Photo: Mike Persico

Even the most opened-minded, adventurous eater has their culinary Achilles’ heel. Mine, until this weekend, was eggplant. I didn’t like the smell of it, didn’t like the texture of it, and would pick around it in a dish if I had to allow it onto my plate. I considered it the mushy, flavorless spawn of a zucchini and a kitchen sponge. But one recipe has made helped me enter the Aubergine Appreciation Society: twice-cooked eggplant dip.

The backstory to this recipe goes as follows: I wanted to like eggplant. It is pretty much the sole vegetable I don’t grow in my summertime backyard garden. It’s beautiful, possibly the only goth vegetable. I needed a recipe that would play up eggplant’s soft texture… maybe a dip?

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I turned with humility to Michael Solomonov, chef at Philadelphia’s celebrated modern Israeli restaurant Zahav. I begged him for an eggplant recipe that could convert even the staunchest of skeptics, and he shot back his twice-cooked eggplant dip: “Hope we change your mind on eggplant.” I hoped so, too.

I followed his instructions to the letter, salting the eggplant slices before cooking them so they’d drain of some of their liquid. As they blackened in my pan, the eggplant slices seemed almost to caramelize, becoming earthy and sweet and fragrant as I flipped them. Hope flickered inside me.

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Once the dip was done, I stepped back to consider it. It was brown and lumpy, not really winning any beauty contests. But, like all great dips, what it lacked in aesthetics it more than made up for in flavor. The eggplant was earthy but sweet, like cooked mushrooms. Parsley, lemon juice, and sherry vinegar provided brightness and tang. Coriander and sweet paprika imparted some warm, comforting spice.

Holy shit, guys, I like this eggplant. The crowd at my friend’s party liked this eggplant. And I bet you will, too.

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Have dip, will travel.
Photo: Kate Bernot

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Michael Solomonov’s Twice-Cooked Eggplant Dip

Makes 5 cups

  • 2 medium eggplants, cut into thick rounds
  • 2 Tbsp. kosher salt
  • About 6 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 Tbsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. sweet paprika
  • 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice

Sprinkle the eggplant slices with salt and let stand for 30 minutes on paper towels or a cookie rack.

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Fill the bottom of a large nonstick skillet with oil and set over medium-high heat. When the oil is shimmering but not smoking, and working in batches if necessary to avoid crowding, add the eggplant slices in a single layer. Cook until almost black on the first side, about 10 minutes. Turn and repeat on the other side, adding more oil as needed. Remove the cooked eggplant to a plate.

Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, the red pepper, onion, coriander, and paprika to the skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are very soft but not brown, about 12 minutes. Add the eggplant and vinegar to the pan, breaking up the eggplant and mashing it coarsely with a wooden spoon or potato masher until well combined. Cook until the vinegar has evaporated, about 8 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the parsley and lemon juice. Serve warm or at room temperature with toasted pita.

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