5 pounds Chinese eggplant
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon oil
3 tablespoons za’atar spice blend (can be purchased at WholeSpice.com)
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
Zest of 4 lemons
6 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon toasted white sesame seeds
1 jalapeño, halved and deseeded
1 cup packed mint leaves
1 cup cilantro leaves
Day Before: Cut the Chinese eggplant into 3-inch long pieces and cut in half lengthwise. Score the cut side into a 1/4 inch cross pattern so the marinade will penetrate more surface area to caramelize when cooking. In a large bowl combine the olive oil, lemon oil, za’atar, garlic, lemon zest, fish sauce and sesame seeds, toss in the eggplant and coat evenly. Store in a container overnight.
Cooking the eggplant: Lay out the marinated eggplant on a sheet tray along with the remaining marinade. Slide into the oven and roast for 10 minutes, then rotate and cook for another 10 minutes. Remove from oven and place in a large pan. Cover with plastic wrap to continue to steam and keep moist.
Optional: You can make a second batch of the marinade to pour over the eggplant once cooked. You may store in the marinade for the day until you are ready to plate with the salad.
Salad: Thinly slice the jalapeño and toss with the mint and cilantro leaves.
Reheat the eggplant so it’s warm, place on a plate and garnish with the herb salad.