Friday, April 17, 2009

Eggplant dip/salad (Melitzanosalata)

The best way to prepare this dish is baking eggplants in a traditional Mediterranean wood fired oven, which my husband and I plan to build in our garden sometime soon. In the oven, eggplants are cooked slowly and evenly. Eventually they become very soft like butter with an amazing natural wood flavor. Cooking eggplants in a fireplace using real woods or grilling them with wood charcoal can be as good as baking in a Mediterranean oven. Unfortunately, it is already too hot to use a fireplace. Also I am lazy to cook it outside on a charcoal fire. Therefore, I have no choice but to use my electric oven to prepare this dish. Nevertheless, it is still gorgeous! One more point attention: it might be a good idea to penetrate it with a fork or a thin knife so vapors do not built up during the baking process. Some people wrap them in aluminum foil so they will not burn. This is a must if you use a fireplace to bake them but optional for regular ovens.
There are many kinds of eggplants in markets these days. The most common one is an American eggplant, which is huge, purple and pear shaped. I prefer narrower shaped Chinese eggplants (or sometimes called Japanese eggplants) or smaller sized Italian eggplants (or sometimes called Holland eggplants). In my opinion they are more aromatic and less bitter than American eggplants. Also, from an economic point of view, it takes less time to completely bake smaller sized eggplants.
This eggplant dish can be an excellent appetizer. Like the yogurt salad/dip (tzaziki), I love to dip pita bread into this! Eating eggplants is good for maintaining a healthy heart and coronary system. It is believed it lowers the bad cholesterol. Also, it has many compounds which may protect against various forms of cancer.

4 eggplants (Chinese or Italian eggplants are recommended)
¼ cup finely chopped Italian parsley
2-3 cloves of ground garlic
1 tbsp lemon juice
Extra virgin olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F degrees.
2. Wash the eggplants and dry well. Bake them in the preheated oven for about 1 hour until they become very soft.
3. Remove the eggplants from the oven. Peel the skins.
4. Puree the eggplants until they are smooth.
5. Mix the rest of the ingredients with the eggplant puree. Make sure you use lots of olive oil!
6. Decorate it with a few whole olives. Serve with pita bread!

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