This weekend the temperatures stayed above zero and even climbed to a balmy 13°C on Saturday making it feel like spring really is on its way. It was a relief not to have to scrape the car off before going anywhere. I decided to make an eggplant dip. Eggplant (aubergine) dips are very popular throughout the Mediterranean region like “Baba Ganouj” or “Baba Ganoush” made with tahini (sesame seed paste) in Lebanon, “Melitzanosalata” from Greece and “Caviar d’aubergine” from France. This time I made a Moroccan version with tomatoes, harissa and argan oil.
Argan oil is the rare and precious oil that is ground from pits of the fruit of the argan tree that grows in south-western Morocco. It has a rich golden colour and nutty flavour. The fruit is harvested and the oil produced by cooperatives of Berber women in Morocco. The cooperative provides the women with jobs that would not otherwise exist and ensures that the trees are maintained in a sustainable manner. As with most programs designed for women this one also benefits the entire community.
The oil has been highly praised for its nutritional and cosmetic properties. It was the Berber women’s beauty secret – the oil is very high in vitamin E and is excellent for dry skin and has anti-aging properties. As a food product it is best used in dips, salad dressings, couscous or drizzled over fish and meats. The 250 mL bottle I purchased in Thionville, France cost about 25€.
Moroccan Eggplant Dip
Makes approx. 250 mL (1 cup)
1 medium eggplant
2-3 cloves garlic
2 tomatoes, coarsely chopped
10 mL (2 tsp) tomato paste
Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
2.5 mL (1/2 tsp) each of harissa, ground cumin and sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
60 mL (1/4 cup) each coarsely chopped parsley and cilantro
30 mL (2 Tbsp) argan oil*
Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F).
Use a fork to pierce eggplant all over. Wrap garlic cloves in foil. Place eggplant and garlic on baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes or until garlic is soft. Remove garlic and set aside to cool. Turn eggplant, return to oven and continue roasting for an additional 20 minutes or until tender. Meanwhile, stir together tomatoes and tomato paste in medium pan. Bring to simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about 30 minutes or until reduced to a thick sauce. Set aside to cool. Split eggplant in half and scoop out flesh; chop coarsely and transfer to a colander to drain off liquid. Squeeze garlic cloves into food processor bowl. Add tomato paste, lemon juice and zest, harissa, cumin, salt, pepper, parsley and cilantro; pulse to purée mixture. With motor running, add oil in a steady stream. Add eggplant and pulse until blended to a chunky consistency.
* Walnut oil or olive oil can be substituted for the argan oil