Vegetables. There’s something so terrible about them when you’re young, and something fearfully boring about them when you’re older. But add the word “roasted” to any veggie, or to any food at all really, and your brain just perks up immediately. Roasted vegetables have a rustic sophistication that conjures thoughts of that warm smoky aroma with the velvety lusciousness and richness of the texture that sets them completely apart from their un-roasted counterparts. If I could eat all of my vegetables roasted, aside from perhaps leafy greens and cucumbers for a salad, I think life would be just wonderful. Let’s not gloss over the fact that roasting vegetables could be one of the easiest, healthiest, and most bang-for-your-buck ways of preparing vegetables. Add the phrase “roasted [vegetable of choice]” to any dinner menu and it instantly kicks up the classiness of the dish by a factor of 3, which suddenly makes roasted vegetables any dinner host or hostess’ new best friend.
My friend was having a birthday potluck a couple months ago, and I was thinking about what I could bring that would be quick and easy to put together for a group of 20 people yet still be unique and delicious. I had just read about an appetizer on Serious Eats (one of those websites that I must visit at least once a day to feel complete), which was called “eggplant caviar“. It intrigued me, and sounded so simple. “Caviar”, I thought, “now that sounds classy!” But… how exactly does one get eggplant to taste like caviar? I mean one is a mild flavored vegetable that is soft when cooked right, and one is… small flecks of saltiness. I read the recipe, and decided that it really didn’t sound like it would be in any way similar to caviar, but it did give me the idea to make a dip based on roasted eggplant. I could envision the seasoned smooth pulp of a roasted eggplant being just the right consistency for spreading on crackers and slices of French bread. But how to make it more indulgent? Well, with garlic of course. And since I have been singing the praises of roasted vegetables, it shouldn’t surprise you that I decided to pair the roasted eggplant with roasted garlic, oh the roasted garlic that makes me weak in the knees! The best part? The recipe is still easy as pie. No, easier than pie by a lot, and I will show you how to roast a head of garlic anytime, with no effort at all. Wait no, maybe the best part is that it’s dip made from roasted vegetables and so isn’t bad for you. Or maybe the best part is that the ingredients cost all of $3 to feed 20 people. Or that when you run of out bread and crackers to spread it on, you can just eat it straight up. Or, or, or…oh hell, just try it :)
Roasted Eggplant and Garlic Dip (serves 20)
Recipe adapted from Serious Eats
- 2 medium globe eggplants (approx 2 lbs total)
- 2 large heads of garlic, roasted (see below for how to roast garlic)
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
- red pepper flakes
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut the eggplants in half length-wise and rub the flesh with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
2. Place the eggplant halves with the cut side down in a large baking pan, and bake, together with the garlic (see below for preparation) for approx 45 minutes until the flesh is very soft. A knife should slip easily into the tough stem of the eggplant when they are ready.
3. Remove from oven and allow to cool until it can be handled. Spoon out the flesh from the eggplant halves, and place in a large bowl. Using a fork, stir and mash the eggplant flesh until it is a smooth puree.
4. Mash the roasted garlic on the side, and combine with mashed eggplant.
5. Stir in 2 tbsp of olive oil, and season as desired with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. For a richer taste and texture, you can add more olive oil as needed.
6. Garnish with basil and serve with freshly sliced French bread or crackers. Can be enjoyed warm, at room temperature, or chilled.
How to Roast a Head of Garlic
What you need:
- 1 large head of regular garlic (not the elephant kind)
- olive oil
- aluminum foil
- Optional: muffin pan, if roasting multiple heads of garlic
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Peel away most of the dry layers from the outside of the head of garlic.
2. Chop off the top of the garlic, such that you expose the flesh of the cloves. You may miss some of the shorter cloves, so you can break their tops open with your fingers.
3. Wrap garlic with aluminum foil, leaving the ends to meet at the top. Drizzle the top of the garlic generously with olive oil (approx 1 1/2 tbsp per head of garlic).
4. Seal the aluminum foil at the top and place in a slot of a muffin pan if using one. Otherwise, just place the wrapped garlic with the opening facing up (of course) into the oven. Bake for about 45 minutes to 1 hour. The garlic will look nicely caramelized and smell amazing.
5. Remove and cool slightly before peeling at the garlic and using a small fork to pick out the garlic cloves. The cloves should be soft and have a nice golden-brown color on the outside. You can mash them or use them whole in cooking as desired. So easy!