Grilled Eggplant Salad

Course : Dips
Serves: 4
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3 cups plain yogurt
3 large globe eggplants - 2 1/2 to 3 lbs total wt
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon salt -- plus to taste
1/3 cup olive oil
2/3 cup finely-chopped walnuts -- (optional)
1 dash ground cayenne (or minced fresh jalapeno chili pepper)
1 dash freshly-ground black pepper -- to taste
1 dash chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley -- for garnish

Preparation / Directions:

Line a large sieve with cheesecloth (muslin), place it over a bowl, and spoon the yogurt into the sieve. Refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours to drain off the excess water. You should have 1 to 1 1/2 cups (8 to 12 ounces) drained yogurt. Preheat a broiler (griller) or prepare a fire in a charcoal grill. Using a fork, pierce the skin on either side of each eggplant. Place on a broiler pan or grill rack and broil or grill, turning as needed, until blistered, charred and soft throughout when pierced with a knife, about 20 minutes. (If the eggplants are darkening quickly and are not softening, finish in an oven preheated to 400Fs.) Set aside to cool. When the eggplants are cool enough to handle, cut them in half and scoop out the pulp, discarding as many seeds as possible. For a smooth puree, place the pulp in a food processor fitted with the metal blade and puree until free of lumps. For a chunkier puree, chop with a knife on a cutting board. Transfer the puree to a serving bowl. Add the lemon juice and mix well. In a mortar, combine the garlic with the 1 teaspoon salt and mash with a pestle until pureed. Add the puree to the eggplant along with the olive oil and, if using, the walnuts and the cayenne or jalapeno. Mix well and season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with parsley and serve. Comments: Although technically termed a salad, this puree is often served as a spread alongside tomato wedges, olives, and bread. If you prefer a smoky flavor, grill or broil the eggplants; for a milder taste, roast them in a 400F oven, or cook them on a stove-top griddle. Recipe Source: TAVERNA: THE BEST OF CASUAL MEDITERRANEAN COOKING by Joyce Goldstein

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