Think of this eggplant dip as an Oriental version of baba ghannouj , the Middle Eastern eggplant appetizer. Baked pureed eggplant, mixed with Japanese and Chinese flavoring, makes a most unusual spread or dip to be scooped up with sesame-flavored toasted pita-bread triangles.
If this seems to be an odd combination, keep in mind that Chinese stir-fried eggplant dishes contain many of the same ingredients. Here, however, they are combined in a most unusual spread that is easy to make and fits the category of "something different" for hors d'oeuvres.
Chinese ingredients such as dark soy sauce, rice vinegar and sesame oil (both hot and mild) are staples in my pantry.
Ingredients such as ginger root and Japanese eggplant (a skinny, thin-skinned, sweet variety), as well as other Asian produce, are becoming more widely available in supermarkets and specialty stores. If the eggplants are unavailable, substitute the smallest eggplants you can find--baking time varies slightly with size.
The food processor dispatches the task of pureeing the eggplant mixture in about two minutes, and the entire recipe can be pureed in a single batch, even in the smallest-capacity machine, because the warmth of the cooked mixture helps to form a vapor lock between the processor bowl and lid.
EGGPLANT SPREAD WITH HOT SESAME TOASTS
2 pounds Japanese eggplants or small eggplants
1 (1-inch) cube peeled ginger root
3 medium cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons hot sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
Hot Sesame Toasts
Place eggplants on oiled baking dish. Make several slashes through skins to prevent bursting. Bake at 350 degrees on lowest rack of oven until completely tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Cool. Peel, then cut into cubes.
Insert metal blade in dry processor container. Mince ginger and garlic by dropping into machine with motor on. Transfer to large skillet. Add vegetable oil and cook over low heat until fragrant. Stir in soy sauce, sugar and vinegar. Heat to simmering. Add sesame oil and eggplant cubes. Cook over high heat, stirring, until liquid is mostly absorbed and eggplant is shiny.
Transfer contents of skillet to processor fitted with metal blade. Puree until smooth. Add salt and adjust seasoning to taste. Cool to room temperature. (Can refrigerate, covered, 3 days). Serve at room temperature with Hot Sesame Toasts. Makes 8 to 12 servings.
Hot Sesame Toasts
1/2 cup melted butter
2 teaspoons hot sesame oil or plain sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon paprika
3 pita breads, split and quartered
Mix butter, oil and paprika in cup or bowl. Brush rough sides of pitas generously with mixture. Cut each split pita quarter in half. Place triangles on baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees on middle rack of oven until crisp, about 8 to 10 minutes. Serve warm.