Saturday, February 2, 2008

Poor Student's Caviar

I never knew why aubergine dip was called 'poor man's caviar' until recently. Apparently, it's not because aubergines are supposed to taste like caviar (they don't), but rather because their seeds bear a faint resemblance to fish roe. I owe that tidbit (together with the knowledge that one can indeed prepare a meal in 30 minutes when one relies almost exclusively upon pre-packaged ingredients) to Rachael Ray. Ahem.

Here is my version of said dish. I don't much care for fish roe, but I do love this.

4 baby aubergines
1 head garlic
sea salt
1 handful fresh mint, chopped
1/2 lemon, squeezed

Preheat the oven to 400F.
Cut the aubergines in half, lengthwise.
Place the aubergines and the head of garlic (don't separate the cloves) in a baking tray.
Drizzle the aubergines and garlic with olive oil and sea salt, to taste.
Bake for 40 minutes or so, until the aubergines and garlic are squishy.
Scrape out the aubergine's flesh into a bowl.
Squeeze out each garlic clove's innards into the same bowl.
Add the mint and the lemon juice.
Mash up with a fork, and gobble greedily.

Think of the preceding as a blueprint. I love this simple version, but you can also:
- blend it in a food processor, for a smoother texture. (Although I prefer it chunky.)
- add some roasted tomatoes or red peppers.. yummy.
- try a different herb, like basil or oregano or flat-leaf parsley.
- try adding spices; like cumin, coriander, allspice, cardamon, red pepper flakes...
- add some balsamic vinegar to the aubergines before baking, to give it a more caramelized flavour.
- add some Greek yoghurt for a creamier texture.
- add a drizzle of tahini to turn it into a quick version of baby ghanoush.
- omit the garlic; incur my wrath.

I like this on its own (just eaten with a spoon), but it would also be delicious with (say) pita bread or olive oil crackers. Perhaps even over pasta. Enjoy!

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