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Pickles perk up eggplant pita sandwich

By CHRISTOPHER KIMBALL, Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street
Published: September 20, 2023, 6:00am

One pillar of Milk Street’s approach to cooking is contrast — we pair tangy flavors with sweet, and creamy textures with crispy ones. And that’s why we often use quick pickles in our cooking; they cover many of those bases at once.

In this recipe from our book “Tuesday Nights Mediterranean,” which features weeknight-friendly meals from the region, we tuck quick-pickled sliced onion and tomato into vegetarian pita sandwiches inspired by an Iraqi-Israeli hand food called sabich.

Traditionally, fried eggplant is stuffed into a pita bread along with tomato-cucumber salad, hard-cooked egg, hummus and amba, a pickled mango condiment. For our much-simplified version, we broil slices of za’atar-seasoned eggplant, and briefly soak sliced red onion and tomato in vinegar and salt with a little sugar to substitute the sweet and sour amba.

The briny vegetables balance the savory meatiness of roasted eggplant, and their crispiness adds textural interest to what otherwise would be a soft filling. A harissa-spiked tahini sauce adds spice and richness.

Other items you may want to tuck into the sandwiches to make them more sabich-like: sliced hard-cooked eggs, hummus, parsley leaves and cucumber pickles.

And don’t worry about the amount of oil brushed onto the eggplant. Three tablespoons may seem excessive, but the oil adds both flavor and richness while helping with browning.

Charred Eggplant Pita Sandwiches With Spicy Tahini

Start to finish: 30 minutes. Servings: 4

1/3 cup white vinegar

¾ teaspoon white sugar

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

1 small ripe tomato, cored and chopped

½ small red onion, thinly sliced

1½ pounds eggplant, cut into twelve ½-inch-thick rounds

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

4 teaspoons za’atar

¼ cup tahini

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 to 3 tablespoons harissa paste

Two 8-inch pita rounds, each cut into half-rounds

Heat the broiler with a rack about 6 inches from the element. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and mist with cooking spray. In a small bowl, stir together the vinegar, sugar and ¼ teaspoon salt until the sugar and salt dissolve. Stir in the tomato and onion; set aside while you prepare the eggplant.

Brush both sides of the eggplant slices with the oil, then sprinkle with the za’atar, along with salt and pepper. Lay the slices on the prepared baking sheet and broil until well charred and a skewer inserted through the center meets no resistance, about 12 minutes, flipping the slices halfway through.

Meanwhile, in another small bowl, whisk together the tahini, lemon juice, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Whisk in the harissa and 3 tablespoons water; set aside.

When the eggplant is done, set the baking sheet on a wire rack. To fill each sandwich, open a pita half and spread 2 to 3 tablespoons tahini sauce inside. Place 3 eggplant slices in the pita, followed by a quarter of the onion-tomato mixture.