Roasted Eggplant and Garlic Dip
Summer always brings back memories of my dad's garden. With a shovel in hand and sweat on his brow, he turned our fairly large backyard into a crop-producing farm. Rows and rows of plants would flaunt colorful peppers, shiny purple eggplants, bright green okra...the list goes on.
As a child, I was less than enthusiastic to help till the earth and pull the weeds. Now as an adult, I can finally appreciate the hard work and immense effort it must have taken my dad to bring the bushels and bushels of fresh produce to our (and our neighbors') table.
Since Roasted Eggplant and Garlic Dip is on our menu today, and not having inherited my father's green thumb, Anuja and I turn to our local farmer's market in search of just the perfect Italian eggplant. Since eggplants do not have a very good shelf life, we like to buy them no more than a day or two before we need to use them. We are in luck as we see a giant pile of eggplants in all shapes and sizes. Which one is going to make the cut for our delicious eggplant dip?
Of course the natural instinct is to pick the biggest one in the lot. Since they are all the same price, might as well get the biggest bang for the buck, right?
Well, with eggplants, that's not such a good idea.The biggest one usually means that it was left on the plant too long and has over-matured. Unlike good matured cheese, an overly-matured eggplant will have lots of seeds, taste bitter and usually take a lot longer to cook. A medium-sized one is a better choice and will have fewer seeds and tender flesh.
We stay away from the eggplants that have brown, dehydrated-looking stems or brown spots on the skin. This usually signals that it is on its way out. The skin should be glossy and bounce back slightly when pressed. It should have a bright green stem.
Finally, we find the perfect eggplant for our recipe. Let's get started!
Roasted eggplant and garlic dip
Italian eggplant - 1, washed and stem removed
garlic - 10 to 12 large cloves
green chilies - to taste, finely chopped
salt - to taste
olive oil - for drizzling
red onion - 1/4 cup, chopped finely
cilantro - 1/4 cup, chopped finely
lemon/lime Juice - to taste
Preheat oven to 450F
1. Place eggplant on the chopping board where it does not roll and make 4 slits long ways over the top of the eggplant (approx 1/2 inch apart).
2. Gently pry open the slits and stuff whole garlic cloves and chopped green chilies into the slits.
3. Place the eggplant on a large piece of aluminum foil and lightly drizzle olive oil into the slits.
4. Sprinkle salt over the eggplant and tightly wrap it with the foil.
5. Place wrapped eggplant in an oven-proof casserole dish and bake (uncovered) at 450F for 1 hour.
6. After baking, immediately remove eggplant from foil, directly into the hot casserole dish. Take care as eggplant juices will sizzle in the hot dish.
7. Using a knife, make slashes in the eggplant and mash it further with a potato masher.
8. Allow eggplant to cool to room temperature.
9. Once cooled, add chopped onions, cilantro, salt and lemon Juice. Mix well.
10. Serve at room temperature or chilled with crackers or pita chips.