When I was in Georgia we ate bread and cheese almost exclusively . Every meal. There were also some amazingly delicious combinations such as Khatchapuri (cheese stuffed bread) and other bread/cheese pies. So when there was a delicious vegetable dish, we all pounced on it like we’d never seen veggies before.
This dish of eggplant is so amazing that my friends and I ordered it almost every time we went to a restaurant, and I begged my host aunt to teach me how to make it.
I have no idea about the measurements, I always just eyeball things so bear with me. I’ll try. This makes enough for about five people as an appetizer – like maybe 20 pieces.
2 eggplants (fancy people call it aubergine)
3 cups of walnuts
1/4 cup – 1/2 cup pomegranate juice*
1/4 cup White vinegar
1/2 tablespoon coriander
2-3 cloves garlic, pressed. You should have a garlic press, but I don’t so I used a big knife and smushed it with the flat side. Whatever works.
1 teaspoon saffron (or you know, not. If you don’t have it that’s fine – use turmeric)
Salt – to taste, it’ll be more than you think since walnuts need salt to taste awesome
Pomegranate seeds for garnish (optional but delicious)
So first step is to prepare the eggplant. I slice off both ends, then use a vegetable peeler and slice off one slice from two sides opposite each other, like so:
Now take a sharp knife and cut the eggplant into strips lengthwise:
Don’t worry if they’re not perfect. Frankly, I kinda suck at cutting the strips. You want them to be relatively thin because later you’re rolling them, but not too thin because you’re baking them. Take a look at the pictures for an estimated thickness. Once they’re cut, lay them out flat on a cooling rack with paper towel underneath.
If you don’t have one of those, just lay them out on a piece of paper towel. Sprinkle a bunch of salt on top – don’t be shy. In fact, sprinkle both sides with salt. The eggplant will start to sweat in about 5 minutes. That’s good – you’re trying to get all the water out. You can also layer the eggplant strips in paper towel and put something heavy on top to squeeze the moisture out.
While your eggplant is sweating (takes about 30 min to an hour to get all the water out. If you’re in a hurry just squeeze them yourself – paper towel in each hand. That works too), prepare the walnut paste. Also, preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
I have a Magic Bullet so I tend to use that to grind up the walnuts. You can also put them in a big ziploc and smash the hell out of them with a rolling pin. It’s more fun until the bag explodes, like mine did. Either way get them ground up pretty small. Almost like walnut powder. Some chunks are okay though.
Put the walnuts in a bowl and add the pressed garlic (if you don’t have a press, just grind it or smush it. Slowly add half the pomegranate juice and half the vinegar. Stir it all up and it should be paste-like. Add the spices and a bit more pomegranate. Put almost a tablespoon of salt in and stir it, then taste it! If it needs more of anything, add it. It should taste garlicky, flavorful and delicious. If it doesn’t, add more pom juice, or salt, or coriander, or garlic.
Your eggplant should be sweated out (gross) so pat it dry, apply a generous amount of olive oil, put it on a baking sheet and roast it for 20 minutes, flipping it halfway. It should be soft and golden – not burnt. Let them cool down and then put a generous scoop of almond paste on one end. Roll it up. I didn’t take a picture of this step so here’s a crappy drawing instead:
Look, I know it sounds like a lot of effort but these are sooo good, it’s worth it. Trust. And they’re actually healthy for you too. Plus everyone will be all like: “where did you EVER find this recipe?” because let’s get real here, Georgian cuisine isn’t exactly the height of culinary fashion.
*You can just buy pomegranate juice, or you can be all high class, buy a pomegranate, cut a slit in in and squeeze it really hard, juice away to your hearts content.