Garlic Eggplant

Did you know that eggplant is technically a berry?

As a kid, I never really liked eggplant.  I didn't really like garlic either, so the fact that I like and make this recipe is somewhat surprising.  But the combination of the eggplant, yogurt, garlic and cilantro is spicy, tangy and satisfying.

This is also one of those recipes that you can make for guests or to take to a party and make a huge impression.  It looks unusual and like something that you've put a lot of effort into making.  It's up to you whether to burst their bubble by telling them how easy these eggplant really are to make, or let them imagine you to be a great chef.

Note:  This recipe is traditionally made by frying the eggplant slices in sunflower oil.  Also, the filling is usually made with mayonnaise.  I have tweaked it somewhat to make it healthier and, in my opinion, tastier (never have been a mayo fan).  If you want to try making the eggplant according to the original recipe, just fry the eggplant slices in hot sunflower or canola oil and drain them on paper towels.  For the filling, substitute mayo for the yogurt and then fill and arrange them as directed below.

For my version, you will need:
  • 1 large eggplant (this recipe made enough for 5 adults, so if you are making these for a party, you may want to double or triple the recipe)
  • salt, for making the eggplant sweat
  • extra virgin olive oil, for brushing
  • 2 cups Greek-style yogurt
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • salt, to taste
  • minced garlic, to taste (I like these fairly spicy, so I usually add about 6-7 cloves)

The first thing to be done is to slice the eggplant into thin rounds.

Next, lay the slices flat on a layer of paper towels and sprinkle them generously with salt. This process helps to draw out the water and bitterness that is often associated with eggplant.

You will have more than one layer, and it is fine to layer them one on top of the other.  Just be sure to salt each layer before laying down more paper towels and starting the next layer.

Let the eggplant rest until you see beads of moisture formed on the surface.

Meanwhile, you can make the filling.  Combine the yogurt, cilantro, garlic and salt in a medium bowl.  Unfortunately, I don't have a picture of this step, as I was doing about 5 million things, and trying to be entertaining to a three-year-old.  A bit frazzled.

Also, preheat the broiler while you are letting the eggplant rest.

Once the water has come out of the eggplant, wipe them with paper towels.  Then, if your "assistant" still needs a job to do (how big should a kid be before he's old enough to do ALL the housework to burn his energy off?), let him put the eggplant slices onto a baking sheet and brush them with olive oil.
Pop them under the broiler, and watch carefully.  They will brown fairly quickly, and you will need to take them out when they get some lovely brown spots on them, but before they blacken and shrivel.  With how thin these slices are, and how hot that broiler is, it really doesn't take long to go from tender and mottled brown to charred.

Once they've cooled enough to handle, put about a teaspoon of the yogurt filling on the slice.  Fold in half, and place on a plate.

Repeat until you've used up all of the eggplant slices and filling.  Arrange them nicely on a serving plate and chill for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.  Serve as a cold appetizer or side dish.

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