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Eggplant Fries with Zesty Lemon Yogurt Dip

YIELD: 4 appetizer servings

1 large eggplant (about 1 lb.; use firm, dense eggplant for best results)
4 cups soybean oil (for deep frying)
1 cup rice flour
2 Tbsps. grated lemon zest
1 ½ Tbsps. za’atar (recipe follows)
1 Tbsp. garlic powder (will stick to eggplant better than fresh garlic)
½ tsp. sea salt
For the Zesty Lemon Yogurt Dip:
1 cup plain Greek-style low-fat yogurt
2 tsps. grated lemon zest
1 pinch or dash sea salt and ground black pepper
For the za’atar:
2 Tbsps. minced fresh thyme
2 Tbsps. sesame seeds, toasted
2 tsps. ground sumac (can substitute lemon juice)
½ tsp. coarse salt

1. Combine za’atar ingredients in bowl. Cut ends and sides off of eggplant to form an even block, then cut into ¼” strips. Place eggplant fries in large bowl; cover with 2 cups ice and enough water to cover. Cover and chill for 2 hours or overnight until thoroughly chilled.

2. Preheat soybean oil to 350°F in heavy frying pan or small deep fryer. Line baking sheet with paper towels.

3. Combine rice flour, lemon zest, za’atar, garlic powder and salt in shallow bowl. Drain eggplant fries. Working in batches, coat eggplant fries in rice flour mixture.

4. Carefully place half of eggplant fries into hot soybean oil. Fry until golden brown, turning occasionally, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Remove; drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining fries. Sprinkle with additional salt.

5. For zesty lemon yogurt dip, combine yogurt, lemon zest and salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately with the fries.

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