Saturday, 4 August 2007

Eggplant (aubergine) dip (Μελιτζανοσαλάτα )

Eggplant dip is very much like peanut butter: it can take one of three forms - the plain, the extra-smooth and the crunchy versions. Make sure you use unblemished purple eggplants. White eggplants are too sweet for this dish.

Plain melitzanosalata:
Take two or three large purple eggplants and pierce them all over with a fork. Char them in the oven till they are soft and slightly burnt. Take them out of the oven with a fork, and hold them under cold running water while you peel and discard the skins. Alternatively, wait until they have cooled, and scoop out the flesh. Puree the flesh in a mixer with 2-3 cloves of garlic, up to 1/2 cup of olive oil and some salt, pepper, cumin and lemon juice to taste.

Extra-smooth melitzanosalata:
To the recipe above, add some Greek strained yoghurt. Add less than 50g to start with, and adjust for taste. The Middle Eastern version of melitzanosalata also includes 1 large tablespoon of tahini for an extra smooth texture.

Extra-crunchy melitzanosalata:
To the recipe above, add approximately 100g of finely ground walnuts. Adjust the amount according to taste, but don't add too much - you want a savoury, not sweet dip!

Serve with carrot, cucumber and celery sticks, fresh long green stalk peppers, toasted bread fingers, and other savoury snacks and crunchy vegetables that go with dip. Melitzanosalata can be made ahead of time, but it is susceptible to browning, in the same way as guacamole. Cover it with plastic wrap and keep it in the fridge till it is time to serve. This dip makes a healthier alternative to tzatziki, which is rather high in calories when made with full-fat Greek strained yoghurt.

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