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Smoky Eggplant and Almond Puree

Smoked Eggplant and Almond Spread

For some reason, I keep coming back to the eggplant. I don’t know if it’s the deep purple skin or the thick, meaty flesh. For so long I avoided it because of its unusual consistency and now it is magnetic for me. How did I go so long without realizing the versatility of the eggplant? Life’s very deep questions, I know. And yet…

I saw variations of this recipe in a few different places (Ana Sortun has a good one and Michael Symon has another one) but, I thought I’d give it a shot and add my own twist to it and hope that inspiration will dance with the daring. It turned out perfectly. It has a rich, dark and nutty flavor, which is also refreshingly reminiscent of its Mediterranean roots when combined with the tart, cool Greek yogurt. The smoked paprika adds a touch of heat and a deeper color to the eggplant, which makes it quite stunning on a platter. The eggplant in this recipe is not actually smoked–it is broiled– but the ingredients combine to give it the smoky flavor.

I served this as an appetizer for the quinoa soup and it quietly threatened to steal all the flavor. Luckily, the soup held its own the second day. Adding this as an appetizer elevated this meal to a whole new plane.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large eggplant cut in half
  • 1/4 cup raw whole almonds
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil for garnish
  • 1/2 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 pinch pepper
  • 1 pinch dill

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 400F. Place the halved eggplant flesh-side down on a baking sheet and insert on a high rack in the preheated oven. Wrap the garlic cloves in tin foil and place them on a lower rack. Leave to broil/bake for about 20 minutes.

Remove from the oven and once cool, use a fork and spoon to dig out the flesh of the eggplant. Combine the eggplant flesh and the garlic in a food processor along with the almonds, lemon juice, salt, pepper, smoked paprika, a pinch of dill and yogurt.

Scoop mixture onto a plate or bowl. Add more seasoning as needed. Garnish with dill or almonds and streaks of oil by creating a channel with a fork and then drizzling the oil from a spoon.

Serve room temperature or cold with pita bread.

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