Hemy's Israeli Eggplant

June 14, 2015
2 Ratings
Photo by Mark Weinberg
  • Prep time 45 minutes
  • Cook time 45 minutes
  • Serves 6 to 8
Author Notes

I met Hemy when I lived in Israel 45 years ago, and she and I became lifelong friends. She taught me to cook some of the dishes that her mother taught her. Like most cooks in that part of the world, she could make eggplant dozens of different ways. Recently, an old, dear friend who lived with me for a time in Israel requested that I make Hemy's eggplant, which I had not made in some 30 years. I called Hemy up, and she reminded me how to make her dish. I consider this a five-ingredient dish, and it is so easy. You will use lots of olive oil, so have the bottle right by the stove top as you fry the eggplant. The recipe features crushed red pepper as the main seasoning, and you can adjust the amount of red pepper you use. Hemy taught me to make the eggplant "harif" or spicy. NB: I have come to prefer baking the eggplant slices in the oven, so have included these instructions as an alternative to frying on the stovetop. During your outdoor grilling season, brush the eggplant slices with olive oil and grill direct until the eggplant reaches desired softness. —Bevi

Test Kitchen Notes

This dish has a wonderful flavor and is super easy. I found that the eggplant absorbed a lot of the oil, so the first pieces were much moister than later pieces, but the flavor was awesome, and the sauce came out great. I think a good alternative to frying would be to coat the eggplant slices with olive oil and grill them, and then layer them in the sauce. —Asa Martin

What You'll Need
  • Olive oil, as needed
  • 3 medium eggplants, sliced crosswise into 1/2-inch thick rounds
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 heaping teaspoon crushed dried red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 box Pomi chopped tomatoes or 26 ounces chopped skinless tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Salt and pepper, to taste (be generous)
  1. Heat a 10- to 12-inch flame-proof casserole dish over medium-high heat. Add enough olive to cover the bottom of the dish in about 1/4-inch. Add enough eggplant slices to cover the bottom of casserole, with a little room between the slices. Fry until golden to tawny brown on one side, flip, and fry slices on other side. Transfer to paper towels and blot well.
  2. Continue to fry the eggplant, adding more olive oil as needed to prevent the bottom of the casserole from scorching. When all eggplant is fried, blot the slices and set aside. OR: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place the eggplant slices on a large sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Brush olive oil on each slice; flip the slices, and brush the second sides of the slices. Place in oven. After 15 minutes rotate the pan. When the slices are golden brown, flip to the second side. Roasting may take 20 minutes or more. Proceed with the recipe as follows:
  3. In the same casserole, add a bit of oil to gently sauté the garlic and onion over medium heat. When the onion is translucent, add the crushed red pepper flakes. Stir and sauté until you can smell the red pepper.
  4. Reduce the heat to low, add the tomato paste, and stir in until the paste is incorporated into the onions, garlic, and red pepper, about a minute.
  5. Add the chopped tomatoes, and stir well. Add the sugar, and allow the sauce to reduce by about a quarter. Add the salt and pepper to taste. NB: I prefer to use skinless tomatoes. Simply boil water in a 2 or 3 quart saucepan, make an "X" on the bottom of each tomato with a knife, and allow tomato to sit in boiling water for less than a minute. Peel off the skin, allow to cool, and proceed to chop.
  6. Add some of the eggplant slices in one circular layer, and then gently push the eggplant layer into the sauce with either a spatula or the back of a wooden spoon. Then, create another layer of eggplant on top of the first. Again, push the eggplant layer into the sauce until almost submerged. Continue this process until all the eggplant is placed into the sauce.
  7. Cook over very low heat for about 25 minutes, being careful to retain the layered look of the eggplant, and occasionally slide a metal spatula underneath the bottom layer of eggplant to avoid scorching.
  8. Turn off the heat and set the casserole aside. Allow to cool to almost room temperature. Serve with lots of good crusty bread.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Nathan Metz
    Nathan Metz
  • Devangi Raval
    Devangi Raval
  • Bevi
  • ljgordon

Recipe by: Bevi

Cooking is an important part of my past. I grew up and worked on our family resort. These days, I cook good food to please my friends and family.

18 Reviews

janenaomi September 30, 2017
This was amazingly delicious but did use a lot of oil. Next time, I'll try steaming or grilling at least part of the eggplant, although I think it needs some of the oil for flavor and moisture.
Bevi December 19, 2017
I included an alternative method for roasting the eggplant slices in Step 2 above. You brush olive oil on the eggplant slices and bake in the oven. You will still get enough oil in the dish to make it silky and delicious, but not as much as frying the eggplant in the oil will produce.
petalpusher August 27, 2017
Good timing to find this recipe as I have a garden full of tomatoes and eggplant. Fresh corn polenta and crunchy lime cucumbers will accompany.
Summer cooking is the best. Sigh.
Bevi August 27, 2017
Sounds amazing. I made this last night and am about to comment in the headnote.
Susan June 26, 2017
Hi, Bevi, what would be good to serve alongside this dish? Traditional or non.
Bevi June 27, 2017
Hi Susan, You could go with other Middle Eastern recipes, Mediterranean dishes, a beautiful Greek salad, crusty bread, North African recipes - really the sky is the limit. Check out the Food52 Cookbook club on fb for recipes members have been cooking from Ottolenghi's books.
Nathan M. June 4, 2017
It sounds great, but I would put it in the oven for the last 25 minutes to prevent scorching.
Bevi June 5, 2017
You can do that. Either way it works.
patty June 4, 2017
This sounds amazing. Do you peel the eggplant,take out the seeds?
Bevi June 4, 2017
Hi Patty, I don't peel the eggplant nor take out the seeds. I hope you enjoy- it's very easy to make.
Briar R. June 4, 2017
I made this tonight, grilling the eggplant as suggested to cut down on how much oil I needes to use. I prepped the sauce while the eggplant was cooking in batches. Topped with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, it was so satisfying. It's hard for me to find recipes I love as I'm unable to eat dairy or eggs, but this was missing nothing
Bevi June 4, 2017
Hi Briar Rose, I am happy you liked it. It is a satisfying dish!
witloof June 1, 2017
This looks fabulous.
Bevi June 4, 2017
Devangi R. April 26, 2016
Yum yum...
Bevi August 27, 2015
Thanks Asa, for the nice review. I am glad you liked Hemy's Eggplant!
ljgordon June 15, 2015
Thank you, Hemy and Beverly for making this at my request. Brought back fondest memories of great times, people, and far-away places close to my heart. I could eat this everyday as either an entree or side. Trying not to drool on my keyboard.
Bevi June 15, 2015