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Eggplant with couscous salad ends summer strong

by Gretchen McKay, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (TNS) | September 15, 2021 at 2:01 a.m.
Roasted Eggplant With Whole Wheat Couscous (TNS/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/Gretchen McKay)

Summer is slowly fading into early fall and before you know it, fat red tomatoes, sweet corn and juicy melons will give way to root vegetables and fruits such as apples and pears. But there's still time to enjoy one of the late-summer season's most versatile offerings — eggplant.

Closely related to tomatoes (both nightshade fruits are members of the genus Solanum), eggplant can be added to a stir-fry, stuffed like zucchini with meat and cheese, roasted and mashed with lemon and garlic into a dip or breaded and fried. Eggplant also is a wonderful low-calorie and high-fiber addition to a grain or pasta salad.

Here, baby eggplant is cubed and roasted along with sweet onion, and then tossed with pearl couscous in a lemon-garlic tahini dressing. It can be served as a vegetarian main course or as a side.

This recipe works for any kind of eggplant, though baby varieties tend to have more of a tender flesh and will roast up creamier.

I used fairy eggplant, a petite (and adorable) heirloom variety with pale purple and white stripes that is especially velvety when cooked. If you can't find the Middle Eastern spice mix, za'atar, you can use Italian seasoning.

Roasted Eggplant With Whole Wheat Couscous

  • 1 pound baby eggplant
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large sweet onion, halved, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons za'atar seasoning (can substitute Italian seasoning)
  • For couscous:
  • 3 cups vegetable broth or water
  • 2 tablespoons butter or extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of sweet or smoked paprika
  • 2 cups Israeli couscous
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, such as a combination of cilantro, chives, parsley and/or mint
  • For tahini dressing:
  • ¼ cup tahini
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 small cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley, or a combination, with some reserved for serving
  • For salad:
  • ½ pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • ¼ cup crumbled feta (optional)
  • Lemon slices or wedges, for serving

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Trim ends from eggplant. Slice in half lengthwise, then cut into half-moons. Place in bowl and toss with olive oil. Add sliced onion, toss to combine and sprinkle with za'atar seasoning. Toss to mix well.

Bake, turning vegetables once or twice, until eggplant is tender and onion is golden, 15 to 20 minutes.

While vegetables are roasting, make couscous. Heat broth, butter or oil, garlic, salt and paprika in a small saucepan.

Stir in couscous, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered until the couscous is tender, about 10 minutes. Drain the couscous through a fine-mesh strainer to remove any excess cooking liquid. Stir in chopped herbs and set aside.

Make dressing: Mix all the ingredients with 2 tablespoons water in a small bowl until smooth. If it's too thick, add more water as needed to make a semithick dressing. Taste and adjust salt.

Transfer cooked vegetables to a large serving bowl. Add herbed couscous, tomatoes, feta and several tablespoons of the tahini dressing. (I used almost all of it.) Toss gently to mix. Serve garnished with more chopped herbs and lemon slices.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Recipe adapted from the Chicago Tribune

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