Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Eggplant Dip

Last year I planted a variety of eggplants: Thai, Italian, African, Chinese - and all produced like mad. I called it the International Year of the Eggplant.

We ate them in ratatouille, on the barbecue, in spaghetti sauce and stir-fries.

Larry did his best to be appreciative but he was happy to see the season come to an end. This spicy-sweet dip, however, was gobbled up rapidly even in the waning days of eggplant season.

It is from Sarah Leah Chase's Cold Weather Comforts. She based it on a Chinese dish called Strange Flavor Eggplant.

Serve it with pita chips. (Sarah's recipe to make your own: cut 4 large pitas horizontally into 2 rounds, brush them with a combination of 1/2 cup vegetable oil and 1 tbsp roasted sesame oil, and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Cut into irregular bite-sized triangles and bake at 350° 7-9 minutes until lightly browned. Let cool and store in an airtight container. Warning: these are addictive.)

Use whatever eggplant you have: small round white ones, big purple ones, or anything in between. The roasted sesame oil is essential - you can find it and brown rice vinegar at your local independent health food store.

Eggplant Dip
1 1/2 lbs eggplant
3 tbsp vegetable oil (or less)
2 tsp roasted sesame oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp chopped fresh ginger
3 scallions, trimmed and minced
1/4 tsp dried red pepper flakes
3 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp light brown sugar (or less)
1 tbsp brown rice vinegar
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp chopped cilantro (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Prick the eggplants in several places with a fork and coat them with a little oil. Roast, turning once during cooking, until very soft, 20-40 minutes depending on the size of the eggplant. Let rest until cool enough to handle.

Peel and stem the eggplant. Process in food processor until smooth, or dice it very fine and mash it a little.

Whisk together the soy sauce, brown sugar and vinegar until sugar is dissolved. Set aside.

Warm 2 tbsp vegetable oil and 2 tsp roasted sesame oil in a medium-size pan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, ginger, scallions and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring, one minute. Whisk soy sauce mixture again and add to pan. Bring to a boil. Stir in the eggplant and simmer 3 minutes. Remove from heat and add lemon juice and optional cilantro.

Serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled, accompanied by toasted pita chips.

Makes about 2 1/2 cups

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