While shopping for a class last week I over-purchased a bit on eggplant. My favorite eggplant vendor at the market doesn't keep a scale...and I wanted to be sure to have enough.... Anyway, I got home with a couple pounds too much. (I did manage to guess the zucchini weight on the nose...so I didn't feel too badly about the eggplant. Besides, too much eggplant was preferable to not enough.) Since I wanted to use the extra eggplant before it got old, I decided to roast it whole. I knew it would keep well that way and that I would be able to come up with several uses for it. Part of it went into a custard-based ricotta tart (fodder for a future post) and the rest became a delicious creamy eggplant and chickpea purée.
The recipe I am posting is loosely based on one I ran across on Marcus Samuelsson's site. His uses freshly cooked dried chickpeas. If you plan ahead, and want to take the time to cook chickpeas, I'm sure the results will be delicious. However, I happened to have a half can of chickpeas on hand—just the right amount for the eggplant that remained after I made my tart (a scant 1 cup). I made several other small changes, but the biggest difference in the recipes is that I incorporated some plain yogurt. The contrast of the white yogurt with the green-tinged taupe of the purée looks particularly nice (make a hollow in the mound of eggplant chickpea purée and spoon in some yogurt). But I love the tang that it adds too—I think eggplant, chickpeas, yogurt and cumin must be one of my favorite flavor combinations. If you prefer, you could just as easily fold the yogurt into the purée, giving a lighter—and slightly runnier—result.
My intention was that this purée be served as an appetizer dip. It would be perfect with crudités (cucumber, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, etc.), warm pita triangles or garlic-rubbed crostini...perhaps served alongside a bowl of marinated olives. But on Sunday I had it for dinner (with semolina toast and a cherry tomato salad). In general, this would not be enough dinner to satisfy my appetite. But on Sunday, I had been out for a late lunch with my extended family. I didn't expect to be hungry for dinner at all. But then—when dinner rolled around—I found myself wanting just a little something. The eggplant-chickpea purée was just what I needed...light, satisfying and full of flavor.
Roasted Eggplant & Chickpea Purée
2 globe eggplant (about 14 to 16 oz. each)
1 15-oz. can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 cloves of garlic, smashed to a purée with a pinch of salt
1 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 t. ground cumin (or more, to taste)
1/8 t. cayenne
1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
Plain yogurt (preferably whole milk)
Toasted pine nuts
paprika (smoked or sweet)
Prick each eggplant several times and place on a baking sheet. Roast in a 400° oven until collapsed and very tender to the tip of a knife—about 40 minutes to an hour. Cut the eggplant open and set in a colander set over a plate. Leave for 15 minutes to allow the excess juices—if any—to drain off.
When the eggplant has cooled, remove the peel from the eggplant flesh—you can do this by scraping the flesh out with a spoon, or simply by pulling the skins away from the flesh in long strips. You may use the eggplant right away, or refrigerate for a day or two before proceeding with the recipe.
Place the chickpeas in the food processor with the garlic and lemon juice and process, stopping to scrape the sides occasionally. Continue to process until very smooth.
Add the eggplant flesh (you should have 1 3/4 to 2 cups) to the bowl of the food processor along with the cumin and cayenne and a good pinch of salt. Process until very smooth and creamy (scraping occasionally). With the processor running, drizzle in the olive oil. Continue to process until the oil is fully incorporated (there shouldn't be a sheen of oil visible on the surface of the purée). Taste and correct the seasoning with salt, cayenne, cumin and lemon juice (this dish is very much "to taste").
To serve, mound the purée in a wide, shallow bowl. With the back of a spoon, make a hollow in the purée and spoon in some (well-stirred) yogurt. (Alternatively, fold yogurt to taste...1/4 cup?..into the purée.) Drizzle liberally with olive oil, sprinkle with paprika and scatter the pine nuts over all. Serve with crudités, warm pita or crostini.
Makes a generous 3 cups purée
(Recipe adapted from Marcus Samuelsson)
- If you have never roasted eggplant whole before, check out my post on Escalivada for pictures and a more detailed description of the process.
- If you cook chickpeas from dried, you will need 1 3/4 cups cooked. It is not necessary (in fact, not desirable) to rinse them if you have cooked them yourself. Simply drain them. You can use the cooking liquid to thin the purée if you like.
- The purée may be served chilled, but I think it is best at room temperature.
- The purée is delicious without the yogurt. I happen to prefer it with the yogurt, but it is fine without.