Ina Garten’s appetizers are, like all of her recipes, lovely and luscious, but while making this I kept remembering how often Ina speaks about simple, store-bought appetizers like
and so on. The show sometimes drives along with Ina into town to pick up the ready-to-go food and I have to admit I’m always jealous of the shops she has available. Her point is often that if you have too many nibbles with your apertif or sparkler, you’re full. Not only that, who wants to spend not only the whole day getting ready for company, but making yet another recipe? I not only agree with her, I follow those rules for entertaining and make things easy on myself. I’ll also admit I adore potato chips and champagne.
In fact, I looked back at the Food Network site and even found a little video of Ina waxing poetic about three silver bowls filled with purchased goodies for Thanksgiving: nuts, chips, and caper berries.
Just to get my head on straight (quite a feat), I went to the master book index (all of Ina’s cookbook recipes indexed in one spot) on barefootcontessa.com and discovered that, at least in the cookbooks, there still are quite a few “made” appetizers, starters, or hors d’oeuvres –whichever is your favorite term. The majority contain protein of some sort–chicken, salmon, cheese, or lamb. While I’m an omnivore and definitely a carnivore, I rarely choose meat (good pun, huh?) to go along with a cocktail, mixed drink, or first glass of wine. I save my protein calories for main courses and usually am happy to have vegetables early on. So when I came across this gorgeous eggplant mash, I jumped on it. I thought it would go with a variety of drinks, would be healthy, inexpensive, beautiful, fun, and definitely in season. Hungry guests could scoop up the eggplant spread with a piece of grilled pita; slimming friends could use a celery stalk or a big slice of carrot.
There wasn’t much to making it. Peel and slice the eggplant, red peppers, onions, and garlic. Mix them up with some olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast for 45 minutes. No problem to cut the olive oil a little to trim fat calories. As Ina would say, “How easy is that?”
Dave and I both tasted the just-roasted eggplant mixture and decided we loved it just like that and would serve it another day with rice or a chop sometime. The recipe, however, called, and I threw the roasted vegetables into the food processor with some tomato paste borrowed from my next-door neighbor.. ((What would we do without neighbors?)
The day was so pretty I took the work bowl outdoors to photograph it in front of my Russian Sage–which is each year but this one typically full of bees. Only one or two right now. Very sad.
And the finished dish…..
So what did we think? I have to say we loved it. I doubled the recipe as I had neighbors coming over for a glass of wine on the deck, but I think I would always double it. Extras could be used for omelets, stirred into hot pasta, or spooned on top of rice or beans. One thought: if you like things spicy, you might add a sprinkle of crushed red pepper. I like things mildly spicy–I want to taste the food first– and just added a bit — not much– more black pepper as I thought it fit so well with the eggplant. Try this:
roasted eggplant spread
Makes: 6 to 8 servings
- 1 medium eggplant
- 2 red bell peppers, seeded
- 1 red onion, peeled
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 tablespoons good olive oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Cut the eggplant, bell pepper, and onion into 1-inch cubes. Toss them in a large bowl with the garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread them on a baking sheet. Roast for 45 minutes, until the vegetables are lightly browned and soft, tossing once during cooking.
Place the vegetables in a food processor fitted with a steel blade, add the tomato paste, and pulse 3 or 4 times to blend. Taste for salt and pepper
Readmore at the food network site.
(As this recipe is available online, I thought is all right to share it here as well.)
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Sing a new song; cook a new appetizer!