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Little Eggplant Appetizers With Spiced Yogurt Sauce

First, cats are amazing. They have this utterly animal quality that dogs lack. To me it seems that dogs, who usually try to please their humans, are often simply an extension of their owners, making them very...well...human. Cats, on the other hand, will pretty much do as they please, such as eat your shamrock plant when you aren't looking even after many squirts with the spray bottle. See that pitiful looking plant behind the huge, fluffy cat? That was my shamrock.

But before I get completely swept away by kitty talk and the roiling current that is the Holidays, I thought I'd share a simple little appetizer for any holiday get-together you might have on your radar.

Appetizers, in my opinion, can make or break a meal or party. I have high standards. What can I say? They should be savory and have some distinguishing feature--an intense crunch, a garlicky kick, an unctuous mouthfeel. Something.

They should not be too heavy if they are served before a meal. If there is no meal to follow, I suppose they can be as heavy as you like. There should be a decent variety of flavors and textures.

Manifesto aside, appetizers should be fun. Quirky. They should be easy to eat and not too messy.

I didn't immediately think of appetizers when I saw these beautiful Indian eggplants at the Asian market. I knew that inspiration would come, though, and I bought them anyway.

Ultimately, this is what came of that impulsive purchase. Silky smooth roasted mini eggplants, bathed in olive oil and served with spiced yogurt sauce. There's a lot to love here.

If you can't find this type of eggplant, I imagine that the same principle would work with Japanese eggplant (the long, thin ones) or even Italian eggplant, but you'll have to slice them into rounds rather than halving them.

You can also take the yogurt sauce in many directions. Add dill, finely chopped cucumber, curry powder or garam masala, paprika, sumac, pomegranate seeds, or fresh or dried herbs. This yogurt sauce is good on almost anything, even on stale bread while standing in front of the refrigerator in the middle of the night.


Little Eggplant Appetizers With Spiced Yogurt Sauce
Makes 40 appetizers

Preheat the oven to 400°.
Cut in half:
            20 Indian eggplants
With a small knife, carefully cut a diamond pattern into the flesh. You don't want to cut all the way through the skin, but cut as deep into the flesh as you can. This is easily done by cutting two parallel lines into the flesh and then cutting two more lines perpendicular to the first two. Just look at the photo if this is confusing.
Brush the eggplants liberally with:
            Olive oil
The eggplants will soak up the oil, but this is good. It will make the flesh really tender and silky. Place the eggplant halves, cut side up, on a baking sheet and roast for 15 to 20 minutes or until very, very tender.
Meanwhile, prepare the yogurt sauce.
Combine in a small bowl:
            1 1/2 cups tangy yogurt (Greek is not necessary, but you want tang)
            Juice of 1/2 lemon
            1 garlic clove, grated on a rasp grater
            1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground
            1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds, toasted and ground
            1/4 teaspoon red pepper flake, toasted and ground
            2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
            Salt and black pepper to taste
Serve the eggplants warm or at room temperature alongside the yogurt sauce. You can make the yogurt sauce up to 2 days ahead.

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