Look no further than this Sautéed Eggplant Salad and boost your brainpower with exotic za'atar, a harmony of dried herbs, spices, sesame seeds and sumac.
What is Za'atar You Ask?
Za'atar is a herb plant in the thyme-oregano-marjoram family and tastes like a cross between those herbs. It is dried then mixed with toasted sesame seeds, sumac, cumin and sometimes coriander powder to make up a za'atar spice blend.
As the za'atar plant is only native to the middle east, you can only mimic done by using a combination of dried thyme-oregano-marjoram as a stand-in for the za'atar plant.
So can Za'atar boost your brainpower? All the spices in the blend do contain flavonoids, all potent antioxidants that protect our cells.
Table of contents
The za'atar in this sautéed eggplant salad is what makes it so unique; you should be able to find it in Middle Eastern speciality stores or the International food section in your supermarket.
Failing that, make your own za'atar blend using our spice blend recipe! I always have a big batch on hand to add to salads, as a spice rub for meat and chicken or on pita bread grilled with olive oil.
Ingredients & Substitutions
- Japanese Eggplant- the hero in this salad and chosen because it holds up better to frying and sauteeing, you can replace with any eggplant really, just cut it them into a large dice.
- Mini Roma Tomatoes - here to add some juicy sweetness, swap with any small tomato variety you fancy or opt for a diced up firm skinned tomato variety such as truss tomatoes
- Fresh Herbs - we have stuck to classic Middle Eastern flavour and opted for fresh mint and parsley. But fresh coriander/cilantro would also work well here.
- Pomegranate - adds a pop of bright colour and sweet, tart flavour. Swap with some dried cranberries or cherries if you can't find them or if the pomegranates are pricey.
- Za’atar Spice Blend- a wonderful earthy spice blend but if you like you can swap it with some Dukkah. For more ideas go back to our Za'tar subsititutions paragraph.
- Pomegranate Dressing - wonderfully tart and aromatic and really adds another exotic element in this salad. If you are looking for an alternative try some balsamic glaze instead.
You Will Need
How to Make It
Wash and trim your eggplant and cut into 2.5cm (1 inch) rounds.
Heat a large heavy-based pan on medium-high heat and add approximately three tablespoons of olive oil.
Once the oil is hot, add your eggplant to the pan, making sure that you do not overcrowd it (fry your eggplant in batches if you have to).
Scatter some of the za'atar blend on top, then sauté until golden brown (approximately 4-5 minutes).
Once your eggplant is golden brown, add 2-3 tablespoons of water to the pan and place the lid back on the frypan for 2-3 minutes to steam the eggplant until soft and creamy. It will also allow the eggplant to absorb the flavour of the za'atar (mini spiced flavour bombs!).
To be honest, I am really not a fan of cutting my pomegranate in half and then using a wooden spoon to remove the pomegranate arils; I think it makes too much mess.
My preferred method of removing pomegranate arils is by cutting out the crown and base of the pomegranate with a sharp knife, cutting it in half and then breaking it apart and separating the seeds from the membrane.
You can do this with rubber gloves for stain-free hands!
3CUT YOUR HERBS & MINI ROMAS
Rinse your mini Roma tomatoes under cold water, pat dry with a towel then cut them in half lengthwise.
Rinse your herbs under cold water, shake and then pat dry. Remove the stalks from the parsley and roughly chop. Pick the mint leaves from the stems.
4SHAKE UP THE VINAIGRETTE
Place all the vinaigrette ingredients in a glass jar, season and shake until emulsified.
5ASSEMBLE THE SALAD
Arrange your sautéed eggplant salad in a salad bowl and serve. You can easily make this salad several hours ahead; this will also allow the flavours to infuse and develop - just leave the mint leaves to one side to add at the last minute as they will brown.
What to Serve It With
Sauteed Eggplant Salad salad would be a great addition served with grilled or BBQ meats alongside a roast dinner: or with a store-bought BBQ chicken or a simple rice pilaf.
If you are looking for something a bit more exotic:
- Try it with middle eastern rice and lentils as a vegan option
- For meat lovers try it with harissa lamb cutlets or beef shish kabobs
- It is also great with chicken shawarma
- Also, superb with Yotam Ottolenghi’s pan-seared salmon
Common Questions (FAQs)
It is not necessary for this salad; we are looking for a firmer and meatier texture, and salting eggplant makes it soft and creamy. More on this in our How to salt eggplant post.
You can prepare the eggplant, the pomegranate and the dressing the day before.
Cut up the herbs and the tomatoes and toss in the dressing an hour or two before serving.
Sauteed Eggplant salad is excellent for meal prep; make it up minus the fresh herbs, portion it into your containers, and add the herbs the day before you plan to take it for your lunch (or to your picnic).
To add some protein, try some crumbled feta, grilled lamb/chicken strips, kofta or falafel as a vegetarian option.
Even though your mint may discolour, you can store the leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge. You will need to bring it to room temperature before eating, it is honestly great the next day.
Leftovers can be stirred through some cooked couscous or bulghur wheat for a yummy lunch.
I have also added it to some boiled pasta with some crumbled feta, and it was delicious.
More eggplant salad recipes to try
- 500 grams baby / Japanese / Chines eggplants (approximately 6 medium, 17.6 ounces)
- 1 tablespoon Za’atar
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 400 grams mini Roma tomatoes (approximately 2 small punnets, 14.1 ounces)
- 1 medium pomegranate
- ½ cup parsley leaves
- 4-5 stems mint leaves
- Sea salt and cracked black pepper
- ½ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
- 1 teaspoon za’atar spice blend
- Wash and trim your eggplants and cut into 2.5cm (1 inch) rounds.
- Heat a large heavy-based pan on medium-high heat and add approximately 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add your eggplant (do not overcrowd) then add the za'atar.
- Sauté until golden brown (approximately 4-5 minutes), add 2-3 tablespoons of water to the pan and place the lid back on the frypan for 2-3 minutes to steam the eggplant until soft.
- Remove pomegranate arils. Then rinse and dry your mini Roma tomatoes and cut in half lengthwise.
- Rinse your herbs under cold water, shake and then pat dry. Remove the stalks from the parsley and chop roughly. Pick the leaves from the mint stems.
- Place all the dressing ingredients in a glass jar, season and shake until emulsified.
- Add everything to a large mixing bowl, pour the dressing over the salad, season with salt and pepper and mix until well combined.
- Arrange in a salad bowl, sprinkle with some extra za’atar on top to garnish then serve.