With sunnier days coming up, you know there’s something the French are getting an itch for – and that is “L’Apero” (short for appetizers).
The French Apero is a ritual of before dinner snacks and drinks, so dear to French hearts. Think American “Happy Hour”, but a little more food-focused. And although enjoyed throughout the entire year, it is even more religiously followed during the Spring and Summer, two seasons where one is prone to being wedged on a sun-drenched patio with friends, enjoying drinks and small bites.
Often impromptu and thrown together on a whim when friends start to gather, a French Apero commonly features chips, peanuts, olives and slices of Saucisson (dried pork sausage) … nothing very extravagant. But if you have more time on your hands, you can come up with more creative bites, dips and toasts to wow your guests.
In her new book “French Appetizers”, Marie Asselin shares her best French inspired recipes to throw a scrumptious Apero in your home. It’s a great book full of creative recipes (savory cakes, tartlets, one-pan quiche…) and simple formulas to make recipes your own. If you are new to the ritual of the French apero or simply looking to step up your game, this is a book for you – and I am sure you will cook from it all Summer long (I know, I will!).
Today, I have chosen to share with you Marie’s recipe for Eggplant Caviar Dip (Caviar d’Aubergine), a staple of the French apero table. This is a creamy and incredibly flavorful dip made from roasted eggplants, garlic and shallots with herbs and spices. Like many Mediterranean staples, it bears strong influences from the Middle East and reminds one of Baba-ganoush. But if you ask me, it is easier to make and it feels less rich, since it does not include tahini. It simply lets the beautiful flavours of roasted eggplant shine through.
It is delicious enjoyed for the apero with crackers and/or toasted pita. It also makes a scrumptious spread on toasts or in a sandwich.
1 large eggplant (about 1 pound)
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, unpeeled
2 shallots, halved
2 tablespoons chopped mixed fresh herbs (a combination of mint, parsley and basil)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (about ½ lemon)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper or freshly ground black pepper
Optional: 2 teaspoons sesame seeds
Preheat oven to 425F (220C). Line a baking sheet with aluminium foil. Halved the eggplant lengthwise then transfer to the prepared baking sheet, cut side up. Using a sharp point knife, prick the flesh all over. Drizzle each eggplant with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil, quickly rubbing it over the flesh (the oil will absorb quickly). Top the eggplant with the garlic and shallots. Roast for 40 minutes, or until the flesh is very soft.
Remove from the oven and loosely wrap the aluminium foil over the eggplant to create a “steam room”. Let rest for 15 minutes.
Transfer the shallots to a food processor (I used a vitamix, see link below). Squeeze the garlic flesh out of the skins and into the food processor. Scoop out the eggplant flesh into the food processor, discarding the skins. Add the herbs, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and red pepper. Process until smooth, scraping down the sides a couple of times along the way.
Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Optional: for serving sprinkle with sesame seeds and drizzle with olive oil.
If you try this Eggplant Caviar Dip (Caviar d’Aubergine) recipe let me know! Leave a comment or share a photo using #pardonyourfrench and #FrenchAppetizers on Instagram. Bon Appétit!
Recipe from French Appetizers by Marie Asselin, reprinted by permission of Gibbs Smith