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.