This morning I found myself listening to the Barber of Seville, drinking Boricha (Korean barley tea) and making eggplant dip with fresh ground cumin pita chips. The other night was falafel for dinner and we had some pita bread leftover. I don’t often buy pita–it’s not a favorite bread of mine–and I knew it would probably die a slow moldy death in the fridge unless I waved my magic wand and turned it into something crispy, fragrant and delicious.
Eggplant dip with garlic and lemon
otherwise known as ‘almost baba ganoush’
1 large eggplant/aubergine
3 or 4 cloves garlic
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
1. Top and tail the eggplant (or aubergine or melanzane or whatever you want to call it), slice it in half and score it. Season with sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and roast in the oven until tender.
2. When the eggplant is almost fully cooked, toss in the garlic cloves in their skins to roast. They should be roasted to the point of tenderness as well, so that you can simply squeeze them out of their skins. Don’t overcook them or they will get hard and burnt.
3. Scoop out the eggplant flesh from the skin (or leave the skin on as I do!) and put into a blender or food processor with the juice of one lemon, plenty of extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper, as well as the garlic cloves. Blitz and season more if necessary. A lot of lemon is good. Also you can add some cumin or a little cayenne pepper or paprika.
4. To serve drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil, another squeeze of lemon, salt and pepper and a bit of the fresh ground cumin you are about to make.
Homemade pita chips with cumin
3 pita breads, sliced into bite size pieces
1 tsp whole cumin seeds
salt and pepper
The best way to buy whole cumin seeds (or jeera) is from an Indian grocery store where an enormous bag of them will still be cheaper than a tiny little jar of them from Whole Foods. But you are going to have to find a way to use them all. Spices lose their flavor over time. They really won’t last forever in the back of your spice shelf. Having said that, they are so much more wonderful toasted and ground to a fresh powder than ready-bought ground cumin.
1. Turn the stove top on a high heat and place a teaspoon of whole cumin seeds into a dry frying pan for toasting. It doesn’t take long. You will be able to smell and see when they are ready. The scent of cumin will be amazing and they will turn a little golden after just a little bit.
2. Grind them to a powder with a mortar and pestle.
3. Put the pita pieces into a small roasting tray, drizzle olive oil–enough to lightly coat all the pita–and season with salt and pepper and the gorgeous fresh ground cumin.
4. Roast in the oven till crispy and enjoy! My nine year old ran into the kitchen at one point and asked what smelled so good, was it tacos?