Recipe courtesy of Carol Lopez-Bethel

"The Eggplant" - A Mediterranean/Middle Eastern Inspired Dish

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  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 45 min
  • Active: 30 min
  • Yield: 4 appetizer or 2 main course servings
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Ingredients

1 tablespoon grapeseed oil, plus more for the baking sheet

2 firm, young Italian eggplants (6 to 8 inches long and 3 inches around) 

Olive oil cooking spray, for the eggplant 

Kosher salt 

1/2 cup pine nuts 

2 cups thinly sliced yellow or sweet onions (about 12 ounces) 

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg 

2 tablespoons anisette or Sambuca  

1 1/2 cups seeded and chopped heirloom or other firm tomatoes 

5 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, lightly chopped 

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano 

1/2 cup pomegranate arils (seeds), cleaned  

Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling 

Freshly ground white pepper 

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil a baking sheet.
  2. Remove the tough stem end of the eggplants and slice the eggplants in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds. Spray the cut sides with cooking spray and sprinkle with salt, then place cut-side down on the prepared baking sheet. Spray the skins with more cooking spray. Bake until the skins and insides are very tender, 25 to 35 minutes. 
  3. While the eggplant is baking, toast the pine nuts in a large cast-iron or stainless steel skillet over medium heat until evenly browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove and set aside. 
  4. In the same skillet without washing, add the grapeseed oil and saute the onions over medium heat until almost tender and caramelized, about 9 minutes; do not overcrowd the skillet or the onions will not caramelize properly. Sprinkle in the nutmeg and salt to taste during the cooking time. Add the anisette and increase the heat to medium high for 30 to 40 seconds, allowing it to flambe if you can do so safely (see Cook's Note). Reduce the heat back to medium and continue to cook until the onions are tender and caramelized, another 2 to 3 minutes. 
  5. Salt the chopped tomatoes generously. 
  6. To serve: On a large platter, arrange the eggplants cut-side up, then cover each half evenly and generously with the onion mixture, followed by the chopped tomatoes, mint, pine nuts, oregano and pomegranate seeds. Drizzle evenly with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and white pepper to taste. Serve warm with crusty bread and olive oil with crushed red pepper for dipping. Pair with a full-bodied red or white wine. 

Cook’s Note

Use extreme caution when igniting alcohol. Remove the pan from the heat source before adding the alcohol. Pour the alcohol into the pan and carefully ignite with a match or click lighter. Return the pan to the heat and gently swirl to reduce the flames.