Talking about the Middle East always reminds us of some of the wonderful dishes we’ve had there. Try this recipe for Salat Hatzilim – Israeli Eggplant Dip with a Bite, from Melissa Moskowitz.

Ingredients:

2 large eggplants (about 4 pounds all together)
5 cloves garlic, mashed
3-4 tablespoons mayonnaise, lowfat or regular
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice, fresh or bottled
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes – more or less to taste
salt to taste
serves 6

Process:

The first part can be a little tricky and can be done one of two ways. The first way—using the open flame of a gas stove—will undoubtedly char your fingers along with the eggplant. But at least you don’t have to go outside and get cold, wet or schvitzy (depending upon the weather). The second way—using a charcoal or gas grill—you will probably get cold, wet or schvitzed, but at least you won’t burn your fingers.

Using the first method: On a fork, hold the eggplant (one at a time) over a gas flame, turning frequently until the skin is charred all over. For the second method: Lay the eggplant, whole, on the grill and turn it over frequently until it is charred all over. Set the eggplant aside to cool.

When cool, peel eggplant in large bowl and mash with a potato masher or fork. Mash in the chopped garlic, mayonnaise, olive oil, lemon juice, red pepper and salt to taste. The consistency should be a cross between peanut butter and mashed bananas. If it’s too stiff, add in another tablespoon of lowfat mayonnaise.

Serve with pita bread or cut-up vegetables, as you sit on your deck (or fire escape), and imagine that you’re looking out over the Mediterranean.