Here’s an easy recipe for a small batch of eggplant — “Roast Eggplant with Garlic and Zahtar.” Eggplant grows well in a Louisiana garden and I needed ideas to cook a few at a time as they ripened in the hot summer heat. One of my favorite eggplant dishes is served at a local Lebanese and Greek cafe. It consists of sauteed eggplant which is doused in lemon juice and garlic. The soft eggplant pulp blends with the spices perfectly and it is another “melt in your mouth” eggplant recipe. Thought I’d try to make a variation with my garden eggplant.
Does eggplant grow in a Louisiana garden?
I find that eggplant is one of the easiest vegetables to grow in a Louisiana garden, in fact it thrives in hot weather. Plant the small seedlings in well drained soil in a sunny location in the spring (late March through early June). The plants don’t require much care — just watering if it gets too dry and monthly fertilizing. The plants aren’t as susceptible to problems such as fungus, wilt, cutworms and snails as some of the other vegetables I’ve planted (tomatoes, squash). It is rewarding to get a nice harvest from all my efforts! Eggplant grow on upright plants about 4 feet tall and the ripening eggplants develop from beautiful purple blossoms. Here’s one I picked in early July.
Eggplant grows in a variety of shapes and colors — round, cylinder, globe-shaped and purple, greenish in colors. I planted several types — the long and slender ones are an Oriental variety called Ichiban. Fortunately, the eggplants ripened a few at a time over May thru July, so I had enough to try the recipe multiple times. This recipe is adaptable — cook as few or as many eggplant as you like. I suggest using ones that are about the same size so they cook at the same rate and using long slender eggplants or small round ones rather than very large eggplants.
These were small eggplants, so I cooked them in the skins rather than peeling them. The predominant flavors in the cafe dish were lemon and garlic. I also added zahtar seasoning — a Middle Eastern seasoning bend which can vary greatly in its ingredients. This commercial blend included “tart sumac, fragrant herbs and crunchy sesame seeds.”
I tried various methods to cook the eggplant. (The cafe actually fries peeled eggplant in a deep fat fryer and before adding seasonings.) My final version was to roast the eggplant, cut side down, in the oven. This seemed to work better rather than sauteing it a skillet on the stove or baking in the oven with the cut side up.
Here’s what I did. Add a small amount of olive oil to a baking sheet covered with aluminum foil. Slice the small eggplant lengthwise and place cut side down, moving the pieces around to coat the cut side with olive oil. Turn over and sprinkle on salt, zahtar seasoning and a generous amount of minced garlic. I like alot of garlic — using minced garlic in a jar worked well for this dish.
Next, carefully turn the halves over again so that the cut side of the eggplant with the seasonings and garlic is face down on the aluminum foil. Bake in a hot 400 degree oven until the skin of the eggplant blisters and the pulp of the eggplant is soft. It took 20 minutes for these tiny eggplants to bake. After roasting, place cut side up on a serving dish. Lightly squeeze on lemon juice.
Using this method, the pulp actually steams as the eggplant roast and the eggplant pulp turns out soft and flavorful. I tried cooking the eggplant face up, but they dried out. You will need to adapt roasting times to the size of the eggplant — with larger ones taking longer to bake.
Here’s a small batch of eggplant from my garden. Serve the halves and scoop out the pulp as you eat them.
This is an easy recipe to prepare. No mixing bowls or pots and pans to wash! Just roast on a sheet pan. And you can adapt the ingredients to as many eggplant as you have.
Eggplant and garlic with a little lemon juice and zartar seasoning makes a great combination. Enjoy!
Roast Eggplant with Garlic and Zahtar
- 2 to 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 12 oz to 1 pound small, long slender eggplant
- 1/4 tsp salt, or as needed
- 1 tsp Zahtar seasoning blend, or as needed
- 2 Tbsp minced, jarred garlic, or as needed
- 1 tsp lemon juice, or as needed
Method and Steps:
- Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees, line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
- Spread olive oil on baking sheet.
- Slice the eggplants lengthwise in half. Place cut side down on olive oil and move around to coat cut the pieces with oil.
- Turn over eggplant so cut side is facing up on baking sheet. Sprinkle lightly with salt and Zahtar seasoning blend. Generously place minced garlic on top.
- Carefully turn back over so cut side of eggplant with seasonings is facing down on aluminum foil.
- Bake in 400 degree oven for about 20 to 25 minutes until skin of eggplant is blistered and pulp is soft.
- Remove from oven. Carefully turn eggplant over and place on serving platter.
- Squeeze on a little lemon juice.
Note: This recipe can easily be increased. Just increase seasonings as needed.