When in doubt I turn ingredients into a dip. I don’t know where I got this habit from, but somehow I developed it. I think it partially might have stemmed from my childhood love for artichoke dip. But who knows, whatever the reason is, I am now somewhat notorious for my dips. When I visit my parents and they have people over I make a dip platter, along with a cheese platter, of course. When I invite people over I do the same. You can’t even imagine the attachment I have with my Cuisinart food processor and my mini food processor, which I fondly refer to as C. Junior. These two gadgets make everything so simple, so effortless.
When I tell you I am attached, I really mean it. Practically, every time I cook, I use either the “Senior” or “Junior” version of my food processor. If I want to make a Pakistani dish quickly, then I throw in the garlic and ginger whiz it up and then throw in some tomatoes and within no time without all the chopping and slaving over the cutting board I have a delicious dish.
Believe me, I could go on and on about my food processors, but for the sake of the readers who might abandon me and deem me as off the wall, I will stop now. The reason I mention the food processor was this eggplant dip I made. You see, I had a vague idea in my mind as to what I wanted to make: eggplant with pomegranate molasses, and feta. But, in the initial stages I was not visualizing a dip. As I went along preparing the eggplant, the idea of a dip struck me. Call it predictable or whatever you want, but the truth is, it worked and worked quite well I might add. The smokiness of the spices, the creaminess of the feta, and the freshness of the herbs melded together to form one harmonious dip that was gobbled up by my husband and I in no time.
*I was inspired by this recipe, but I did not stay true to the recipe, I just used it as a jumping off point.
Serves 4-6, as an appetizer
2 medium-sized Sicilian eggplants, peeled and cut into a small dice (or any variety you prefer), about 3 cups diced
3 shallots. chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup pomegranate molasses
1 cup crumbled Middle Eastern Feta
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup chopped parsley
5-7 mint leaves chopped
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
salt and black pepper, to taste
for the spices:
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon dried pomegranate seeds, found in most Pakistani/Indian grocery stores
First, dry roast the spices in a dry pan on medium heat until you start to smell their aromas, 5-7 minutes. Cool them for a minute and then transfer to a spice mill or coffee grinder and pulse until they all combine into a uniform mixture. Set aside.
Heat a medium-sized sauté pan with a nice coating of olive oil on medium heat. When the oil comes to temperature, add the shallots and allow them to caramelize, about 5-7 minutes. Add in the garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes. Toss in the eggplant and pomegranate molasses and allow the eggplant to caramelize as well. Season with salt and pepper. After 5 minutes of cooking, add the spice mixture. Let the eggplant cook down further, until it is completely cooked through, about another 15-20 minutes.
Once the eggplant is cooked, allow it to cool for 15 minutes. Next, take out a food processor (if you don’t have one you can mash by hand) and add in the cooked eggplant, feta, lemon juice, parsley, mint, a good drizzle of olive oil and pulse until combined. Taste to see if any additional salt and pepper is required. Garnish with the fresh pomegranate seeds, toasted pine nuts, parsley, mint, and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve with toasted pita wedges or any bread of your choice. I like to serve this slightly warm or at room temperature, but it can be served chilled.
* I decided to make a similar dip with butternut squash and caramelized shallots and posted it on food52, do have a look here.