Roasted Eggplant with Garlic Cumin Yogurt

When I was working in Amsterdam, many, many years ago, one of my favorite things to do was visit museums.  One of the perks of working in a media company, you see, was a press pass that gained me free entrance to most museums.  And I love museums.  Now, I want to say at this point, that in no stretch of the imagination do I know anything about art, or history, or anything else that goes into museums.  I can’t tell a million-dollar masterpiece from a back-alley watercolor.  Nor am I an expert in world artifacts.  This has its disadvantages, that much is certain, but it also has a brilliant silver lining: I walk into every museum with no expectations, no fore-knowledge, no technical framework with which to measure anything against…and as such every painting, every sculpture, is filled with new-born, dewy-eyed potentiality.  Scoff if you wish, but walking into a museum and just letting your gut, and not a signature, tell you when to be blown away is, put simply, really quite nice.

Since I could come a go as I pleased (thank you dear press pass), and I was based in Amsterdam for a couple of months, I took my sweet time with the museums.  Even the big old Rijks was savored in slow, steady, and delicious bites.  I would come for a few rooms at a time, or just wander, letting my heart take me where it wished.  I had my favorites, seemingly random picks, to which I would return to time and again, allowing them to awe me and inspire me.  I didn’t favor a painter or a period…as with food, men, and books, it was all about chemistry.  How can you have chemistry with a picture?  Well, I think, more than measurement and color wheels and divine ratio, the answer to that is the secret that all true artists know.

Me?  Like I said, I’m just a simple girl who knows nothing about art…except what it’s like to be enraptured by a picture.

Roasted Eggplant with Garlic Cumin Yogurt
(Inspired by Eggplant with Buttermilk Sauce from Plenty: Vibrant Recipes from London's Ottolenghi)
  • 2 medium-sized eggplants (the fat oblong types, not the thin Asian eggplants, about 200 grams each)
  • Olive oil for brushing
  • 1/3 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • A couple of dashes ground cumin
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

- Slice the eggplants lengthways.  Score the cut side of the eggplants in a diagonal crisscross pattern, being careful not to cut the skin.
- Place the eggplants on a baking tray and brush the cut and scored sides with olive oil.  Be generous!  Sprinkle with sea salt and a few good grinding of black pepper.
- Place the eggplants in a pre-heated 350F oven and roast for 30-45 minutes or until completely soft and nicely browned.
- While the eggplants are in the oven, put together your yogurt.  In a bowl mix together the yogurt, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Keep this in the fridge until ready to use.
- Once the eggplants are ready, remove to a plate.  You can dress them with the yogurt sauce or serve this on the side.

The inspiration for this dish came not so much from a recipe but from a picture.  The picture on the cover of this bookJust look at that.  Wouldn't you be moved to rush out and buy some eggplant based solely on that photo?  Me being me, I went and I did.

You can find the recipe for that here.   If I had stopped to think a bit, before dashing off to make this, I would have topped it with some lightly toasted pine nuts.  I’ll have to remember that for next time.  The original recipe has the eggplants brilliantly crowned with pomegranate seeds but pomegranates are not very easily available here.  We had this as a side for some baked chicken but I was thinking you could scrape the eggplant and yogurt into pita bread with some chickpeas and have yourself a nice lunch.  If there are leftovers, you could whiz them in a food processor and make a very delicious spread.

I haven’t visited any museums recently and I definitely think that should be rectified soon.  We should always give ourselves the opportunity to be moved, to be enthralled, by something that our hearts tell us is beautiful.  Until my next museum trip, cookbook photos will have to do.