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Spread with an eggplant base

September 03, 2009|By LYNNE ROSSETTO KASPER / Scripps Howard News Service

Dear Lynne: Detroit was my home and I used to get this eggplant pure in a Middle Eastern restaurant. You dipped pita bread into it. It was outrageously fine. I was told roasted eggplant is the basis of it, but when I roast and pure eggplant, it's bitter. What am I doing wrong? -- Displaced in New York State

Dear Displaced: The dip you are thinking of is called baba ghanoush. Whole, unpeeled eggplant roasts on a grill or in the oven until it collapses in on itself and its flesh is totally softened.

The next step may be the one you aren't aware of. Once the eggplant has cooled a bit, slit it down the center so you can open it up like a book and lay it, flesh side down, in a colander in the sink so all its possibly bitter juices can drain away. You can leave it there from an hour to all day.

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This recipe should give you some of what you've been missing. The addition of peppers and onion was inspired by a recipe by Mediterranean food authority Paula Wolfert. You could leave them out and cut the garlic back to 1 clove (adding the second one if you like once you have tasted the finished recipe). Serve the pure with pita bread or sliced cucumbers.

ROASTED EGGPLANT SPREAD
WITH ONION AND SWEET PEPPER



o Makes about 2-1/2 cups, and keeps a week in the refrigerator.

3 mild green Italian frying peppers, or 1 large yellow bell pepper, stems trimmed off
1 medium to large onion, sliced 1/2-inch thick
1 or 2 eggplants (totaling 2 to 2-1/2 pounds) pricked all over with a fork (do not peel)
2 large cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon salt
Juice of 1 large lemon
1/3 cup good-tasting extra-virgin olive oil, or to taste.

Pita bread cut into small pieces or sliced cucumbers for dipping

Spread the peppers and onion slices on a piece of foil for oven roasting or on a grill for grill roasting. Place the eggplant on a separate piece of foil or directly on the grill.

(For the oven, turn the heat to 375 degrees. For the grill, have coals burned to gray ash or gas heat at medium. In the oven or on a covered grill, roast everything 1 hour and 45 minutes, or until onions and peppers are browned. If using a single large eggplant, roast it another 30 minutes or until it's soft when pierced to its center and collapsing in on itself.)

Slit eggplant in half, open it and let it drain, cut side down, an hour in a colander or on a slanted cutting board in the sink. Press out any bitter liquid. Scrape the pulp from the skin. Discard the skin.

In a food processor with the machine running, drop in the garlic, salt, lemon juice and olive oil and process 3 seconds, or until creamy. Add the cooled peppers and onions and process 2 seconds. Add the eggplant and process another 2 seconds. Taste for balance of lemon and olive oil, and for salt. Add what is needed and serve at room temperature with pita bread or sliced cucumbers. The spread could be garnished with fresh parsley or mint leaves.

Lynne Rossetto Kasper hosts "The Splendid Table," American Public Media's weekly national show for people who love to eat, and is the co-author of "The Splendid Table's How to Eat Supper: Recipes, Stories, and Opinions." Ask questions and find Lynne, recipes and station listings at www.splendidtable.org

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