Grilled Vegetables with Za’atar Vinaigrette
Four to six servings
The first step, the salting, is very important. Salt extracts bitterness and I always salt eggplant but don’t always salt zucchini. However zucchini can be bitter, especially large specimens. So taste, and salt the slices like the eggplant if necessary. Unlike traditional French vinaigrettes, this one benefits from yellow mustard, such as Savora or homemade mustard, which is less-sharp than Dijon, more rounded. Sumac adds a touch of fruity sourness which is already in za’atar, but I find a little extra never hurts. Za’atar and sumac are available in Middle Eastern stores (za’atar can be made at home), or you can find them online. Kalustyan’s is one good source.The great thing about the vegetables can be made hours ahead, then dressed right before serving, which makes this great picnic fare as well. I tend to stir the dressing ingredients together to keep the sauce more fluid, rather than shake them vigorously, which will emulsify the dressing and make it rather thick.
For the vegetables
2 – 2 1/4 pounds (1kg) zucchini and eggplants
olive oil
For the za’atar vinaigrette
2 tablespoons sherry or cider vinegar
2 teaspoons yellow mustard
pinch of salt
6 tablespoons (90ml) extra-virgin olive oil
4 teaspoons za’atar
Optional: 1/4 teaspoon sumac
1. Slice the vegetables no thicker than 1/4-inch (.75cm). Sprinkle the eggplant and the zucchini with salt. (See headnote whether or not you should salt the zucchini. If not, just toss the slices with a bit of olive oil and salt, then grill them as is.) Place the sliced vegetables in a mesh colander and let them drain for 30 to 60 minutes, turning them a few times to encourage the liquid to run off.
2. Wipe the vegetables dry then toss in a little bit of olive oil.
3. Brush a grill pan, or a grill, with olive oil and when hot, grill off the sliced vegetables, getting them nicely charred on one side before turning them over. Generally speaking, they’re ready to flip when they become translucent in the middle. (You don’t want crunchy or undercooked vegetables.)
4. As you grill off the vegetables, put them in a wide serving dish, and continue to grill off the rest of the vegetables. If the vegetables slices start sticking, brush more oil on the grill pan or grill as you go.
5. Once the vegetables are done, make sure they are arranged nicely in the dish, then make the vinaigrette by mixing the vinegar in a bowl with the mustard and a small sprinkle of salt; since the vegetables have been salted, go very easy on the salt here – you can add more later, to taste. Add the olive oil, za’atar, and sumac (if using) to the dressing, then pour it over the vegetables.