We were invited to spend the first night of Sukkot with friends Amy and Ken in their sukkah, which they’d covered in one of Fig Tree & Vine’s new fabric panel kits. I was thrilled to see our products in “situ.”
We were especially grateful for the invitation as our house is under renovation and our backyard looks like a WW2 battlefield: ditches and churned up piles of dirt everywhere. No sukkah of our own this year.
Amy is a great cook. She carried out large platters of broiled chicken, roasted vegetables, and chopped salads, many with a Middle-Eastern flair — perfect for a gathering under cedar boughs in her candlelit, backyard oasis. An eggplant dish in particular was outstanding: Small rounds of sliced, tender roasted eggplant resting on swirls of tahini and spiced-up with green Thai peppers.
“Ottolenghi?” I asked.
“No — me!” Amy replied.
She told us she’d been in a rush preparing the meal, and when she got to the eggplant she simply improvised with ingredients at hand. In addition to the peppers she’d sprinkled the finish dish with Thai basil and Korean seaweed. New fusion cuisine at its best!
I asked Amy if she’d share the recipe — which she did, emailing it to me the next day. In the spirit of adaption, I experimented with the recipe a little more, adding in seasoned ground turkey to turn it into a one-pan, one-trip dish. All the better to carry out to a sukkah. If you prefer it vegetarian, just leave out the meat.
4 Japanese eggplants, trimmed and sliced in 1-inch thick rounds
1/2 cup pinenuts
1 lb ground turkey
1 small onion, diced
4 cloves of peeled garlic, minced
1 tb ground cumin
1/2 tb ground coriander
1 lemon, cut in half
Approx. 1/4 cup of tahini
1 green Thai pepper (substitute jalapeno if unavailable), minced
Handful of Thai basil, chopped (substitute regular basil if unavailable)
Small handful of dry seaweed ( Amy prefers the “Korean with almonds in it”)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 400-degrees.
Place eggplant in one layer on a roasting pan and lightly salt. Let it sit for about 20 minuted then use paper towels to wipe off visible salt and collected moisture. Toss in olive oil and place in the middle of the oven. Roast until soft and browned, approximately 30 minutes. Stir occasionally and check on doneness.
Place a large, heavy, frying pan on medium heat. Pour in the pine nuts and toast, stirring frequently, until lightly brown. Do not let the nuts burn. Remove and set aside.
Raise the heat under the pan to medium high, and pour in 2 tbs of olive oil. Sauté the chopped onions and garlic until softened, and then sprinkle with the cumin and coriander. Toss for a minute or two until the spices are fragrant, and then add in the ground turkey meat. Continue sautéeing the meat until just cooked through and slightly browned and crisped. Be careful not to overcook it or let it dry out. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside and keep warm.
When the eggplant is ready, remove from oven and squeeze lemon juice from the two halves over it. Season with salt and pepper.
Stir the tahini so the oil and sesame paste are not separated and it’s smooth, and then dribble approximately 2 tbs all over a serving platter and swirl around. Place the eggplant on top and drizzle a little more tahini over it. Do not saturate. Add the ground turkey mixture on top, and sprinkle with the minced peppers, basil leaves, pine nuts and seaweed (if using). Drizzle a little more tahini over and serve immediately.
NOTE: You can also serve the minced peppers on the side.