Every late summer and fall, I’m always so impressed/jealous of all my friends who are plucking the fruits (and vegetables) of their summer-long labors and harvesting the stuff from their gardens. So this year, I decided I would also grow a garden. I would be among my domestic and wholesome friends, picking, eating, and preserving tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, peppers, and herbs. That was in April.
In late May/June, I was gone for 18 days.
When I got back to Louisiana, I remembered why I don’t go outside to do things like, say, water my plants.
Right now, the herbs are still alive. I have decided that next year, I will be an avid herb gardener (preferably herbs that don’t care if they get watered or not).
The good news is that I know a lot of people who grow gardens (including my friend Jeni who special-ordered “homosexual” zucchini because she didn’t have any bees to pollinate her traditional zucchini blossoms) and they are always more than happy to share their bounties with me. This is how I came home the other day with a bag full of eggplant.
If not done right, the texture of eggplant can get a little…gross. Also, I am a sucker for roasted vegetables. Also, I am a sucker for dips and spreads. Good news for me? It’s pretty much impossible to mess up roasted eggplant (especially when you puree it after you roast it).
You’ll need a medium eggplant, 2 red bell peppers, 1 red onion, a few cloves of garlic, some tomato paste or oven-roasted tomatoes, olive oil, salt and pepper. Seriously, this spread is really and truly super healthy (which will make you feel less bad about it when you can’t stop eating it).
Preheat your oven to 400 and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Chop the eggplant, onion, and red peppers into 1″ cubes and place them in a large bowl. Smash the garlic and add it to the eggplant mixture. Add the olive oil, salt, and pepper and toss the mixture with your hands until all the vegetables are well-coated. Spread the mixture onto the foil-lined baking sheet.
Allow the mixture to cool for a few minutes and then transfer the vegetables to a blender or a food processor. Add the tomato paste (or roasted tomatoes, which is what I used) and pulse until the desired consistency is reached. Serve the dip warm with slices of baguette, sourdough bread, Flatbread, Rosemary Focaccia, Naan, pitas, pita chips, your finger, a spoon, whatever. This would also be an amazing, flavorful vegetarian sauce to toss hot pasta in for a light summer meal straight from your garden (because goodness knows it’s not coming from my garden).
Roasted Eggplant Spread
Recipe lightly adapted from Ina Garten
1 medium eggplant
2 red bell peppers
1 medium red onion
3-4 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon tomato paste or pureed oven-roasted tomatoes
Preheat oven to 400 and line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Set aside. Chop eggplant, peppers, and onion into 1″ cubes. Smash the garlic. Toss together the vegetables and then drizzle them in olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to evenly coat the vegetables and then spread them over the prepared baking sheet. Place the pan in the oven and roast the vegetables for 20 minutes. Flip/stir the vegetables with a spatula and then roast for another 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and browning. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Place the roasted vegetables along with the tomato paste or roasted tomatoes into a blender or food processor and pulse until the desired consistency is reached. Serve warm with slices of sourdough bread, pita chips, flatbread, or Rosemary Focaccia. You can also toss this sauce with hot pasta for a light vegetarian meal.