I love eggplant. It is one of the most amazing and versatile vegetables out there. There are so many dishes you can make and so many ways of cooking with it that you can eat eggplants every day for a long time and still would not get bored!
I saw this way of marinating eggplants in a cookbook about Jewish and Palestinian cuisines. Eggplant is a very important and old ingredient in these cuisines, together with the rest of Mediterranean. The marinating process gives the roasted eggplants a slight tangy flavour. Together with the couscous which is on the quite filling side of this salad, they make perfect balance.
Pearl couscous is something that I have been looking for some time now, in Helsinki. This is what I used to know as “couscous” back in Turkey until I saw the smaller couscous in Paris many years ago. After I went back to Turkey from Paris, I did not eat Turkish or any other couscous much, just every now and then. Here in Helsinki, I could only find the small couscous in the shops, which I still do not eat much really. But then suddenly a few months ago I remembered the existence of pearl couscous and started to look for it. Finally I found it in Heinon Tukku. But I think it can also be found in some ethnic shops as well.
Hope you give this salad a try – eggplant deserves to be eaten! Enjoy!
Difficulty: ★☆☆ (Easy)
For marinated eggplants:
1 big eggplant, sliced in 2-3 mm thickness, soaked in salty water for 10 minutes and drained well
1/2 + 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1+1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp rice syrup (you can use honey if you are not vegan)
2 tbsp chopped parsley
2 tsp za’atar spice mix (you can find it in ethnic shops or you can make your own spice mix here – do it without olive oil) – if you can’t find it or make it yourself, use dried thyme instead, same amount
2 garlic cloves, sliced finely
For pearl couscous salad:
2.5 dl pearl couscous, cooked* (you can perfectly switch to a gluten free salad using buckwheat groats instead)
1 cucumber, diced
1 red onion, diced
2 tomatoes, diced
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp white wine vinegar
salt to taste
*To cook pearl couscous: boil 5 dl water (or I used vegetable broth), when it’s boiling pour couscous into the water / broth and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until couscous softens and absorbs the water.
1. To marinate the eggplants, preheat the oven to 200C. Prepare an oven tray with a baking paper.
2. Put the eggplants in a big bowl. Add 1/2 tsp salt, pepper and 1 tbsp olive oil and mix until all slices are coated with oil, salt and pepper.
3. Put coated eggplant slices on the baking paper in one layer (if your oven is small, do this in multiple batches but never put overlapping slices). Roast the eggplant in the oven in medium rack for about 20 minutes, until it’s tender and slightly browned.
4. While eggplant is in the oven, prepare the sauce. In a medium bowl, put red wine vinegar, 1 tbsp olive oil and rice syrup and mix.
5. Add za’atar (or dried thyme) and parsley and continue mixing.
6. Add 1/2 tsp salt and chopped garlic and mix again, put aside.
7. When eggplant is ready, take out of the oven and let it cool for about 10 minutes. After that, put the slices on a flat dish in one layer. Spread the marinating sauce and then continue with second layer, until you have all the eggplant slices and marinating sauce used. Cover the bowl with stretch film and let it sit in room temperature for at least 2 hours, preferably for 6 hours (if you are in a very hot climate and your kitchen is burning, you may want to put in the coolest part of your kitchen – luckily this is not a real problem in Finland!!!).
8. When your marinated eggplants are ready, prepare the rest of the salad. In a salad bowl, put cooked pearl couscous, red onion and tomatoes and mix.
9. Add parsley, olive oil, lemon juice and white wine vinegar, season with salt and mix it all. Serve topped with marinated eggplants. Enjoy!