Seared eggplant with a lemony-anchovy dressing, topped with thinly sliced red onions/shallots, toasted walnuts, lemon zest, date syrup (silan), smoky urfa pepper and mint. If you’re averse to anchovies, hear me out anyway! This dressing is more flavorful than fishy. The cured anchovies lend an incomparable umami-ness to the entire dish without making themselves known.
Dressing: In a small bowl, use a fork and/or wooden spoon to smush 1-2 filets of salt / oil-packed anchovy with about 1 Tbsp of olive oil until the filet are completely disintegrated and kind of melded with the oil. Stir in a crushed garlic and juice from about ½ a lemon. Mix well and set aside.
Eggplants: Slice about 1 lb. of long + narrow Chinese eggplants into batons and place them in a colander. Sprinkle generously with salt, give them a quick toss and let sit over a bowl or sink. This process will drain out any extra moisture from the eggplants and prevent them from soaking up all the oil when they get seared. After ½ hour or so, give everything a quick rinse and dry them off on a dishtowel. Heat a cast iron or carbon steel pan on med-high heat, add some neutral oil and heat shimmery. Sear the dried-off eggplant batons in batches, making sure not to crowd the pan. Cook undisturbed for about 2-3 minutes until golden on one side, use tongs to flip and cook for another minute or two. Remove from pan and transfer to a serving plate. Repeat with the rest of the eggplants.
To serve, spoon the anchovy-lemon dressing all over the eggplants, top with a handful of toasted walnuts, thinly sliced red onions, some lemon zest, fresh mint, urfa pepper, and drizzle everything with date syrup (the ones from @soomfoods is great). Serve with more lemon juice if needed.
You can easily toast a small batch of walnuts on a dry unoiled pan over low-med heat, checking after about 3-5 minutes, tossing occasionally and keep toasting on low heat until it seems toasty enough to you. Toasting walnuts at home gives you 10000000% more flavor, and they have a way better texture than the raw version.