When someone asks me what my favorite kind of food is, I tell them "Mediterranean." Sometimes this results in a blank stare because an answer such as "Italian", "Chinese", or even "pizza" was expected. I'll admit that it is sort of cheating to pick Mediterranean cuisine as my favorite, since it doesn't limit itself to just one country, but when I think about the types of foods that I like to eat, they are all common denominators in the diets of the people who live in the Mediterranean region. So, that being said, I believe that my response is now justified!
An added bonus is that the Mediterranean diet is said to be one of the healthiest. It is rich in fruits and vegetables, fish, whole grains, olive oil and, of course, red wine. Two vegetables that you see quite often in this cuisine are eggplant and red bell peppers. Eggplant was one of those foods that I just assumed I didn't like, probably due to its funny appearance and name, until I tried it. Now I'll eat it pureed in soups, grilled on sandwiches, and roasted for dips. One of my favorite ways to serve up these two veggies is in my Mediterranean Roasted Eggplant Dip. This dip is incredibly healthy and low calorie, so you can pretty much eat as much as you want without feeling guilty (that is, as long as you don't eat a whole bag of pita chips with it). I like to serve it with carrot sticks, pita chips, hummus, and sometimes even a Greek Salad to make a full-on Mediterranean feast. It keeps well in the refrigerator, so you can make a big batch, and it always goes over well at parties or get togethers. It is such a nice change to the standard creamy dips that every serves and it is so much nicer on the waistline! Here are some recipe tips:
- It is not necessary to peel the eggplants for this recipe--the choice is completely up to you. It will make the final color slightly darker, but the taste will be the same. Wash the eggplant well before cutting.
- The amount of tomato paste that you add depends on your personal taste. Add more if you want a dip that is redder in color with a deeper tomato flavor. Be careful however, as tomato paste is highly concentrated and if you add too much your dip could end up tasting like ketchup! In a pinch, when I don't have any tomato paste in my pantry, I have added a little bit of pasta sauce or a tablespoon of ketchup as a substitute.
- When roasting the vegetables, it is important to make sure that they are coated evenly with the olive oil so that they don't dry out. Be sure to toss them well, so that they roast evenly. When I take them out of the oven, I immediately cover them with foil in order to steam them and keep them moist.
Makes about 3 cups
1 large eggplant, peeled
2 red bell peppers, seeded
1 large red onion, peeled
2 large garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1-2 tablespoons tomato paste
Preheat the oven to 400F degrees. Cut the eggplant, red pepper, and onion into 1 inch cubes. Toss the vegetables in a large roasting pan with the garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast for 45 minutes, until the vegetables are lightly browned and soft, tossing once during cooking. Cool slightly.
Place the vegetables in a food processor fitted with a steel blade; add the tomato paste, and pulse several times to blend to your desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste.