In her series #CookingNOPI, Callan makes her way through the famous cookbook, NOPI.
How many of you are active followers of Meatless Monday? If you aren’t, it’s completely understandable. You’ve been working all day, cursing the fact that Sunday ended. Why does Sunday ever have to end? You’ve kicked off your shoes, had a sit on your couch, and not given a single care about Meatless Monday. But this recipe will change your mind. Sunday night will give you a pang of excitement, knowing that Meatless Monday is sailing just along the horizon. That’s what this recipe will do for your life.
Nopi has recipes that range from quite easy to unbelievably tedious, to the point of ripping your hair out. Thankfully for this edition of Meatless Monday, we have a relatively easy one. The two hardest parts are turning on your oven, and pressing the ‘on’ switch on your food processor. That’s a genuine and honest promise.
This recipe, which happens to be the first in the book, is ‘Roasted Eggplant with Black Garlic, Pine Nuts and Basil’. Eggplant is a great vegetarian alternative for dinner because it is so rich and meaty on its own that its texture is semi-similar to meat. Let’s not get too wild and compare it to a sirloin steak, but the humble eggplant can hold its own.
I chose to cut this recipe in half. To be honest, I don’t think I own a sheet pan that would comfortably hold that sort of massive, eggplant family reunion in my oven. I used one very large eggplant and cut the rest of the ingredients in half, and it worked out as dandy as Christmas candy.
Once the eggplant is roasted in the oven, it is tossed with the black garlic dressing that you zip up in your food processor.
Don’t panic about the thought of black garlic. Yes, it will look bizarre and possibly like someone left it unattended for a while. But black garlic is just regular garlic that has been aged under top secret, unknown conditions until it turns black and glorious. Just kidding about the top secret method, it’s really just science. But the result is an earthy, sticky, umami-drenched flavor that I have never tasted with any other ingredient. You can pop over to your local Whole Foods (shout out to P Street) and they should have it.
The end result is a rich, earthy, filling, eggplant dish with a number of complex flavor profiles. The roasted eggplant is smoky on its own, but has an intensity and richness from the black garlic dressing. There is a slight pop of heat from the red pepper flakes, but it is perfectly balanced by the cooling addition of the yogurt. The basil is also a clean, fresh element in the dish. Without it, the dish would likely be too rich. And we can’t forget about an occasionally, friendly crunch from the toasted pine nuts.
This is a perfect dish for a beginner to NOPI. As long as you have about 40 minutes to spare, this is perfect way to springboard into Meatless Monday. Or you could have it any day of the week, nobody is judging. To be honest, once you try it for the first time you may just want to roast eggplant and fuss with black garlic every day.
Roasted Eggplant with Black Garlic, Pine Nuts and Basil
- 5 medium eggplants, trimmed
- ½ cup olive oil, plus extra to serve
- 2/3 cup plain yogurt
- 1/3 oz (about ½ tbsp) basil leaves
- ¾ oz (1.5 tbsp) pine nuts, toasted
- Coarse sea salt and black pepper
Black Garlic Dressing
- 1 ¾ oz (3.5 tbsp) peeled black garlic cloves
- 1 ½ teaspoons rose harissa (or regular harissa)
- 1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses
- 2 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon urfa chile flakes (or a pinch of regular dried chile flakes)
- ½ teaspoon cocoa powder
- 3 ½ tablespoons olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 425°F/220°C (390°F/220°C convection).
- Cut each eggplant in half lengthwise, and then again widthwise. Cut each section into wedges about 1 1/4inches wide and 4 inches long, and place in a large mixing bowl along with the olive oil, 1 tablespoon of salt, and a good grind of black pepper. Mix well, then spread the eggplants out on two parchment-lined baking sheets—you don’t want them to be overcrowded—skin-side down.
- Roast in the oven for about 40 minutes, until well cooked and golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
- Place all the ingredients for the dressing in the small bowl of a food processor, along with ¼ teaspoon of salt. Blitz for about 2 minutes, until a very smooth paste is formed.
- Place the eggplant in a large mixing bowl. Add the garlic dressing and use your hands to stir very gently: you want the eggplant to be coated without disintegrating completely.
- Leave for an hour or so, if there is time to spare.
- Spread the yogurt out on a platter or individual plates and arrange the eggplant wedges on top.
- Sprinkle over the basil leaves—tearing the large ones as you go—and the pine nuts.
- Finish with a drizzle of olive oil and serve.
Give it a try and let me know how it came out by tagging #CookingNOPI online!