|Lady Emma Hamilton: A David Austen rose that handles the late summer heat in my yard. Not many roses do so well this time of year.|
When much of the rest of the northern hemisphere starts to experience fall, here, we hit the peak of our heat. It is the time of year when all cooking should happen outside. We've been grilling all of our meats, and I've been grilling the veggies too, loads of grilled zucchini, onions, whole okra pods, and loose knots of Asian long beans. For a party though, I wanted something a little more elegant than just slapping veg on the hot grill, and the eggplants I had were so beautiful. So, this dish happened.
Smoky Eggplant and Summer Squash
I found the inspiration for my version of this recipe here when I was searching for a recipe that included grilled eggplant and tahini. I am really happy with how this turned out: a rich combination of smoke, nuttiness, tangy-ness, and a hit of hot earth from the cumin. Substantial enough to be a main dish, this could also serve as a side, accompanying perhaps grilled marinated chicken and a zingy salad. Or, this could be a great tapas with lots of other savory nibbles for a warm-weather cocktail party.
You will need:
3 large eggplants (Italian and Japanese varieties both work)
3 summer squash (any variety: pattypan, zucchini, crookneck, etc)
Salt, pepper, and ground cumin to taste
Lemon or lime juice to taste
2 Tablespoons pomegranate molasses
1/2 cup tahini
1/2 cup labne (or, if you can't find labne, use Greek yogurt; it will be looser, but still yummy)
2 cloves garlic
a handful of chopped cilantro or mint or both
To make the dish:
Light your grill, let it heat up, and place your eggplant on it. Turn the eggplants occasionally, until they are mostly blackened. Once they are charred, remove them from the grill and place them in a covered bowl until they are cool enough to handle. Covering the bowl creates a humid environment, which helps the eggplants release the skin more easily later.
While your eggplant is cooling, cut the summer squash into large pieces. If you're using zucchini, cut each into two or three pieces lengthwise. If you're using pattypans, cut them across their bellies. Smear the summer squash with olive oil and place them on the grill, cooking until they're just tender and have pronounced charmarks. Remove them from the heat and arrange the pieces in the bottom of a large serving dish.
After the eggplants have cooled enough to handle, remove their blackened skins, and cut them into large chunks. Place the chunks on the serving dish around the pieces of squash, distributing the vegetables evenly across the platter.
Sprinkle salt, ground pepper, ground cumin, and lemon or lime juice over the contents of the plate. Drizzle the pomegranate molasses all over the plate's contents as well. Make sure your tahini is well-mixed, then drizzle the tahini over all.
With the side of a large knife on a cutting board, smash the garlic cloves, then mince the smashed cloves. Scrape them in a small bowl and stir in the labne. Add a teaspoon or so of olive oil, then stir together the combination so the labne gets silky-rich with the olive oil and natural garlic juices. With a spoon, plop dollops of the labne mixture over the squash and eggplant on the serving platter. Finally, sprinkle the chopped herbs over the rest of the ingredients and serve.
This serves four as a main dish and many as a side.