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Ikra - My Babushka's Eggplant Caviar

This Ikra recipe makes a huge batch of eggplant caviar, enough to serve at a party!  My Babushka LOVED to entertain and so she loved serving her Ikra at a party! You can adjust the recipe as needed, that's why I give you the vegetable amounts in pounds, so you can make this recipe with 1.5 lbs of eggplant if you need to halve it and adjust other ingredients to match.  

  • Author: Katia
  • Prep Time: 45 mins
  • Cook Time: 1 hr
  • Total Time: 1 hr, 45 mins
  • Yield: 12 1x
  • Cuisine: Ukrainian
  • Diet: Vegan

Ingredients

Scale

3 whole Eggplants, washed & dried (About 3 lbs.)

3 large sweet peppers, washed & dried

1 large sweet onion, diced (about 1/2 lb.)

1 whole 5 oz. package of Dill weed, de-stemmed & chopped

2-3 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil, divided

4-5 cloves of garlic, pressed

3/4 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

3 Tbsp concentrated tomato paste 

1 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar and/or Lemon Juice

1/4 cup to 1/2 cup Ketchup (Babushka's "secret" ingredient =)

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Prep Eggplants & Peppers for Roasting- Make 1 slit down each eggplant, about 1 inch deep lengthwise down each eggplant (This allows the eggplants to steam without bursting during roasting) Place eggplants & peppers on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.  Once the oven is up to temp place the baking sheet in the oven.
  3. Roasting Vegetables- Bake the peppers for about 45 minutes and the eggplants for about 1 hr.    ***Eggplant Roasting time will vary, depending on the sizes of the eggplants.  You want the eggplants to collapse when you depress them with a wooden spoon.  If they are not roasted enough the skin will not peel off the meat of the eggplant as well  ***   You will be turning the vegetables often, the best thing to do is set yourself 15 minute timers to remind yourself to turn them. (While the vegetables are roasting you can cook up the onion)
  4. Heat up a skillet to medium heat to cook the onion.
  5. Caramelize Onion- Once the skillet is heated up, add 2 Tbsp of olive oil, turn down the heat to medium low, lower it more later if it browns your onion too quickly.  Start cooking the onion.  You want to cook the onion low and slow to caramelize and sweeten them.  I cook them during the entire time the peppers roast, so about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure they do not burn.  It will not hurt if you leave the onions cooking on low, still caramelizing while you tend to the peppers for a couple minutes at this point.
  6. Sweating Pepper Process- Once the peppers are done roasting they will be collapsed and slightly charred.  Remove them from the oven and transfer them to a bowl and cover with a clean kitchen towel or saran wrap.  The peppers will sweat, causing the skin to start separating easily from the pepper.  
  7. Finalize Onion Mixture- Once you get your peppers into the sweating process you can finish up your onion mixture.  Add the tomato paste and just cook it into the onions for just a minute.  Then add the pressed garlic right into the skillet and give it just a quick cook for 30 secs to 1 minute.  Remove onion mixture from heat and scrape all of the goodness straight into a medium size mixing bowl you will be mixing and storing your Ikra in. 
  8. Chop Dill & Gather Final Ingredients- While you're waiting on the peppers to finish sweating you can wash and chop the dill and then add the dill to the bowl with the onion mixture.  Also, just gather and measure out your final ingredients if you have not done so already.
  9. Draining Eggplants- Once the eggplants are done roasting, turn off the oven and use tongs to move them to a large colander over a sink or bowl where they can drain.  Place them slit side down in the colander so that the eggplant juice can drain out.  The juice is slightly bitter so you want to drain out as much as possible.
  10. Skin & Chop Peppers- Once peppers are done sweating, the skin should start peeling off fairly easily. After at least 15 minutes you can start trying to peel the skin off the peppers 1 by 1 (some peppers can take up to 30 minutes) If they are not peeling well yet, give them another 15 minutes under the towel.  I use disposable gloves for this process.  They help your skin from getting too hot and you get better grip to peel the peppers.  Once you get all the skin peeled off, cut off the tops of the peppers, and chop up the peppers into very small pieces and add it to your Ikra mixing bowl
  11. Skin & Chop Eggplant- Once you feel most of the liquid has drained out of the eggplants you should be able to easily remove the skin, cut off the tops and chop up the rest of the eggplants.  I cut it one way all the way through each piece and the opposite direction.  Keep chopping until you feel it is all in tiny caviar sized chunks, seeds and all.  Add the eggplant to your Ikra bowl.
  12. Finalize your Seasoning/Ikra- This dish has character, so don't be shy spicing it up to your liking.  At this stage I add the salt, pepper, vinegar or lemon juice (your choice)  Babushka's "secret" ingredient...Ketchup.  Yes, My Mom and my Babushka always added Ketchup to their Ikra.  Add 1/4-1/2 cup to your liking.  Some people add a little more olive oil as well, but that's up to you.  I usually don't need to at this point.  Adjust salt & pepper if needed.  The final taste should have a little "bite" and little sweetness and a little tang and hopefully you're smiling! =)

 

Notes

You can enjoy the Ikra up to 14 days in a refrigerated glass jar.  I have frozen Ikra in the past, but I would suggest enjoying it within about 6 months.  Defrost in a refrigerator over-night.  Once it's defrosted, you might want to adjust some of the finalizing spices just a tad. 

Keywords: ikra, eggplant caviar, vegetarian spread, vegan spread, gluten free spread

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