Eggplants are amazing. Seriously. They are so versatile. Adaptable. They can adopt other flavors adding body or creaminess to a recipe or be the star ingredient (think eggplant parm). This is the previous. Eggplant is the main ingredient here, and if you’re like me, you might have a couple laying around. This incorporates two kinds– Japanese eggplant, long thin and light; and a standard eggplant, the more purple and bulbous version. Both from my garden, I grew them very successfully this year. I had no idea how large the plants get, so giving them a lot of space is the secret.
This dip, or spread; because it can be both (this is seriously good as a spread on a veggie sandwich) is garlicy, rich, silky and hearty. The roasted red pepper adds a slight sweetness, a very nice compliment. Think of it as an eggplant hummus. It’s easy to make and a great way to use up a pile of eggplants.
Next time you’re grilling… throw on some eggplant and a red bell pepper. Then make this.
Next time you’re grilling, throw them on at the end, as an afterthought. After whatever you’re cooking is done and the coals have died down a little. You can oil them if you wish, but you don’t even need to. Put them on the grill, in an area of indirect heat, and put the lid on. Walk away and let them smoke and shrivel. Leave the lid on. This will incorporate a smoked flavor, and again depending on your fire will determine the flavor. We had been grilling beef with applewood. I left the eggplant on a low fire (think smoldering coals) for almost an hour, and the smoke was very subtle. How long will depend on the temperature of your grill and the size of the eggplants. You want the skin slightly charred and the body all sunken in and wilted. If you’re making your own roasted pepper (and I recommend you do, seriously, it’s easy), it can take the heat. Char that on the direct flame– stick it right over the fire. Give it 2-3 minutes on each side to get it black and crispy all over. Take that off and put in a heat safe bowl and cover with a kitchen towel. Let it sit and steam.
Once your eggplant has been grilled, smoked really, cut them in half and drain them. They’re a very watery vegetable. Since they’re likely too hot to work with, you’ll just quickly cut them in half and throw them in a strainer or colander in the sink. Leave them to drain and cool. After an hour or so, once they are cool enough to handle, peel off the skin and place the flesh in a blender or food processor.
Your roasted red pepper will get treated in the same way. Once it’s cool enough to handle, peel away the black char and the remaining skin, rinsing as you go. Discard the seeds and stem. Place that flesh into the blender/processor as well.
Add the following: garlic (4 cloves at least!), a good glug of olive oil, a big pinch of salt, a couple cracks of fresh pepper and a squeeze of half a lemon and about a half a tablespoon of cayenne pepper and smoked paprika. Turn your machine on and puree until smooth. Add more olive oil if needed, if you find things to be chunky and sputtering around. Taste, adjust, taste again. Serve with grilled bread, finish with fresh chopped herbs (oregano, thyme) and an extra drizzle of olive oil. Also great with fresh veggies as a dip, or sandwich spread.
Roasted Red Pepper and Eggplant Dip:
4-6 eggplants (4 large ones, up to 6 if they are small), roasted (grill with the lid on for a smoked flavor)
1 large red bell pepper, roasted
Olive Oil (Start with 1/4 cup, adding more if needed, and a drizzle to finish)
1/2 lemon, juiced
Optional: chopped fresh oregano (to finish)
To Taste: (Start with a large pinch each, adjust upwards from there)
Smoke/grill/char eggplants and red pepper, see above for detailed instructions. Clean, peel.
In the food processor or blender, puree all ingredients. Add more olive oil if needed. Once smooth, taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Finish with fresh herbs, such as oregano and a little extra olive oil. Serve immediately or store in the fridge for up to two weeks.
1 loaf crusty bread
Butter or olive oil
1 clove garlic
chopped herbs (parsley, thyme, oregano)
optional: slice of tomato
Slice your bread and oil/butter it lightly. Cut your garlic clove open and lightly rub that into each slice of bread.
Optional: rub lightly with raw tomato before grilling (seriously, trust me.)
You can “grill” your bread a couple ways– if you’re grill is hot, throw it on there! If you’re indoors, you can toast and slightly blacken it over a gas stove (low flame, do not walk away!) or in a hot pan, frying it slightly on each side.
Sprinkle lightly with salt and chopped herbs to finish.