Basic Eggplant Spread
Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013
Photo by Judith Hausman
Serve this mixture with some pita bread.
To me, eggplant has always been a workhorse vegetable. So many cultures make use of it as a hardy blank slate, ready to take up silky oils and assertive spices. Its meaty texture and beautiful color add dash and flavor to many combinations, from ratatouille to baba ganoush to tempura. Whether fat-bottomed purple ones, zebra-striped, all-white (that really look like their name) or skinny Asian, all varieties appeal.
While it isn’t the easiest to grow in New York, where I live, a local Italian-style eggplant called out to me at a favorite farm stand last weekend, and I decided to turn it into a simple spread. The grill was on for another round of kebobs, so we snuggled the smooth, purple beauty into a hot spot and let it blister on all sides. Roasting can be accomplished in a hot oven, too. You can also cube the eggplant and sauté it in oil; however, you won’t get the smoky undertones of the grill.
The next day, I scraped the now-chilled flesh away from the charred skin and into the food processor with several garlic cloves. After pureeing them, I added olive oil, a large dollop of Greek yogurt, some mint leaves, lemon juice and then some light Middle Eastern-ish spices. This is the place to play with eggplant’s mutability.
Many additions can smooth and blend with the basic roasted eggplant. Use tahini, throw in a handful of walnuts, add a hot pepper or a couple of scallions and a small diced tomato. Chop in a handful of parsley and cilantro and a lemon rind. Hold the yogurt, and use sesame oil, soy sauce and five-spice powder or lemon grass. Capers and anchovies, instead? Any of these turn eggplant into a wonderful lunch or appetizer dish to scoop up with pita bread or a sliced baguette. I garnished the spread with a drizzle of pomegranate syrup, as well; a sprinkle of zatar, smoked paprika or black sesame seeds are nice garnishes, too.
Servings: 2 to 4
- 1 medium eggplant
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1/4 cup Greek-style yogurt
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon Spanish paprika, sweet or smoked (or cumin)
- salt, to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- a small handful of mint leaves (or parsley or basil or all three)
Trim the eggplant, and grill it well on all sides (5 to 7 minutes). Cool. Scrape out the flesh, which should now be very soft, into a food processor with the rest of the ingredients. Puree or leave chunky. Serve with pita bread or pita chips.
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