The recipe calls for two large eggplants, but several of the smaller varieties are a fine substitute.
Cut eggplants into one-inch slices. Sprinkle salt on both sides of eggplant slices. Arrange slices on a rack and place a heavy plate on top. Put the rack in a large pan and place in the refrigerator to drain for about 2 hours before proceeding with the recipe. (Removing excess water from the eggplant is a key step in making this dish a success.)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brush both sides of eggplant slices with a little of the olive oil. Place slices in a baking dish and bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Coat a sauté pan with olive oil. Add minced onion and sauté over medium heat, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes or until onion is translucent and very soft. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Remove from heat and set aside.
Chop cooled eggplant in a blender or food processor with the remaining olive oil until mixture becomes a somewhat smooth paste. Place eggplant purée in a bowl and fold in sautéed onion and garlic. Stir in red onion, bell pepper, and cilantro. Season with lemon juice, salt, and black pepper. Cover and refrigerate.
Serve with French bread or pita chips, or use as a condiment on chicken or fish.
Makes 4-5 cups
Recipe compliments of Chef Ryan Hughes, Café Degas
Market Umbrella is an independent nonprofit 501(c)(3), based in New Orleans, whose mission is to cultivate the field of public markets for public good. Market Umbrella has operated the Crescent City Farmers Markets (CCFM) since 1995.
The Crescent City Farmers Market operates weekly year-round in four New Orleans neighborhoods. The CCFM hosts nearly 80 local small farmers, fishers and food producers, and more than 100,000 shoppers annually.