Roasted Eggplant and Caramelized Onion Dip
What happens if you don't invite tahini?
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October 19, 2020
Cook: 1h 0min
This dip combines the smoky flavor of slow-roasted eggplants, the sweetness of caramelized onions and a fried tomato, the tanginess of a lemon, and the spiciness and brightness of garlic and parsley. Get those pitas ready.
Several months ago my friend and I went to Brussels to explore a park north of the city and check out the wild monument called the Atomium. Google it, it’s fun to look at. During our day trip we stopped at a Syrian restaurant called Les Nuits de Cham. We ordered a large mezze platter and a pot of sweet mint tea to share. While everything was incredibly tasty, one of the eggplant dips in particular blew me away. It was smoky, contained no tahini like a typical baba ganoush, and had a tanginess that made each bite extremely exciting.
Feeling inspired, I went home and purchased a handful of eggplants. I experimented with various ways of roasting an eggplant: whole, halved, cubed, with oil, without oil, etc. After several trials and a little taste testing help, I came to my conclusion. The whole roasted eggplant contained too much liquid and resulted in a watery dip, while the cubed eggplant was a bit too dry. While these issues potentially could have been fixed by adjusting temperature or roasting time, I was most pleased with the roasted eggplant halves and decided to use this method when developing the dip.
In this recipe you will roast the eggplant halves for nearly an hour. Yes, an hour is a long time, but I’ve come up with something for you to do while you wait: caramelize an onion. Exciting, I know. The onion adds a subtle sweetness to the dip that balances out the tanginess that comes from the eggplant. The onion will reduce in size greatly when caramelizing, and you will end up with only about ⅓ of a cup. That’s what you want.
Most likely your eggplants are still roasting. Perfect. That gives you just enough time to chop up a tomato and give it a quick pan fry. Don’t keep it in the pan for too long as it could burn and create some unwanted off-flavors. The idea is to evaporate some of the water from the tomato and soften it for the dip.
The eggplants are done roasting once they are extremely tender and when most of the flesh has lost its whiteness. Remove the eggplants from the oven and give them a few minutes to slightly cool down. When they cool down enough that you can tolerate handling them (it may still feel a bit like you are playing a game of hot potato), scrape the eggplant flesh into a colander and discard the skins. Five minutes in the colander is long enough to allow some of the excess liquid to drain away. This prevents the dip from having too much liquid.
The time has come! All the ingredients meet together for a puree party, which results in a smoky, tangy dip that can be served either warm or at room temperature. Toast a few pitas, slice a cucumber, and enjoy your creation.
(click each step as you go to keep track of your progress)
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Roasted Eggplant and Caramelized Onion Dip
- Prep time: 10min
- Cook time: 1h 0min
- Serving size: 4
- 2 medium eggplants
- 45 mL (3 Tbsp) olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1 large tomato, seeded, cored, and coarsely chopped
- 2 Tbsp minced parsley
- 2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
- 30 mL (2 Tbsp) fresh lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 200° C (400° F). Line a sheet pan with foil.
Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise. Position eggplant halves face-up on foil-lined pan. Brush the face-up surface of each eggplant half with olive oil, using 1 tsp oil per eggplant half. Brush quickly, as the eggplant will soak up the oil immediately. Bake in the oven for 50 minutes, flipping the eggplant halves after 25 minutes.
Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add 1 Tbsp olive oil. Add the onion and 1/2 tsp salt and cook for 6-7 minutes, stirring frequently.
Decrease the heat to low and cook for another 20 minutes, stirring every few minutes to avoid burning. You should end up with about 60 g (1/3 cup) caramelized onions. Transfer onion to a plate or bowl and reserve for later.
Wipe out the medium skillet and return to the stove over medium heat. Fry the tomatoes for 3-4 minutes until they begin to soften. Remove from heat and set to the side.
Remove eggplant halves from the oven. Place a colander over a bowl. Once cool enough to handle, scrape the eggplant flesh into the colander and let sit for about 5 minutes. Discard the eggplant skins. You do not need to reserve the strained liquid.
Combine the drained eggplant, tomato, caramelized onion, lemon juice, parsley, garlic, and 1/4 tsp salt in a small bowl or small food processor. Use an immersion blender or food processor to briefly puree the ingredients.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
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