My husband thinks salt is its own food group.
When we first started dating it was a minor clash of cultures for both of us; me growing up in a house where salt was rarely added to anything and him growing up where salt was a necessary and vital addition to everything. Last month he invented a new appetizer – an anchovy wrapped around an olive. I’m pretty sure he would have sprinkled it with sea salt flakes if I wasn’t watching... Olives and anchovies remain high on his list of favourite foods so when I introduced him to classic olive tapenade (essentially just olive and anchovy blended together) he was in heaven. One thing he doesn’t like is eggplant, which I adore, and despite me continually adding it to things and my fervent insistence that “there has to be a way to prepare it so that you like it!!” he hasn’t really warmed to it. Until now, friends. Until now. I give you the dish that represents both of us: Roasted Eggplant Olive Tapenade.
It has everything he wants in a dish, ie olives and anchovies, but the roasted eggplant adds both creaminess and a smokiness that perfectly complements the very intense flavour bomb that is tapenade. It mellows it in a way that people who aren’t mad on olives will appreciate but people who are olive crazy will still enjoy. I personally am not an anchovy fan (at all…) but when they’re blended up like this they don’t impart a strong anchovy taste, more of a subtle background note I really enjoy.
This dip is super easy to prepare. The most technical part is char-grilling the eggplant and there are two ways to go about it: you can either a) pierce the eggplant a few times with a fork and place directly over the flame on your cooktop, or b) halve the eggplant lengthways and place skin side up under a hot grill. Don’t be afraid of smoke and ash – you want the skin to be completely blackened and charred so that it peels of easily and imparts that wonderful smoky flavour through the flesh. I even like to leave a few little bits of charred skin on the flesh to give a real hit, but that is a matter of personal preference. Once you’ve done that it’s really just a matter of throwing everything into a food processor and letting it do the hard work for you. All you have to do is eat and enjoy.
Roasted Eggplant Olive Tapenade
(makes approx 2 cups)
2 eggplant (aubergine)
2 cups kalamata olives, pitted
1 tbsp capers
Juice of 1 lemon
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp olive oil
1) Turn cooktop flame onto high.
2) Pierce each eggplant a few times with a fork then pace directly onyo the flame. Rotate the eggplant every now and again so that the entire skin surface surface is blackened and charred. Set aside to cool slightly.
3) Scrape eggplant flesh (leaving most of the charred skin behind) into a food processor and blend until smooth.
4) Add remaining ingredients and process until well combined, processing less for a chunkier dip and more for a smooth dip.
5) Serve with crackers (like these mixed seed crackers) and/or vegetable sticks.
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