I am desperate. It’s spring. I want to grill. It’s time. I HAVE TO GRILL.
We had a warm snap before Easter – temperatures in the 60’s! Whoo hoo! And…I had something going on every night this week, where dinner was “quick, sandwiches everyone, we’ve got to get going.”
By Saturday, I was itching to fire up the grill. I woke up to a light dusting of snow on the ground, and 15°F with a strong, driving wind. OK, whatever. I don’t care. I’m grilling tonight, no matter what.
I needed a taste of summer. Like a roasted eggplant, red pepper, and garlic relish, inspired by Serbian ajvar 1. I skipped the traditional long simmered recipe and pulsed the roasted vegetables in my food processor to make a chunky relish. It was exactly what I needed – a reminder that winter eventually has to let go, and there will be sunny days where eggplant and peppers are in season.
Recipe: Grilled Red Pepper, Eggplant, and Garlic Relish
Grilled Red Pepper, Eggplant, and Garlic Relish
- Grill (I love my Weber Kettle)
- Food processor
- 1 large eggplant
- 2 red bell peppers
- 1 jalapeno pepper (optional)
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled
- 2 tablespoons Sunflower oil (or vegetable oil)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (plus more if needed)
1. Fire roast the peppers, eggplant, and garlic
Set the grill up for high heat, and put the peppers and eggplant directly over the fire. Skewer the garlic on a toothpick and set it near the hot fire, but not directly over the flames. Cook, giving the peppers and eggplant a quarter turn every five minutes or so. The garlic is done when it is browned on both sides and a little soft, about ten minutes. The peppers are done when they are completely blackened; the eggplant is done when it is blackened and deflated. The jalapeño will take about ten minutes; the bell peppers and eggplant will take about twenty minutes. Don’t worry about burning the peppers or eggplant – they should be as blackened as possible. 2Go for more blackened skin than you see in the pictures – I could have let them go a lot longer. As the vegetables finish cooking, move them into a large bowl, cover, and let them steam for about ten minutes to loosen the blackened skin.
2. Peel and stem the vegetables, then make the relish
Pull the garlic cloves from the toothpick, drop them in a running food processor, and let it run until the garlic is completely minced. Turn off the processor. Peel the blackened skin from the peppers, then tear the stem end off and scrape out the seeds on the inside. Put the pepper flesh into the food processor. Cut the stem from eggplant, peel away the blackened skin, and cut the eggplant flesh into rough chunks. Put the eggplant chunks in the food processor. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt, pour in the sunflower oil, and pulse the food processor with one second pulses until the peppers and eggplant are minced – you want the consistency of a relish, and not a smooth paste – which should take about ten one second pulses, scraping down the sides of the food processor as necessary. Taste the relish and add more salt if needed (I needed an extra quarter teaspoon of kosher salt.)
- This is a great side dish if you are cooking over indirect heat. In the pictures, my main course is out of the frame, on the indirect side of the grill, while the peppers and eggplant cook over direct heat. The only trick is keeping the lid closed as much as possible while cooking with indirect heat – every time you dump the heat out, the grill has to reheat before the main course starts cooking again.
- When you’re peeling, it’s OK if some of the blackened skin and seeds stick to the peppers. Clean them as much as possible, but don’t sweat it if there are some last bits that you can’t quite get. A little blackened skin adds character to the dip. The eggplant skin has to go, though; it is tough and chewy, and doesn’t break down much in the food processor.
- No food processor? No worries. Mince everything fine and stir it together, saving as much of the juices as possible and adding them to the bowl.
What do you think?
Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.
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