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I have never met an eggplant dish that I didn’t like and Eggplant Shawarma is no exception. Meaty and packed with so many flavors and textures. There is definitely A LOT going on with this Eggplant Shawarma. No photo can do it justice. By its very nature, the final dish is layered in an opaque pita and its wonderfully drippy and messy. This is not haute cuisine. It’s street food. And like a great falafel sandwich, if it isn’t dripping down your arm while you eat – then you just aren’t doing it right!
Each element is simple to make. And while I prepared everything the same day I ate it, you can prep the individual components a day ahead. My version is a cross between a shawarma sandwich and a sabich, that wonderful Iraqi Jewish street food. The original recipe, tweaked by me, comes from My Jewish Learning.
Origins of Sabich and Huevos Haminados
Observant Sephardic Jews will put together a dish that cooks slowly overnight to be eaten hot for the Saturday Sabbath meal. Since lighting a fire would violate Shabbat, the dafina/t’bit/ skhina must be started before sundown on Friday and be able to cook on a low heat until the noon meal the following day. It goes by different names depending on the country, but one common element is the addition of hard boiled eggs which cook slowly in the sauce from the meat/chicken and/or beans. Think of a Jewish cassoulet that is unique to every family and whose tradition goes back centuries. The slow cooked eggs become a creamy brown and are infused with the cooking flavors. Huevos Haminados can be made by themselves, however, in as little as 4 to 5 hours.
Now some people collect stamps. I collect onion skins. I have bags of the stuff. Red onion skins, shallots, yellow onions, both sweet and not. Sometimes I have even trolled the onion bins at the grocery store, collecting the discarded papery skins. When I want Huevos Haminados, I just whip out my onion skins, some tea bags or coffee grounds and voila! Slow cooked eggs to use in Sabich or on their own. They are especially delicious with caramelized onions on top!
But I digress. To round out this meal, I added the salads from my Shabbat meal and used a quality store-bought pita. As mentioned in previous posts, each week I make at least 4 different salads and dips, which we then enjoy for the week. They are like having gold in your fridge. Add them to almost any protein or grain and you suddenly have a colorful and tasty feast.
For other shawarma options, including mixing your own spice mix (extra spice mix will keep in a tightly sealed jar for several months)
Chicken Shawarma with Tahini Sauce
Yield: 4 servings
For the eggplant steaks:
5 Tbsp olive oil or more, as needed
1 large eggplant, sliced lengthways into 5-6 1 inch-thick slices
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp honey or agave
3/4 tsp shawarma spice
¼ tsp chili flakes
1/2 cup water
For the parsley salad
1 medium bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley, washed and dried, very finely chopped
5 or 6 fresh mint leaves, chopped with the parsley
zest of 1 lemon
1 clove garlic, crushed
juice of 1 lemon
1 Tbsp olive oil
a pinch of kosher salt
For the pickled cabbage
¼ large white or red cabbage, stem removed and very finely sliced
juice of 2 lemons or limes
½ tsp dried chili flakes or to taste
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 Tablespoons freshly chopped dill
2 pieces of fluffy pita bread
4 Tablespoons plain yogurt, Greek yogurt or dairy-free yogurt OR Amba sauce OR tahini sauce
Hard-boiled eggs, peeled and sliced, if using
Brush the eggplants generously with olive oil. Heat a large frying pan and add 2 Tablespoons olive oil. Add the eggplant slices to the pan. Make sure each piece is touching the surface of the pan; you may need to work in batches. Once the bottom sides have softened and become golden, turn them over. Add a little more oil if necessary. Press down on the slices with a spatula or wooden spoon to help them cook through. Transfer the eggplant onto a paper towel to remove the excess oil.
To make the parsley salad, combine the chopped parsley with the garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, and a pinch of salt.
Combine the sliced cabbage with the lemon juice, sea salt, chili flakes, and olive oil and mix well. Set aside so it softens and pickles.
Heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil in the same pan that you used for the eggplants and add the garlic. Once it becomes slightly golden and aromatic, add the tomato paste and mix to soften it. Add a pinch of sea salt, the honey, shawarma spice, and chili powder. Add ½ cup water and mix until you have a silky consistency.
Add the cooked eggplant slices back into the sauce, coating them on all sides. Leave each piece to slightly caramelize, turning them over once the bottoms are slightly sticky and browning, about 2 minutes on each side.
To serve, warm the pitas in the microwave for 30 seconds or in the oven for three minutes. Cut the tops off the pitas (don’t discard them!) and stuff each one with some cabbage, eggplant steaks, a sliced hard-boiled egg, if using, a few spoons of yogurt or tahini sauce and finally the parsley salad. Enjoy the extra pickled cabbage, yogurt, and parsley salad with the leftover pita tops. And if you don’t like that ordering of ingredients – switch it up. There are no rules. Just deliciousness.