Solanum melongena, better known as eggplant, ripening on the plant. (Photo/Wikimedia)
Solanum melongena, better known as eggplant, ripening on the plant. (Photo/Wikimedia)

Eggplant is a global Jewish staple. Here are two dishes to try.

The role of eggplant in Jewish cuisine has long fascinated me. This versatile fruit masquerading as a vegetable originated in Persia, was popularized by the Moors, and became so associated with Jews it was known as the Jew’s apple or Jew’s food.

My first recipe this week combines roasted eggplant with spices and caramelized onions in a take on a Near Eastern yogurt side dish or dip. The second recipe reminds me of a meal I had in Israel. Choose a large sweet potato (or two or three) and an eggplant of comparable diameter for the best proportioned stacks.

Curry Eggplant Yogurt Salad

Serves 4 to 6

  • 1 lb. eggplant
  • 1 large red bell pepper
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 large onion sliced paper-thin
  • ½ tsp. salt, divided and to taste
  • 2 cups plain full-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 Tbs. grated lemon zest
  • 3 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 1½ to 2 tsp. curry powder
  • ⅛ tsp. cayenne or paprika
  • ½ tsp. dried mint, crumbled
  • ¼ tsp. ground cardamom
  • ¼ tsp. ground turmeric
  • ¼ cup plus 2 Tbs. chopped flat-leaf parsley, dill, mint and/or cilantro, divided
  • ¼ cup chopped tomatoes

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Prick eggplant and bell pepper all over with a fork. Place on baking pan. Roast. Turn pepper after 15 minutes. Remove from the oven when soft and charred (about 10 to 20 minutes more). Cool. Turn eggplant after 20 minutes. Roast another 20 to 30 minutes until completely soft. Cool.

Curry Eggplant Yogurt Salad (Photo/Faith Kramer)
Curry Eggplant Yogurt Salad (Photo/Faith Kramer)

Heat oil in skillet over medium-low heat. Stir in onions and ¼ tsp. of salt. Cook, stirring often, until very brown and soft, about 50 minutes. Adjust heat and add oil as necessary. Cool.

Stir together yogurt, zest, lemon juice, ¼ tsp. salt, curry, cayenne, mint, cardamom, and turmeric. Finely chop the browned onions. Peel skin off pepper, deseed and finely chop (discard skin and seeds). Cut eggplant lengthwise and use fork to scrape out flesh (discard skin). Chop finely. Stir vegetables into yogurt with the ¼ cup fresh herbs (your choice). Refrigerate for 2 hours or for up to 1 day. Taste. Add salt as desired. Serve chilled or at room temperature garnished with 2 Tbs. chopped herbs and tomatoes.

Roasted Eggplant-Sweet Potato Stacks with Tahini Sauce

Makes 8 stacks

  • 1 lb. eggplant
  • 1½ lbs. sweet potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled
  • 2 medium red onions
  • ½ cup olive oil, divided, plus extra for pans
  • ½ tsp. salt, divided
  • ½ tsp. dried mint, crumbled
  • ½ tsp. ground sumac or 1½ tsp. minced lemon zest
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne
  • ½ tsp. ground cumin
  • Tahini sauce (see below)
  • 2 Tbs. chopped flat-leaf parsley

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Grease 3 baking pans. Slice eggplant into 16 rounds, sweet potato into 24 rounds and onions into 16 rounds, all about ½-inch thick.  Place eggplant slices in one pan, sweet potatoes in another and onions in another. Mix 3½ Tbs. oil with ¼ tsp. salt, mint, sumac (or zest) and cayenne and brush tops of eggplant (reserve remainder). Mix 3½ Tbs. oil with ¼ tsp. salt and cumin. Brush tops of sweet potatoes. Reserve remainder. Brush onions with remaining olive oil (about 1 Tbs.).

Roasted Eggplant-Sweet Potato Stacks with Tahini Sauce (Photo/Faith Kramer)
Roasted Eggplant-Sweet Potato Stacks with Tahini Sauce (Photo/Faith Kramer)

Place in oven. After 20 minutes, flip eggplant and sweet potato slices. Brush with remaining mixed seasoning oils. Bake 10 to 20 minutes until browned and cooked. Turn onions after 15 minutes with a spatula. Roast another 10 to 15 minutes until soft and charred.

For each stack, place sweet potato slice on bottom, top with eggplant slice, then onion, then potato, then eggplant, then onion and top with potato slice. Serve warm or at room temperature, drizzled with tahini sauce and sprinkled with parsley. Transfer to plates with spatula.

Tahini sauce: Stir together with a fork until smooth these ingredients: ½ tsp. minced garlic, 4 tsp. fresh lemon juice, ¼ cup cold water and  ½ cup tahini. Add more water or lemon juice as needed. Stir in ¼ tsp. of salt, or to taste.

Faith Kramer
Faith Kramer

Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer and the author of “52 Shabbats: Friday Night Dinners Inspired by a Global Jewish Kitchen.” Her website is Contact her at [email protected].