Eggplant and Papers

Every year, around the Fourth of July, I host a backyard barbecue to celebrate summer and a bunch of family birthdays. Friends are usually added to the mix, and one year I went a little nuts and invited everybody on the street, too. It was great fun, everybody brought a dish, and I acquired this recipe from my dear friend Noam.

Noam is a beautiful, talented jewelry designer from Israel. She’s also a great cook. But sit down and try to play a game of Scrabble or Banagrams with her and she becomes orthographically challenged.

“Isn’t dardle a word? It looks like an English word. Gilper is a word—g-i-l-p-e-r—look it up!” Said with wide-eyed innocence.

Sorry, Noam. No triple word score for you.

So she can’t spell in English. She can, however, read and write Hebrew, a truly challenging language. Do you know that they don’t bother with vowels? Vowels are simply implied. You just have to use creative license when reading important documents and such.

I used some creative license with this recipe, too. It came from Noam’s mother, a native of Yemen. It features fresh mid-summer eggplant and peppers, or “papers,” depending on how you plan to score the word. This weekend, I went to the local farmer’s market and found these slender Japanese eggplants. Since they were only about one inch in diameter, I just grilled the darlings whole. I did not have any cilantro, but I did have basil and mint in my garden, so I used a combination of those two. I have used all three. Use whichever combo you like. It will be delicious.

Egyptian Eggplant and Roasted Red Papers

1 large eggplant, sliced
2 large red peppers
Olive oil
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro and/or basil

For the vinaigrette:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon tamari soy sauce
3 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon “ras el hanuf”: or a pinch each of cardemom, mace, allspice, ginger, and cinnamon
Freshly ground black pepper

Make the vinaigrette and set aside. Note: I find minced raw garlic rather strong, so I just smash a couple of whole cloves and let them marinate. You can fish them out later or just push them to the side of the plate. Or, you can eat them as is and be fully protected against vampires.

If you are using a large eggplant, cut it in 1/2 inch slices and brush both sides with olive oil. Leave the peppers whole and rub them all over with the oil. Put the whole peppers and eggplant slices on a hot grill and cook, turning the peppers as they blacken and charring the eggplant slices on both sides until soft. Here’s what mine looked like:

 

Remove to a plate and let cool. Cut the eggplant slices into 1-inch cubes and toss with the vinaigrette. Peel and seed the peppers and cut into squares. Add to the eggplant and throw in the herbs. Toss to combine. Serve at room temperature.

The finished dish!

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