As impressive as it is easy to make, this Smoky Eggplant Spread is a showstopper vegetarian dish bursting with Mediterranean flavours. The eggplants get incredibly tender on the Traeger Grill and soak up all the delicious wood-fired flavour before being garnished with sumac onions, fresh herbs, chiles, tomato seeds, hard-boiled eggs, lemon juice and plenty of olive oil.
The smoky eggplant spread itself is actually Paleo and Whole30-compliant and can be served with fresh vegetables for dipping or alongside your favourite grilled meat for a more balanced meal. If you’re living your Food Freedom, I recommend scooping it up with some freshly grilled Pizza Bianca. You can make it from scratch with this recipe, or buy a batch of fresh pizza dough from a local market.
What You Need for Smoky Eggplant Spread
- Eggplants: I used globe eggplants for this recipe because I wanted something meaty and large, but you can use just about any variety of eggplants you like. Just keep in mind that the larger and heavier they are, the longer they will take to cook.
- Red Onions: When thinly sliced and tossed with sumac and lemon juice, the onions take on a completely different flavour and textural profile. It’s almost like a quick-pickle and they really shine against the smokiness of the eggplant.
- Sumac: Sumac is made from dried berries that have been ground to a powder. It has a deep crimson colour with a slightly acidic, lemony flavour profile. Normally I would say sprinkle it all over the eggplant but strictly for presentation purposes, I like to toss it with the onions so that you preserve the golden hues of the eggplant.
- Lemon Juice: Squeezing the onions and eggplant with fresh lemon juice will awaken all of the flavours and add a delicious zing. Without it, the dish falls flat.
- Red Finger Chile Peppers: I like this particular variety of chile pepper because of its vibrant red colour and the fact that it’s fairly mild, which means you can add more of it to the dish with little risk of setting your mouth on fire. Feel free to use any type of chile pepper your heart desires, or omit to keep things mild.
- Fresh Herbs: A combination of fresh parsley and dill add colour and flavour to the smoky eggplant. You can experiment with using just parsley, just dill or substitute for fresh cilantro or fresh oregano.
- Hard-Boiled Egg: This might sound a bit strange, but eggplant and hard-boiled egg are one of the best combinations since Kobe and Shaq. I find that the best way to distribute the egg is to coarsely grate it with a cheese grater. That way you can easily scoop it with the smoky eggplant.
- Garlic: I can hardly believe I’m saying this but you only need one garlic clove for this recipe. It’s going on raw and finely grated so the flavour will be intense enough to penetrate the delicate eggplant flesh.
- Pizza Bianca: Translated to “white pizza” in Italian, this is basically pizza dough that has been cooked naked without any sauce or toppings. In Rome, it’s a popular street food and commonly sliced in half and stuffed with mortadella or cheese.
Once you shape the dough into small rounds, drizzle them with a bit of olive oil and throw them straight onto the grill. They get crunchy on the outside while staying light and fluffy in the middle. You can also save a lot of time by buying some fresh pizza dough from the store. Or, you can make it from scratch with this recipe.
Smoky Eggplant Spread with Grilled Pizza Bianca
- 2 medium globe eggplants
- 2 large eggs
- 1 batch fresh pizza dough separated into 4 equal portions – store-bought or homemade
- ½ medium red onion
- 1 teaspoon sumac
- 1 lemon halved
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
- 1 clove garlic finely chopped or finely grated
- 1 red finger chile pepper thinly sliced
- 8 cherry tomatoes cut in half
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- Flakey sea salt to taste
- Freshly-cracked black pepper to taste
- Preheat your Traeger grill to 500F (see recipe notes if using an oven). Using a fork, poke some shallow holes all over the eggplants. This will help with peeling them after cooking.
- Transfer the eggplants to the back perimeter of the grill where it gets hottest. Cook, turning once or twice, until blackened all over and very soft in the middle, around 40 minutes total. Transfer the eggplants to a wooden board. Let cool for a few minutes and peel off the skin, keeping the stem intact for presentation purposes. Transfer to a serving platter and use a flat wooden spatula to roughly chop the flesh. Top with the garlic and spread as evenly as possible across the eggplant. Cover and set aside.
- Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Using a slotted spoon, submerge the eggs and cook for exactly 12 minutes for hard-boiled. Transfer the eggs to a bowl of ice-cold water for 4 to 5 minutes. Peel the shells and grate them with the coarse side of a cheese grater. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, combine the onion, sumac and half of the lemon juice. Toss to coat and set aside.
- Shape the pizza dough into 4 equal-sized rounds and drizzle both sides with olive oil. Transfer directly onto the grill grates and cook until grill marks form, around 5 minutes. Flip and cook the other side until grill marks form, around 5 more minutes. Transfer to a plate, cover with a clean towel to keep warm and set aside.
- Garnish the eggplant with the sumac onions, grated eggs, parsley, dill, and sliced chiles. Squeeze the tomatoes overtop to expel the seeds and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and squeeze the reserved lemon overtop. Serve with the grilled pizza bianca.
- Preheat your oven to 450F. Poke holes in the eggplants with a fork and place them on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.
- Transfer to the oven and cook, flipping once or twice, until the eggplants are blackened and completely tender, around 40 minutes.
- Place the eggplants directly over your gas burner and cook over medium heat, turning regularly, until the eggplants are blackened all over and completely tender, around 20 minutes depending on their size.