown. While the eggplants are in the oven, remove the arils of the pomegranate by either cutting in half and beating with a wooden spoon, or submerging it under water and removing the membrane and arils by hand. Prepare the sauce by whisking together the buttermilk, yogurt, olive oil, and then adding the crushed garlic. Season with salt and pepper.
Let eggplant cool for a little bit, season with za’atar, then spoon over the buttermilk sauce, and top with lots of pomegranate seeds and more fresh thyme. Enjoy!
This recipe is sooo good that you should definitely give it a try, especially if you like eggplant in general. I am probably going to check out some other recipes by Yotam Ottolenghi! Have you made any of his dishes? Do you own any of his cookbooks?
Wishing everyone a great weekend! If you’re in the LA area, check out this Sriracha festival. If you don’t like the windy kitchen on facebook (you should :-)), here is a great article about the Sriracha creator.