The small Japanese eggplants that thrive in Hawaii are always a great treat when we arrive on the Big Island. Smaller, without the bitterness I tend to find in larger eggplants, and perfect for grilling to develop a rich and smoky flavor. Though eggplant is traditionally coated in oil, which it inherently absorbs, I try to lightly brush just a touch on to help the vegetable cook without becoming overly soaked.
This tasty appetizer dip turned out to be incredible thanks to the addition of a touch of curry powder, graham masala and cinnamon. The Indian spices, along with the smoky, grilled eggplant, chickpeas, garlic, ginger and onion, and a touch of goat cheese made this “everything in the pantry” dip a great way to start an evening.
Pair with a dry Prosecco to enhance the fun. We opted for a lively, crisp and delicious sparkler from Adami.
Grilled Eggplant Spread
4 Japanese eggplants
1 small white onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon grated ginger
3/4 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon graham masala
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup chick peas, we used some from a can and rinsed and drained them well
2 ounces goat cheese
1/2 cup milk
oilve oil, about 2-3 tablespoons total (we if you don’t want to use water you can bump up the oil, but it makes it a little bit less healthy)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 – 1 teaspoon Sambol Oelek red pepper flakes (to your taste)
7 basil leaves, torn
1 tablespoon snipped chives
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
salt and pepper
Turn your grill on medium. Cut the eggplant in half and brush with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Season lightly with salt and pepper and place on the grill, cut side down, just off of the direct heat. Grill for about 7 minutes, until nice grill marks form. Turn over and grill on the other side for about 3-5 minutes until soft and to a point that you can easily scoop out the flesh of the eggplant.
Meanwhile, add 1 tablespoon oil to a small saute pan with the onion. Cook over medium low heat for about 3 minutes, until it starts to get soft. Then add the garlic, ginger, spices and sambol. Cook for 2 minutes, then toss in the chick peas and lemon juice with about 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Stirring often, cook until well combined, about 5 minutes. Pour mix into a food processor. Add the herbs. Scoop out the eggplant and add to the processor. Pulse once or twice to start to combine. Add 1/2 of the additional tablespoon of oil. Pulse. Add the goat cheese and milk. Pulse to combine until very smooth. If you need to add a touch more milk or water to ensure a smooth spread forms, do so until you like the consistency of the dip. Adjust any final seasonings and scoop into a dish. Drizzle with the last bit of olive oil. Serve either warm or chilled, with veggies and pita.