Eggplant appetizers always have a lot in common. Whether it’s babaganoush, Greek meze, eggplant caviar, whatever, there’s likely to be garlic. So what? There are no fools. Every cuisine in the world knows that eggplant and garlic are a win-win combination. And you know another win-win combination? Roasted eggplant and cilantro.
I know that there are people who are extremely negative about cilantro. You and I don’t understand each other, but since the conversation has led here, you can replace cilantro with parsley, or better yet, garlic greens.
Often, the eggplant is paired with red peppers. This is a product that I used to not tolerate at all, but now I just don’t like it in its fresh form. At some point, I started to eat them, in small portions, in baked form, just with eggplant. And over time, the dislike (and it was very strong, down to things you don’t talk about before you eat it) pretty much wore off. Eventually I came from a complete denial of sweet peppers as a product, to “like them in baked form, can eat them, but no pleasure in fresh.”
My point is this. Our food aversions, it’s about how the brain works. I’m not talking about allergies or food intolerances. I’m talking about aversion to certain foods on a psychological level. Someone may have been force-fed some product as a child, and even not deliciously cooked. Someone else may have been poisoned by a dish that included that product. And so on.
In most cases, it’s about the negative experience associated with one product or another. And it is scientifically proven that this negative experience can be rewritten, and even if not to love it, but to remove disgust. This can be done in two ways.
The first one is not very humane, but it works faster – you just start eating this product through “can’t” and “don’t want to. Fresh, cooked, as a separate dish, as part of other dishes, and so on. They say you have to eat a certain product 20-25 times to move it from the category of “unpalatable” to the category of “okay.” I didn’t come up with this myself, I got it from some book, maybe it was in Bob Holmes’ book “Flavor“, but it’s not certain. It also said that some famous chef was torturing chefs this way. Makes them eat things they don’t like until they’re neutral. Otherwise, how can you cook something for others if you wouldn’t eat it yourself?
The second way is my personal adaptation of the first, based on personal experience. I suggest eating foods that you don’t like as part of other dishes, preferably some new ones that you haven’t tried before. And also cooked in the least annoying way possible.
For example: you don’t like brocolli, well, boiled brocolli is a disgusting thing, but baked brocolli – I think you can eat them. That’s what you should eat. Or maybe let it be a soup puree, where the taste of broccoli will be hidden behind other ingredients, and the florets themselves will not be a pain in the eye?
Why do you need all this? Well at least you can greatly diversify your diet and begin to enjoy food on a new, previously inaccessible level. And it’s also an interesting experiment. It’s worth doing at least once to experience how much the taste and sensation of food depends on what we think inside and how our brain interprets food.
We’ve gone far enough, let’s go straight to the eggplant meze recipe, shall we?
- 2-3 eggplants (2 large or 3 medium)
- 1 red pepper
- 3 garlic cloves
- 30 ml (2 tbsp) extra virgin olive oil
- 3 sprigs of coriander
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- freshly ground black pepper
Step by Step Directions
Preheat the oven to 240 °C / 465 °F
Pierce the eggplants in several places with a wooden skewer so that the air has a place to escape and they don’t burst. Place the eggplants and peppers in a baking dish and place in the oven. Bake for 20 minutes.
While the eggplants are in the oven, make the dressing.
Peel 3 cloves of garlic (my garlic is very small, so I took 5) and grate it on a fine grater in a small bowl.
Finely chop the cilantro and add to the garlic.
Add 1/2 tsp. salt and 30 ml. extra virgin olive oil. Stir and set aside.
After 20 minutes, take the mold out of the oven, flip the eggplants and peppers to the other side, and put them in the oven for another 10-15 minutes.
After 15 minutes, remove from the oven and let cool. You can put the vegetables in a bowl and cover with a lid or cling film, so it will be easier to separate the skins. But for me the skins are fine, I do not do it.
When the eggplants have cooled to a temperature where they can safely be handled – remove the skin from the eggplants and peppers (peppers are also separated from the seeds), and put them in a mixing bowl.
Crush the eggplant and peppers with a fork. Pour in the dressing and mix well. Pepper with freshly ground black pepper, taste and add salt to taste if needed.
Serve as an appetizer to other dishes or with bread, pita (have you tried making simple yeast-free pita bread in a pan yet?)
Greek meze of baked eggplant and red bell peppers
- 2-3 eggplant (2 large or 3 medium)
- 1 red bell pepper
- 3 cloves garlic
- 3 sprigs cilantro
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 240 °C / 465 °F.Pierce the eggplants with a wooden skewer. Place the eggplants and peppers in a baking dish and place in the oven. Bake for 20 minutes.
- At this time:Peel the garlic and grate it into a small bowl. Finely chop the cilantro and add to the garlic. Add 1/2 tsp salt and 30 ml extra virgin olive oil. Stir and set aside.
- After 20 minutes, take the mold out of the oven, flip the eggplants and peppers to the other side, and place in the oven for another 10-15 minutes. Leave to cool.
- Remove the skin from the eggplant and peppers (also separate the peppers from the seeds), and put them in a mixing bowl. Mash with a fork until smooth. Pour dressing and mix well. Pepper with freshly ground black pepper, taste and add salt to taste, if necessary.