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Smoked Eggplant and Goat Cheese Dip

Posted Apr 03 2013 7:18am

Every once and awhile I enjoy remixing recipes that have previously appeared on the blog, like my Eggplant and Goat Cheese Dip .  I originally posted it here back in August of 2010 to celebrate five months of living in Chicago.  Since this month I celebrated my third anniversary of living in Chicago it seemed fitting to make it again.

The original dip – a sumptuous blend of roasted eggplant, goat cheese, and olive oil, among other ingredients – was already a favorite for me and a pretty good copycat of a restaurant dish I’d had while living in Boston.  But I’m not one to make the same recipe twice.  I always love to tweak a little something, no matter how small, to keep things interesting.  This time I knew there were a few changes I could make to switch up the flavor profile.

The first thing I did was swap out the garlic and onion powder for the real deal.  As convenient and concentrated as powders are, nothing beats fresh for flavor in my book.  I roasted my garlic in the oven with the eggplant to mellow the flavor somewhat and bring a nice sweetness to the dish.  You’ll end up with more roasted garlic than you need for this recipe, but to me it’s a problem worth having as I always find other ways of using it.   The onion was lightly sauteed in a pan with cooking spray so reduce that sharp flavor that comes with raw onions.

But the biggest change, and the one I am most excited about, is the addition of smoke.  I’m sure it’s my cold weather fatigue because all I can think about these days is grilling and smoking.  I can’t wait for the weather to warm up and to start cooking outside!  Heck, I’m even thinking of finally pulling the trigger on buying a Big Green Egg for the back deck.  But until then, I’m satisfying the craving by playing with my stovetop smoker.

After roasting and peeling my eggplants I popped them in my stovetop smoker with some cherry wood chips to infuse a little extra flavor.  I think this methodology would work well with a standard smoker as well, you’ll just want to tinker with the amount of wood chips and smoke time based on your manufacturers’ instructions.  (If you don’t have a stovetop smoker, you could try adding liquid smoke to taste or smoked paprika to taste in place of the cayenne.)

And I have to admit when it comes to the end result, I’m VERY smitten.  I loved how the smoke added a new dimension of flavor to the dip and seemed to accentuate the other flavors.  You end up with a very creamy, smokey and lightly sweet dip that’s irresistible and a great substitute for hummus and bean dips.

Like the original, I served this with sliced veggies and pita chips but it would also be great with hunks of crusty bread or as a sandwich spread in place of mayo.

Smoked Eggplant and Goat Cheese Dip
Yields 1 cup

Ingredients:

-Cooking spray
-3/4 pound small eggplant such as Fairy Tale or Sicilian (also known as Graffiti or Zebra eggplant)
-1 head of garlic
-1/4 cup chopped onion
-1 tablespoon olive oil
-2 ounces chevre (I like Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery and Chavrie )
-1/2 teaspoon onion powder
-1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne
-Pita chips or vegetables for dipping

Method:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with tinfoil and spray with cooking spray. Prick eggplant all over with a fork and place on the baking sheet. Wrap the head of garlic in a separate piece of tinfoil and place both in the oven. Bake until eggplant is tender and garlic is caramelized and soft. Let the eggplant cool until it is easy to handle and peel off the skin.While eggplant and garlic are roasting, spray a skillet with cooking spray. Heat pan over medium low heat, add onion and saute until translucent. Set aside.

Transfer to your stovetop smoker and smoke according to manufacturer’s directions. (I used 1 tablespoon Cherry wood chips and smoked over medium-low heat for 10 minutes using my Cameron Stovetop Smoker .)

Transfer the eggplant, onion and 2 cloves of the roasted garlic (or more to taste) to a food processor. Puree until relatively smooth. Add remaining ingredients to the food processor and process until well combined and smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve at room temperature with your choice of dippers.

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