Levant Calling: Roasted Aubergine Salad with Sumac, Roasted Chillies and Dried Apricot Yoghurt Dressing

The word “salad” conjures up images of green leaves, colorful vegetables and a light, flavorful dressing. Either as diet food or anti-pasto, salads are more often than not treated as side dishes, closing the option of creating an edible delicacy, using the term “salad” as a base, and building on the flavors that are usually disregarded in the conventional sense of the term. Such an epiphany was provided by my aunt, who like me, enjoys using unconventional ingredients to create palatable food with a twist.

Roasted Eggplant Salad with Dried Apricots, Sumac and Yoghurt Dressing

Traditionally, aubergines are used in dips such as baba ghanoush in the Middle East and Baghare Baingan in South Asia or used as a base in dishes such as Moussaka. Many people have not developed the taste for aubergines due to their pungent flavors that can tend to be slightly bitter. Hence, the idea of using aubergines in salad, that too without any leaves, may deter many people from trying this recipe. However, the infusion of smoky aubergines with sweet dried apricots, a dash of lemon tingle, provided by sumac,  and a final, fiery kick of roasted red chillies will transport you on a culinary journey filled with flavor. Low on calories and bursting with taste, this recipe should be tried on its own and not treated as a side dish.

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 large aubergines
  • 1/2 cup yoghurt, unsweetened
  • 1 tsp ginger, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp apricot yoghurt
  • 4-5 red chillies, diced
  • Salt
  • Sumac
  • Handful basil leaves

Preparation:

  • Slice the aubergine into one inch discs
  • There are two ways of cooking the aubergine discs. For a crunchy flavor, you can drizzle some olive oil on a hot grill and place the discs on the grill when the pan is smoking. Once the aubergine starts to brown from below and grill marks appear,about 3-4 minutes, turn it on its other side and cook for a further 4 minutes
  • For a fleshy, soft taste, place the discs on a baking tray, splash some olive oil over the aubergines and roast for about 30 minutes
  • In the meantime, heat a pan and add the chopped chillies. Roast for about 5 minutes or till the color changes to a deep maroon. Once the kitchen is enveloped in the smell of fresh chillies, you will know your chillies are done
  • In a bowl, add the yoghurt, dried apricots, salt, ginger and apricot yoghurt and mix well till all the lumps in the yoghurt disappear. (Note:If apricot yoghurt is not available, use honey or apricot jam instead)
  • Place the aubergines on a plate and spread the yoghurt dressing over the discs
  • Sprinkle the sumac powder, roasted red chillies and a few dried apricots over the aubergines
  • Garnish with a handful of basil leaves and serve

Roasted Eggplant Salad with Dried Apricots, Sumac and Yoghurt Dressing

Travel to the Levant while sitting in your own home by indulging in full-bodied Arabic flavors of the aubergines, dried apricots and sumac. Sumac is a well known reddish-purple powder used in Arabic cooking. The fruits of the sumac plant are ground into a powder, which is used in salads and dips throughout the Middle East and in kebabs and rice in Iran. Fusion cooking is now at your finger tips. Discover new ingredients and cooking techniques and expand your culinary horizon. After all you are what you eat.