If you ever frequented The Green Eggplant restaurant in Toronto, either at Eglinton West or in The Beaches, you may have been served a complimentary appetizer including baba ganoush, hummus, and the delicious eggplant spread in a sweet and sour tomato base. The authentic eggplant spread, otherwise known as "Baklazhannaia Ikra" means "poor man’s caviar". It's roots are Russian or Ukrainian cuisine.
In her younger years, when my daughter visited from the 'Peg, this was one of her favourite places for us to enjoy lunch out together. We loved the eggplant appie.
I decided to try to create the eggplant spread from memory. This recipe is what I came up with, very close to the restaurant's. It's plant based healthy too! I didn't have a bell pepper on hand so I improvised with an organic salsa, no preservatives. It didn't alter the taste at all. So feel free to substitute.
I can't wait to share this recipe with my daughter. It's easy to whip together and just might spawn some wonderful memories of our times together at The Green Eggplant.
Eggplant Spread (Baklazhannaia Ikra)
Makes about 2 cups
1 eggplant, about 1 lb
1 roasted red or green bell pepper, optional
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large or two small garlic cloves
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika, either Spanish, Hungarian, or smoky
1⁄4 cup tomato paste, a little more ( about ¾ of a small can altogether)
1 tablespoon honey, or more to taste
1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed, or more to taste
1 tablespoon water, or more to loosen mixture but not watery
2 tablespoons salsa, optional
Himalayan sea salt, to taste (any salt may be used)
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
Cut eggplant lengthwise, 1.5 inches thick
Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and brush both sides with 1 tablespoon of olive oil
Sprinkle the top of the eggplant slices with Himalayan sea salt, freshly ground pepper, garlic powder, and paprika.
Bake until eggplant is very soft and slightly browned or charred, about 10 to 20 minutes.
Chop eggplant, large dice, set aside.
In a large cast iron skillet or non stick, in 1 tablespoon of olive oil, fry the onion and fresh garlic over medium heat. Cook until onion brown and tender.
Stir in eggplant, then add the tomato paste, 1 tablespoon honey, lemon juice, and water.
You can add a roasted bell pepper or salsa at this stage, if using.
Reduce heat and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add a little more water if too thick.
Season with Himalayan pink sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste.
This eggplant spread can be eaten warm or very cold.
Serve with fresh bread or crackers.
Tip: Divide into 4 portions. Freeze individually and thaw for a nice sized snack.