Israeli Eggplant and Red Pepper Salad


2 large (about 1 lb. each) purple eggplants

6 tbsp. olive oil, divided, plus more for garnishing

2 large red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces

4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced

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1 medium yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped

2 tbsp. tomato paste

2 tbsp. water

2 tsp. cumin seeds, toasted and crushed

2 tsp. za’atar*

1 tsp. salt, plus more to taste

Pinch of sugar

½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes, plus more to taste

¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

1 tsp. ground sumac, for garnishing (optional)*

Pita bread, for serving


Cut the eggplants vertically into 1½-inch slices (do not peel). Cut each slice into eighths. Heat 4 tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Put eggplant into the skillet and toss in oil. Turn heat to low, cover pan with a tight lid and continue to cook five to 10 minutes or until eggplant is very soft. Using a slotted spoon, transfer eggplant to a plate. Reserve.

Wipe liquid from skillet and add remaining 2 tbsp. olive oil. Add red peppers, garlic and onions. Sauté over medium-low heat until softened, about five minutes. Add reserved eggplant, tomato paste, water, crushed cumin, za’atar, salt, sugar, red pepper flakes and black pepper. Stir to combine, cover pan and let simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Taste, adding more salt and pepper as needed. 

Remove pan from heat. Transfer eggplant mixture to a serving bowl. Let cool to room temperature. Before serving, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sumac. Accompany salad with fresh or toasted pita bread. 

(Salad may be made a day in advance, covered and refrigerated. Serve at room temperature.)

*Za’atar and sumac are available at Global Foods Market in Kirkwood or at Penzey’s in Maplewood.