New readers (thank you!) may not know what a big fan of eggplant I am. In fact, one of my signature recipes is a lower-calorie version of eggplant parmesan, which I have aptly named Eggplant Parmesan “My Way”. The Western (Globe) eggplant is your common grocery store variety – they are typically large with glossy dark skin and the kind most often used in eggplant parmesan. Because they’re so large they are also an excellent choice for frying or grilling. Another variety is the Japanese or Asian eggplant which is smaller with a more elongated shape; we planted a few of these in our garden this year.
This weekend, I grilled several along with the green peppers for the “not your mama’s” stuffed peppers dish I prepared. Interesting factoid of the day: the eggplant is a member of the nightshade (Solanaceae) family and is akin to the potato and tomato as well as the tomatillo and chayote. And, although it is generally treated as a vegetable, the eggplant is really a fruit.
Even though my favorite eggplant dish is Eggplant Parmesan, summer calls for something lighter – like a dip or spread to savor with a cool glass of Pinot Grigio. Baba ghanoush immediately came to mind…. but I wanted to be more creative, plus I didn’t have tahini which is an essential ingredient in Baba ghanoush. After surfing a bit with Google, I remembered this recipe from an article in Real Simple magazine about moms and daughters cooking together – I enjoyed the stories and recipes and this melitzanosalata was exactly what I had in mind for those lovely aubergine nightshades.
Greek- style Eggplant Spread – Melitzanosalata
In Greek: μελιτζανοσαλάτα, pronounced meh-leed-zah-no-sah-LAH-tah – A deliciously refreshing dip that’s easy on the calories and comes together faster than you can say Melitzanosalata 3 times.
4 Japanese eggplants or 1 Globe eggplant
1 tablespoon lemon juice or red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
dash of cayenne
salt and pepper to taste
Heat gas grill to med-high or, if using a charcoal grill, prepare it for direct heat over hot coals. Alternately, bake the eggplant 30 minutes to 45 minutes, depending on size, in a 350 degree oven.
Brush eggplants with olive oil and prick with a fork in several places. Grill, turning every 5 minutes until charred all over and very soft, about 10-15 minutes for small Japanese eggplants and 20-25 minutes for larger sized globe eggplant. Remove from grill and allow to cool. Make a slit in the skin along the length of the eggplant and scrape the pulp from the skin.
Coarsely chop and transfer to a colander and allow to drain over a bowl for 15 minutes and discard any liquid in the bowl.
Combine the rest of the ingredients. Blend in a food processor or with an immersion blender. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with parsley. Serve with toasted pita bread. You may also want to jazz it up with a few other accompaniments such as: chopped red onion, chopped kalamata olives, and/or chopped tomatoes.