The roasted red pepper and eggplant dip of my childhood: So pure, so rustic, so flavorful

I used this dip the other day in a panino and absolutely loved it! It is the perfect dish to make now, when summer is on its way out and lets fall take over, and when the local markets are starting to sell plenty of produce at a reasonable price. This roasted pepper and eggplant dip is one of my favorite foods ever, and it gets better the more you let it “marinate” in the fridge – this gives its ingredients enough time to infuse with each other’s flavor and to create a multifaceted harmony of various tastes and aromas.

This is a dish my mom and aunt used to make very often when I was growing up. They would prepare large batches, which they would can for the winter ahead. The canned dip would last us the entire winter: nutritious, flavorful and light, it would remind us of the beauty and warmth of seasons past. To us, this was both a flavorful and a functional dish: it satisfied a need, and told a story.

I was excited to find its main ingredients – eggplant and red bell peppers – on sale at the local grocery store, so I decided it was time for me to show you how to make this dip. For this recipe I needed 4 large eggplants and 5 large red bell peppers.

Start by fire-roasting the eggplants and the peppers. This may sound difficult, but I assure you it is not (I wrote more about roasting vegetables here and here). Wash the veggies and then roast them over a stove-top burner until they turn soft and their juices start running. I always put aluminum foil on the stove (leaving the burners uncovered, of course) to make the cleaning easier afterwards. When the veggies are roasted you can take them off the heat and let them cool down in a bowl. When they are cold you can remove their charred skin, quickly run them through cold water, and squeeze them to remove any excess water. Put both the eggplant and the peppers in a blender and blend them until the mixture is homogeneous.

This is how the process looks like from start to finish:

 

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For this dish you will also need 2×14.5 oz cans of fire roasted tomatoes, 1/3 cup vegetable oil, 1 medium onion, 1 bay leaf and salt and pepper to taste.

Dice the onion and put it in a pot with the vegetable oil. Sauté the onion for a few minutes until translucent. Add the eggplant and pepper mixture and bring to boil, then simmer on a low heat for about half an hour. Add the fire roasted tomatoes and simmer for another half an hour, or until most of the liquid is gone and the mixture has a thick consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste. When the dip is almost done you can also add the bay leaf for an extra layer of flavor.

This is how the process looks like from start to finish:

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This dip keeps well in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks, or even longer if you preserve it through canning. As I said earlier, the more time its ingredients spend infusing with each other’s flavor, the better it is for the overall flavor combination. The sweetness of the peppers is counterbalanced by the overall smokiness of the dish, while the tomatoes add assertiveness and make the dip complete. I think the smoky flavor of this dish is just amazing!

We usually serve this dip on fresh bread – the thicker the layer, the merrier the bite. This time I decided to experiment, so I used the dip in a panino. I cut some French bread in half lengthwise. I put one leaf of romaine lettuce on half of the bread, then added a layer of dip. I also used some bocconcini, which I sliced and placed on top of the dip. I finished off with another leaf of romaine lettuce and with the remaining half of French bread. I grilled the panino until golden-brown and served it with extra dip on the side.

I was pleased with how this panino turned out. The delicate bocconcini complemented my dip beautifully, while the romaine lettuce added some much-needed crunchiness. I will probably make this dip more often now that fall is upon us. Who knows, maybe I’ll ask my mom to help me with canning it! I’ll keep you posted 🙂


2 Comments

  • goodfoodmarsh

    August 31, 2014

    Oh wowzers! Thanks for sharing! This looks absolutely fantastic! I’ve been using eggplant SO much on my blog recently, but hadn’t thought of anything like this! Will definitely have to give it a try. Thanks 🙂

    Reply
  • mickyn

    August 31, 2014

    This is a recipe I highly recommend. It is a bit time-consuming, but the end result is so worth it!
    Thanks for stopping by 🙂

    Reply

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