Roasted Eggplant and Walnut Salad with Pomegranate Tahina Dressing

I had my first taste of pomegranate molasses in Turkey when we were visiting Istanbul a couple years back. We were buying grilled fish sandwiches and the vendor lifted a bottle of a dark colored thick syrup and gestured toward the fish, asking if we wanted it on top. Being adventurous, we nodded emphatic yes’s. The sweet, tangy, molasses burst in our mouths adding depth to what was already an intensely delicious bite. Since then pomegranate molasses has become a staple in my kitchen and finds its ways into dressings, spreads, and glazes.

The past few weeks, I’ve had the privilege to work with, and learn from, Chef Louisa Shafia, author of The New Persian Kitchen, on her newest project: Lakh Lakh. Lakh Lakh is an (elevated) Persian street food pop-up happening at Porsena on Monday nights in New York City. The experience so far has been really fantastic and full of inspiring flavor combinations and recipe ideas. Louisa was using pomegranate molasses in one of her recipes and since then it’s been on my brain.

I made up this recipe a while back and it’s one of my favorite side dishes. It can be eaten on its own, heaped on a slice of bread, or serve it as a dip with veggies. It’s also a great early fall dish as we come to the end of eggplant season here in New York. It’s hearty and nutty and bright thanks to the pomegranate molasses!
Roasting eggplant in this way and with just a little bit of oil helps the vegetable (it’s a vegetable, right?) keep its texture so that it almost has a meatiness about it.

My family has an affinity for whole roasting eggplants under the broiler,  scooping out the insides, and turning it into more of a spread. It’s delicious in it’s own right, but I really like that this particular version of roasted eggplant can hold its own against a fork.

Because the eggplant is in larger pieces, it can be tossed in a dressing made separately, as opposed to incorporating everything in one bowl like a baba ghanoush or hummus. The dressing is really tasty, and I’m sure can be used for other dishes; I just haven’t gotten around to it yet.
Toasting the walnuts adds warmth to this salad and great crunchy texture. In the autumn I really love to add roasted almonds, walnuts, and/or hazelnuts to so many dishes, and especially as garnish on squash based soups. Not only are they delicious but they make kitchen smell ah-may-zing while they’re toasting. Just talking about this makes me want to put on slippers and curl up in an oversized cable-knit sweater.

Now, if only I had an oversized cable-knit sweater….

I do a lot of taste testing while I cook so I knew this was banging but post-photo taking I just couldn’t help myself from toasting up some thick wheat bread and topping it with this salad. A perfect light fall lunch for sure.

Roasted Eggplant and Walnut Salad with Pomegranate Tahina Dressing

Serves: Serves 3-6 people depending on how it's being served, this recipe can be doubled 

Ingredients
  • 1-1.5 lb Eggplant
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp Olive oil
  • 1 tsp Cumin
  • 1 tsp Smoked Paprika
  • ½ tsp Curry powder (I used a mild curry powder)
  • ½ tsp Garlic powder
  • ½ cup (a little overfull) or 2.5 oz Walnut halves, toasted and roughly chopped
  • 2 Scallions, sliced thin
  • ½ cup Cilantro, chopped
  • Juice of ½ a lemon
For the dressing
  • ¼ cup + 1.5 Tbsp Tahina
  • ¼ cup Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp Pomegranate molasses** (if the taste is too strong cut by ½)
  • 1-1.5 Tbsp Honey (if the molasses has sugar added to it use less honey)
  • Salt to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F
  2. Cut the eggplant into 1 inch cubes and place in a colander. Lightly sprinkle with kosher salt and toss so all the eggplant is salted. Set aside for 10 minutes.
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread out the eggplant in an even layer on it. Do not rinse the salt off. Drizzle the olive oil and all the spices and toss with your hands so everything is coated.
  4. Place in the middle of the oven. Roast for 45 minutes turning the pieces with a spoon every 15 minutes. If the eggplant looks like it's burning you might need to take it out earlier. If it isn't cooked through, lower the oven temperature.
  5. Once finished let sit out of the oven on the baking sheet for at least 10 minutes to cool.
  6. To make the dressing whisk the olive oil into the tahina slowly so it incorporates. Then whisk in pomegranate molasses and honey. Salt to taste.
  7. Combine the eggplant with the walnuts, scallions, and cilantro and then toss it with the dressing. Sprinkle juice from half a lemon over the top and lightly toss once more.
Notes
**Pomegranate molasses is sometimes difficult to find bottled but it's very easy to make! Here's a great recipe from Alton Brown.

 As an aside, in my quest to start this blog and actually start writing down recipes I’ve slightly changed the way I work in my kitchen.  For instance, I’ve learned to measure which is a far-cry from my “this needs a little more salt” or “that looks like enough oil”. As a result, certain dishes that I’ve typically made “to taste” have turned out a little different than I expected. This is only relevant to those who have eaten at my table, but this is one of those dishes. So delicious, just different. 

I love how recipes are constantly evolving as we experience new foods and dishes, so if you have any feedback, edits, or alterations that you’ve made to these recipes, please share them in the comments! Any and all feedback is sincerely welcome.