Grilled Eggplant Salad (version II)

3 cups plain yogurt
3 large globe eggplants, 2 1/2-3 pounds total weight
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon salt, plus salt to taste
1/3 cup olive oil
2/3 cup finely chopped walnuts, optional
1 or 2 pinches ground cayenne pepper or minced fresh jalapeño chili pepper, optional
freshly ground black pepper
chopped fresh flat-leaf (italian) parsley for garnish

Line a large sieve with cheesecloth (muslin), place it over a bowl and spoon the yogurt into the sieve. Refrigerate for 4-6 hours to drain off the excess water. You should have 1-1 1/2 cups drained yogurt.

Preheat a broiler or prepare a fire in a charcoal grill. Using a fork, pierce the skin on either side of each eggplant. Place on a broiler pan or a grill rack and broil or grill, turning as needed, until blistered, charred and soft throughout when pierced with a knife, about 20 minutes. (If the eggplants are darkening quickly and are not softening, finish cooking them in an oven preheated to 400 degrees F.) Set aside to cool.

When the eggplants are cool enough to handle, cut them in half and scoop out the pulp, discarding as many seeds as possible.

For a smooth purée, place the pulp in a food processor fitted with the metal blade and purée until free of lumps. For a chunkier purée, chop with a knife on a cutting board. Transfer the purée to a serving bowl. Add the lemon juice and mix well.

In a mortar, combine the garlic with the 1 teaspoon salt and mash with a pestle until puréed. Add the purée to the eggplant along with the olive oil and, if using, the walnuts and the cayenne or jalapeño. Mix well and season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with parsley and serve.

Serves 4-6



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