Whole Roasted Eggplant with Tahini, Crispy Chickpeas and Sumac

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whole roasted eggplant with crispy chickpeas
Photo: Rick Poon

Eggplant is one of my favorite vegetables—I could fill an entire book with recipes singing its praises, and I don’t see why it can’t be the star of the show rather than just a supporting act. In this large-format dish, whole eggplants cook until slightly charred on the outside and meltingly tender within. Tahini adds much-needed richness and creaminess, crispy chickpeas add texture (and protein), and lemon and sumac bring brightness. I consider this a lovely vegetarian main course, but it could also serve as a side dish for chicken, lamb, or fish. Any leftovers can be blitzed into a fine eggplant dip in the food processor (add an ice cube for the smoothest result) and refrigerated for up to 3 days.

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Whole Roasted Eggplant with Tahini, Crispy Chickpeas and Sumac

Over the past few years, our view of tahini has widened dramatically. It’s a great example of a once-exotic ingredient becoming a kitchen staple. Even black tahini is making its way onto shopping lists; made from unhulled black sesame seeds that have been toasted and ground, it is a little more intense than the blond stuff and a bit stickier too. Both products can be used in dressings, smoothies, soups, sauces, spreads, and desserts. They can even replace fat (such as butter) in some baking and pastry recipes. Keep using tahini in traditional ways—as a sauce, in hummus and other dips, and so forth. But then think of all the places you can imagine peanut butter and put it there too (it might require a bit more salt and/ or sweetness). Tahini adds richness, creates heft, and contributes a deeply savory, toasty flavor. 

Tahini should taste fresh; if there is a hint of astringency and sourness— a telltale sign of rancidity—discard that jar. I prefer Soom or Seed + Mill tahini when I need a traditional, all-purpose white sesame paste. I’ve also made my own, with good results. Store tahini in a cool, dark cupboard in an airtight container. If you don’t think you’ll see the bottom of the jar within a few months, it’s best to stick it in the fridge. Always stir tahini well before using. 

  • Author: Michelle McKenzie

Ingredients

Serves 4

  • 4 medium eggplants (each approximately
  • 12 ounces)—Listada or similar egg-shaped variety such as Globe
  • 3/4 cup olive oil, plus more to serve
  • Fine sea salt
  • 3 cups cooked chickpeas, homemade or canned, drained and patted dry with paper towels
  • 1 tablespoon sumac
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1 clove garlic (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Juice of 1 lemon, plus more to taste
  • 2 cups tahini sauce (recipe follows)
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Tahini Sauce: Makes approximately 2 cups

  • 1 clove garlic (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Juice of 1 lemon, plus more to taste
  • 1 cup tahini
  • 3/4 cup cold water, divided

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 475°F and line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper (make sure the parchment fits inside the pan; at this high temperature, any overhang could burn). Peel the eggplants, leaving stems attached; on each, poke the center of the base a few times with a fork or cake tester and divide between the 2 pans.
  2. Toss each eggplant with 2 tablespoons olive oil and a pinch of salt, massaging the salt into the flesh a little as you work. Create space between the 2 eggplants on each pan and roast for 40 to 50 minutes, turning the eggplants every 10 to 15 minutes to get even browning on all sides. Remove from oven and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, heat a 12- to 14-inch sauté pan over medium-high heat and add the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil. Once the oil is shimmering, add the chickpeas and a pinch of salt. Pan-fry the chickpeas, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until crispy (as they crisp up, afew may pop out of the pan like popcorn). Lower the heat slightly, add the sumac, and cook just 1 minute more. Taste and add more salt, as needed.
  4. Season each eggplant with a squeeze of lemon. Place on warmed plates or in shallow bowls and top the center of the base of each eggplant with a 1/4 cup tahini sauce. Top the tahini sauce with a heaping 1/2 cup sumac-coated, crispy chickpeas. 
  5. Drizzle a little olive oil around the sides of the eggplant and top the olive oil with a sprinkling of chopped parsley.
  6. Serve at once.

For the Tahini Sauce: 

  1. Mince the garlic, if using, with half the salt until a smooth paste forms. 
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the garlic paste with the lemon juice and the remaining salt. 
  3. Let sit for 10 to 15 minutes; this mellows the garlic and dissolves the salt. Even if you omit the garlic, let the salt sit in the acid for a few minutes. 
  4. If the oil has separated in your tahini, stir it back together, then spoon approximately 1 cup (I say “approximately” because there is no need to dirty a measuring cup with thick, oily tahini) into a medium bowl. 
  5. Use a whisk to start beating in cold water, 1/4 cup or so at a time, until the mixture becomes smooth and creamy. At some point you’ll think you’re doing it wrong because it will look a mess—don’t fear. Soon you’ll see it start to emulsify, lighten in color, and become easier to stir. It will probably take about 3/4 cup water total. 
  6. Thin the tahini sauce with more water until you reach your desired consistency. Then taste and adjust the seasoning with more salt or lemon juice, as needed. 
  7. Use immediately or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

Notes

the modern larder cookbook

Reprinted from The Modern Larder: From Anchovies to Yuzu, A Guide to Artful and Attainable Home Cooking by Michelle McKenzie with permission of Roost Books.

Photo: Rick Poon

Also by Michelle McKenzie: Celeriac Galette

We want to introduce our newest favorite piece of cookware from Hestan Culinary: the 11-inch NanoBond Titanium skillet. Hands-down, it’s the first pan we reach for when frying, sauteing, or stir-frying, and we even cook our omelets in it (and no, they don’t stick, more on that later). The NanoBond cookware’s triple-bonded stainless-steel base delivers quick, even heating with exacting temperature control that cooks rely on, essential for searing meat, poultry, and seafood.