Monday, July 22, 2013

Chermoula Eggplant with Herbed Pilaf

There's a farmstand market near my house that sells great local produce. Yellow-flowered sprouting kale, purple carrots, and half-priced day-old "jam flats" of raspberries that I cannot resist buying (despite having sworn off canning after a recent sticky morning of apricots). But my biggest downfall is the dollar bag. They gather up about-to-go-bad produce, put it in a bag with a red twist-tie, and my thrifty self cannot resist. It's why I now have a dozen and a half slightly-yellowing-but-still-cocktail-worthy limes in my fruit basket. And it's why, a few days ago, I ended up with a couple of pounds of slightly wrinkled Asian eggplants.

Like many people, I don't always have the best relationship with eggplant (namely owing to its bitter, squeaky, over-use in clueless vegetarian options of the 1990s). But it's got a lovely side. A butter-soft, taking-to-a-blanket-of-North-African-spices, serving-as-a-counterpoint-to-an-herb-spiked-pilaf side. With a little inspiration from the amazing Ottolenghi, and a glance at what I already had on hand (Iron Pantry Chef rides again!), I turned out a lovely summer meal that I will happily recreate many more times. Even if it costs more than a dollar.

Chermoula Eggplant with Herbed Pilaf

inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi's Jerusalem, albeit significantly tweaked nearly beyond recognition
serves 2

2 good-sized Asian eggplants
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 preserved lemon, finely chopped (if not available, swap zest of 1 lemon)
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon harissa (North African spice paste — you can substitute another chili paste of your choosing)

1 1/2 cups cooked rice (I used basmati rice, cooked up with a pinch of turmeric, which for reasons too ridiculous to go into I'd just cooked up for the dog)
3 scallions, sliced into rounds
1 bunch parsley, washed and coarsely chopped
1 handful cilantro, washed and coarsely chopped
1 small handful mint, washed and coarsely chopped
juice of 1/2 lemon
glug of olive oil
sumac (optional — available in Middle Eastern stores)

To Serve:
2 handfuls arugula
tahini sauce or yogurt beaten with a bit of salt and crushed garlic

Preheat your oven to 400°. Cut the eggplants in half the long way, then score them in a 1-inch crosshatch (cutting through the flesh, but not the skin). Place on a rimmed baking sheet.

In a small bowl, mix together the olive oil, garlic, spices, lemon, salt and harissa. Spread this mixture evenly on the eggplant halves — eggplant wants to sop up oil like a sponge, so spread the mixture quickly so it doesn't all get sucked into one area. Place in the oven and roast until butter-soft (~45 minutes).

While the eggplant is cooking, prepare your rice (if you don't have some pre-cooked). Place the scallions, fresh herbs, lemon juice, and olive oil. If your rice is warm, allow to cool slightly (if it's cool, rewarm it back to a bit warmer than room temperature). Tip the rice into the bowl, and toss with the herbs. Sprinkle with sumac and salt to taste.

When the eggplant is done, remove from the oven, and allow to cool slightly. Place a handful of arugula and half the pilaf on each of two plates. Add two eggplant halves, and serve with tahini or yogurt sauce.


  1. This sounds so delicious! I love putting meals together with what I happen to have on hand; the best recipes come together this way.

    1. Indeed — delicious meal, plus clean pantry (and sense of accomplishment to boot)!

  2. Inspired by Jerusalem! Love that cookbook. Now you have inspired me!

  3. I baked these this morning so as not to have a hot kitchen in the house this evening, and couldn't resist trying them. Bad idea! Now I keep sneaking bites. This is my new favorite eggplant recipe!

  4. This is the only way I can get my partner to eat eggplant. Thanks! -Valeria