Eggplant Spread (version V)

two large eggplants
1 medium onion, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leafed parsley leaves
plus parsley sprigs for garnish
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons minced fresh basil leaves
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
2 tablespoons drained bottled capers, chopped fine
pita loaves, cut into wedges, as an accompaniment

Pierce the eggplants in several places with a fork and grill them on a rack set about 4 inches over glowing coals for 30 to 35 minutes, or until they are very soft. (Alternatively, the eggplants may be broiled on the rack of a broiler pan under a preheated broiler about 6 inches from the heat, turning them, for 30 to 35 minutes, or until they are soft.)

Let the eggplants cool until they can be handled, halve them, and discard as many seeds as possible. Scrape the flesh away from the skin and squeeze the eggplant gently between paper towels to remove as much excess liquid as possible.

In a bowl mash the eggplant coarse, stir in the onion, the garlic, the minced herbs, the oil, the vinegar, the capers, and salt and pepper to taste, and let the spread stand, covered and chilled, for 3 hours to allow the flavors to develop.

The eggplant spread may be made 1 day in advance and kept covered and chilled. Garnish the eggplant spread with the parsley sprigs and serve it with the pita wedges.

Makes about 2 cups.

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