Monday, September 12, 2011

Smoky Minted Eggplant Dip

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.


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  2. It does look a bit like guts. I'm trying to find a way to introduce my kids to eggplant while, at least at first, they don't know they're eating it. This looks like the ticket. That way, like when I didn't tell my daughter that the shoes she fell in love with were actually boy shoes, after the fact I can tell the truth (and act all self-righteous about it). Because as everybody knows, act first, ask permission later...

  3. My youngest son is obsessed with eggplant, but not eating eggplant. He thinks they are super cute and he calls them "little puppies." He used to ask me to buy them for him, just to play with. He wished they were his pets.

    Personally, I like eggplant. I like eating them, but now it feels like murder, given Jake's adoration of them.

  4. I made this tonight, and also made the mmm sauce which I've been dying to try. And then I mixed this with the leftover mmm sauce and then I ate it all. The End.

  5. whale intestines! so true. I love roasted eggplant dip.

  6. I love all things eggplant. But one of my favorite ways to eat it is what I did last week to trick my 4 year old into eating. He automatically shuns anything that has resulted from photosynthesis. Anyway...eggplant fritters.

    Peel and cube the eggplant, about 2 medium size or 1 big or whatever. The recipe is not an exact science. Boil the eggplant until it's tender. Drain it and mash it. Mix in a cup of flour, a teaspoon of baking soda, a cup of sugar, a teaspoon of vanilla, and 2 eggs. Stir it all up and then ladle it onto a hot griddle like a pancake. Top with a sprinkle of powdered sugar. My son scarfed down 3 of them and had no idea there were veggies involved.

    Can't wait to try your dip!
    I hope Birdy's feeling better now.

  7. Angela5:18 AM

    Jana, you just made me snort out my coffee with laughter. :)

  8. maxanyamom11:34 AM

    I am going to try this one. I actually have an eggplant growing in the garden this year. It has 2 fruits that are harvestable...maybe more if the weather holds. When I picked up the plant from a local store, I told everyone that it was My Plant. My 8 year old, Max, asked (with some indignance), "Why is it just yours?" I replied, "Because no one else in this family is going to eat it!" A reply to which he had no come back, since he readily agrees that he hates eggplant! Maybe I can sneak this one past him...

  9. Rozanna11:49 AM


    why the step with blanched almonds?
    Do you peel the skin after soaking them?

  10. I must say, I feel the exact same way as Ben (coincidentally, also my name!) does about eggplant. With your assurances that it is not terrible, I am going to try it sometime soon!

  11. You know, I hate eggplant. But it comes in the CSA share, and I'm too frugal to get rid of it, and so I keep making eggplant recipes that I find that I love. Over the weekend, I made a chickpea/eggplant stew that was divine. Easy, unctuous, healthy.

    Your dip sounds great. I'll probably have another eggplant today, so...

  12. You guys are so funny. Eggplant. I know! That unctuous eggplant and chickpea stew sounds divine. Plus: unctuous! Such a great word. And lastdogz: a CUP of sugar really? I ask that not judgmentally, only for clarity. xo

  13. I made this last night, but with a few scoops of tahini rather than almonds. My husband mistook the roasting eggplant for some sort of chocolate dessert in the oven and my daughter thought I was making spaghetti sauce (we have converted to your roast tomoto method and freeze tons!) In the end it was all eaten up though!

  14. I've made regular babaganoush with an eggplant on the grill. The broil method pails in comparison. But I make it with the broil method when I don't feel like dealing with the grill.

  15. Yum! I've got me a pile of eggplants from the garden and I'm going to do THIS with some of them.

    I have to laugh at your son's description. It looks "so untasty"? What a gentleman.