Serves: Makes 8 servings
- 1½ pounds Italian or Japanese eggplants
- 1 large red sweet pepper
- 1 poblano chile
- 2 plum (Roma type) tomatoes
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon finely minced fresh cilantro
- ¾ teaspoon cumin seed, toasted and crushed in a mortar or spice grinder
- 1½ to 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
- Kosher or sea salt
- Pita Crisps
- 4 pita breads, carefully halved horizontally
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher or sea salt
Procedures:How fortunate that eggplants, peppers, chiles, and tomatoes all mature at the same time, since they go so well together. For this spread, the vegetables are grilled—preferably over charcoal—until their skins blacken to impart a smoky note, then peeled and chopped to a near puree. Cilantro and toasted cumin give the spread a Moroccan accent. If you don’t want to make the pita crisps, serve the spread with a favorite cracker or triangles of warm pita.
- Prepare a moderate charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill to medium (375°F). Place the eggplants, sweet pepper, poblano chile, and tomatoes directly over the coals or gas flame. Cover the grill and cook, turning the vegetables occasionally, until the skins are blackened and the vegetables are soft, 10 to 15 minutes. Set aside to cool.
- Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise and scrape the flesh away from the skin with a spoon. Peel and core the sweet pepper and poblano chile and discard the seeds. Peel and core the tomatoes.
- Chop all the grilled vegetables together to a near puree. Transfer to a bowl. Stir in 3 tablespoons of the olive oil.
- Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small skillet over moderately low heat. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant and just beginning to color, about 1 minute.
- Add the garlic and oil in the skillet to the vegetables. Stir in the cilantro, cumin, and vinegar and season with salt. Set the spread aside for at least 1 hour to allow the flavors to blend, or cover and refrigerate for up to 8 hours, then bring to room temperature before serving.
- To make the pita crisps, preheat the oven to 400°F. Brush the pita halves on both sides with olive oil, then sprinkle on both sides with salt. Arrange on baking sheets and bake until crisp and golden, about 7 minutes, depending on the thickness. Watch carefully, as the pita burns easily. Cool completely on a rack.
- Break the cooled pita into smaller pieces. Accompany the eggplant spread with the pita.