mediterranean platter with homemade pita and red pepper eggplant dip

6:19:00 PM

Like many things we’ve cooked this last summer, this idea for dinner popped up due to our CSA. We got eggplant. I have tried to like eggplant, I really have. I’ve made eggplant parmesan. I’ve salted and not salted. I’ve peeled and not peeled. And really, I just couldn’t think of a way to turn it into a meal I’d actually really enjoy. Eggplant is fine, but it’s just that - fine. 

Until I remembered eggplant spread. Trader Joe’s Eggplant Garlic Spread, to be more exact. Like all amazing things at Trader Joe’s, they no longer make it. I don’t have a full ingredients list for this amazing spread, but the front of the jar describes this spread as a mix of eggplant, garlic, and fefferoni peppers. I only Googled “fefferoni peppers” for about twenty seconds before I got a headache, so I took this in a different direction and decided to use up some of the CSA bell peppers as well and make an eggplant, red pepper, and roasted garlic spread. Close enough.

And then I needed something to eat WITH it. So then came the pita, then the decision to just throw lots of little things onto a platter and eat that for dinner. And it worked. You can, of course, make this a lot easier by buying pita, but this recipe from New York Times was really good. 

This would be a nice spread to have at parties, too, with some more vegetables and maybe some hummus. 

Pita requires HOT temperatures in the oven to puff up like a pita. If your oven is not totally clean, like ours, you maaaay want to have another person with you to fan your smoke alarms every single time you open your oven. Ahem. Thanks Bob. On the plus side, I think we burned off any remaining gunk in the oven after cooking these pitas. 

mediterranean platter with homemade pita and red pepper eggplant dip

for the pita
2 tsp active dry yeast
½ tsp sugar
¼ cup whole wheat flour 
2 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 tsp kosher salt
2 tbsp olive oil

for the eggplant dip
1 large eggplant, peeled and sliced into ½ inch thick rounds
1 head garlic, top ½ inch sliced off to expose cloves
2 red bell peppers
salt and pepper
olive oil 

for parsnip fries
4 parsnips, peeled and cut into thin sticks 
about 1 tbsp olive oil
about 1 tsp greek seasoning
salt (if using unsalted greek seasoning) and pepper, to taste

for the plate
sliced raw vegetables for dipping (we used carrots)
kalamata olives
mozzarella balls (we used the kind marinated in olive oil & herbs)
hard boiled eggs (we used pickled eggs that Bob made) 
parsley for garnish

For the pita bread: 
Place yeast and sugar in a bowl. Add  1 cup warm water (110 degrees or so) and stir until dissolved. Add all of the whole wheat flour (¼ cup) and ¼ cup of the all purpose flour. Whisk. Let sit in a warm place for about 15 minutes, or until frothy.

Add salt, olive oil, and most of the rest of the flour - save ½ cup for rolling and adding if dough is too wet. Mix with a large wooden spoon until it comes together. Add a bit of flour and knead in the bowl for about 1 minute, incorporating all the dough.

Turn onto a floured work surface (I used a cutting board). Knead for 2 minutes or until smooth. Let rest for 10 minutes, then knead again 2 minutes. If dough is too wet, add a bit more flour (I didn’t need to.) At this point, you can put the dough in a large ziplock bag and place in the fridge overnight (this is what I did so it came together more quickly the next day.) 

If not refrigerating dough, place in an oiled bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Leave in a warm spot until it’s doubled in size, about 1 hour. 

To cook the pitas, preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Place a large baking sheet in the oven while it preheats. 

Divide your dough into 8 roughly equal pieces, roll them into balls, cover with a damp towel, and let sit for about 10 minutes. Then, roll each ball into an 8-inch circle. 

Once oven is preheated, place two dough circles on the preheated baking sheet quickly, then close the oven. An oven light is handy here. After 2 minutes, the pitas should be puffed up. Flip the pitas over and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes. Don’t overbake these - they will still be pale with just a few brown spots. When done, remove from oven and cover pitas with a towel to keep warm. Cook the rest of the pitas, two at a time on the baking sheet, until all are baked. 

For the eggplant spread: 
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle a little bit of olive oil over the top of the head of garlic and wrap in aluminum foil and place in the oven, top of the garlic side up. 

Line a baking sheet with foil; spray with cooking spray or a little oil. Slice the sides off your 2 bell peppers so you end up with 8 equal-ish pieces. Toss the sliced eggplant and bell peppers with a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper. (At this point you could add whatever seasonings you want in your dip - I like it with just salt and pepper.) Place the eggplant slices and bell peppers (skin side up) in a single layer on the baking sheet. 

Roast all the vegetables and the garlic for about 20-30 minutes, until vegetables are browned in spots. The garlic may take up to 45 minutes - you want the cloves softened and browned. 

Place the roasted vegetables into the bowl of a food processor and squeeze the garlic pulp into the bowl. Mix until desired consistency is reached. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. 

For the parsnip fries: 
You can roast these at the same time as the other vegetables on a different rack in the oven. Combine parsnip sticks with olive oil, salt, pepper, and greek seasoning. Line another baking sheet with foil, spray with cooking spray, and place on a baking sheet in a single layer. Cook for about 20-30 minutes until browned and getting crispy.

For plating: 
Cut pita into wedges. You can drizzle it with olive oil if you wish. Plate with eggplant spread, sliced raw vegetables, parsnip fries, a handful of olives, some mozzarella balls, a hard-boiled egg sliced in half, and a sprinkle of parsley. 

pita recipe from New York Times

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