When I was a child and didn’t have issues with what food I put in my mouth, I enjoyed a dish called Saniyeh.  Saniyeh, a Middle-Easternn dish, is ground lamb topped with Tahini sauce and baked in the oven.  During my years as a vegetarian, I missed this dish.  Now, no longer a vegetarian, I still don’t eat lamb.  Eggplant is in season and with the first eggplant appearing at the farmer’s market, my mother made an even better version of this dish, replacing the lamb with eggplant.

Ontario eggplant is in season and is delicious and tender, but you need to prepare it properly.  First you need to salt it.  Salting does two important things, it pulls out the juices that give eggplant a bitter flavour and it collapses the air pockets in the eggplant’s sponge-like flesh, preventing it from absorbing too much oil.

This vegetarian Saniyeh recipe has several parts to it but the end result is a fabulous (healthy) dish plus a real crowd -pleaser.

Ingredients you will need for 4 portions

2-3 small eggplants
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1-2 lemons
2 tablespoons of sesame paste
2 cloves of minced garlic
1/2 cup of toasted pine nuts

2 tablespoons of pomegranate seeds
1 tablespoon of chopped parsley

Preparing Eggplant

Cut Eggplant width wise into 1/4 inch slices.  Sprinkle salt liberally over slices and leave for an hour.  Return with clean wet cloth and wipe off liquid.

Using a pastry brush apply olive oil and balsamic vinegar on both sides of each slice.  Grill on BBQ or roast in oven at 350 for approximately 10 minutes.  You want it cooked through but not burnt.

Tahini Dressing

There are two ways to make the dressing, you can add all the ingredients to a blender (sesame paste, garlic, lemon) and be done with it.  The blender version sometimes makes it too watery. For a guaranteed smoother texture. Mince two cloves of garlic, and squeeze 1-2 lemons for a cup of lemon juice.  Fill a measuring cup with water. Put the two tablespoons of sesame paste in a bowl, add the garlic and lemon juice and mix water in slowly to thin out the paste. When you get an even sauce like consistency, you can stop adding water. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Final Step

In a 1 inch deep ceramic dish, place the slices of eggplant to fill out the bottom of dish.  Pour half the Tahini evenly over eggplant.  Sprinkle some toasted pine nuts.  Add second layer of eggplant slice and repeat with the rest of tahini and pine nuts.  Bake for 30 minutes at 300.   Serve as a side dish or for lunch on its own.  Best eaten warm.

For larger quantities, use a bigger baking dish.  If you have too much eggplant and Tahini, try not to make more than two layers, rather add to another baking dish.

It may seem like a lot of work but the result is a dish you’ll fall in love with.  The Tahini can be made ahead of time and has many other uses (salad dressing, or add oil and chickpeas for hummus)

To add colour add pomegranate seeds and parsley when serving.

Ontario Eggplants are being harvested now. These beautiful vegetables are high in fibre and packed with antioxidants

Ontario Eggplants are being harvested now. These beautiful vegetables are high in fibre and packed with antioxidants