The Microwave: Middle Eastern Eggplant Dip

Sunday August 16, 2015

I have been served any number of eggplant dips, the most famous being Baba Ghanoush. Eggplant is in the same family as the potato and tomato, and is native to India, where it is prepared in numerous ways. The microwave does a remarkable job of cooking the whole eggplant and the interior flesh, which retains its lovely spring green color, is ready to mash with other ingredients.

While I categorize eggplant as a vegetable, in reality it is a big berry. Eggplant is never eaten raw since it is quite bitter. But it becomes tender and mushy upon cooking and the flavor develops. Smaller immature eggplants are a better choice as large ones tend to be more bitter.

To test for a proper eggplant, press with your thumb; the flesh should give and then bounce back. If the indentation remains, it is overripe and mushy inside. I like fresh whole wheat pita bread best for dipping. Pop it into the microwave for 30 to 40 seconds and cut into quarters. A 1 pound cooked eggplant feeds 3.

Overview

Cookware: 8-inch Pyrex pie plate

Microwave Wattage: 1,100 to 1,300

Total Cook Time: 5 to 7 minutes

Standing Time: None

Makes about 1 cup

Ingredients

Pita Crisps

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter

1 clove garlic

2 white or whole wheat pita breads

Sesame seeds, for sprinkling, optional

The Dip

1 medium globe eggplant (about 1 pound), rinsed with cold water and patted dry; cut off and discard the green cap.

1 green onion, cut into pieces, both green and white

1 garlic clove, cut into thirds

3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or more, to taste

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

Salt, to taste

Few grinds of freshly ground black pepper

Pinch of cayenne pepper

Instructions

1. Make the Pita Crisps. Place the butter and garlic in a 2-cup measuring cup. Microcook on HIGH for 30 to 40 seconds, until butter is melted. Set aside. Cut the pita bread into quarters, then fold each quarter back to separate the top and bottom layer to make 16 triangles.

2. With a soft pastry brush, brush the inside of the pita bread triangle with the garlic butter. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, if you like, but this is optional. Place on the plastic bacon rack or microwave-proof paper plate. Microcook on HIGH for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, just until beginning to crisp. Do not over cook. Remove from the oven and let cool. Continue to cook the rest of the triangles in batches.

3. Make the Dip. With the tines of a fork, prick the eggplant in several places. Place on the pie plate or a microwave-proof paper plate and microcoook on HIGH, uncovered, for 5 to 7 minutes, until eggplant appears and feels extremely soft, looks deflated, and the skin will have turned brownish-black like it was roasted. Set aside to cool.

4. When cool enough to handle, cut the eggplant in half. Place the green onion and garlic in the work bowl of a food processor and finely chop. Add the parsley and cilantro; process to chop. Scoop the eggplant flesh into the processor; discard the skin. Add the lemon juice, olive oil, cumin, a few pinches of salt, pepper, and cayenne. Puree until smooth. Taste, adding more salt and/or lemon juice as needed. (If made in advance, refrigerate in a covered container up to 24 hours.) Serve at room temperature or chilled, with fresh pita bread, Pita Crisps, or raw vegetables like celery or cherry tomatoes for dipping.

The egg-plant is a member of the nightshade family – related to the potato and tomato and though commonly thought of as a vegetable, eggplant is actually a fruit.

Excerpted from Not Your Mother’s Microwave Cooking, by Beth Hensperger. (c) 2010, used by permission from the Harvard Common Press

Recipe and text copyright Beth Hensperger 2015

Please enjoy the recipe and make it your own. If you copy the recipe and text for internet use, please include my byline and link to my site.


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