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Serves 6

Though the eggplant here is charred like it is in the popular Middle Eastern dip, baba ghanoush, this spread is quite different. I learned how to make it in Ireland while volunteering on organic farms. It’s a creamy, smoky spread with a little heat. Do not fear habanero peppers. Although spicy, they add a floral kick and don’t overwhelm the eggplant, which is cooked on an outdoor grill (you can also do this under the broiler). Scoop the cool flesh out of the charred skins and mash it coarsely. The surprise ingredient in the spread is toasted pecans, which add texture and a nice crunch. Fresh mint and yogurt temper the heat of the habanero (or substitute a jalapeno or another small hot chile pepper). Use gloves and do not to touch your skin after handling chilies. If you want to mellow the garlic, blister the cloves in a heavy, dry skillet for 45 seconds to 1 minute to blacken the sides; cool and chop or grate on a fine grater. Serve the eggplant with crusty bread, grilled toast, or pita, and don’t be surprised if you just keep going back for more.

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¾cup pecans
1tablespoon olive oil
Salt and black pepper, to taste
2large eggplants (2 pounds total)
Vegetable oil (for the grill)
cup Greek yogurt, or more to taste
Grated rind of 1 lemon
Juice of ½ lemon, or more to taste
2cloves garlic, finely chopped
1shallot, finely chopped
1tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
2tablespoons chopped fresh mint
½habanero or other small hot chile pepper, cored, seeded, and finely chopped
Extra olive oil (for sprinkling)
Extra Greek yogurt (for garnish)
Extra fresh mint and fresh parsley (for garnish)

1. Set the oven at 325 degrees.

2. In a small baking dish, toss the pecans with the olive oil. Spread them out and sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Toast in the oven for 10 minutes, turning several times, or until they are aromatic and starting to turn a darker color; cool. Chop coarsely.

3. Light a charcoal grill or turn a gas grill to medium. Or turn on the broiler and arrange an oven rack so the eggplants will sit 6-inches from the element.

4. For the grill: With wadded foil, clean the grill. Use a wadded paper towel dipped into vegetable oil to brush the hot grates. Set the eggplants on the grill and cook, turning every 10 minutes, until the skin is charred all over and is tender when pierced with a skewer. This will take 20 to 30 minutes. The skin will be very charred. Remove from the grill; cool.

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5. For the broiler: Place the eggplants on a rimmed baking sheet and slide under the broiler. Broil for 10 minutes, rotate the eggplants, and broil 10 minutes more. Continue like this until the skin is charred and the flesh is tender when pierced with a skewer. This will take about 30 minutes. The skin will be very charred. Move the rack lower, if necessary, to cook the eggplants through. Remove from the oven; cool.

6. Set a strainer over a bowl. Working over a large plate, cut off and discard the stems and halve the eggplants lengthwise. Use a spoon to scrape out the flesh, taking as little charred skin as possible. Mash with a fork. Transfer the flesh to the strainer. Let the eggplant drain for 10 minutes.

7. Empty the liquid in the bowl and tip the chopped eggplant into it. Add the yogurt, lemon rind and juice, garlic, shallot, parsley, mint, pecans, habanero, and salt. Stir well. Taste for seasoning and add salt, pepper, yogurt, or lemon juice, if you like.

8. Transfer to a serving bowl. Sprinkle with olive oil, dollops of yogurt, mint and parsley. Lauren Allen


Lauren Allen can be reached at laurenaallen09@gmail.com.