Ahmed Akkad’s Aubergines

One August Saturday Sebastian and I spent our afternoon with Susan and Ahmed Akkad at their mid century home in the Springs on Long Island. Ahmed is Egyptian and the couple met when Susan was studying abroad at the University of Cairo in the 1970s. They were an “It” couple on the fashion scene, with Susan as model and muse to Ahmed’s visionary and exuberant clothing collections. Currently Susan is likely to be seen in more understated clothes as the Senior Vice President Corporate Marketing, Local/Cultural Relevancy for the Estée Lauder Companies, but she remains Ahmed’s muse. Meanwhile Ahmed has turned his attention toward jewelry design, and done a collection for HSN. The Romance collection is inspired by his Egyptian heritage, his exotic travels, old Hollywood glamour and the disco chic of the 1970s, and as he told us over cool rosé on their shady terrace, the response has been overwhelming. Ahmed generously gave me a deco-inspired bracelet and ring which I shamelessly flashed while we chatted.

In addition to being a designer of fashion, fabric, furniture and baubles, Ahmed is a phenomenal cook, and he rounded out our lunch of grilled sausages and burgers with a simple eggplant dish that got my attention and in one fell swoop made me regret my lifelong aloofness to the purple nightshade.

What I loved about this recipe was that the pieces of eggplant retained their shape and remained somewhat firm, and though tender, didn’t become gooey. Also, the presence of the garlic, lemon and cumin gave the eggplant another dimension.

Here is Ahmed’s recipe:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Quarter 3-4 LBs of aubergine length wise, and cut across into 3/4″sections (quarter circle segments). Toss aubergine lightly in olive oil, but do not oversaturate (The aubergine will absorb any olive oil you add, but the end will be too greasy if you overdo it). Bake in a 350 degrees oven for 25-30 minutes, carefully turning around every 10 minutes, for even cooking, until tender but not too soft. Remove from oven and cover immediately and tightly with Aluminum foil (this will lock in some of the steam that is released as the eggplants cool, keeping the eggplant moist).

Mix the juice and zest of 2-3 lemons with 1-2 grated cloves of garlic and a pinch of cumin (cumin optional).  Pour over the aubergines, and mix carefully.  Salt and pepper liberally. Cover again, and allow to cool. Add lemon, hot pepper and salt and pepper to taste, if needed.

At this point, one can add seasonal ingredients or combinations if desired. I elected to add basil chiffonade, because I am addicted to it in the summer months and I thought it would perfectly compliment the lemon, garlic and cumin. You could also add fresh tomatoes (or roasted, if they are not in season), flat leaf parsley, or roasted red peppers (hot or mild).

Ahmed’s aubergine recipe would also be great with some shrimp sautéed in olive oil, white wine, lemon juice, and garlic, dressed with a few red pepper flakes if you so fancy. To give it even more heft, mix it with some herby couscous and serve it in a big bowl or at relaxed buffet luncheon while the days are still warm.  Yum yum.


Post Script:

After lunch, we sat lazily with our toes dangling in the pool. I admired my new sparkling baubles, and the couple, who regaled us with tails of their coups and adventures over the last thirty years, plied us with rosé while their Italian greyhound, Baby, deflowered my confused dachshund Lola.


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3 Responses to “Ahmed Akkad’s Aubergines”

  1. Claire Gordon Todd says:

    I am Susan’s first cousin. So glad to see anything on this great couple. I have a great Italian recipe for Eggplant that we picked up down here in N.C from Chapel Hill. Great article!

  2. Poppy P says:

    To be honest, I’ve never really fancied aubergines, or as we yanks like to call them, eggplants. My CSA box used to love sending them my way and they would languish for weeks (don’t judge) before finding home either in the compost (again, stop judging) or in some sort of sad Eggplant Parmigiano which my obliging husband and I would eat quietly and begrudgingly. This was before I realized that you could just ask the CSA people not to send you eggplants. BUT, this recipe makes me think perhaps I should reconsider. I think I shall add this into my repertoire. Perhaps I’ll even endeavor to cook in my jewels – an homage to you and the lovage.

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