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Originally published Wednesday, September 9, 2009 at 12:04 AM

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Recipe: Roasted eggplant spread with onion and sweet pepper

Makes about 2 ½ cups

3 mild green Italian frying peppers, or 1 large yellow bell pepper, seeded, stems trimmed off

1 medium to large onion, sliced 1/2-inch thick

1 or 2 eggplants (totaling 2 to 2 ½ pounds) pierced all over with a fork (do not peel)

2 large cloves of garlic

1 teaspoon salt

Juice of 1 large lemon

1/3 cup good-tasting extra-virgin olive oil, or to taste.

Pita bread cut into small pieces or sliced cucumbers for dipping

1. Spread the peppers and onion slices on a piece of foil for oven roasting or on a grill for grill roasting. Place the eggplant on a separate piece of foil or directly on the grill.

2. For the oven, turn the heat to 375 degrees. For the grill, have coals burned to gray ash or gas heat at medium. In the oven or on a covered grill, roast everything 1 hour and 45 minutes, or until onions and peppers are browned. If using a single large eggplant, roast it another 30 minutes or until it's soft when pierced to its center and collapsing in on itself.)

3. Slit eggplant in half, open it and let it drain, cut side down, an hour in a colander or on a slanted cutting board in the sink. Press out any bitter liquid. Scrape the pulp from the skin. Discard the skin.

4. In a food processor with the machine running, drop in the garlic, salt, lemon juice and olive oil and process 3 seconds, or until creamy. Add the cooled peppers and onions and process 2 seconds. Add the eggplant and process another 2 seconds. Taste for balance of lemon and olive oil, and for salt. Add what is needed and serve at room temperature with pita bread or sliced cucumbers. The spread could be garnished with fresh parsley or mint leaves.

From Lynne Rossetto Kasper

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