- Prep time 20 minutes
- Cook time 15 minutes
- makes 1 pint
Charred eggplant goes slack and silky under a pool of cool, tangy kefir doused with spiced brown butter and crunchy walnuts. Serve this dip with pita or crackers or as part of a larger meze platter. Roasting the eggplants is really the most time-consuming part. If you have access to a charcoal grill, definitely char your eggplants on it for the smokiest flavor. And if neither a grill nor a gas stove are part of your kitchen life, halve the eggplants and broil them cut side down till soft. It won’t taste smoky, but it’ll do.
Perhaps my favorite ingredient here is actually the dried mint. I started cooking with it only recently, after finding it at my local Turkish store, where I went in search of manti. And in fact, the little lamb dumplings and their spiced yogurt topping were the inspiration behind this dish. I despise fresh mint (too green? too mossy?), but when dried it's a whole different thing: a bit woodsy, with a lilting salinity and hint of menthol. Bloomed in hot oil, it unfurls its full flavor and really makes the dish. In other words, don’t skip it!
The eggplants can be roasted, smashed, and seasoned up to 2 days ahead. Just bring them to room temperature before proceeding with the recipe from step 3. Eat this as soon as you make it for the best contrast in temperatures. —Shilpa Uskokovic
eggplant (any variety works)
small garlic clove, grated or finely minced
Freshly ground black pepper
plain, unsweetened kefir or buttermilk, very cold
walnut halves, roughly chopped
Zest of 1 large lemon
Lemon wedges, for garnish
Chopped dill, parsley, and/or cilantro, for garnish
Toasted pita or crackers, for serving
- Use a small paring knife to make 4 shallow gashes along each eggplant (this prevents it from bursting as it cooks). Roast the eggplants over the open flame of a gas stove, turning often, until they are charred and collapsing. Place the roasted eggplants in a bowl, cover with a lid, and allow to cool. (If your eggplants are very large, they may be charred but not fully cooked. The center may still be quite firm. In that case, microwave them in a covered container until soft, then let cool.)
- When the eggplant is cool, use your hands or a spoon to remove the blackened skin (it’s okay if some charred bits refuse to let go), then discard it. Using a potato masher, smash the flesh into a coarse paste. Place into a sieve and gently press with a spoon or squeeze with your hand to remove excess liquid. Transfer back to the bowl, stir in the garlic, and season with salt and pepper. Spread the smashed eggplant in the bottom of a shallow serving bowl.
- Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the walnuts and cook until the nuts are toasty and fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn off the heat, then stir in the dried mint, paprika, and lemon zest. Season with salt to taste.
- Pour the cold kefir over the smashed eggplant. Spoon the warm walnut mixture on top. Scatter lavishly with herbs and squeeze a lemon wedge over top. Serve with toasted pita or crackers.