Melitzanosalata (Roasted Eggplant Dip)

Maybe I am alone in this, but I still have the munchies. But maybe you, too, have a hard time cutting out all snacks entirely, simply because we have crossed the threshold into 2012…maybe your holiday munching mode can’t be switched on and off that easily.

Never fear…I bring you good news of great, healthy snackage: eggplant dip. Now I know that description may have just freaked you out, but I’ve brought it to many a football party and had people go, “Hey, this is great! What is this, guacamole?” (It doesn’t really bear any resemblance to guac, but hopefully you get the point that eggplant dip is super tasty and not at all weird.)

This dip is, as you may have guessed from the name, Greek. I first sampled it when my Greek neighbor brought it to a potluck, and I was immediately in love! I asked her for the recipe, but as with many traditional dishes that are passed down through families, her list of ingredients went something like: “and squeeze a lemon or two, and add some parsley, and you can put in a spoonful of yogurt or sour cream if you want to…” Being a bit anal retentive, myself, I tried to probe further about the specific ingredients and amounts she actually used the time I got to taste the dip, but to no avail. She was, however, very specific about using Japanese eggplants, which are much thinner and have fewer bitter seeds than Italian or American eggplants.

Ultimately, I took her sketchy list of ingredients and combed through recipes online to come up with my own version of roasted eggplant dip. My favorite part about this dip, aside from how simple it is to make, is that it’s very allergy-friendly: no wheat, no dairy, no nuts, and no eggs. Hooray!

Melitzanosalata will curb your snack cravings without completely breaking your shiny new diet plan.

Start by roasting four small eggplants whole. Ideally you would use Japanese or some other type of Asian eggplant, but if you don’t have access to a wide selection of eggplants, you can use the smallest eggplants available. As you can see from my picture, I used Italian eggplants, sometimes labeled baby eggplants. I also roasted my garlic in a little foil packet.

When the eggplants are cool enough to handle, cut them in half and either scrape the flesh from the skins or peel the skins off the flesh. I usually use a combination of both methods to de-skin my eggplants. Or, if you want some extra antioxidants in your dip, leave one or two eggplant halves with their skin on.

Put the eggplant pulp into a large food processor with the garlic (roasted or unroasted), juice of 1 lemon, a hearty handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, a few tablespoons of rosemary, and some chopped scallions. Pulse several times to break up the big chunks of eggplant and incorporate the herbs.

With the food processor on, stream about ¼ cup good-quality olive oil into the eggplant mixture. Continue to process for a minute or so, then scrape the edges of the bowl. Taste the dip; if it is still too chunky, add some more olive oil. Season lightly with salt and pepper. I often also add a bit of the lemon pulp and some garlic powder at this point, because I like the dip good and garlicky, but that’s up to you.

Continue to process until all the ingredients are evenly mixed and the dip is seasoned to your liking.

Scoop the dip out into a serving bowl. Eat with toasted pita wedges (or, if gluten-free is important, plain Tostitos). You could also use the melitzanosalata as a sandwich spread.

Melitzanosalata (Roasted Eggplant Dip)

compiled from several sources
serves 8–10

4 Japanese or Italian eggplants
3 cloves garlic, minced
juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp. fresh rosemary
¼ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 bunch scallions, roughly chopped
¼–½ cup olive oil
salt and black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400°.
Use a fork to prick the eggplants all over. Put them on a baking sheet and roast for 40 minutes. Optionally, roast the garlic in foil for the last 20 minutes. Remove and drain on a paper towel if needed.
When they are cool enough to handle, cut the eggplants in half and scoop all the insides into a food processor. Discard skins. Add garlic, lemon juice, herbs, and scallions to the food processor. Pulse a few times to combine.
Continue to pulse while adding a steady stream of olive oil until desired consistency is reached. Stir in salt and pepper.
Serve with toasted pita wedges.


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