spicy eggplant spread
Based on a sandwich we had in Florence, this spicy eggplant spread is the perfect partner for crusty bread or crisp pita chips.
The most delicious sandwich I’ve ever eaten was at All Antico Vinaio in Florence, Italy. Day after day Kenny and I stood in long lines in the summer heat to reach the marvelous counter where our charmingly Italian sandwich maker would fill fresh baked bread with Tuscan salami, arugula, and an assortment of house-made accoutrement such as artichoke cream or spicy eggplant. I’ll never forget that first bite of my Florentine sandwich and how the spicy eggplant spread blew my mind! I’ve been yearning to replicate that flavor ever since and I’m so glad to say that this spicy eggplant spread comes pretty close to its muse! Serve as a dip with Pita chips or spread on rustic bread, fill with salami, and enjoy!
Recipe for spicy eggplant spread based on a Florentine favorite!
- 1 large eggplant, peeled and cubed into small pieces
- Sea salt
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup water
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 tsp white vinegar
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- fresh cilantro for garnish (optional)
- Peel the eggplant and dice into small cubes. Lay the eggplant out onto a baking sheet covered with paper towels or a clean kitchen towel and sprinkle generously with sea salt. Allow the eggplant to sit for 20-30 minutes until it has released moisture.
- Pat the eggplant pieces dry.
- Heat the olive oil in a 12” nonstick skillet over medium high heat.
- Add the eggplant cubes to the pan and cook until they’re lightly golden and have absorbed the oil, 6-8 minutes
- If the eggplant doesn’t fit in the pan in a single layer, cook in two batches. (To cook in batches, cook ½ of the eggplant cubes until golden brown and soft. Transfer cooked eggplant to a large bowl. Add more oil to the now empty pan along with the rest of the eggplant. Repeat the cooking process. Add all the cooked eggplant back into the pan before continuing with the next step).
- Add the water to the pan, bring to a simmer and cover the pan.
- Reduce the heat to medium low and allow the eggplant and water to simmer, covered, until the eggplant are fully cooked and soft, about 20 minutes.
- Use a wooden spoon to mash the eggplant down into a puree. If the eggplant does not easily mash, cover the pan again (adding more water if it has all evaporated) and continue to cook until the eggplant is fully softened.
- Add the garlic, pepper flakes, and oregano and cook until fragrant, 2-3 minutes.
- Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring to combine with the eggplant. Cook until the mixture is fragrant and darkening in color, 5-6 minutes.
- Add vinegar and sugar and simmer the eggplant over low heat. Stir and smash down the eggplant together to fully combined.
- Taste and adjust salt as necessary.
- Transfer the eggplant to a bowl, cool, cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight for best flavor.
- Garnish with cilantro and serve at room temperature with crusty bread or pita chips.
- Note: the eggplant spread can be served the same day it is cooked but the flavor will be dramatically improved if you let it sit overnight.
The eggplant spread can be served the same day it is cooked but the flavor will be dramatically improved if you let it sit overnight.