Sumac-Spiced Eggplant on Israeli Couscous with Saffron, Ginger & Barberries
It seems that there is no end of what you can do with eggplants- they are so mild and versatile that you can flavor them and prepare them in a million and one ways! And yet... somehow... people don't!
I wanted to try something a little different this evening and decided to see how well tart and tangy sumac would work with them- and I have to say, yes! It works wonderfully! I wish I had tried it out earlier!
I love pickled eggplant- which is one of my favorite ways that it is prepared back in the Old Country and so it really was not that much of a surprise that I enjoyed this so much. But it is a very different kind of sourness that sumac brings- it is rich and flavorful and brings out the best in the eggplants own flavor... and I like that!
For my little experiment, I had 1 medium sized eggplant, 1 teacupful of Israeli couscous, 1 shallot, a little fresh ginger, 2 tablespoons of barberries, 1 tablespoonful of sumac and 1 teaspoonful of saffron. Oh, and 1 nice, big sprig of parsley- especially for the stem which I love to add to my dishes as you know- no exception here!
With saffron, ginger and barberries to give the couscous a slightly Oriental flavor, this was a great, exotic and yet simple meal. It took just 30 minutes to make and using some good common sense I managed to get things done quickly and efficiently- and I will share my little trick with you, that allowed me to do so, right now!
The first thing I did was to cut the eggplant into quarters lengthways and then to make lots of cuts into it down its whole length. I then bent the slices back gently, to open up the sections I had cut and lightly sprinkled the quarters with salt. I let them sit that way for 5 minutes whilst the salt did its stuff and got busy with the rest in the meantime... including turning on the oven nice and hot and boiling up some water for the couscous...
I finely chopped about 1" of ginger and the stalks of the parsley and sliced the shallot, ready to go into the couscous.
I used my tajine to cook my dish in, but a saucepan will work just fine too. I put in the couscous, parsley, shallot, barberries and saffron, along with a good sprinkle of salt and pepper.
I then put the eggplant quarters on top, sprinkled them generously with sumac and pepper, poured in plenty of boiling water to cover the couscous and let it boil/steam away for 10 minutes with the lid on.
After 10 minutes, the eggplant was half-cooked from steaming, so I lifted it carefully out and placed it on a baking tray, ready for the oven. I drizzled it with a mixture of mainly olive oil, but also a few drops of sesame oil, before popping it into the oven at 180°C for 10 minutes.
I topped up the couscous with a little more water as most of it had been soaked up, added plenty of freshly chopped parsley and popped it back onto the stove top, put on the lid, but turned off the heat... the residual heat from the hot stove and the clay tajine was enough to finish off steaming it by the time the eggplant was done.
10 minutes later, the eggplant was done, but to make it extra-delicious, I added just the lightest drizzle of honey and popped it back into the oven, under the broiler and gave it an extra 3-4 minutes to get as golden and gorgeous as you can see here!
A great new way to serve eggplant and a nice-looking, quick cooking, easy and delicious one at that! Maybe not a traditional dish of any particular cuisine... but an original dish of my own cuisine- and one that I am proud of too!
Dare to be different and dare to eat different!