The chill of autumn has yet to descend on Austin so I’m still frequently grilling. This recipe was born from a recent obsession of cooking directly over hot coals. Roasting over embers causes eggplant’s exterior to char while the interior becomes smoky, soft and creamy. In addition to eggplant, foods that have an exterior skin or multiple layers like potatoes, onions, leeks and carrots make great candidates for this technique but even meat can be charred over fiery coals. Cooking with fire is a primal as it gets. There’s no sous vide machine, oven, stove or waffle iron. Just a man (or woman) and his (her) fire.
From the start my intent was to use Indian-flavors for this recipe, but the first attempts delivered subpar results. After the second iteration I counseled with fellow blogger, cooking instructor and master of Indian cookery, Shef. Her recommendation was simple: garam masala. I think of garam masala as the Indian equivalent of Chinese five-spice. Recipes include just a few to many spices, but the ingredient is universally available in grocery stores. The warming flavors of cinnamon, cumin and cardamom are a suitable accent to smokey eggplant. Pomegranate seeds add a punch of color and texture.
The smokey eggplant dip with garam masala can be made in advance and refrigerated but should be served warm or at room temperature for maximal flavor. As an appetizer it can be served with pita bread or crudité platter. Alternatively, for dinner it would be great as a side to kebobs and grilled veggies. Enjoy!
- 2 pounds eggplant (preferably two smaller rather than one large)
- 1 head garlic (4 cloves will be used for the recipe but the head will help prevent burning)
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil plus 2-3 teaspoons for roasting and garnish
- 3 Tablespoons tahini (sesame paste)
- 2 Tablespoons lemon juice (approximately one large lemon)
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ cup pomegranate seeds
- Light a fire using lump hardwood charcoal. Once the embers have ashed over, pour coals into a charcoal grill and rake them to create an even bed for roasting. Drizzle the garlic with 1 teaspoon olive oil and wrap in aluminum foil. Place the garlic and eggplant directly on the hot coals. Cook the eggplant for 45 minutes, rotating every 15 minutes.Turn the garlic over once during cooking. In a large bowl add the cooked eggplant and garlic and cover with foil until cooled.
- Using a spoon, scoop out the eggplant flesh and discard the skin. Strain and reserve the liquid that accumulates in the bowl. With exception of the pomegranate seeds, to a large bowl add all the ingredients including the strained liquid. Stir using a whisk or fork until the eggplant is smooth and without large chunks. Alternatively for an ultra-smooth dip, add the ingredients to a food processor and pulse until pureed. Transfer to a serving bowl and swirl the top using a spoon. Drizzle on a few teaspoons of olive oil and add the pomegranate seeds for garnish.