Sweet and sour–glazed eggplant is a popular menu item at my DBGB restaurant in downtown Manhattan and stars the long, pinkish-purple Japanese variety. Italian eggplants, the larger, dark purple variety, are grilled and topped with a lightly sautéed mélange of tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, and onions that evokes the iconic Provençal ratatouille.
Either dish makes an ideal accompaniment to an alfresco meal of grilled fish or meat and a salad of peppery greens. If you’re a real eggplant lover, serve both as part of a meze-style spread. Complement them with a pitcher of sangria made with dark berries and deep purple plums — not only delicious, but also a perfect color match!
SWEET AND SOUR-GLAZED EGGPLANT
1⁄4 cup honey
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 cup sherry vinegar
3 Japanese eggplants, stems removed
4 T olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, smashed
3 Roma tomatoes-, peeled, seeded, and diced
1⁄2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1⁄2 tsp. ground sumac
1⁄4 tsp. ground cumin
1⁄2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
1⁄2 cup mint leaves, cut into thin strips
Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a small saucepan, combine the honey, thyme, and vinegar. Simmer over medium heat until reduced by three-quarters. Set aside. Cut the eggplants into 11⁄2- to 2-inch-thick pieces and arrange on a baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 T of the olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast for 15 minutes in the oven, then transfer to a sauté pan set over medium heat. Spoon the vinegar-honey mixture over the eggplant and continue cooking, basting periodically, for 10 minutes, or until tender. Remove from heat and keep warm.
In a small saucepan, heat the remaining olive oil and add the onion and garlic. Cook at medium heat until the onion is translucent and soft, about 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes and season with salt.
In a small mi bowl, whisk together the yogurt, sumac, cumin, and lemon juice. Season with salt.
To serve, top each piece of eggplant with a spoonful of the tomato-onion mixture and a spoonful of the yogurt sauce. Sprinkle with mint.
GRILLED EGGPLANT STEAKS "RATATOUILLE"
2 small Italian eggplants, cut in half lengthwise
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 tsp. tomato paste
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
1 zucchini, seeded and diced
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
1 large beefsteak tomato, peeled, seeded, and diced
1 sprig fresh basil, leaves chopped
1⁄4 cup chopped green olives, for garnish
Heat an outdoor grill to 375°F. Generously drizzle eggplants with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill for 10 minutes, cut-side down, then 10 minutes on the other side, until tender. Transfer to a tray. (To cook indoors, preheat the oven to 375°F and place a stovetop grill over medium heat. Drizzle eggplants with olive oil and cook on the grill, cut-side down, for 10 minutes, then transfer to the oven and cook on the other side for about 10 minutes, until tender.)
In a medium sauté pan, warm 2 T olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 6 minutes. Add tomato paste, peppers, zucchini, garlic, and tomato and cook about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. When the vegetables are lightly stewed but still retain their shape, add the basil. To serve, spoon vegetables onto the eggplant and garnish with chopped olives.
BERRY-PLUM SANGRIA WITH THAI BASIL
2 bottles inexpensive white wine, such as Pinot Gris
1⁄2 cup blackberries
1⁄2 cup blueberries
4 plums, pitted and quartered
2 sprigs mint
2 sprigs Thai basil, 2 for garnish
Splash Chambord liqueur
6 oz. white rum
Combine all ingredients in a large pitcher or punch bowl and chill overnight. Serve over ice and garnish with basil.
WHAT ELSE TO DRINK
"This pair of eggplant dishes makes me think of Corsica, whose wines will go well with both,” says Raj Vaidya, head sommelier at Daniel restaurant. “For the sweet-and-sour eggplant, I’d pair Nicolas Mariotti Bindi’s 2013 Le Blanc Mursaglia Vermentino [$39]. It’s a fresh, saline, and mineral wine with herbal notes to match the citrus and spice. Mariotti Bindi’s 2013 Le Rouge Mursaglia [$37], a light-colored red, has acidity and a touch of tannin to match the grilled eggplant, tomato, and garlic.”
This story was originally published in the July/August 2017 issue of ELLE DECOR.