roasted eggplant with couscous and yogurt

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Do you remember digging your feet, deep into a cave of plastic red and orange and green balls when you were little? You were sunk up to your chin, it was probably someone’s birthday party at Chucky Cheese’s.

When small, these plastic globes are bigger than most of the features on your face and there could be, for all you know, sea urchins writhing just below the surface.

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Few things are quite as reminiscent of diving into that massive pit of those plastic prisms of youth than little orange and green bits of Israeli pasta dough.

Besides maybe, mozzarella sticks, frozen, then fried, or chicken nuggets.

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Anyway, I might have been a bit heavy-handed with my couscous as a result. I halved and roasted the eggplant until it was tender and it’s skin was black and wrinkled, and then spread them with couscous until the eggplant was piled over its ears onto the plate with pasta.

This dish is vibrant; plump raisins bursting at their seams with sweetness are tempered by black and green olives that are pickled and meaty. Thick Greek yogurt and mint have also become my new favorite cute couple. Mint likes to get fresh sometimes, but yogurt keeps him in check.

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The original recipe makes use of bulgur, cilantro, almonds and chopped green onions. I’ve used couscous and instead layered the yogurt with even more fresh mint with lemon juice, chopped chives and toasted pine nuts. I’ve also added a bit more color, tossing in bright, tangy dried cranberries.

I think this dish could work nicely with most other grains you have on hand — quinoa, perhaps? Take advantage of like-minded ingredients you already have at home to make this dish yours.

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Loosely adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi’s Jerusalem (aka my new favorite read!)

  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1/3 cup olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon zest, finely grated
  • 1 large eggplant
  • 1 cup Israeli couscous
  • 1 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped
  • 1/4 cup black and green olives, pitted and chopped
  • 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup Greek yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons chives, snipped (for garnish, optional)
  • 1 tablespoon dried cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.

Cut eggplant lengthwise and score flesh deeply with a knife in a criss-cross pattern being sure not to cut all the way through purple skin.

In a small bowl, whisk together cumin, paprika, coriander and salt and crushed garlic. Mix in olive oil and  then brush mixture along eggplant flesh, being sure to fill score-marks with spices.

Roast eggplants cut-side up on the prepared baking sheet for about 45 minutes, or until a fork is easily inserted into the eggplant’s center and its flesh is tender and browned. Remove from oven and set aside to cool slightly.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a saucepan and add Israeli couscous, tossing gently to coat pasta, about one minute. Add chicken or vegetable stock to saucepan and lower heat, allowing couscous to simmer, about 7-8 minutes, stirring ocassionally until couscous is cooked al dente. Stir in raisins, chopped olives, lemon juice, chopped mint and salt and pepper to taste.

Pile couscous ontop of eggplants and dollop with Greek yogurt. Sprinkle with dried cranberries, toasted pine nuts and snipped chives.

Serve hot.

Do you remember digging your feet, deep into a cave of plastic red and green and blue whiffle balls when you were little? You were sunk up to your chin, it was probably someone’s birthday party at Chucky Cheese’s.

When small, these plastic globes are bigger than most of the features on your face and there could be, for all you know, sea urchins writhing just below the surface. Your friend with octupus arms might fling a red or a blue one your way and you may or may not dodge it, if the sea creatures below haven’t grabbed your toes, tiny.

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