Summer is slowly fading into early fall and before you know it, fat red tomatoes, sweet corn and fresh berries will give way to root vegetables and fruits like apples and pears. But there’s still time to enjoy one of the late-summer season’s most versatile offerings — eggplant.
Closely related to tomatoes (both nightshade fruits are members of the genus Solanum), eggplant can be added to a stir-fry, stuffed like zucchini with meat and cheese, roasted and mashed with lemon and garlic into a dip and be breaded and fried. Eggplant also is a wonderful low-calorie and high-fiber addition to a grain or pasta salad.
Here, baby eggplants are cubed and roasted along with sweet onion, and then tossed with pearl couscous (a type of roasted pasta shaped like rice) in a lemon-garlic tahini dressing. It can be served as a vegetarian main course or as a side with something like roasted chicken.
This recipe works for any kind of eggplant, though baby varieties tend to have more of a tender flesh and will roast up creamier.
I used fairy eggplant, a petite (and adorable) heirloom variety with pale purple and white stripes that is especially velvety when cooked.
If you are not able to find the Middle Eastern spice mix, za’atar, you can use Italian seasoning.
Roasted Eggplant With Whole Wheat Couscous
Serves 6 to 8. Adapted from the Chicago Tribune
1 pound baby eggplant
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 large Vidalia or other sweet onion, halved, sliced
2 tablespoons za’atar seasoning
3 cups vegetable or chicken broth or water
2 tablespoons butter or extra-virgin olive oil
1 large clove garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon salt
Pinch of sweet or smoked paprika
2 cups Israeli couscous
4 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, such as a combination of cilantro, chives, parsley and/or mint
For tahini dressing:
1/4 cup tahini
Juice of 1 lemon
2 small cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley, or a combination, with some reserved for serving
1/2 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup crumbled feta (optional)
Lemon slices or wedges, for serving
Heat oven to 400 degrees on conventional setting or 375 degrees on convection.
Trim ends from eggplant. Slice in half lengthwise, then cut into half-moons. Place in bowl and toss with olive oil. Add sliced onion, toss to combine and sprinkle with za’atar seasoning. Toss to mix well.
Bake, turning vegetables once or twice, until eggplant is tender and onion is golden, 15 to 20 minutes.
While veggies are roasting, make couscous. Heat broth, butter or oil, garlic, salt and paprika in a small saucepan.
Stir in couscous, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered until the couscous is tender, about 10 minutes. Drain the couscous through a fine-mesh strainer to remove any excess cooking liquid. Stir in chopped herbs and set aside.
Make dressing: Mix all the ingredients with 2 tablespoons water in a small bowl until smooth. If it’s too thick, add more water as needed to make a semithick dressing. Taste and adjust salt.
Transfer cooked vegetables to a large serving bowl. Add herbed couscous, tomatoes, feta and several tablespoons of the tahini dressing. (I used almost all of it.) Toss gently to mix. Serve garnished with more chopped herbs and lemon slices.