Eggplant Caviar
About six servings
If you don’t have a gas or outdoor grill, you can make this by just oven-roasting the eggplant for a longer period of time, until they’re completely soft and wilted. Another nice addition is to sprinkle to top with tangy sumac, which I had leftover from when I made fried beans with feta.
3 small or 2 medium eggplants
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus additional for preparing the pan
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic or shallot, peeled and minced (or both)
1/2 teaspoon smoked or sea salt
1/8 teaspoon chili pepper powder
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, parsley, cilantro, or basil
1. Brush a baking sheet with olive oil and sprinkle it with a bit of salt. Preheat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC).
2. Poke each eggplant a few times with a sharp knife and rest them over a gas flame on the stovetop, or a grill, turning them infrequently with tongs, until they’re charred on the outside and feel soft and wilted. Depending on how smoky you want them, roast them for five to ten minutes.
3. When cool enough to handle, cut the eggplants in half lengthwise, and place them cut side down on the oiled baking sheet.
4. Bake the eggplants until the flesh is thoroughly cooked, which should take about twenty minutes, but may vary.
5. Remove the eggplants from oven and once cool enough to handle, scrape the pulp from the skins into the bowl of a food processor. (You can also scrape them into a bowl, and mash them by hand with a fork.)
6. Add the tablespoon of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic or shallot (I like both), salt, and chili pepper powder.
7. Pulse the food processor a few times, until the mixture is almost smooth. Add the herbs and pulse a few more times.
Taste, and add additional salt, lemon, or other seasonings, as desired.
To serve, spoon into a bowl and make a well in the center. Pour a bit of olive oil in the middle and sprinkle with chili powder, sumac, or some chopped fresh herbs. Crisp toasts, crackers, or pita triangles are good accompaniments.

Storage: Eggplant caviar can be kept refrigerated for up to five days.