About a year ago, we spent an eventful week in the great state of Massachusetts, during which a lot of delicious food was eaten. Nothing more delicious than our meal at Oleana  in Cambridge. It remains one of the best restaurant experiences of my life. It was one of those meals where everything kind of collides to make it special—we were on vacation, it was a perfect summer night, and we were seated outdoors. An outstanding parade of dishes came and went from our table and we enjoyed each dish more than the one before. It was all very special. One of the best things we ate was a smoky eggplant puree, and I recently remembered that the recipe was included in Ana Sortun’s cookbook. Why did I wait so long to try it at home?! I made it for the same dinner as the marinated mozzarella . The eggplant was almost as delicious as I remember it being at Oleana—if only we were on vacation!
The recipe is simple, but requires you to track down two ingredients you might not have on hand. Smoked salt, and Urfa (aka Isot) peppers. Really, you should have both of these ingredients on hand anyway. Smoked salt is great on almost anything, but I like using it as a bacon substitute in vegetarian recipes (like in my mac & cheese ). Urfa peppers are just so delicious and we find ourselves using them whenever we need some rich and smoky pepper flavor. Which is, like, always.
Smoky Eggplant with Pine Nuts & Urfa Pepper (from Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean  by Ana Sortun)
- 2 eggplants (about 2 pounds), peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1/4 cup whole-milk plain Greek yogurt
- 1 teaspoon smoked salt
- 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic (about 1 large clove)
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 1/2 lemon)
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (plus more for finishing)
- 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
- 2 teaspoons Urfa chilies, plus a pinch for garnish
- Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Bring a large pot of water (big enough for all of the eggplant) to a boil. Add the eggplant and the tablespoon of salt to the boiling water. Lower the heat to medium and continue to cook at a brisk simmer. Cook for 15-20 minutes, or until the eggplant is soft and translucent. You can use a pair of tongs to test the eggplant. Drain into a colander.
In a food processor puree the eggplant with the yogurt, smoked salt, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil.
Place the eggplant mixture into a bowl and stir in the pine nuts and Urfa chilies. Season with additional salt, and pepper to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature, sprinkled with some extra pine nuts and Urfa chilies for garnish.
Serve with pita, or baguette.