Roasted Pepper and Eggplant Spread

  • Yield 2 3/4 cups

Enjoy as a chunky dip; spread it on bread for bruschetta; or serve it as a condiment with grilled seafood, poultry, or pork.

One taste of this roasted sweet pepper, eggplant, and garlic combo reveals why it is eaten morning, noon, and night in Balkan countries, where it is called ajvar (pronounced EYE-var).

Ingredients

2 teaspoons plus 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 pounds sweet bell peppers, preferably a combination of red and orange
1 small eggplant, about 1 pound
2 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Chopped flat leaf parsley, for garnish

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 F. Using 2 teaspoons of the oil, coat the baking sheets lightly.
  2. Halve the peppers lengthwise and seed, then arrange the peppers cut side down on one of the prepared baking sheets. Place the eggplant on the second baking sheet and prick it all over with a fork. Roast the peppers and eggplant for 30 to 40 minutes, or until their skins are blistered and blackened. The eggplant should be soft but not collapsed. Using tongs, transfer the peppers to a large bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and then set aside to steam for 20 minutes. Wrap the eggplant in the foil covering the baking sheet and set aside for 30 minutes.
  3. With your fingers, peel the peppers. Cut their flesh into 2-inch chunks, place them in a food processor, and pulse 5 or 6 times to chop coarsely. Scoop the peppers into a mixing bowl. Scoop the flesh from the eggplant into the food processor. Add the garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil, and whirl to a smooth puree. Add the eggplant puree to the chopped peppers and mix to combine. Mix in the vinegar and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. For serving now Let the spread sit for 1 hour at room temperature to allow the flavors to meld. This spread keeps, covered in the refrigerator, for 5 days.
  5. To freeze: Spoon the spread into 1/2-cup plastic containers and press plastic freezer wrap over the tops before covering, or pack 1 to 1 1/2 cups into resealable 1-quart plastic freezer bags. Lay the bags flat and freeze on a baking sheet.
  6. To defrost and serve: Defrost on a plate in the refrigerator for 6 to 24 hours, depending on the amount. Or thaw in a bowl of cold water, changing the water every 15 minutes. Adjust the seasoning, including the vinegar, and serve at room temperature.

Reprinted from Cook & Freeze © 2010 by Dana Jacobi. Permission granted by Rodale, Inc. Available wherever books are sold.

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