Saturday, May 3, 2008

Grilled Eggplant Spread and Spiced Pita Toasts

This is really very similar to the eggplant salad that is served in Turkey. We just don't use red onions and parsley in the salad, but when I saw this recipe from Gourmet, I thought it would be good with it, so I tried to give it a try. I'm glad I did. Below you will also find a pita crisps recipe to go with the eggplant spread.

Although the recipe looks like it will need a grill, I use my gas burner. Just put the eggplant on and char it, then you do get the smoky taste. You don't have to worry about the insides cooking, it actually does:) Just keep turning it around until every bit is charred. If you don't want to have too much of a mess on the burner use a pizza pan for the oven, the kind that has holes in it. It takes a little bit longer but at least there is no mess to clean up afterward.

You don't have to make the pita toasts; you can probably find ready made pita chips at your local market. But the cumin in the recipe below tastes great with the spread. I don't ever remember making anything a day ahead, so I just let the eggplant drain while I wait for the pita to get ready, which is about 45 minutes.

You can also use this spread with steak or chicken sandwiches. It tastes heavenly as a condiment. Enjoy:)

GRILLED EGGPLANT SPREAD

Ingredients:
4 pounds medium eggplants
1 small red onion
2 large garlic cloves
2/3 cup packed fresh flat-leafed parsley leaves
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons white-wine vinegar
3 tablespoons mayonnaise

Directions:
Prepare grill.

Pierce eggplants in several places with a fork and grill on a rack set 5 to 6 inches over glowing coals, turning them occasionally, until very soft, 30 to 40 minutes. (Alternatively, broil eggplants under a preheated broiler about 6 inches from heat 30 to 40 minutes. Broiled eggplant will not have a smoky flavor.)

Transfer eggplants to a colander and, when cool enough to handle, quarter lengthwise. With a small knife remove and discard as many seeds as possible. Scrape flesh into a large sieve set over a bowl, discarding skin. Drain eggplant, covered and chilled, 1 day.

Discard any juices from eggplant. Mince onion and garlic and finely chop parsley. In a food processor pulse eggplant with onion, garlic, parsley, and remaining ingredients until coarsely puréed. Transfer spread to a bowl and season with salt and pepper.

Chill spread, covered, at least 3 hours and up to 3 days.

Serve spread with pita toasts.

Makes about 3 cups.

SPICED PITA TOASTS

Ingredients:
4 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coarse salt
2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 cup olive oil
six 6-inch pitas with pockets

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400°F.

In a dry small heavy skillet toast seeds over moderate heat, shaking skillet, until fragrant, about 1 minute, and cool. In an electric coffee/spice grinder finely grind seeds and salt with paprika and in a bowl stir together with oil.

Split each pita into 2 rounds and brush rough sides with cumin oil. Cut each round into 8 wedges and arrange, rough sides up, on 2 large baking sheets. Bake wedges in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until golden brown and crisp, about 8 minutes total. Cool pita toasts on racks.

Pita toasts keep 5 days in an airtight container at room temperature.

Makes 96 pita toasts.

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