Simply roasted eggplant dip with olive oil, fresh lemon juice and caramelized onions makes a great appetizer with crunchy vegetables and pita chips.
One of my favorite cookbook authors, Claudia Roden, calls it “poor man’s caviar”.
In her book, Simple Mediterranean Cookery, Claudia describes this dip as the most popular way to eat eggplant all across the Mediterranean.
It’s also known as baba ghanoush.
Each region of the Middle East, from Israel to Armenia, has it’s own version of this “meze” or starter course.
Preparing eggplant as a dip is also an easy and fun way to introduce your family and friends to eggplant.
While some eggplant dips are made with tahini (sesame paste), this recipe uses caramelized onions to add a rich, slightly sweet flavor to the smoky eggplant.
If you’re short on time, just skip the onion step or replace it with a tablespoon or two of tahini.
Roast eggplants in the oven on high heat (550 F), turning once, until soft and wrinkly.
Let cool, then use your knife to cut a seam along the length of the vegetable and peel off the skin.
Don’t put the eggplant in the blender or food processor or you’ll end up with what my favorite food blogger Deb Perlman calls “ba-ba-baby food.”
Chop by hand for a chunky, slightly rustic texture.
Eggplant has a high water content, so use a colander or sieve to press out excess liquids before adding the oil, lemon juice and garlic.
Go EASY on the salt; you can always add in more later!
Remember, you’ll be serving the dip with salty chips, olives, etc…
Mix in onions or serve them on top. Garnish with sliced olives or chopped parsley for a pop of purple or green.
Once you make this recipe, you’ll see how easy it is to vary the seasonings and flavors to suit your taste.
You might add a pinch of cumin or smoked paprika.
Make ahead, chill and allow flavors to develop.
Eggplant dip is best eaten within a few days but will last up to a week in the refrigerator.
Dig in to Mediterranean Eggplant Dip: the perfect spread for pita, chips and colorful vegetables this summer.
Check out these photos for your next appetizer party or get-together!
Pair Mediterranean Eggplant Dip, Hummus or Spicy Spinach Artichoke Dip with a plate of dolmas, olives and tomato, basil and feta cheese skewers. Buy dolmas ready made at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s.
Decorate with extra basil or greens for a stunning no-cook, no fuss, appetizer tray.
Set out bottles of water and wine and let everyone sip and nibble to their hearts content.
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Serves: 20 (2 oz servings)
- 2 eggplants (1½ -2 lbs/675 - 900 gm)
- 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced (10 oz/300 gm)
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
- kosher salt
- Optional garnishes:
- black olives
- chopped fresh parsley
- pita and vegetable chips
- cherry tomatoes
- chopped cucumbers
- sliced celery
- baby carrots
- Preheat the oven to 550 F and line a large baking sheet with foil.
- Place eggplants on baking sheet and prick skin all over with a fork, then rub with olive oil.
- Bake eggplants for 30-45 minutes, turning on their side once, until soft and wrinkly.
- While eggplants bake, thinly slice the onion, if using, and saute with 1 tablespoon olive oil (no salt!) over medium low heat until very brown, almost caramelized (see photos in blog post) . Remove from heat and let cool.
- Cut eggplants down the middle, peel off and discard skins and tops. Chop coarsely, place in a colander or sieve and very gently press out extra moisture.
- Season the eggplant dip: measure out 2 tablespoons each olive oil and lemon juice, plus 2 cloves minced garlic and a pinch of salt. (Use more or less of each depending on the amount of eggplant.) Combine with drained eggplant. Fold in half of the caramelized onions, reserving the remainder for the top of the dip. Taste and adjust seasonings, then cover and chill until ready to serve.
- Optional: Just before serving, garnish with fresh chopped parsley, sliced black olives, a sprinkle of paprika or smoked paprika.
- Serve with pita chips, vegetable chips and assorted raw veggies such as sliced cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, celery and baby carrots.
- Eggplant dip is best eaten within a few days but will last up to a week in the refrigerator.
- See blog post for more serving ideas.