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Eggplant Caviar (aka Yummy Eggplant Dip)

June 25, 2012

Sometimes the tastiest dishes are incredibly simple.  They start with one key ingredient, and the few things you add serve only to highlight the deliciousness of that ingredient.

This is one of those dishes.  If it weren’t, that would be one heck of a mean-spirited, tease of an intro.

This dip doesn’t taste like anything else you might make for a party.  It doesn’t taste like a creamy bean or cheese dip.  It doesn’t taste like hummus.  It certainly doesn’t taste anything like salsa.  It tastes like eggplant, obviously, but what struck me about it was that it tasted so fresh – a “vegetable dip” that tastes like vegetables, but in a good, crowd-pleasing way.  As delicious as it was in December, I can’t wait to try it on a hot summer day when I need some refreshment.

Eggplant Caviar

Adapted slightly from David Lebowitz

  • 3 small or 2 medium eggplants (most grocery stores only sell the large/medium variety)
  • 2 TBSP olive oil, divided
  • 1 -2 clove(s) garlic, minced (or shallot, minced)
  • 2 TBSP lemon juice
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt, divided
  • 1/8 teaspoon chili pepper powder, optional (we omitted it)
  • 2 TBSP chopped fresh parsley (or mint, cilantro, or basil), plus an extra sprig for garnish

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Brush a baking sheet with one tablespoon of the olive oil and sprinkle it with 1/2 tsp of the sea salt.

Take a sharp knife and poke each eggplant several times.  Place each eggplant over a gas flame on the stovetop or over a grill.  (If you do not have access to a gas stove or grill, or you’re afraid of messes, just increase the oven roasting time).

Roast for five to ten minutes, using tongs to give the eggplants a quarter turn every 1-2 minutes.  The outside of the eggplants should be soft and wilty.

Let cool, then slice the eggplants in half (hot dog style.  I mean, lengthwise).  Put the eggplants on the baking sheet, with the cut sides facing the baking sheet.

Bake for twenty minutes.  If the flesh is not completely cooked (tender when poked with a fork), continue roasting, checking every few minutes.

Remove the eggplants from the oven and let cool until you can touch them without hurting yourself.

Scrape the flesh of the eggplant into a food processor or mixing bowl.  Discard the skins, or come up with a creative use for them and tell us about it.

Pour in the additional tablespoon of olive oil, the lemon juice, and add the garlic/shallot, salt, and the chili powder (if using).  Process until smooth – it will still be lumpy, but it won’t have any visible chunks of eggplant – or mash with a fork if you’re not using a food processor.

Toss in the chopped parsley or whatever herb you’re using, and pulse the food processor several times or mash until the herb is incorporated fully.

Grab a cracker, piece of bread, or vegetable, and taste the dip.  Adjust seasonings as necessary.

Ladle into a serving bowl and top with a sprig of parsley or another fresh herb.  David Lebowitz suggests making a well in the top of the dip and filling it with olive oil, but we skipped this step.  I can’t remember why, but I remember that we didn’t miss it.

Store any leftovers in the refrigerator for up to five days.  Eat leftovers on toast for breakfast, and you won’t regret it.

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