Eggplant Lahmajoon | CUESA

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Eggplant Lahmajoon

Source:

Kate Leahy, Wine Style

Lahmajoon is often called Armenian pizza, though it's not really a true pizza. For one, there's no cheese. Second, the topping is a mix of ground lamb or beef with spices, herbs, and a bit of tomato and red pepper paste. Still, with the birthplace of bread being somewhere around Jordan and Iran, this staple Middle Eastern flatbread may have been a precursor to Neapolitan pizza. In Armenian bakeries around Glendale, LA's Little Armenia, and Fresno, California, you can buy these in stacks to reheat at home. This recipe is the meatless eggplant version, which is great for summertime eating. If it's too hot to crank up the oven, make the topping and serve it as a dip with crackers.

The combination of eggplant and tomatoes calls for wines with high acidity and low tannins, like Barbera, or wines with so much red-purple fruit flavor that the tannins don't seem as high as they are, like Malbec. If you want to get into the true spirit of lahmajoon, pour a red Armenian wine made with the Areni grape.

Wine Pairing: Barbera, Grenache, Grenache rosé, and Malbec

Makes 4

INGREDIENTS

Dough

4 cups (560 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 1/2 cups (360 ml) water, at room temperature
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt

Topping

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 eggplant (a smallish Italian or globe variety) (about 1 pound), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt|
One 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes with juices
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 small red onion, coarsely chopped (about 3/4 cup)
1 cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves or a mix of parsley, mint, cilantro, and/or dill
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
1/2 cup plain whole milk yogurt
Chopped fresh herbs (such as mint and dill) for serving (optional)
Pickled red onions or pepperoncini, thinly sliced, for serving (optional)
Lemon wedges for serving

PREPARATION

To make the dough: In a large bowl, mix the flour, water, and salt together with your hands until a shaggy dough forms. Dust a work surface lightly with flour, then turn the dough out onto the surface and knead until it starts to come together, about 3 minutes. (You can knead dough by pressing the heel of your hand into the dough and pushing the dough away from you, then dragging it back with your hand and repeating.) Return the dough to the bowl, cover with a kitchen towel, and let rest while you make the topping. If you prefer to make the topping ahead, make the dough and let it rest for at least 20 minutes before cutting and rolling it out.

To make the topping: In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, warm 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add half of the eggplant, season with 3/4 teaspoon of the salt, and cook, stirring often, until the eggplant is soft in the center and has reduced in size by nearly half, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a food processor. Repeat to cook the remaining eggplant using the same amount of oil and salt, then transfer to the processor. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, onion, parsley, garlic, paprika, cumin, oregano, and red pepper flakes to the processor and blend until a chunky puree forms. (You should have about 4 cups.) Let cool to room temperature. If not using right away, cover and refrigerate. You can spread the topping on the flatbread while it is still chilled.

Preheat the oven to 500°F.* Have 2 half-sheet pans ready as well as 4 sheets of parchment paper cut to fit the pans. (The lahmajoon will be baked one at a time, and the parchment makes it easier to transfer the dough to the pans and free up the pans for the next batch.)

Dust a work surface lightly with flour and put the dough on top. Cut into four pieces and roll each piece into a ball. Dust a rolling pin with flour and roll out one piece of dough into a wide oval long enough to fill the parchment paper (at least 13 inches long). It's better for the dough to be too thin than too thick. Carefully transfer the first oval to the parchment paper and place on one of the sheet pans. Bake until slightly puffed and golden brown in a few spots, about 5 minutes. While the first pan bakes, roll out the next round of dough, then bake it like the first. If the dough is stubborn and resists being rolled out, let the piece rest and start on another piece. Repeat the rolling and baking process until you have a stack of 4 baked ovals. Keep the oven at 500°F.

When the baked dough is cool enough to handle, spread just under 1 cup of the topping over the dough in an even layer, smoothing it to the edges and ensuring it's not too thick in places. Bake one lahmajoon at a time until the edges are crisp and browned in spots, 7 to 10 minutes for each one. Top with a drizzle of oil, a spoonful of yogurt, and herbs and pickled onions (if desired). Serve with lemon wedges. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days and reheated in a toaster oven. Once topped and baked, lahmajoon also can be frozen for up to 1 month. Bake from frozen at 400°F until heated all the way through and crisp on the edges, about 4 minutes.

*If you have a baking stone or a baking steel, preheat the oven with the stone or steel on the center rack of the oven. The stone or steel will help the bottom of the lahmajoon bake faster, giving it a slight char.

Reprinted with permission from Wine Style: Discover the Wines You Will Love Through 50 Simple Recipes by Kate Leahy, copyright © 2021. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Photographs copyright © 2021 by Erin Scott.

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