Eggplants are ripening in gardens everywhere these days, which prompted the idea for this hot and tangy salad. A friend who tasted it said it reminded her of a chutney, and the ground pomegranate is Indian, so the label fits. But it was inspired even more by an eggplant salad I had tasted during a meze on the isle of Rhodes, so it also has an eastern Mediterranean connection as well.
The point is, it’s meant to be served cool, which is welcome given our recent heat.
1 dried chile
3 medium eggplants, peeled and diced
4 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground pomegranate (also known as anardana) or 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses (see note)
Salt, to taste
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish
1 tablespoon pomegranate balsamic vinegar or any fruity vinegar
Mint, for garnish
Bring about 3 cups of water in a saucepan to a boil. Remove 1/2 cup and soak the chile in it.
Place the eggplant in the remaining water and bring back to a boil. Drain and return the eggplant to the saucepan.
Remove the rehydrated pepper and reserve the water. Place the pepper in a mortar along with the garlic, paprika, cinnamon and ground pomegranate. Use the pestle and grind into a paste, adding the reserved water.
Pour the pepper mixture into the saucepan with the eggplant and 1/4 cup olive oil. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat and let simmer for 15 minutes or until the eggplant is cooked. Remove from heat and stir in the vinegar.
Place in a food processor and pulse a few times so that the eggplant breaks down but is not too creamy. Transfer to a serving dish and let it come to room temperature or refrigerate until cold, removing 20 minutes before serving. Just before serving, drizzle a little more olive oil on top and sprinkle with chopped mint. Serve with pita, crackers or crudités.
Note: Ground pomegranate, or anardana, can be found at Indian markets. Pomegranate molasses can be found at specialty supermarkets or Middle Eastern groceries.
Makes 6 to 8 appetizer servings.
From John Griffin