Zucchini "Baba Ghanoush" From 'Plenty More'

Zucchini \

Broiled zucchini forms the base of this za'atar-spiced dip. [Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin]

Throw any preconceptions you have about this spread out the window; the name is perhaps misleading. As Yotam Ottolenghi says in the introduction to this recipe from his new cookbook,Plenty More, this is only vaguely reminiscent of baba ghanoush. Ottolenghi first broils the zucchini, which become slippery, silky, and smoky. Gently mashed with garlic, at this point the squash does call to mind the more familiar eggplant spread. But there the similarities end.

Ottolenghi, in his infinite and peculiar wisdom, tops the zucchini mixture with a custard sauce made with goat's milk yogurt, Roquefort cheese, and an egg. Did your brow just furrow? I admit, I would never have come up with that funky concoction, but those three ingredients create a sauce that is pungent, rich, and intriguing. (Actually, it becomes something of an earwig—I can't stop thinking about it. Is it weird that I want to try it as a savory ice cream?) And on top of that goes toasted pine nuts and the lightly lemony, chili-laced butter he toasts them in. Finally, a sprinkle of za'atar finishes off this "volcanic eruption" (his words) of a spread.

Why I picked this recipe: I couldn't envision what this would taste like all together, which meant I had to try it.

What worked: Every bit of it. Broiling the zucchini is a wonderful way to cook the usually bland squash: it takes on smokiness and sweetness and a character of its own. The Roquefort (a sheep's milk blue cheese) and goat's milk-yogurt sauce is pretty jaw-dropping, which is convenient, given my desire to shovel it in. The toasty, spicy pine nuts and butter and the herbaceous za'atar add textural dimension and warmth.

What didn't: **The sound of crickets chirping...**

Suggested tweaks: As is always the case, if you have a scale, go with weighed amount. My zucchini were huge, and it only took three to meet his weight measurement.

Reprinted with permission from Plenty More: Vibrant Vegetable Cooking from London's Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi, copyright © 2014. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Random House LLC.

  • Yield:Serves 4 as a starter or as part of a mezze selection
  • Active time: 30 minutes
  • Total time:1 hour 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 5 large zucchini (about 2 3/4 lb/ 1.2 kg)
  • 1/3 cup/ 80g goat’s milk yogurt
  • 2 tbsp/ 15g Roquefort, coarsely grated
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tbsp/ 15 g unsalted butter
  • 2 1/2 tbsp/ 20 g pine nuts
  • 1/2 tsp Urfa chile flakes, or a pinch of regular chile flakes
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp za’atar, to finish
  • salt and black pepper

Directions

  1. 1.

    Preheat the broiler. Place the zucchini on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and broil for about 45 minutes, turning once or twice during the cooking, until the skin crisps and browns nicely. Remove from the oven and, once cool enough to handle, peel off the zucchini skin, discard it, and set the flesh aside in a colander to drain; you can also scoop out the flesh with a spoon. The zucchini can be served warm or at room temperature.

  2. 2.

    Put the yogurt in a small saucepan with the Roquefort and egg. Heat very gently for about 3 minutes, stirring often. You want the yogurt to heat through but not quite reach the simmering point. Set aside and keep warm.

  3. 3.

    Melt the butter in a small sauté pan with the pine nuts over low heat and cook, stirring often, for 3 to 4 minutes, until the nuts turn golden brown. Stir in the chile flakes and lemon juice and set aside.

  4. 4.

    To serve, put the zucchini in a bowl and add the garlic, a scant 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a good grind of black pepper. Gently mash everything together with a fork and then spread the mixture out on a large serving platter. Spoon the warm yogurt sauce on top, followed by a drizzle of the warm chile butter and the pine nuts. Finish with a sprinkle of za’atar and serve at once.