Thursday, 27 November 2014

Marinated eggplants with tahini and oregano

Marinated eggplants with tahini and oregano

There is a book that is giving me great inspirations lately: "Ottolenghi The Cookbook" (not so original tough). Even if in my wishlist for a long time, this book is a relatively recent addition to my cookbook shelf. And since I bought it I'm trying one recipe after another.
When I get a new cookbook, I use to go through it in quite deep detail and place a sticker on the pages with the recipes I wish to try, so as to find them easily in future. Whit this book, after reading the first fifteen pages of recipes, I realized that I was placing a sticker on nearly all pages: the style of cooking, the ingredients used, the presentation, everything is so close to my taste that I really would like to make almost everything, from vegetables to meat and fish, to baked goods. And so I changed my approach and decided to give a sort of priority to the most inspiring recipes: I placed stickers just on those I want to make first, but even so the book is full of colored post-it jutting out from the pages. I have already prepared several dishes taken from the "to-do list" and I have to say that all of them came out very good, and sometimes even outstanding.
These marinated eggplants with tahini and oregano, in particular, are one of the first recipes I chose , also because belonging to the first chapter of the book (in fact unless I am looking for something in particular, I always start reading cookbooks from the beginning, to be precise from the table of content to become familiar with the book's structure- to be sincere I start this job directly in the bookshop while choosing which book to buy among the many I would like to bring home). I had already made marinated eggplants in several ways, all inspired by the Italian tradition, but here I liked the combination with the tahini sauce that I had never tried before. And I loved it.
This dish is a very nice vegetarian appetizer, perfect to place on the table together with other dishes to share. I love the recipes that can be prepared in advance - and actually are better after a relatively long wait - especially for the occasions when we have friends over for dinner; in fact I like to sit at the table and enjoy food, wine and company rather than spending most of the evening in the kitchen cooking and preparing food.
I followed the original recipe and used all ingredients as prescribed with the exception of garlic: like in most of the recipes of the book, here garlic is added crushed both to the marinade and to the tahini sauce. I know this is very common in Middle Eastern cuisine, and also in the traditional cuisine of Southern Italy; but I find the taste of raw garlic to strong and overwhelming (and not easy for digestion), so I usually prefer to add just the flavor without eating it; to do so I add the garlic whole instead of crushed or chopped and remove it before serving. 
Marinated eggplants with tahini and oregano

Marinated eggplants with tahini and oregano
adapted from "Ottolenghi- The cookbook"
serves 6 as a starter
3 - 4 small eggplants
olive oil for brushing
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 mild red chile, seeded and finely chopped
2 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
2 tbsp finely chopped oregano, plus e few whole leaves for garnish
1 clove garlic, crushed (I left it whole)
3 tbsp lemon juice
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Tahini sauce
150 ml tahini paste
150 ml water
80 ml lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, crushed (I used whole and removed before serving)
1/2 tsp salt
Preheat the oven to 220°C. Trim the stalk end off the eggplants, then cut each eggplant in half widthwise. Cut the fat lower piece in half and then cut each half into 3 wedges. Do the same with the thinner piece but cut each half into 2 wedges. You should end up with 10 similar-sized pieces with skin on their curved side.
Place the eggplant pieces on a large baking sheet. Brush all over with plenty of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the sheet into the hot oven and roast for 15 to 18 minutes until the eggplants are golden brown and totally soft inside (if you like to have grill marks on the eggplants, grill them on a hot ridged grill pan for about 3 minutes on each side before putting into the oven- I skipped this step) . In the meantime prepare the marinade: simply put all ingredients in a bowl and mix well (Ottolengi uses crushed garlic; I used whole garlic and removed it before serving to obtain a milder flavor)
As soon as the eggplants come out of the oven, spoon the marinade over them and leave at room temperature for 2 hours before serving (or you can store in the fridge for up to 2 days at this stage; make sure you don't serve cold so remove from the fridge at least one hour in advance).
Prepare the tahini sauce: in a bowl whisk together tahini paste, water, lemon juice, garlic and salt. The mixture should be creamy, if too thick add more water. It is also possible to blend ingredients using a food processor.
When ready to serve, arrange the eggplant wedges on a plate (I removed the garlic). Now you can either spoon the tahini sauce on top and garnish with a few oregano leaves or, as I did, serve the tahini sauce in a bowl on the side, topped with the oregano leaves.


  1. I recently added a couple of Ottolenghi cookbooks to my collection as well and like you I want to make virtually every recipe in them. This one looks great!

    1. Yes! All recipes are so inspiring...and all those I made were as good as I expected