The way I see it, eggplant is to Israeli cuisine what herring is to Eastern European Jewish cooking. What am I on about? When I was growing up, my mother was the queen of herring, and prepared this salty fish in so many different ways: Pickled herring, Danish Herring (in a mustardy sauce), Russian Herring (in tomato sauce), pineapple herring (yes indeed, in a cream sauce!), chopped herring (that Jewish party favorite, served with kichel), and, horror of horrors, baked herring, or as it was known in our house “gebakte herring” – an awful herring-based meat loaf that couldn’t easy double as an instrument of torture. Baked herring was without doubt one of the main culprits in Eastern European Jewish cooking never quite making it as one the the world’s great cuisines. I can still smell the stench of the baking herring permeating through the house…
While my folk spent many an hour dreaming up new and exciting ways with herring, here in Israel, the eggplant seems to have taken on a similar role, only, in my humble opinion, the results are much tastier. Any trip to an Israeli supermarket or local eatery will present you with an array of different eggplant salads – eggplant in tehina, eggplant in mayonaise, roasted eggplant salad, spicy eggplant, and then there’s fried eggplant slices, and more. One of my favorite ways to serve eggplant is the locally popular half eggplant with tehina. This is one of the most elegant ways to serve Israeli “herring”, and is extremely easy to prepare. It’s a great side dish for a BBQ or any other meal. It’s parev and of course, vegetarian, so it ticks many boxes.
I recommend looking for smaller eggplants so that you can give a half an eggplant per serving instead of having to cut them in half at the table.
For this year’s Yom Ha’atzmaut, why don’t you give this simple dish a try, and watch your guests be very impressed.
ROASTED EGGPLANT SERVED WITH TEHINA
6 small eggplants
2/3 cup of raw tehina
About 2/3 cup of cold water
2 small cloves of garlic crushed
The juice of half a lemon (or more, to taste)
½ cup chopped fresh parsley (about half is for garnish)
Salt to taste
How to do it
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (350°F)
2. Wash the eggplants, snip off the spikey part of the stem leaves and slice them length-ways down the middle. Brush the cut side of each half with some olive oil (the oil will be absorbed into the eggplant and it will not seem oily, but don’t add more.)
3. Place the eggplant halves cut side down directly onto a clean oven rack. (Tip: Place an oven tray below the rack covered with a piece of baking paper or foil to collect the drippings and keep your oven clean.) Bake for about 40 minutes or until the cut sides are brown and the flesh is soft. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
4. Prepare the tehina: In a bowl, mix the raw tehina, lemon juice and crushed garlic. Slowly add the water, mixing until you get a thick, but slightly runny consistency (runnier than hummus). Add the chopped parsley and salt to taste.
5. Serve each eggplant half with some tehina sauce drizzled over the top. Sprinkle with some more chopped parsley to garnish.
Makes 12 servings