Eggplant, or “Guinea squash” as it is called in the Lowcountry, came early to the colony from West Africa, years before Thomas Jefferson supposedly single-handedly introduced it. I suspect that the Sephardic Jews who settled here also brought it with them, for many of our recipes have a Mediterranean feel to them, such as this “poor man’s caviar.”
I offer this “dip” and bowls of salsa in the summertime, with some chips and crudités, to start off a meal of Frogmore Stew or a simple shrimp boil.
Preheat the oven to 400°. Prick the eggplants in several places and place them and the whole unskinned heads of garlic in a roasting pan. Bake for about 45 minutes or until the eggplants have softened and collapsed and the garlic gives under firm pressure. The garlic may take about 15 minutes longer to cook than the eggplant.
Score the eggplants deeply in several places so that steam can escape. Place them in a colander or sieve so that the bitter liquid can drain away. Set the garlic aside.
When the eggplant is cool enough to handle, begin cooking the onion in the olive oil over medium heat. Peel off the skin of the eggplant and mash the pulp in a bowl. Discard the skins and the liquid that has drained away.
Using a small sharp knife, cut off the bases of the garlic bulbs, exposing the soft roasted flesh. Squeeze all of this flesh into the eggplant and mix thoroughly. When the onions are transparent, add the eggplant and garlic mixture to the onions and olive oil. Add the juice of half the lemon and the anchovy paste and simmer the mixture until it is very thick and dark, about 30 minutes, stirring frequently.
Season the “caviar” to taste with the other lemon half and with salt and pepper if desired. If a smoother consistency is desired, you may run the dip through a food mill before chilling it for an hour or so before serving.
© 1992 All rights reserved. Published by UNC Press.