We avoid burning things in most of cooking. It produces acrid, bitter and unpleasant textures. Yet, for some things, under certain circumstances “burnt” is good, very good. Heating sugar to just the point of smoking makes for amazing caramel. Those leopard dark spots on Neapolitan pizza give it a wonderful taste and texture. I do think though in this preparation I am posting about now we are taking burnt to the extreme. It is not something I would’ve done had I not tasted this delicious dip at restaurant Zahav in Philadelphia and then found the recipe in chef Michael Solomonov’s book.
Step one, burn the hell out of the eggplant. Well, actually that is step two. Step one would be to season the skin-on eggplant slices with salt, let them sit for an hour or so then rinse and pat them dry very well. Now burn the eggplant. In a cast iron skillet I poured enough oil to have a 1/4 inch depth or so and cooked the eggplant in batches until it is -not golden brown and delicious- burnt. Deep dark black on both sides. This is the most time consuming part of the recipe. Due to the high water content of the vegetable (or I guess the fruit) it takes longer than you’d expect to burn.
The rest is very easy. In the same pan I used to fry the eggplant, I sauteed chopped onions and bell peppers in plenty of olive oil and seasoned with ground coriander. The eggplant gets mashed with the onion and pepper mixture and seasoned with a good dose of sherry vinegar. The flavor is bitter, sweet, tart (it needs the tartness). The texture is creamy, rough and crispy in places. I served it with warm flat bread and extra chopped parsley.