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Baba Clara’s Russian Eggplant Spread (Baklazhanaya Ikra)
From: Michelle, USA

My grandma is a Russian Jew, born on a small farm in the Ukraine. This is her recipe, and we made it together in my mom’s kitchen in Chicago while I took notes so I could transcribe it to standard American measures. From our family to yours, na zdorovye! (To your health!)

  • 3 fat, purple eggplants
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and finely chopped (more if the eggplants are especially large)
  • light olive oil for frying
  • 14 oz can whole, peeled tomatoes or equivalent in fresh plum tomatoes, peeled if necessary and quartered
  • 1 head of garlic or less to taste, peeled
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • a loaf of dark, crusty Russian rye bread, to serve

1. Prick the eggplants a couple of times with a fork. Line an aluminum half-sheet pan with foil and roast in the oven at 350F until very soft and collapsed—a good hour. Allow to cool enough to handle, then peel and mince as finely as you can manage. If there are tough parts inside the eggplant that are difficult to chop, set them aside for later.

2. While the eggplants are roasting, start preparing the onions. Pour 1-3 tbsp of light olive oil into a nonstick frying pan and heat well over medium heat. Add the chopped onion. Turn the heat to low and slowly brown the onions, stirring periodically, until they have turned a nice, dark brown on the edges, but not black, of course. This can take almost as long as the roasting eggplants, so the recipe has a nice symmetry that way.

3. Once you have the onions fried and the eggplant minced, you can begin making the paste. In a blender, combine the garlic, the tomatoes, and any tough parts of the eggplants that you set aside earlier. (If there aren’t any, don’t worry! That means you picked a really good eggplant! If there are, also don’t worry. It’ll still be fine.) Blend into a smooth paste, and transfer to a bowl. Add the minced eggplant, the onions and their cooking oil. Add salt and pepper and extra olive oil to taste. Serve on dark, crusty, traditional Russian rye bread as a delicious lunch or a charming appetizer. Note: this will give you bad breath, but it’s so delicious and healthy, so who cares?