I had the incredible opportunity to spend a few days staging at Chez Panisse last week and I am definitely a changed woman. The food, creativity, and passion coming out of that kitchen will change you alone. However, one of the things that really made an impact on me was staff lunch. Spending your days working in that kitchen is enough of a treat, but the lunches that are prepared by, and for the chefs are remarkably thoughtful and delicious. Every day a different member of the kitchen team is assigned the job of making lunch, and takes it very seriously. They utilize the produce and proteins that weren’t finished by the restaurant in the days prior and create a delectable fresh spread. One day, a member of the kitchen team used some leftover eggplants to make a platter with merguez sausage and yogurt. I was so in love with this dish that I decided to make my own version at home. My recipe is fairly different but has many of the same elements that I so loved from the Panisse one. If I close my eyes I can pretend I’m back in the Chez Panisse garden, but until then I’ll be scooping up this eggplant dish.
- 4 baby eggplants or two large eggplants cut into small pieces
- zest of one lemon
- 1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 1/2 teaspoons harissa paste
- 1 tsp ground corriander
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 2 finely minced garlic cloves
- 1/4 cup greek yogurt (or any slightly sour and thick yogurt)
- handful of torn mint leaves
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- salt (prerferably maldon)
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees
- Cut eggplants in half lengthwise, then in quarters (If using large eggplant, cut into quarters then cut into inch thick slices). Place on a roasting pan and set aside.
- In a small bowl mix spices, tomato, lemon zest, and vinegar until a thick paste is formed. Add olive oil then pour over eggplant. Toss until each piece is sufficiently coated then place in oven.
- Cook until very tender, about 30 minutes.
- Once done, place in a serving dish and add a dollop of yougurt, torn mint leaves, additional lemon zest and a drizzle of oil. Season with salt and pepper.