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Shouts & Whispers | Roast Eggplants with Goat Cheese & Sumac

Roast Eggplants | Delightful CrumbThis is the time of year when I crave the signs of autumn. I’ve written about the transition into fall ad nauseam, so I will try not to go on about it again. But it’s this Midwestern internal clock that sends me out in search of apple stands and cider mills, trees in shades of orange and ochre and brick red, leaves carpeting the ground, crisp breezes and the sweater weather that has yet to arrive on my side of the Bay except for, of course, inside my apartment, which has descended into a wintery chill.

I had the chance to get out of town and go north twice in the last week or so—first a quick getaway with Ben to the Anderson Valley, where we stayed at the charming Boonville Hotel, wandered around the valley’s sweet cities, tasted cheese and wine and beer and literally every variety of apple at Philo Apple Farm. It was an ideal escape—restful, contemplative, quiet, easy. The sky was bright blue, and we found the rust-colored leaves we were seeking. We came home with a bag of perfectly imperfect apples and sparkling cider and a big jar of apricot jam.

Just days later, I drove up the stunning Sonoma Coast for a work event. I reveled in the views along the way and the evening was a great success—until my car didn’t start. The following morning, I waited for AAA for hours on a forested hill where there was no cell service or other human life, watched my AAA savior knock the car’s starter with a long metal pole until the engine lurched to life, drove straight home to the shop in Oakland without stopping—no telling whether I’d get going again. While waiting, I tried not to worry too much about the car and whether I’d be able to get it started without a tow and the impending bill (while it may well run forever, my teenaged Honda Civic invariably presents extra issues at the shop), tried not to think about the work I had intended to do that afternoon, tried not to dwell on the fact that even though I was stranded in an epically beautiful place, I couldn’t explore it.

And yet. The Pacific air was clean and fresh. The ocean, laid out dramatically behind the dated, musty lodge where I was staying, was vast and glorious. When I walked down the hill in search of aid, I heard sea lions barking in the distance.

Several days and a fat repair bill later, I keep thinking the experience must have meant something, but I still don’t know what.

Mary Oliver says, “Beauty can both shout and whisper, and still it explains nothing.”

I search for meaning in everything, yearn for explanations. But they’re not always there. Is it the beauty that matters most?

Oliver continues, “The point is, you’re you, and that’s for keeps.”

I clutch the sentiment like a pearl, admire it as an empty signpost on a trail. I think about the feeling of the ground beneath my feet and how the ocean looks as if it extends forever and try to silence my anxious questions, if only for a moment.

Roast Eggplants | Delightful CrumbRoast Split Eggplants with Goat Cheese & Sumac

Adapted from Diana Henry’s How to Eat a Peach

I’ve been making this dish since late summer, when eggplants arrived at the market, and it is both incredibly simple and terribly delicious. Diana Henry’s instruction is to roast the eggplants, but I’ve liked the texture that comes from a quicker broil, which blisters the skins and yields a meltingly soft interior. You can, of course, go the oven route instead. Henry suggests 375 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour.

Several small or medium eggplants

Extra-virgin olive oil

Soft goat cheese


Flaky sea salt

Freshly cracked black pepper

Preheat the broiler to medium or high heat.

Wash the eggplants and make a few slashes in each one to prevent any explosions in the oven. I leave the stems on for a pretty presentation. Place the whole eggplants on a baking sheet, or a piece of aluminum foil if a baking sheet won’t fit under your broiler.

Cook for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the eggplants are completely soft. The amount of time required will depend on the heat of your oven and the size of the eggplants, so just keep checking for doneness.

Allow the eggplants to cool just slightly. Split each one down the middle. Tuck in a few small spoonfuls of goat cheese. Drizzle generously with olive oil and sprinkle with sumac, flaky sea salt and black pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Philo Apple Farm | Delightful Crumb

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