Baklazhannaia Ikra, the "Poor Man's Caviar"

Ingredients

  •    1 large eggplant
  •    1 large bell pepper
  •    3 medium sized tomatoes
  •    3-4 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
  •    2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  •    2 tablespoons CretaVita olive oil (or any other good quality olive oil )
  •    2 parsley stems, chopped finely
  •    1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  •    100 ml (less than 3.50 oz) dry white wine
  •    salt and pepper to taste

It may be hard to pronounce, but Baklazhannaia Ikra is a classic dish in Russia. It's a sweet and smoky eggplant spread that's best when smeared on bread. This recipe, from author of "Garden Super Hero Tales" Mihaela Lica Butler, is a slightly-less fattening version of the original Russian classic recipe, and takes less time to prepare as well!

Directions

Preheat the oven at 220°C (425°F).

Wash the veggies (eggplant, bell pepper and tomatoes), and place directly on the oven rack to "grill" for about 1 hour. Place an iron baking tray, lined with parchment paper under the rack, to collect the juices (it avoids messing up your oven).  Check the veggies every 25 minutes, and turn them, to allow the skin to char evenly.

About 10 minutes before the 1 hour needed for your vegetables to char has passed,  heat olive oil into a non-stick deep frying pan, then add shallots and parsley stems, and sauté for 5 minutes over medium heat. Pour 100 ml dry white wine (or water) into the pan, before adding the garlic. Stir often, to avoid burning. Add the garlic, and cook for about 3 more minutes, stirring frequently.  Remove from heat.

Remove the eggplant, tomato and bell pepper from the oven, and allow to cool off for about 10 minutes (you should be able to handle them without getting burned). Peel off their skins, then chop finely.

Return to your frying pan, and bring it back to a boiling point, before pouring the roasted tomatoes, eggplant and bell pepper. Cook for 7-10 more minutes, allowing the flavors to blend. Season with salt, pepper, and lemon juice, stir well, and let the dish cool off. If you like spicy foods, add a dash of Tabasco sauce, or a sprinkle of chili flakes.

To get a true Russian dish, make sure you prepare a centerpiece while you wait for your Baklazhannaia Ikra to cool off. The picture accompanying the recipe should inspire you. Make sure that the salad, and all other raw ingredients are dry before placing the bread or the crackers onto the plate.

You could also serve Baklazhannaia Ikra  simply, as a spread, directly onto bread, without wasting time on decorating. It tastes very nice hot, but it is best enjoyed cold.

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