I have already written at great length about my hate-love relationship with eggplant, and so I won’t recapitulate it here. But I just want to say, for anybody who loathes or is allergic to eggplant or peppers or tomatoes: no duh. It’s the deadly nightshade family, folks—kind of a cusp edible, if you don’t mind me saying. That’s why they might make your lips itch when you eat them, or your scalp itch when you think about them or why, if you’re Ben, the sight of somebody cutting into a raw tomato might make you practically need to pull the neck of your shirt away from your body so you can barf into it. He always shudders, then says something like, “It’s just all that, kind of, seedy jelly. Rrrkh.” I once popped the top of a jar with his grandmother’s handwriting on the lable, and when Ben asked and I told him it was green tomato marmalade, he said, “Seriously? My God.”
This dip, which is my new version of the baba ganoush recipe I ran in O, takes me through all my eggplant feelings:
|Still life with zinnias and beautiful produce.|
|My friend Nicole grew this eggplant, and I just love how much it looks like a cartoon character--like it's about to spring up and do a dance with a cane and it's own sprightly little green hat. Plus, the color. I mean, wow.|
|Under the broiler, where it can be largely ignored. Fine.|
|But then, I don't know. This starts to get me into eggplant-weirdness territory.|
|Oh God, and this.|
|"Eggplant looks so untasty," Ben remarked, staring into the colander. "It looks like those whale intestines we saw on the beach." Um, exactly.|
|But then this? There is almost nothing better: smoky, lemony, creamy. . . I mean, it's perfect. Those are chips I made from wheat tortillas following this recipe.|
Smoky Minted Eggplant Dip
Makes 1 ½ cups
This zippy, lemony, herb-flecked dip is heaven on a pita chip. Spread it on a sandwich, dollop it onto a plate, or scoop it up with crackers. Purists can omit the mint—it tastes smokier and more authentic without it—but I love its brightness against the rich eggplant. Likewise, swap in tahini for the almonds if you prefer (a couple tablespoons should do the trick), but as you may or may not know, I’m not the world’s most ardent fan of
dust paste tahini.
1/3 cup whole almonds
1 large-ish eggplant (around 1-1 ½ pounds)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice
2 cloves garlic, crushed through a garlic press
2 tablespoons each fresh mint and parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
In a bowl, cover the almonds with hot water and leave them to soak.
Now preheat the broiler and prick the eggplant a half dozen or so times with a fork. On a rimmed metal baking sheet (I cover mine with foil first), broil the eggplant 4 or 5 inches from the heat, flipping it over at the halfway point, for about 45 minutes; you could probably do this on the grill—let me know if you try. It will be completely collapsed and browning by this point.
Dump the eggplant into a colander, pull it apart with two forks, and allow it to drain, torn side down, until it’s cool enough to be handled. Now remove the pulp from the skin: this is most easily accomplished with a fork and fingers, and will involve some combination of peeling the skin and scraping the flesh; be sure to get at all the nice browned stuff right by the skin.
Drain the almonds. Place the almonds in the food processor with all the remaining ingredients except the eggplant and process until as finely blended as possible, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Now add the eggplant and process again until smooth(ish). Taste it and add more salt, lemon, or oil if it needs a little punching or fattening up. Scoop it into a bowl, drizzle it with olive oil, and serve it with crackers, pita, or pita chips.
|Birdy. Who was home sick on her third day of school. Did I get to skip work and lie around in bed with her reading When Vera Was Sick and The Sick Day? Why yes. Yes I did.|