Eggplant Caviar with Chipotle Oil

2 large eggplants (about 2 pounds total)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3/4 teaspoon toasted dry oregano
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
4 garlic cloves
1/2 bunch cilantro, finely minced
Chipotle Oil
1 cup olive oil
3 slivered dried chipotle chiles

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the eggplants on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour, or until the flesh is very tender and the skin is shriveled. Set aside until cool enough to handle. Scoop out the eggplant flesh; discard the seeds. Place the flesh in the middle of a muslin dish towel. Twist the ends together to squeeze out excess liquid from the eggplant. Transfer the eggplant flesh to a food processor. Add the lemon juice and, with the processor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil Add the vinegar, oregano, salt and garlic; process until the mixture is pureed. Just before serving, stir in the minced cilantro.

To serve: Spread on toasts or crackers of choice, then sprinkle with a few drops of Chipotle oil.

May be made 1 day ahead. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator.

Serves 4.

Chipotle oil: Combine olive oil and chiles in a small saucepan. Heat on low for 5 minutes. Use more chiles if you want the oil to be really hot. Store in a covered glass jar in the refrigerator. Will keep for up to 1 month. Other uses: Drizzle onto steamed vegetables, add sparingly to salsas, use to flavor marinades.

This is an addictive spread, with its hefty jolt of garlic and kiss of smokey chipotle chile. Serve it with toasted pita triangles, thin toasted baguette slices or warm corn tortillas.



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