august 22, 2018
Eggplant has been looking and tasting good at the roadside stands this summer. Roasting brings out the slight sweetness of the vegetable and reduces the astringency of eggplant, which has the unfortunate honor of being in the top three of least liked veggies when I tally my client preferences. The others are brussels sprouts and lima beans, but I always figure that someday folks will have their epiphany and decide these are loved and enjoyed after all. One can always hope.
Back to eggplant, which I must admit is not always my favorite, either, unless one does something to rev up the spiciness. Cilantro and harissa, the north African pepper spice paste, will give this smooth summer dip its flavor boost that will keep me dipping. For make ahead prep, you can roast the eggplant the day before and make the dip in the food processor, but there may be some separation of liquid from solid, so don’t swirl in the aioli until you are ready to serve your hungry guests.
I like this dip chilled, and room temperature works just as well. For dipping, I used the homemade tortilla crisps featured in the recipe for my Breakfast Tostadas, simply corn tortillas cut in half and microwaved until golden. Any and all crackers or chips would be good partners. Spooned onto grits or mashed potatoes? Sure, why not? Eaten with a spoon all by its lonesome? Done that, too.
Summer is winding down, and nights are a little more forgiving for outdoor entertaining. Twinkly string lights and fireflies, good company and conversation, a cold beverage and moon glow between the branches and this eggplant dip – the stuff of summer memories.
Eggplant Dip with Harissa Aioli
recipe by Michele Humlan, The Good Eats Company
makes about 2 ⅓ cups
one medium eggplant kosher salt extra virgin olive oil one tablespoon tomato paste ½ cup chopped cilantro one medium garlic clove, zested with microplane grater two tablespoons white wine vinegar ⅓ cup vegan mayonnaise ½ tablespoon harissa paste one small garlic clove, zested with microplane grater optional garnish : cilantro leaves note : both tomato paste and harissa paste are available in squeeze tubes - store in fridgeor, if purchased in cans. place the canned contents into freezer safe containers; these keep well in the freezer for defrosting as needed
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Cut eggplant lengthwise, brush cut surfaces generously with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle well with kosher salt.
- Bake cut side down on heavy sheet pan for about 30 minutes until eggplant begins to collapse and dimple is visible when lightly touched.
- When cooled, scrape eggplant flesh from skin and puree in food processor with cilantro, tomato paste, medium clove garlic and vinegar.
- Chill mixture well, draining excess liquid if needed.
- Mix vegan mayonnaise, small garlic clove and harissa.
- Place eggplant dip in serving bowl, drop teaspoons of the aioli across the top and use a knife to swirl the two.
- Serve immediately or chill up to 4 hours.
- Garnish if desired with cilantro leaves.