Here's the truth: I don't like using cookbooks. This doesn't mean that I don't enjoy reading them (I definitely do) or look at the pictures (I study each one for an inordinate amount of time) or that I'm not inspired by them. I just don't like cooking from them. The first problem is that I'm TERRIBLE at following directions. I have the worst memory in the world when it comes to measurements, so I have to go back to read the ingredient list at least four times before I get it straight. And then I have to follow the directions... yeah right. That's not going to happen. By the point that I realize that maybe I should go peek at the instructions, I've already chopped and mixed everything... and sometimes it's already made its way into the oven or onto the table.
So, when I decided that I was actually going to make something from my newly acquired copy of Jerusalem (which, I can not emphasize enough... you. must. buy. it. now. You won't regret it), I made my greatest effort to follow every direction carefully. Between you and me, I failed at that... but it didn't matter, this is one of those recipes that's hard to screw up.
I must admit that I got some strange looks. Pomegranate and eggplant? Together? Really? That's... ummmm... unique. But, believe me, it works. Just be prepared for some surprised faces when they bite into their first seed. It's priceless.
Burnt Eggplant with Garlic, Lemon and Pomegranate Seeds
(adapted from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi)
serves 4 as an appetizer
4 large eggplants
3 cloves garlic, minced
grated zest of 1 lemon and 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp tahini
2 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tbsp chopped mint
seeds of 1/2 large pomegranate
1 tsp smoked paprika
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Line a large baking pan (or two, if necessary) with aluminum foil.
2. Using a sharp pairing knife, make deep gashes throughout the eggplant. Place the eggplants on the baking pans.
3. Roast in the oven for an hour (rotating every 20 minutes) or until the eggplant skin has burnt evenly throughout.
4. Remove the eggplant and let cool. Once it is cool enough to handle, peel away the skin and, using a spoon, scoop out the flesh of the eggplant, transporting to a mixing bowl.
5. Place eggplant into a colander and let sit for at least an hour, or until it has drained most of its liquid. Once this is done, transfer back to the mixing bowl.
6. Mash the eggplant with a fork. Mix in the garlic, lemon zest and juice. Stir in the olive oil and tahini. Refrigerate for 30-40 minutes to let it develop its flavor.
7. Remove from the refrigerator. Mix in 3/4 of the parsley, 3/4 of the mint, and 3/4 of the pomegranate seeds. Season with smoked paprika, salt and freshly ground pepper.
8. Garnish with remaining pomegranate seeds, mint, parsley, and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve with pita bread.