With its roasted coffee brown hue, this is a starter for early fall when beautiful shiny globe eggplants still abound. This recipe came with me from Greece this summer. It has enough character to stand up to a cooler night, when you might find yourself enjoying dinner outside, but with a sweater. It was inspired by a recipe I saw in the Greek food magazine Gastronomos—I ended up modifying it a bit to suit my taste. I used more assertive turbinado sugar instead of honey and Sriracha sauce for the nice kick. The starter shines when served with toasted pitta triangles and a glass of beer.
There are several ways to roast eggplants to coax the most flavor out of this supple fruit. (Yes, they are fruit botanically speaking). A wood-fired grill is unsurpassed as it infuses the flesh with perfect rustic smokiness. You can also roast it directly on top of the gas flame of your stove, using tongs, but that makes a lovely mess. I found that you get a very good outcome roasting the eggplant first in the oven until it collapses, and then run it under the broiler for 5 to 10 minutes to char and blacken the skin adding rich aroma.
Serves 4 as part of an appetizer spread
1 medium globe eggplant (about 1 1/4 pound)
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce, more to taste
3/4 teaspoon turbinado or brown sugar
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon Sriracha or other hot chili sauce, more to taste
1 to garlic cloves, pressed or minced
2 small green onions, cut crosswise into very fine rings (light parts only)
1/2 to 1 teaspoon roasted sesame oil, for drizzling
whole wheat pitta bread, toasted, and cut into eighths
1 Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat 375 °F.
2 Place the eggplant on a rimmed baking sheet and roast, turning every 15 minutes or so, using tongs, until the fruit collapses and becomes soft when pierced with a pairing knife. This will take 45 to 55 minutes, depending on size. Remove the baking sheet with the eggplant.
3 Turn the broiler on high and set the rack so that the eggplant sits about 1 inch away from the heat. Broil for about 10 minutes, turning once or twice, until the outside is nicely chard. Remove the eggplant from the oven, and set aside until cool enough to handle. Using your hands and/or a soup spoon, scrape the flesh into a bowl and discard the skin (don’t do this under running water as you might have read elsewhere—you will lose lots of flavor). Now you can store the flesh if making ahead (see below).
4 Mash the eggplant, using a fork—I like it a bit chunky. Add the soy sauce, sugar, garlic, and Sriracha sauce, and stir to combine. Stir in 2 tablespoons sliced onions. Allow to sit at room temperature for at least half an hour for flavors to mend.
5 Taste and adjust seasoning by adding a bit more soy sauce and Sriracha, sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of sliced onions and drizzle with the sesame oil and serve.
Time to party: This can easily be doubled and quadrupled for a crowd. Use the food processor to process large amounts.
To make ahead: To save time, I like to roast eggplants when I’m occupied with something else in the kitchen. After removing the skin, I store the flesh in a sealed container in the fridge, up to 3 days. You will soon notice a little pool of eggplant liquid. Some people drain the flesh in a sieve, or you can simply pour the liquid out. I am too lazy for any of this—I simply just stir the liquid back in—and I’ve never found my eggplant dips to be less flavorful. At least half an hour, better a few hours, before you want to serve the dip continue with step 4.