Baba Ghanouj/ smoked eggplant with pepper spread

Ok, I admit that I love eggplant. I know that it  has very little nutritional value, but it is  high in fiber, low in calories and  has great flavor. The versatile eggplant can be used as an appetizer,  main dish,  in soups, in salads and dessert.  If you have not tried candied baby eggplant, you don’t know what you are missing.

Before cooking eggplant, slice it in the shape you want for the dish you are preparing, sprinkle the slices with salt and let them sit for thirty minutes.  That establishes two things; It takes out a lot of bitterness, and when you cook it the oil it absorbs is a great less than if you didn’t salt it.  The versatile eggplant can be used in baking for frying, as an appetizer, in a main dish, or in soups and salads.  Eggplant from the Farmer’s Market is decidedly fresher and are not likely shipped here from across the continent as supermarket eggplants are.

To preserve fresh eggplants for winter, I usually buy as many as I can carry when I find fresh ones, then the ones I intend to use for salads or soups are cut into cubes.  For eggplant Parmesan and the Greek Dish, Mossaka, I slice it like a salami.  The longer eggplant are sliced lengthwise.  If they are not too large around, they are cut right down the middle.  After salting I squeeze out the excess water and place the round slices (the cubes are placed separately) on a cookie sheet, spray them with olive oil spray.  Broil, don’t fry, the eggplant until they are dark brown, allow to cool, then separate and place into freezer bags.  The amount in each bag should be what you need for one dish.  Then in the winter when fresh eggplants are no longer available you have what you need.  The freezing does not seem to affect the fresh quality.

For smoked eggplants to use in spreads, pierce large eggplants in couple spot and place on the hot grill and for 5 minutes or each side. When the skin become brittle and the eggplant collapse, move and place in a bowl to cool.  When the eggplant cool down, gently peel the charred skin and discard. Place the smoked flesh in a colander to drain.  You can place the smoked eggplant flesh in freezer bag and save for the winter.

Baba Ghanouj

serves 6

2        1-pound eggplants,

1         jalapeño pepper, finely chopped

1         red bell pepper, finely chopped

1         cup chopped Italian parsley

4        cloves garlic, mashed

zest of one lemon

1/4    cup lemon juice

4        tablespoons olive oil

salt to taste

-Follow the same steps for smoked eggplants.  Mash the smoked flesh with a fork or wooden mortar.

-Add the chopped vegetables, the mashed garlic, the lemon juice, the lemon zest and the olive oil to the eggplant. Mix and serve with pita chips for great summer appetizer.

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