Eggplant Caviar and Muhammara

Mom’s broccoli casserole.

Grandma’s oatmeal cookies.

My eggplant caviar.

These are the dishes that will, without fail, provoke at least one or two members of the party to come up and ask “Can I puh-leeze have the recipe for that??”

When it comes to my eggplant caviar, well, for a long time I didn’t have a recipe. Or rather, I did, but it wasn’t my recipe. I’d follow different variations of other people’s recipes until I finally just stopped using one. Sesame paste, cumin, salt, garlic, maybe a splash of lemon (or maybe not,) and just keep adjusting until it tastes right. (One time I did try a Greek version: no sesame or cumin, but a dash of red wine vinegar and lots more olive oil. Delicious, but doesn’t hit the same spot on my tongue.)

So after many requests, I finally decided one day to write the whole thing down. My recipe. Here it is:

Eggplant Caviar Prep

Eggplant Caviar Prep

Eggplant caviar
3 small eggplants (330 grams)
2 Tablespoons tahina (sesame paste)
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon salt (to taste)
1 Tablespoon olive oil plus extra for drizzling
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 Tablespoon toasted pine nuts, optional

Pre-heat the oven to 190C/375F. Pierce the eggplants a few times with a fork or a sharp knife and place them on to an aluminum lined baking sheet.
Bake them in the oven, turning them over every 20 minutes or so, until the skin is blackened. You’ll know they’re done when the flesh inside feels totally soft and broken down when you prod them with a spoon. This can take anywhere from 50 minutes to 100 minutes, depending on the size and freshness of the eggplant, and the room temperature.

Let the eggplants cool – then, cut them lengthwise in half one by one, and scoop out the flesh into a large bowl. Combine all other ingredients and blend with a hand blender (or transfer to a food processor and mix until fine.)

This is best prepared a few hours in advance so that the flavors can blend together. Refrigerate it while it’s resting, but take it out 30 minutes before you plan to serve. Drizzle some olive oil over the top and, if you’re feeling fancy, some toasted pine nuts. Serve with pita bread or crackers.

The next-most-popular dip I bring to parties is based on a Persian / Middle Eastern dish, Muhammara. The sweet and savory combination of red peppers, walnuts, and pomegranate molasses is a crowd pleaser.

Pomegranate trees in Iran

Muhammara isn’t very photogenic, but this pomegranate trees is.

Muhammara
1.5 cups (120 grams) walnuts
4 roasted red peppers (230 grams) drained
1 teaspoon cumin
3/4 teaspoon salt
dash cayenne
1 Tablespoon pomegranate molasses
1 clove garlic, pressed

Toss all ingredients in a blender or in a bowl with a hand mixer. Blend until smooth. Serve at room temperature with pita bread, crackers, or vegetable crudités.

Advertisements

Roasted Apricot Caprese with Pomegranate-Chipotle Sauce

Roasted Apricot Caprese with Pomegranate-Chipotle Sauce

Roasted Apricot Caprese with Pomegranate-Chipotle Sauce

An ode to the apricot, part one: savory version

Sometimes inspiration suddenly strikes in the most unlikely of places, for no known reason. Sitting in the metro line 9, riding home from work, I thumbed through the last few chapters of The God Of Small Things, by Arundhati Roy, but some back portion of my brain was concentrating on dinner.

My brain silently scanned the pantry as I read on about the escapades of Rahel and Estha in Kerala. Pomegranate molasses, yes… Chipotle perhaps? And isn’t there some mint? Dum dum…

Once home, I emptied the pantry for all the likely culprits who could help enhance my dinner. The vinegars, the oils – the nuts, seeds, dried fruits. The herbs already perched along the countertop watched and waited with anticipation as I threw bits and bobs into the blender.

The meal that evening (already-cooked couscous with turmeric cauliflower,) got lathered in this special sauce with a few additions (chicken drumsticks, roasted apricots, and basil,) and Eurkea! An idea for an excellent starter was born.

I give you this, to relish now while the apricots are abundant and ripe in the Northern hemisphere. If you don’t have a chipotle-peppers-in-adobo-supplier wherever you are, I’m sorry. Try Amazon.

Roasted Apricot Caprese with Pomegranate-Chipotle Sauce

Continue reading