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Let Them Eat (Eggplant) Caviar

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So, you may have heard: the economy is tanking.  According to retailers, we’re spending less on gifts this holiday season than we did last year.  We’re taking vacations at home.  We’re economising on everything from groceries to toiletries, and people are learning how to darn socks again, bake from scratch again, or wash their own cars.  Everybody’s worried about finances or being laid off. What to do?

Eat caviar, I say!

Okay, not really.  That would just be silly (and totally uneconcomical).  Not to mention slightly gooey, a bit slimy, way too salty, and overall, yucky.  Of course you shouldn’t eat real caviar. 

I’m talking about eggplant caviar!  I first enountered a recipe for this economical dip many years ago in one of The CFO’s Bon Appetitmagazines, and was intrigued as soon as I scanned the ingredient list. Then, once I finally I tasted it, I was totally enchanted.  The blend of piquant balsamic with the moist, slightly chunky eggplant and sweet pepper was remarkably delicious.  I ended up eating half of that first batch straight off a spoon, crackers be damned!  (Well, since I was emulating a rich person by eating “caviar,” I figured I could be as eccentric as I wished).

This recipe is adapted from both this one and this, and I added another twist by tossing in some chopped olives (the salty, black chunks were the only similarity to actual caviar in the entire dish).  Have this on crackers, or spooned along the crease of a celery stalk.  I haven’t tried it yet, but I bet it would even be great tossed with freshly cooked penne. 

I made this last week, using two eggplants I bought in the “gently damaged” shelf of the produce section at our local supermarket (ie, the half price shelf).  It was a great way to feel both frugal and rich–all at the same time. Now I must get to work on those holes in my socks.

(“Mum, we wouldn’t mind eating real caviar! Um, and just for the record, what’s wrong with gooey and slimy?”)

I’m also contributing this to Suganya’s “Vegan Ventures, Round 2” event, requesting a favorite vegan recipe.  How could I not submit this–I mean, it’s caviar, right?

Eggplant Caviar

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Actually, I could never really understand why they called this “caviar,”  as, to my mind, it neither resembles nor tastes like its namesake.  In any case, though, it’s a wonderful and tasty dip or spread, and economical, too.

2 eggplants, cut in half and roasted until tender, then peeled and mashed

2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) extra virgin olive oil

1 onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 red or green pepper, chopped

2 tomatoes, finely chopped

1/3 cup (80 ml.) black olives, chopped

1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) balsamic vinegar

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 F (190 C).  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or spray with nonstick spary. Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise and place cut side down on the cookie sheet.  Pierce the skin a few times with the tip of a knife.  Bake in preheated oven about 45 minutes, until completely soft. Allow to cool.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet.  Add the onion, garlic and pepper, and sauté for about 5 minutes, until softened. Add the tomatoes and olives, and heat through.  Remove from heat.

Scrape the flesh of the cooled eggplant in a large bowl, and mash with a fork or potato masher (or pulse in the bowl of a food processor, just enough to break it up without puréeing).  Add the cooked onion mixture, along with the vinegar, salt and pepper.  Adjust seasonings. Store covered in the refrigerator, but eat at room temperature.  This tastes better the second day, as flavors meld. Makes about 2 cups.

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