Meatless Monday: Baked Finger Eggplants, Yogurt and Cucumber

By: Mallory Stuchin

Meatless Monday is a global movement, a way of lifeEating less meat has been proven to reduce the risk of disease, curb obesity and has important environmental impacts, too. Will you join us in giving up meat, just for one day a week?

Though virtuosity often prevails in the vegetable kingdom, there is the occasional specimen that seems ideal for decadence. Eggplants, the glossiest breed of the dangerous-sounding nightshade family, typically lead the pack in rich pairings. (Can you resist the fried goodness of eggplant Parmesan or cheesy lasagna?) Today's meatless recipe, however, is decidedly lighter, thanks to a simple preparation: The vegetables are quickly brushed with a slick of olive oil, then baked in a 400-degree oven. Without the crutch of crispy skin or tangy tomato sauce, the eggplant's own earthy flavor shines. Served with a crunchy, refreshing cucumber-yogurt sauce, the eggplant evokes Mediterranean flavors without leaning too hard in a particular regional direction. And while this dish is quite healthy, it's still as creamy and richly flavored as ever.

Proving once again that, sometimes, it's good to be a little bad.

About 8 finger eggplants
Olive oil
FOR THE YOGURT:
Half a cucumber
3/4 cup (200g) thick yogurt
A clove of garlic
About 12 mint leaves
A teaspoon black onion seeds (optional)
Warm flat bread such as pita, to serve

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Wipe the eggplants and cut them in half lengthwise. Pour a thin layer of olive oil into a baking pan and place the eggplants, cut side down, in the oil. Bake until soft and squishy, about forty minutes.

To make the cucumber yogurt, wipe the cucumber half and grate coarsely. Sprinkle lightly with salt and set aside in a colander for half an hour. Squeeze the cucumber dry in the palm of your hand, then stir it into the yogurt. Peel and finely crush the garlic, chop the mint leaves, and stir both into the cucumber and yogurt. Toast the black onion seeds lightly in a nonstick pan. Transfer the yogurt to a serving bowl and sprinkle with the onion seeds.

Serve the eggplants on plates with the cucumber yogurt. Spread some of the baked eggplant onto a piece of the bread, spoon over a little of the yogurt, and eat.

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