Thursday, March 11, 2010

Fried Eggplant with Sumac and Garlic Yogurt Dip

title
C has an aunt who used to work for a princess. Yes, a princess that lives in a palace in a kingdom not so far away. I would sit enthralled by her stories of riches so grand it was almost unreal…like my own personal One Thousand and One Nights. Gold and jewels and family vacations on private jets, mammoth shopping jaunts and bespoke sports cars and magnificent feasts.

The parts that captivated me most, not surprisingly, were the magnificent feasts.

As she is a kindred spirit when it comes to food and cooking, these were always the most colorful parts of her tales. Stories of the amazing meals prepared, the ingredients used, the sights and smells of the large (large!) pantry and kitchen. Befriending the chefs, she managed to learn the cuisine…which she brought back with her (along with a hoard of spices and dried herbs) and continues to share with us. The dinners she prepares are much-anticipated events involving multiple courses and an incredible array of exotic flavors.

Although this dish is not hers (I’m quite sure I adapted it from one of my Donna Hay magazines actually!), she was the one who introduced me to sumac. Sumac spice (not the poison plant!) is an unbelievably deep and velvety red, its flavor tart and a bit astringent. Unlike other aromatic spices that are used in more complicated dishes, what I like about sumac is you can simply sprinkle it on anything to which you would like to add a sour kick (much the way you would add a squeeze of lemon juice). So you don't need a degree in spiceology to use it ;)

Fried Eggplant with Sumac and Garlic Yogurt Dip
  • Olive oil
  • 300 grams small Asian eggplants (they are short and skinny)
  • 2 heaping tablespoons Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • Sumac

- Heat a couple of glugs of olive oil in a skillet. Slice the small Asian eggplants lengthwise into two. When oil is hot lay eggplants cut-side down in the pan. Fry until golden brown and then turn. Fry the other side until eggplant is cooked. I like mine with crisp edges but still soft in the center. If you’d like to fry it until totally crisp go ahead!
- While the eggplants are frying, prepare the yogurt dip. Mix yogurt, garlic, and olive oil in a bowl. Add sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste. Store it in the fridge until ready to serve. Top with a sprinkling of sumac just before serving.
- When eggplants are done, fish them out of the pan and drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Dust liberally with sea salt and sumac. Serve with the yogurt dip.
- Serves two as a side dish.

As the name implies, small Asian eggplants are smaller versions of the long skinny eggplants most commonly used here. I love them solely based on their looks, as what’s not to love about a vegetable’s cuter version (one of the reasons I also love Brussels sprouts)? You can see them in this enticing still life of local vegetables. If you can’t find them where you are, substitute with any of your friendly neighborhood eggplants, and just slice them thinly.

Fried eggplant and yogurt is a pairing that works wonderfully for me – please have it freshly fried as the contrast between the warm eggplants and the cool yogurt adds to its deliciousness. The sumac adds a pleasing vibrancy to the whole dish, highlighting the eggplant's mild smokiness and the garlicky zing of the yogurt. We had this with our dinner, but you can easily prepare this as part of a larger spread of appetizers…or even as a video-marathon snack! If you are a bit health-conscious you can roast the eggplants instead with just a smidge of olive oil and salt. If you have leftovers (you won’t), mash the eggplants and yogurt together and you have a spread for tomorrow’s lunch.

Discovering new spices is one of my food thrills, especially if the discovery is peppered (no pun intended) with stories about royal feasts! I’m definitely glad for my introduction to sumac. Do you use it in your cooking? Any favorite ways to use it you would like to share? Yours may be the next sumac recipe that I post! :)

39 comments:

kyobinbou said...

Thanks for this post, I've learned something new today. I wonder where I could find Sumac here in the Philippines.

Divina Pe said...

Beautiful photo. It's warm and earthy like the spice. I don't know where find to sumac here but if you have an idea, please let me know.

MeetaK said...

i love aubergines and this reminds me very much of one i recently made (recipe on blog) from ottolenghi but that was with a divine saffron yogurt! but garlic i like too so this i am going to do!

Kalyn said...

I'm crazy over sumac and have used it in a few recipes. One of my favorites was Fattoush, a middle eastern salad where the sumac is in the dressing. This looks great too (sigh, when eggplants finally are in season here.)

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Those fired eggplants look fantastic! A wonderful combination.

Cheers,

Rosa

Trissa said...

I'm crazy about learning about lives of royalty! I wish I would meet C's aunt when I visit the Philippines. This dish sounds very moreish - surely fit for kings!

MaryMoh said...

That makes a great appetiser for me. I love eggplant. My family doesn't like it. Well, if I cook, I can enjoy it all myself :P

Ling said...

Gah. I'm salivating. :p

♥¸¸.•*¨Skip to Malou¨¨*•.¸¸♥¸ said...

I love eggplants...this recipe is something new to try and it looks simple and easy to make... i just wonder where I could get sumac here in SD. are there any alternatives?

I also like my edges to be crisp and the mid portion soft... and I love it when it slips through your mouth... yum!

Jam said...

oh my, they look really delicious! if only our nearby grocery is still open at this time of the night! i love eggplants! fried eggplant dipped in mayo or honey mustard sauce is my fave and I would love to try this one! same as the others - where can i find sumac here? this looks like a winner! :) yum yum!

ChichaJo said...

Hi Kyobinbou! I used to find it in Spices 'n Flavours, the spice shop in Market! Market! (The Fort, Taguig) but they are all out…although it is on reorder. You can also try some of the Indian groceries :)

Thanks Divina! Please see my answer to Kyobinbou above :) I have found it here (in Spices 'n Flavours, as well as in Assad’s Indian grocery) but it has been out of stock in both places for a while now :(

Hi Meeta! I will have to check out that recipe! Saffron yogurt…must try!

Hi Kalyn! Fattoush! That’s right! I fell in love with this salad in Greece (I know, not really the place to have it)…I will add that to my sumac recipes to try :)

Hi Rosa! Thanks!

Hi Trissa! I know…it is always so intriguing! Heehee :)

Hi MaryMoh! I love eggplant too…if you make this you can eat half and turn the other half into a spread by mashing the eggplant and the dip together :)

Hi Ling! Haha! Try it…it’s so easy to make! Use really good yogurt though!

Hi Malou! Love love love eggplant! I’m not sure what you could sub for sumac but it’s been compared to lemon so maybe a little lemon juice or lemon pepper? Although it wouldn’t be quite the same. I love it when eggplant goes all soft when it’s cooked :)

Hi Jam! Mmmm…must try it with your choice of dips! I also like fried eggplant with bagoong :) See my comment to Kyobinbou above on where to find it…

Maria said...

I can't wait to try this one. I love eggplant. Great dip!

Suzana said...

Oh I *just* love sumac! I've discovered it not so long ago and it captured my heart and taste buds straight away!! Will be trying your suggestion asap!

Anh said...

I am making this today. Will get hold of the eggplants. Cannot WAIT!

tasteofbeirut said...

My first time on your blog and I see this recipe! This is what we call in Lebanese cuisine a "fatteh"; we use sumac all the time, especially for a salad "fattoosh".
Love your adventurousness that made you try this very unusual spice!

veron said...

Joey, I am surprised that you used sumac. We sprinkle this over persian kebabs all the time. This looks delish!

Joanie said...

Aubergine is really amazing it can create a lot of exciting dishes. The yogurt thingy is a yummy combi! Keep blogging Joey! :)

Ling said...

It's fate, I tell you. I've had a bag of sumac in the spice drawer for a couple of months now... and Greek yoghurt in the fridge!!!

Dexie said...

Eggplants and yogurt... learn new things everyday. I'm going to search for that Sumac spice and try this coz I do love fried eggplants. Thanks Joey :) .

ChichaJo said...

Hi Maria! Hope you like it! :)

Hi Suzana! It’s a great spice and easy to use and experiment with :)

Hi Anh! Hope you get those eggplants! And hope you enjoy this dish! :)

Hi Tasteofbeirut! Thanks for stopping by! Nice to know this is an actual dish in Lebanese cuisine…I love trying out and exploring different cuisines :) I have tasted fattoosh before and loved it!

Hi Veron! Persian kebabs…yum!!! I’m going to have to go over your recipes again and try to make some at home!

Hi Joanie! It really is such a great vegetable! I love it too!

Hi Ling! Fate indeed! Now you can try this out :) Try using your sumac also in salad or grilled meats…it’s a great flavor to add!

Hi Dexie! Hope you like it! Love fried eggplants :)

iska said...

I love eggplant and I have a thing for dips right now. This is something I would really love to try!

Gattina said...

the princess story sounds enchanting... then once comes to the part about sumac and your recipe, everything real glows!
I am so with you about the asian eggplants too!

Manggy said...

For kyobinbou, Flavors and Spices also has an outpost inside SM Supermarket in Megamall.
I love the combination of flavors here - yogurt to cool the oil from the eggplant, and a touch of spice too.

ChichaJo said...

Hi Iska! I hope you do get to try it…it’s really simple but very good :)

Hi Gattina! Love Asian eggplants…they are also the best suited for another favorite eggplant dish here…tortang talong (eggplant omelet)!

Hi Manggy! It’s a combination I really love! I could eat a mountain of these :)

Aysegul - nysdelight said...

Simple and delicious and we Love SUMAC.

Erin said...

I love sumac, it is one of my favorite spices. This dish looks insanely delicious, I know what I am making this weekend.

ChichaJo said...

Hi Aysegul! Thanks for dropping in :) I’m loving sumac too!

Hi Erin! Glad to find another sumac fan here :) Hope you like this!

Soma said...

Love eggplants and I am so loving the flavors of this gorgeous recipe.

ChichaJo said...

Thanks Soma! Love them too :)

Ash said...

I love this and must try it!!

ChichaJo said...

Hi Ash! I really love this simple dish...let me know if you do try it out! :)

Grapefruit said...

Delish! I follow your blog but haven't commented before.

I love eggplant in any form. Have you tried any other eggplant-based middle-eastern dips?

Sumac is such a fantastic spice. I recently made pita chips and sprinkled some on them before placing under the broiler - to go along with homemade hummus.

ChichaJo said...

Hi Grapefruit! So glad you did comment now :) I love hearing from you all! I love eggplant too…I have tried making baba ganoush and loved it as well! Your sumac pita chips sounds delicious :)

j said...

Yum Yum Yum... I'm really hungry now even though I just ate lunch!!!! :)

Visit my friends site sometime - Yummy CEBU... :) C ya!!!

Bordeaux said...

More stories from the aunt! They sound fantastic. And keep on pairing them with recipes like this one. Yum!

ChichaJo said...

Hi J! Thanks :)

Hi Bordeaux! I know! Her stories are of another world!

mireille said...

Hey Joey! Just wanted to share that I was so happy to have found Sumac in our regular grocery down the road. Can't wait to try this, I LOVE both eggplant and yogurt.

Just Food said...

Thank you for your post. I love eggplant anything and this sounds like a great way to have it. As for anyone in the States looking for sumac, I have gotten mine from Penzey's store (or catalog if you don't have a store nearby).

I used sumac in a Israeli couscous/carrot dish years ago. It really added a nice, lemony flavor.

ChichaJo said...

Hi Mireille! Glad you found it and hope you like this :) I also love eggplant and yogurt!

Hi Just Food! Thanks for sharing…I’ll try it with carrots next :)