Roasted Eggplant Crostini

1 medium eggplant
1 ripe firm yellow bell pepper
1 small red ripe Roma tomato
1 small garlic clove, crushed to a paste
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
freshly ground black pepper
dried Mediterranean oregano, such as Greek oregano
6 fresh green basil leaves, chopped
12 - 16 thin bread rounds, cut from a narrow baguette-style loaf
extra-virgin olive oil for bread

Place the untrimmed eggplant on a gas burner and turn heat to high or place the eggplant under the broiler. Roast the eggplant, turning it until it is blackened on all sides. Use tongs to avoid puncturing the eggplant. After about 10 minutes, the eggplant will look rather deflated and the flesh will be very soft. Carefully transfer the eggplant to a bowl and let cool.

Peel away the blackened skin. If a few specks of charred skin remain, don't worry-they add flavor. Drain the liquid. Transfer the eggplant to a chopping board and chop the flesh into a smooth puree. Place the puree in a clean bowl.

Roast the pepper over a gas flame or under the broiler until it is almost completely blackened. Place in a paper bag and seal tightly. When the pepper is cool enough to handle, rub off the skin. Use paper towels to wipe away any remaining pieces of charred skin. Core and seed the pepper and remove the white membranes. Cut the pepper into narrow strips and then into small dice. Add to the eggplant puree. Core and seed the tomato and cut into small dice. Add to the bowl along with the mashed garlic. Stir the ingredients together. Add olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and herbs.

Stir well. Taste and correct the seasonings.

Brush the bread lightly on both sides with olive oil and arrange on a baking sheet. Place in a 400F oven. Remove the crostini when they are lightly brown, but not hard-toasted all the way through. Transfer to a serving platter.

With a small spoon, mound the eggplant mixture on the crostini. Serve warm or at room temperature. If preparing the crostini in advance, top with the eggplant puree just before serving to prevent the bread from becoming soggy.

Makes 12 - 16 crostini

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