Peppers, tomatoes switch up eggplant spread

A nice bit of planning, I thought, to have polished off a batch of baba ghanoush made from last year’s frozen eggplant — just as this year’s fresh specimens were sizing up.

Then I let the garden’s first gloriously shiny, richly purple globe languish a bit too long in the refrigerator. Pocked and puckered, its color dulled by cold, this eggplant was good only for … baba ghanoush. Don’t get me wrong, I prefer the Mediterranean eggplant spread to hummus. But I thought I’d get at least one eggplant Parmesan under my belt before the roasting and freezing of extraneous eggplant flesh commenced.

With my taste for baba ghanoush so recently satisfied with my freezer stash eggplant, an alternative with this summer’s first fruit is in order. And this recipe, which makes such a sizable batch, also seems appropriate for freezing in preparation for the cold season, when sun-soaked, garden-fresh flavors are much harder to come by.

I’ll likely have to wait another month or so for enough garden peppers to ripen to ruddiness. In the meantime, I can hoard roasted eggplant flesh in the freezer and process enough garden tomatoes to round out the ingredients. Perish the thought of using canned produce amid the current bounty.

Tribune News Service photo

Pepper Spread

4 pounds red bell peppers, roasted and peeled (see note)

1 large eggplant, about 1 pound, roasted and peeled (see note)

6 to 10 small thin hot peppers, such as serranos, seeded and finely chopped

2 cups canned crushed tomatoes

1/2 cup olive oil, divided

6 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

1/2 cup finely chopped, fresh parsley

Salt, to taste

NOTE: To roast the red peppers, place on a foil-covered baking sheet in a 425-degree oven. Cook until charred and softened all over, for about 25 to 30 minutes. Place in a paper bag and close bag or wrap individually in plastic wrap (after first allowing to cool slightly for a few minutes). Let sit for 15 minutes. You should be able to pull off skins easily with your fingers. Remove stem and discard all seeds.

To roast the eggplant, place it on a grill or on a cooking element over a gas burner, turning frequently until charred and softened all over. Or, poke holes all over with a fork and broil it in oven about 8 inches from heat source. Turn frequently until softened all over.

Puree the hot peppers in a food processor, then add roasted bell peppers and eggplant and continue processing until smooth.

In a large pot, combine puree and the crushed tomatoes; bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring continuously, until thickened slightly, for about 10 to 15 minutes. Add 1/4 cup of the olive oil. Simmer, stirring frequently, until sauce thickens and cooks down, for about another hour.

Add remaining 1/4 cup olive oil, the garlic and parsley; season with the salt and continue to cook, stirring, until all liquid has cooked off, for 15 minutes or so. Let cool slightly and spoon into a large, clean glass jar. Let it cool in jar, cover tightly with lid and store in refrigerator. Pepper spread will keep indefinitely.

Makes about 6 cups.

Recipe from “The Glorious Foods of Greece,” by Diane Kochilas, tested by Tribune News Service.

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