Tiny fairy tale eggplants get strewn with mint and topped with crumbled feta cheese in this delightful summer side dish. Farmers markets or specialty grocers are your best best for finding the baby eggplants, but if you can't find them, slender Japanese eggplants or even full sized eggplants can work, too, though you'll need to increase both the recipe quantities and cooking time accordingly. (If you can only find larger eggplants, try scoring the flesh in a crosshatch pattern before roasting -- they'll be easier to serve after cooking.
Make It A Meal: Take a cue from the Mediterranean flavors showcased in this dish, and serve the eggplants as part of a mezze spread. Offer Baked Chickpea Fritters, olives, a variety of roasted vegetables, such as red peppers, cauliflower, and zucchini, Israeli Hummus and storebought or homemade pita. Follow up with Baked Salmon with Potatoes and Green Olives. Baklava and fresh fruit would make a delicious finish to the meal.
On the Holiday Menu: Cheese and olive oil are both traditional foods for Hanukkah -- the former as a nod to the heroine Yehudit (Judith), who helped secure an important military victory with the aid of cheese, the latter, for its central role in the miracle of Hanukkah. Pour some cocktails, fry up your favorite latke recipe -- the Potato Latkes with Ras el Hanout would go especially well with the eggplant -- and add them to the mezze spread, above, for an easy holiday party. Baked Olive Oil Doughnuts would make a perfect, no-fry finish.
During Shavuot, cheese also has a starring role on the menu. Offer a farmer's market-inspired spread and serve the eggplants with an Heirloom Tomato Salad with Goat Cheese and Arugula, this hearty Barley and Roasted Vegetable Salad, and cookbook author Ronnie Fein's Roasted Pistachio-Crusted Salmon. Finish the meal with a favorite cheesecake recipe.
- 1 pint (about 8 ounces) fairy tale eggplants, trimmed and halved lengthwise
- Pinch sea or kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
- 1.5 ounces sheeps' or cows' milk feta cheese, crumbled
- pinch of Za'atar
- Preheat the oven to 425° F. Arrange the eggplants cut side up in a baking dish just large enough to hold them in a single layer.
- Sprinkle the eggplant halves with a pinch of salt. Drizzle evenly with half of the olive oil. Sprinkle evenly with the chopped mint, and then the feta cheese. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil.
- Roast the eggplants in the preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the eggplant is tender and the feta is golden brown in spots. Serve warm.