Sunday, August 28, 2022

Eggplant flatbread with herby tomato salad

I cannot emphasize enough how much of a difference fresh herbs make in cooking. It is the easiest way to add flavor, color, and garnish any dish, even desserts. Spices and herbs are also a great way to reduce salt in food without sacrificing taste.

I don’t want to say there’s a “right” and a “wrong” way to use herbs because I don’t think there should be rules to cooking. But there are certainly better ways than others to use them.

First, I want to discuss fresh versus dried herbs. They are both important for adding flavor, but they are definitely not the same. You need to approach the way you use them differently. Fresh herbs work best as a garnish added to a dish right before it’s served or mixed into uncooked foods, whereas dried herbs need to be added to soups, sauces, and other dishes during the cooking process. That’s because dried herbs need to be rehydrated to release and develop their flavor. If you add them at the end, they’ll taste like powder. 

Delicate, fresh herbs lose their flavor when heated, which is why it’s best to add them at the end of the cooking process or as a garnish. Some examples are parsley, cilantro, basil, dill, mint, and tarragon. Woody herbs are recognizable by their tough, wood-like stems, and they are typically added early on in the cooking process, like dried herbs, and not served raw. Examples of woody herbs are rosemary, thyme, sage, and marjoram.

Also, if you plan to replace fresh herbs with dried herbs once vice versa in a recipe, know that it isn’t a one-to-one swap. One teaspoon of dried herbs is equal one tablespoon of fresh herbs, so it’s a 1 to 3 ratio.

The dish I’m sharing today uses both dried and fresh herbs. It’s an eggplant dip similar to Moroccan zaalouk that is spread over flatbread and topped with a fresh, herby tomato salad. 

Eggplant flatbread with herby tomato salad

Yield: Serves 4-6

Ingredients

For the eggplant spread

  • 1 Tablespoon oil
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 large eggplants, peeled, medium dice
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice 

For the herby tomato salad

  • 2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon sumac
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 pound tomatoes, medium dice
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
  • Naan or flatbread for serving
  • 1 cup herb mixture (I like mint, dill, and parsley), chopped

Directions

For the eggplant spread

  1. Heat oil over medium-low heat. Add shallots and cook until soft, about 2 minutes.
  2. Add spices and saute until shallots are evenly coated.
  3. Add eggplant and tomatoes. Mix until evenly coated in spices and cover with lid.
  4. Reduce heat to low and cook for 1 hour.
  5. Remove lid. Eggplant should be very soft. Smash and bread into pieces with wooden spoon.
  6. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice.

For the herby tomato salad

  1. In large bowl, mix pomegranate molasses, oil, lemon juice, sumac, and shallots.
  2. Stir in tomatoes and walnuts.

For the flatbread

  1. Heat up naan or flatbread. 
  2. Spread about 1/4 cup of eggplant dip over flatbread.
  3. Top with tomato salad and handful of herbs before serving.

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