Graffiti Eggplant with Roasted Garlic and Sumac.

Ever since I got my hands on a copy of Jerusalem, I have been on a bit of a mission to procure some ground sumac. With the help of dried hyssop leaves, sesame seeds, and salt, sumac rounds out the Middle Eastern seasoning called za’atar — which is central to modern Isreali cuisine, and therefore central to Jerusalem.

[Leaf Parade. Graffiti Eggplant with Roasted Garlic and Sumac.]

On its own, sumac is often described as ‘zingy’ and ‘lemony,’ but it’s a deep and complex shade of smoky red. Its contradictory properties — and its poor showing on the Boston grocery store scene — secured its status as a true mystery.

[Leaf Parade. Graffiti Eggplant with Roasted Garlic and Sumac.]

Sumac is all over the Jerusalem cookbook. And so, when I read it, it was a bit like trying to imagine painting with a color I had never seen or heard of before.

[Leaf Parade. Graffiti Eggplant with Roasted Garlic and Sumac.]

There was this thing called sumac and it was doing something else to all the chicken and the lamb and the beets — but I couldn’t be quite sure of what. I couldn’t quite follow along.

[Leaf Parade. Graffiti Eggplant with Roasted Garlic and Sumac.]

A few weeks back, when I stumbled into the Spice & Tea Exchange in Mystic, Connecticut, I finally captured the flag. Noticing the spices were shelved in alphabetical order, I rushed straight over to the “S” section, removed the lid from the jar labeled “sumac,” and stuck my nose in as far is it could do. There it was.

[Leaf Parade. Graffiti Eggplant with Roasted Garlic and Sumac.]

And here it is.


Graffiti Eggplant with Roasted Garlic and Sumac — Gluten-free, Paleo, and Whole30 compliant.


  • 4 graffiti eggplant (or 2 regular eggplants), halved the long way
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons roasted garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground sumac
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked hot paprika
  • Salt + cracked black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme


Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Set the eggplant halves cut-side-up on a baking sheet and set aside.

In a blender, food processor, or with an immersion blender, blend the olive oil and roasted garlic until smooth. Stir in the sumac and paprika. Spread the mixture evenly on the eggplant halves, sprinkle with salt, cracked black pepper, and fresh thyme. Roast for about 40 minutes, or until the eggplant is fork tender and crisp on the top.


Good news! This recipe is Whole30 compliant!

  • Read more about the Whole30 guidelines and my goals for the program here and here.
  • Get my tips for prepping and planning for the Whole30 here.
  • Follow my Whole30 board on Pinterest here.
  • For more pictures, check out my Instagram page here.


  1. I looove sumac! Did you know it was Alton Brown’s spice of the year in 2012? I picked up a jar from The Spice House while selecting holiday gifts last year. The flavor is so complex and makes a dramatic impact even when it’s the only seasoning. It’s great on pork roasts and any roasted vegetables.

    • I didn’t know that, but I can see why! I’ve only tried it with vegetables so far, but pork sounds like a good call, for sure.

  2. Robyne Jane says:

    This looks so delicious, thank you! I make a za’atar mix using dried thyme, sumac and sesame seeds, I love it sprinkled on chicken thighs (skin on/ bone in) then roasted until a deep, dark, fragrant brown…mmm…the oily, spicy chicken fat left in the pan is like crack! You know I reckon these eggplant would go great with that dish…dinner tonight sorted :)


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