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.
More on za’atar
Za’atar is an herb plant in the thyme-oregano-marjoram family and tastes like a cross between those herbs. This same herb is then dried and used as a spice blend along with toasted, sesame seeds, sumac, cumin and sometimes coriander.
As the za’atar plant is only native to the middle east you can only mimic its flavour by using a combination of dried thyme-oregano-marjoram as a stand-in for the za’atar plant.
The za’atar in this sautéed eggplant salad is what really makes it so special, you should be able to find it in Middle Eastern speciality stores or in the International food section in your supermarket.
Failing that you easily try making your own za’atar with our spice blend recipe or just add 2 teaspoons sesame seeds, 1 teaspoon each of dried thyme, cumin and sumac (if you are unable to find sumac substitute with 2 teaspoons dried lemon peel).
How to make sautéed eggplant salad
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 3 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 the za’atar mix on top, then sauté until golden brown (approximately 4-5 minutes).
Once your eggplant is golden brown, then 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 and so that the za’atar flavour is absorbed.
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 if you do not wish to get your hands stained.
3Cut your herbs and 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 chop roughly.
Pick the leaves from the mint stems.
4Shake up the vinaigrette
Place all the vinaigrette ingredients in a glass jar, season and shake until emulsified.
5Assemble your 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.
Some serving suggestions
This salad would be a great addition to any grilled or BBQ meats, alongside a roast dinner, a store-bought BBQ chicken a 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
What about the leftovers?
If you have leftovers stir it through some cooked couscous or bulghur wheat for a substantial packed lunch. I took this salad to a family friends barbecue and it was a popular choice.
More eggplant salad recipes to try
(Times are an estimate and will depend on your skill level)
- 500 grams baby / Japanese / Chines eggplants (approximately 6)
- 1 tbsp Za’atar
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 400 grams mini Roma tomatoes (approximately 2 small punnets)
- 1 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 tbsps pomegranate molasses
- 1 tsp za’atar
To sauté your eggplants…
- 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 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add your eggplant (do not overcrowd) and 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.
To make your salad…
- Remove pomegranate arils, 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.