Picture a platter of grilled purple Japanese eggplant slices, drizzled with date syrup and creamy Tahini, and showered with creamy green roasted pistachios and garnet red pomegranates on top.

Israeli cooking is sweeping Los Angeles, from downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica. Chefs are using California’s freshest produce in creative dishes like chicken schwarma with carrot mole or lamb kebobs. Eggplant can be found in salads, first courses and entrees in myriad styles.

I tasted a version of this at Jaffa restaurant and immediately went home to recreate it for the home cook. I particularly like to use Japanese eggplant for their easy serving size as well as their delicate texture. This may look like a lot of ingredients but is it easy to assemble and can be made hours ahead with just the garnish to be added just before serving.

You’ll need to track down tahini and Silgan (date syrup) in your shopping but that’s the toughest part of this recipe. I like using a squeeze bottle of date syrup for easy drizzling. Tahini means sesame seed paste and tahina is the sauce that is make with tahini. If you make the tanina sauce up ahead make sure to thin it out a little with hot water before plating.  Serve this as a first course or on a salad buffet. Don’t forget the warm pita bread to serve alongside.

Grilled Eggplant with Date Syrup Drizzle, Tahina Sauce, Toasted Pistachios and Pomegranate Seeds

 

Serves 6 to 8

 

  • 6 Japanese eggplants, sliced 1/2 inch thick, makes about 4 slices per eggplant
  • Spray olive oil for the eggplant
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

  • ½ cup tahini
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ¼ cup boiling water
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

  • 3 tablespoons raw pistachios
  • 2 tablespoons date syrup
  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate seeds
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, for garnish

 

  1. Preheat the grill to medium-high.
  2. Lightly spray the eggplant slices on each side and then grill on each side for about 3 to 4 minutes, or until the eggplant slices have grill marks and feel soft. Remove to a platter. Some may take longer than others. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. To make the tahina sauce: Combine the tahini, lemon juice and garlic in a small bowl and mix to combine. Add the boiling water and blend until a smooth consistency. Add salt and pepper and taste for seasoning. Set aside.
  4. Toast the pistachios: Place in a nonstick skillet on medium-high heat and toast about 2 minutes, moving the nuts around with a spatula, or until slightly brown and fragrant. Be careful they don’t burn. Transfer from pan into a small dish and cool.
  5. When ready to serve, arrange the eggplant slices overlapping on a large shallow platter or 3 to 4 slices on individual salad plates. Place a few mint springs on the platter or plates. Drizzle the date syrup over the eggplant slices, leaving room in the center or on the side for a few tablespoons of tahina. Garnish with pistachios and pomegranate seeds. Serve.

Make Ahead: This may be prepared through step 4 up to 6 hours ahead, covered, and left at room temperature. Serve at room temperature or warm. Warm the eggplant in a 350°F oven until heated through, about 10 minutes, if desired.

(Diane Rossen Worthington is an authority on new American cooking. She is the author of 18 cookbooks, including “Seriously Simple Parties,” and a James Beard Award-winning radio show host. You can contact her at www.seriouslysimple.com.)