Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Versatile Roasted Eggplant, Pepper, & Onion Spread

I really like this spread. It is very similar to the one my mother has made my whole life from my Romanian heritage (zacusca)--but truth be told, my mother and aunt's roasted vegetable spread is better by far than anything else I've tried. One day, I will master it and post on it. It's also not as pureed. So, if you want to keep your spread with more texture, dice the vegetables a little smaller--this may also require less cooking time, so keep your eye on the oven--and skip the processing or process just slightly until you get the texture you want. One of these days, I may actually throw in a few mushrooms--can't imagine that would hurt.

I call this roasted vegetable spread 'versatile' because I think it's a good base for other recipes/uses. For instance, it's delicious on crostini with a slice of Manchego cheese on top. You can also use it as a sauce: Just add a little chicken stock, or for a really over the top sauce--mix it with heavy cream (or heavy cream and half and half until you reach the consistency you'd like) and toss with pasta. I like to mix it with whole wheat pasta and place the pasta in a baking dish, sprinkle it with cheese (fresh Mozzarella and/or Parmesan), and bake it until the cheese is all melted and the dish is hot throughout. Or mix some of the roasted vegetable spread with cream cheese for an alternative bagel spread.

But probably my favorite use, is for the creamy dip that is listed below the original recipe below.


Yield: 6-8 Servings

  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 2 red bell peppers, seeded
  • 1 red onion peeled
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 Tbsp. good olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. tomato paste (or tomato sauce)
  • 1 small handful of fresh parsley (my addition--so optional!)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut the eggplant, bell pepper, and onion into 1-inch cubes. Toss them in a large bowl with the garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper (I do this directly on the baking sheet--one less dish!). Spread them on a baking sheet. Roast for 45 minutes, until the vegetables are lightly browned and soft, tossing once during cooking.

Cool slightly.

Place the vegetables (and parsley) in a food processor fitted with a steel blade, add the tomato paste, and pulse 3 or 4 times to blend. Taste for salt and pepper.

For an alternative creamy dip/spread, try the recipe below (you just use half of the above quantity of spread--I'm not saying make half a recipe, just use half of your total amount). It's so simple and absolutely delicious--I took it to my friends' house when visiting and it was a great appetizer to our farmer's market dinner of green beans, yellow tomatoes, corn, boiled new potatoes, and fresh peasant-style bread (thanks Misha). My friends asked for the recipe, so here it is below.


Mix 1/2 of the above roasted vegetable spread with (basically reserve half of your total recipe):

  • 1 (8oz) package reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2-3 Tbsp. mayonnaise
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
 Mix all ingredients together and serve with pita crisps or crostini.

Serves ~6-8 people

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