Roasted eggplant and bell pepper dip
Live the charred life with this simple, flavor-packed recipe.
Charred vegetables evoke Israeli home cooking instantly. I can always tell which neighbor is grilling vegetables on her stove because the sharp, smoky aroma escapes into the hallway. The smokiness adds an appreciated piquant dimension to peppers of all kinds, and especially, to eggplant. In Israel, houseware stores sell special, round grills to set on a stovetop flame for exactly that – charring vegetables.
If you like heat, you can grill a chili pepper along with the bell peppers in this recipe – just add it into the blender mix. But take it easy, you don’t want to kill the taste of the eggplant. As it is, the dip is a nice, garlicky blend, brightened with cilantro and lemon juice. I actually like a little of the charred peel in my eggplant dip.
We smear it on bread and eat it like that, most times, but it’s also very good on the side of a roast chicken. In fact, I think I’ll spread a slice of bread with this dip and top it with cold roast chicken, right now. Shall I add a little diced tomato and lettuce? What do you think? Lunchtime!
- 1 large or 2 medium eggplants, rinsed but left whole
- 3 medium bell peppers, different colors
- 1 cup cilantro leaves (Chinese parsley), loosely packed
- 2 large garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
- Juice of 1 medium lemon
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
Place a grill rack over medium-high heat. Lay the eggplant side down on it.
Turn the eggplant over as its sides soften and char. When it’s soft on all sides and is cooked through, use tongs remove it to a bowl. Slit it in half lengthwise and let it sit until cool. It will leak juice; drain this juice out every so often as it accumulates.
Cook the peppers on the same grill, turning them over as they cook. When the peppers are thoroughly charred, remove them to a plate with tongs and cover the plate with a plastic bag until cool. This softens the peels and makes your life easier.
Peel the peppers by hand, rinsing your fingers occasionally to get rid of clinging peel. Put the softened, peeled peppers in the blender or food processor.
When the eggplant has cooled and all the juice drained, place it on a chopping block and open it into halves, at the slit. Scrape out all the cooked, stringy flesh with a sharp spoon or a knife. Drop the eggplant flesh into the blender.
Add the cilantro, garlic and lemon juice. Blend (or process) 1 minute.
Add olive oil, 1/4 cup at a time. Blend a few minutes. If you like a light spread, use up the whole half-cup of oil and process thoroughly. If you prefer a chunkier spread, use only 1/4 cup oil and stop blending while you can still see specks of individual colors.
Season with salt and pepper to taste, and blend again briefly. Serve as a dip. Or spread it on bread or crackers; top with a mild cheese, or sliced beef, or chicken for a great sandwich.