As the weather turns colder (and I resist turning on the furnace) I turn to warming, heavy foods like stews, chowders, and creamy dips. The cool weather also marks the the last regular farmer’s market of the season in central Iowa. My friend Alex and I braved the biting wind to pick up some of the last local produce until next spring. I used some of my prizes to make up a tasty roasted red pepper & eggplant dip.
At the farmer’s market Alex got the last of the goat milk cheddar cheese curds and I picked up some goat milk chocolate fudge with walnuts from Northern Prairie Chevre (a little too sweet for my taste, but otherwise enjoyable). I also picked up some tiny brussel sprouts, a couple nice looking eggplants, and two chickens from Sheeder Farms.
Earlier this fall when I had a glut of eggplant, I decided to try making a dip with some roasted red peppers. After a few attempts I’ve settled on a master recipe, which will serve as a base for future experimentation. This spread is delicious with roasted pork (try it with slices of pork loin on ciabatta) or with crostini or crackers.
The cooking process may seem a little strange, but I wanted a mellow garlic flavor sort of like roasted garlic without taking the time to actually roast the garlic. I think this method accomplishes that, but if you have roasted garlic on hand (not the chopped stuff in a jar – the texture and flavor are both wrong for this dish) try that out instead.
Roasted Red Pepper & Eggplant Dip
1 medium-sized, peeled eggplant (roughly 12 ounces)
1 jar roasted red peppers (12-16 ounces)
2-3 garlic cloves (whole and unpeeled)
1. Chop the eggplant into large cubes, slicing away the seediest portions. I usually lose about 2 ounces this way, but it’s preferable to have fewer seeds.
2. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add about 2 tbs of olive oil and add the eggplant and garlic cloves. Sprinkle about 1 tsp of salt over the eggplant. Try to ensure that one flat side of each clove is directly touching the skillet.
3. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes.
4. While the eggplant starts cooking remove about 8 ounces of roasted red peppers from the jar – do not rinse or dry them. Also measure out about 2 tbs of liquid from the jar and reserve.
5. Add the peppers to the skillet and cover with a lid. Turn down to medium low and cook for 5 minutes.
6. Uncover and stir. Add the reserved liquid and stir while cooking for another 5 minutes.
7. Remove the garlic to a small plate. Scrape the rest of the vegetables into a food processor fitted with the metal blade. When the garlic is cool enough to handle (or using a spatula) squeeze and press the garlic out of the skins – it should be soft and paste-like. Add the garlic paste to the food processor.
8. Process the vegetables until smooth. Taste for salt. Process one more time and then scrape into a serving bowl.