Wood-Charred Eggplant With Dried Mint, Walnuts, Dates and Labneh

Wood-charred eggplant with dried mint, walnuts, dates and labneh.

Eggplant can be a controversial vegetable: You either love it or hate it, and not necessarily because of its flavor, but for its texture. This is my favorite recipe to convert people into eggplant fans – and it’s also easily one of my favorite dips! The creamy texture is in part due to labneh, a thick yogurt cheese popular in the Middle East; look for it at international markets or Middle Eastern grocery stores.

Wood-Charred Eggplant With Dried Mint, Walnuts, Dates and Labneh

Serves | 4 to 6 |

  • 1 large eggplant, large dice
  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 4 medjool dates, roughly chopped
  • ½ cup dried mint
  • 1½ cups labneh
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 4 fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
  • pita bread (to serve)

| Preparation | Heat wood-fired oven or grill to between 750ºF and 900ºF using oven gauge or a digital laser infrared thermometer. Place a cast-iron skillet in oven or on grill to preheat.

In a large mixing bowl, toss eggplant with oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove cast-iron skillet from oven or grill and add eggplant; return to heat and place skillet as close to the fire as possible; cook for roughly 8 to 10 minutes, carefully turning skillet every few minutes to get a good char and soften eggplant. Remove from heat; let eggplant rest.

Heat a small cast-iron skillet in oven or on the grill. Once hot, remove from heat and add olive oil, walnuts, dates and mint, and season with salt and pepper to taste; return pan to heat for approximately 3 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl, add labneh, honey, walnut mixture and charred eggplant and stir until combined; season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with fresh mint. Serve warm or at room temperature with pita bread.

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Amanda Elliott is the chef at Peachtree Catering in Columbia, Missouri, and authors the website rusticsupper.com, where she shares recipes centered on the idea of the communal table and embracing the heritage of food through travel.

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