Monday, 12 April 2010

Roast Baby Aubergines with Rocket and Peppered Cream Cheese, and a Tahini Dressing

A scattering of toasted pumpkin seeds gives this autumn salad a satisfying crunch and a good nutritional kick in the pants: they, along with the sesame seeds in the tahini dressing, are among the most wholesome plant foods on earth.  Not that I'm counting vitamins here: what I like about the warming middle-eastern flavours in this salad is that they are so well suited to days that are getting shorter and cooler, but aren't quite chilly enough to break out the mulled wine and the woollen vests.

Roast Baby Aubergines with Rocket and Peppered Cream
 Cheese, and a Tahini Dressing
I'm fortunate to live close to a little supermarket (Hout Bay's Oakhurst Spar) that has a very good vegetable section (my previous local Spar was just dismal; not only was it grimy, but I couldn't go near the meat section, with its lavish displays of yellow-toenailed chickens' feet).

My new Spar always has a nice selection of organic veggies, and on Saturday I picked up these plump, litchi-sized eggplants. I haven't had much luck with wee eggplanties in the past - they are sometimes terribly bitter, and no amount of salting and draining will help.

These ones had a slight bitterness, but a good one, which is perfectly offset by the creaminess of the cheese.

I've used a peppered, crumbly Jersey milk cream cheese from Fairview (available at Woolies and supermarkets in South Africa), but you could use any peppered feta or goat's milk cheese in this recipe.

If you can't find baby aubergines, cut some adult ones into cubes.

This is a low-carb salad, suitable for diabetics.

Roast Baby Aubergines with Rocket and Peppered Cream Cheese, and a Tahini Dressing

16 baby aubergines [eggplants or brinjals]
3 cloves garlic
3 Tbsp (45 ml) olive oil
salt and milled papper
a bag of rocket
100 g peppered cream cheese, or similar
a handful of green pumpkin seeds

For the dressing:
1½ tsp (7.5 ml) tahini
4 Tbsp (60 ml) olive oil
the juice of a lemon
1 tsp (5 ml) cumin

Preheat the oven to 180°C.  Put the aubergines and unpeeled garlic cloves on a baking sheet, pour over the olive oil and toss. Season with salt and pepper. Bake at 180°C  for 25 minutes, or until the aubergines are quite tender, but not charred.  Set aside. Now make the dressing. Squeeze the softened garlic cloves out of their papery cases and place in a small bowl.  Whisk in the tahini, olive oil, lemon juice and cumin, and season with salt.

Put the pumpkin seeds in a dry frying pan and toss over a medium heat for a minute or so, or until they are lightly toasted. To assemble the salad, put the rocket on a platter and arrange the warm roasted aubergines on top. Crumble the cream cheese and scatter it over the salad, along with the toasted pumpkin seeds.   Pour the dressing over and toss gently to combine.

Serves 4.
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Nina Timm said...

Oh my word, Juno, this salad shouts "autumn" in big letters!!! Every element of this salad appeals to me...

Marisa said...

Pumpkin seeds are just so yummy! I've also had bad luck with those baby aubergines before (bitter doesn't even begin to describe it) but your salad inspires me to try them again. Beetroot would also fit in perfectly here methinks.

kathy said...

WOW !!! I love middle eastern flavors and eggplants and salad... what type of eggplant is the best... I may not be able to find the same ones in US at this time of the year?

Sarah said...

Wow, this looks delicious! Will have to get hold of some baby aubergines and try it soon...

Rose&Thorn said...

Oh Juno, you really are making it more difficult for me not to back my bags and move to Hout Bay. My Spar is really bleh.
I love that salad, and the best thing is if I made it the boys wouldn't go near it!

Juno said...

Thanks for the comments, friends. Yes, Marisa, beetroot would be perfect in this salad - thanks for the suggestion. As for the bitterness: I was a bit reluctant to post this recipe, because in my experience it's quite rare to find baby brinjals that don't make your face pucker.

Kathy, any old eggplant will do. I don't know what's available where you live, but we get only one type of adult eggplant here in South Africa... big shiny purple-black ones!

elra said...

Hmmm, that tahini dressing really inviting, then the roasted eggplant. What a perfect combination.