All summer long, our friends have given us cases of their garden’s vegetables. I have yet to purchase a tomato! I’ve received every shape, every color; from sweet to tart, all were packed with flavor. I have already made tomato sauce for the year. Well… I am leaving for a week so that stock of tomato jars is probably going to be greatly reduced as my husband will probably have a tomato spaghettata every day until I return. But it has not been just tomatoes, the cases were filled with fresh herbs, eggplants, zucchini, peppers, onions, garlic, celery, fennel, chicory, cucumbers… Seriously, I have had some sort of vegetable case in the kitchen all summer. It has been a festival of salads, soups, raw juices, sauces, pesto, filled pasta. I’ve spiced it up and mix it up as much as possible but the truth is, when vegetables are so fresh and full of summer sunshine, simplicity always wins. Last night’s dinner was just that: simple and seriously mouthwatering.
This is what I had: 2 eggplants, 1 bell pepper, 1 fennel bulb, a few mushrooms, 2 red onions some grape/cherry tomatoes and some fresh thyme. To this you need to add: extra virgin olive oil, salt & pepper, dried mint, yoghurt (about 200 gr or 3/4 cup) and some spices. I used Za’atar and Sumac.
I decided to make 2 separate dishes to give the eggplant a Prima Donna role. I was inspired by 2 recipes: for the eggplant, by the book “Plenty” by Yotam Ottolenghi . It was mostly a visual inspiration as I basically changed both the ingredients and the method. Still I give credit where credit is due and Ottolenghi is a vegetable master I often use just to get fresh ideas. For the vegetables, it was Giovanna Amato’s “Tiella di Verdure“. Like me, she collaborates on the great blog “Taste Abruzzo“, I invite you to try her version.
This recipe will serve 4 as a side dish or light lunch and 2 people as a main course. We were 3 and felt pretty full.
Preheat the oven to 165ºC – or 330ºF
Wash your eggplants and cut them in half length-wise. then make a series of criss-crossed incisions. Sprinkle salt on the eggplant and rub it in the grooves. Put them face down in a colander and set aside.
Wash and prep all the other ingredients (onions, mushrooms, peppers, fennel and tomatoes) cutting them in slices of similar thickness.
Layer them in a backing pan. ( I did 2 single dishes but one large one is probably easier.
I added one clove of unpeeled garlic to each dish (use as many as you want) and I sprinkled with salt, thyme leaves and some olive oil (not too much as you will add some later). Cover the dish with parchement paper and place in the oven for about 45-50 min covered for the first 25 then uncovered.
Prepare your 2 sauces:
The Yoghurt sauce for the eggplant is just yoghurt mixed with 1 tblsp of dried mint, 1 tblsp of olive oil and a little salt. Cover and refrigerate. You can use greek style yoghurt if you like a thicker sauce.
For the vegetable, take a few sprigs of thyme and either chop with a knife and add to about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of olive oil or put both the olive oil and the thyme in a mini chopper and mix together. I used a mini chopper.
When the vegetables are ready, take them out of the oven and drizzle them with the thyme-olive oil and set aside to cool.
Now back to the eggplants. By now, they should have lost a good amount of bitter liquid. Rinse them and pat dry. Brush them with a good amount of olive oil so it gets into the grooves and bake them for 50-60 minutes face up until nicely browned and soft to the touch.
Let them cool and then topp them with the yoghurt sauce. Sprinkle with za’atar and sumac for a little tang and warmth.
Hope you are having a great summer.
Be happy and eat well.