Due to two different tropical depressions passing through the Caribbean region, we had some rainy weather last week here on Virgin Gorda. It literally rained non-stop for 2 days. So much so that, at some point, it felt like the ocean was turned upside down. Thankfully, none of those depressions turned into dangerous hurricanes. Still, the hurricane season is not over yet and the wind outside is in full force reminding us of this fact.
While it was raining and dark outside, I did something that I had never done before. I photographed food in a much darker light than I would usually do. After taking Eva’s (of adventures-in-cooking.com) Online Food Styling and Photography course last month, I felt like I could do this. And I am glad I did, because I think the darkness surrounding the food enhances the actual dish and makes it somewhat magical.
Speaking of Eva’s photography class, I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed learning from her. If you do not know her blog, Adventures in Cooking, you should go there right now. She shares the most beautiful and creative recipes one can imagine. I think she is one of the most talented still life photographers out there.
Over the course of a month, Eva went through the basics of using a DSLR camera (and exposure settings), specialty lenses, using natural light, shooting angles, food styling, post processing and many more details of food photography. She answered all our questions with patience and gave examples to further help us.
For me, the best (and the most helpful) part of it was the feedback I got from her after each weekly assignment. Her encouraging, yet candid, feedback made me think outside the box and practice new ways of using exposure settings and natural light.
If you are someone who wants to learn more about food photography and styling, I highly recommend attending one of Eva’s classes. Our class was online and scattered through the course of a month, but she offers classes at different locations as well. In fact, there is one coming up in upstate NewYork.
This Roasted Eggplant with Garlic Yogurt and Za’atar recipe is one of my mother’s most famous dishes that she used to make during summers when eggplant was in season. It was almost like a staple on our summer dinner table.
I have been wanting to make it for a very long time for the blog, but couldn’t get my hands on fresh (unbruised) eggplant on the island. That is why I was so glad to find out that the folks at the Good Moon Farm in Tortola were growing eggplant and had some available for me to bring home.
The yogurt sauce in this recipe is a classic Middle Eastern sauce made with a dash of olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and lots of fresh garlic. I usually make it a day in advance to allow it sit in the fridge so that the flavors will have time to combine.
Though we used to eat it as a side dish, I served it with pita chips as a dip. Also, I know that it would make an amazing condiment for a lamb burger, but I guess I would have to give that a try for another time.
Roasted Eggplant with Garlic Yogurt and Za’atar
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 40 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour
- Yield: 4
- 4 medium size eggplants
- 1 cup yogurt
- 3-4 cloves garlic, pressed through a garlic press
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more to drizzle at the end
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- Coarse salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon za’atar
- 1/4 cup Italian parsley, chopped
- Pita bread
- Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees.
- Use a fork to poke holes on eggplants. 6-7 holes on each eggplant should be fine. Place them on sheet pan and roast for 40-45 minutes, turning them after the first 20 minutes to ensure even roasting. Take them out of the oven and set aside to cool.
- In the mean time, place yogurt, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, 1 teaspoon salt and pepper in a large bowl. Mix until thoroughly combined. Cover it with plastic wrap and place in the fridge.
- When eggplants are cool enough to handle, cut them diagonally. Using a dinner spoon, scoop the flesh out (if it is still too hot you can do this under cold running water) and place it in a large bowl.
- Mix it with the garlic- yogurt mixture. Taste for seasoning and add more, if necessary.
- Place it in a serving bowl. Sprinkle it with za’atar and chopped parsley.
- If preferred, lightly drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Serve with pita bread.
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