I made this dip recently out of both necessity and a need for something healthy to snack on. I had a Japanese eggplant in the fridge that I bought with the intention to make stir-fry as a quick weeknight dinner. Plans changed one night and by the time I revisited Mr. Eggplant, several days later, he was starting to look a little wrinkled and my taste for stir-fry had also dissipated.
I didn’t have tahini to make baba ghanouj and I was tired of hummus, so I decided to try something a little different. Roasting the eggplant and a few leftover baby carrots, then processing them with some spices (whole cumin seeds and smoked paprika included), harissa and light sour cream—one of my fridge staples—yielded a tasty, vegetarian-friendly dip.
If you’ve never tried it, harissa is a hot and garlicky red pepper condiment with origins from Libya and Tunisia. For this recipe, I used prepared Mina brand harissa that I had in my refrigerator; the “mild” variety was the only option in the store at the time, but they have a spicy variety that you might be able to find, too. There are plenty of recipes out there that outline how to make it, like this one from Epicurious, and look easy enough. Making your own allows you to tailor the heat level to make it spicier, if you so choose, by adding extra chiles—it’s something I’ll be trying at some point, but suffice to say today wasn’t the day.
Tasting like a cross between hummus and baba ghanouj, the dip ended up having a lovely reddish color from the smoked paprika, carrots, and harissa. As a bonus, it can easily be made vegan-friendly by omitting the sour cream—try it and let me know how it comes out.
Smoky Eggplant Dip
Great when warm or chilled, try cooking the eggplant on a grill instead of in the oven for an even smokier flavor.
Makes 1 1/2 cups.
1 Japanese eggplant
1 cup baby carrots
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup prepared harissa
2 teaspoons garlic
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 450* F.
Cut Japanese eggplant into four pieces (half lengthwise, then cut those halves in half.) Toss eggplant and carrots with a tablespoon or two of olive oil, salt, and pepper on a baking sheet.
Roast eggplant about 15 minutes. Add cumin seeds and continue roasting until eggplant and carrots are tender, another 5-10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool slightly.
In a food processor, combine garlic, sour cream, harissa, and spices. Add salt and pepper to taste. When cool enough to handle, add eggplant and carrots. Process until very smooth.
Serve warm or chilled as a dip with pita chips or fresh vegetables.