Grilled Japanese Eggplant with Yogurt, Za’atar, Mint & Feta Wendy Goodfriend
Grilled Japanese Eggplant with Yogurt, Za’atar, Mint & Feta (Wendy Goodfriend)

Grilled Japanese Eggplant with Yogurt, Za’atar, Mint & Feta

Grilled Japanese Eggplant with Yogurt, Za’atar, Mint & Feta

On a not-so-long ago jaunt down to L.A., I visited Josef Centeno’s fabulous downtown restaurant Baco Mercat. One of my favorite dishes I ate there, and one of the best things I’ve put in my mouth in a while, was a pureed dip of smoky eggplant, fava bean, and feta that was topped with za’atar and lebni and served with grilled flatbread. It was heaven. (*Za’atar is a Middle Eastern spice mix containing sesame seeds, sumac, salt, and dried herbs such as oregano or thyme.)

I couldn’t get that dish, or the popping flavors of it, out of my head. So I came up this dish, loosely inspired by those flavors. To keep things simple, I stuck to eggplant and ditched the fava. I love the sweetness of narrow Japanese eggplants (rather than large globe eggplant which can be bitter), and chose those to slice into planks and grill.

I love the sweetness of narrow Japanese eggplants, and chose those to slice into planks and grill.
I love the sweetness of narrow Japanese eggplants, and chose those to slice into planks and grill. (Wendy Goodfriend)

To keep the dish relatively easy and very quick to make, I made a simple sauce with plain whole-milk yogurt, chopped fresh mint, and a squeeze of lemon. Once the eggplant was grilled, I drizzled this over the top and then just sprinkled it with fresh salty feta and za’atar.

This would be great served alongside grilled chicken thighs rubbed with Mediterranean spices and some yummy grilled flatbread. It can be served hot or at room temperature. (Hell, I found myself stuffing cold pieces of it in my mouth the next morning for breakfast, it was THAT good!)

Grilled Japanese Eggplant with Yogurt, Za’atar, Mint & Feta
Grilled Japanese Eggplant with Yogurt, Za’atar, Mint & Feta (Wendy Goodfriend)

Recipe: Grilled Japanese Eggplant with Yogurt, Za’atar, Mint & Feta

Makes 4 servings as a side dish

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Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup plain, whole-milk yogurt
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh mint
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 Japanese eggplant (about 1 lb)
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta
  • 1/2 tsp za’atar

Instructions:

    1. To make the yogurt sauce, stir together the yogurt, mint, and lemon. Set aside.
To make the yogurt sauce, stir together the yogurt, mint, and lemon. Set aside.
To make the yogurt sauce, stir together the yogurt, mint, and lemon. Set aside. (Wendy Goodfriend)
    1. Trim the eggplant and slice it lengthwise into 1/2-inch pieces. Brush it with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Trim the eggplant and slice it lengthwise into 1/2-inch pieces. Brush it with olive oil.
Trim the eggplant and slice it lengthwise into 1/2-inch pieces. Brush it with olive oil. (Wendy Goodfriend)
Season the eggplant with salt and pepper.
Season the eggplant with salt and pepper. (Wendy Goodfriend)
    1. Set up a charcoal or gas grill for medium-high indirect heat (or preheat a stovetop grill pan). Brush the grill grate with oil. Place the eggplant slices over the heat in a single layer and grill, turning once, until tender and there are dark grill marks. If the eggplant starts to get too dark, move it to the cooler side of the grill and cover until tender.
Place the eggplant slices over the heat in a single layer and grill, turning once, until tender and there are dark grill marks.
Place the eggplant slices over the heat in a single layer and grill, turning once, until tender and there are dark grill marks. (Wendy Goodfriend)
    1. Transfer to a serving plate. Drizzle the eggplant with the yogurt sauce, then sprinkle with the feta and za’atar. Serve.
Transfer to a serving plate. Drizzle the eggplant with the yogurt sauce, then sprinkle with the feta and za’atar. Serve.
Transfer to a serving plate. Drizzle the eggplant with the yogurt sauce, then sprinkle with the feta and za’atar. Serve. (Wendy Goodfriend)

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