Exquisite Eggplant Caviar

1 eggplant
1/4 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
1/3 cup minced red onion
1/4 cup minced parsley
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
fresh ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts, coarsely chopped

1. Prick the eggplant with a fork on all sides to allow steam to escape (if you don't prick it, the eggplant will explode). Microwave on high, uncovered, until the eggplant collapses and is soft when pierced throughout, about 10 minutes. Let rest until cool enough to handle. (Or, prick the eggplant and roast on a baking sheet at 375 degrees F until soft, 45 to 60 minutes.)

2. Scrape the eggplant flesh out with your fingers or a fork, discarding the skin. Coarsely chop the flesh and place in a mixing bowl.

3. Mix in the bell pepper, red onion, cilantro, garlic, salt, pepper, olive oil, and lemon juice. Stir in the pine nuts about 15 minutes before serving (they'll soften over a longer period and not be as crunchy, but their flavor is still fine.) Taste before serving - you'll likely need to refresh the flavors with an extra squirt of lemon juice, and perhaps a dash of salt and pepper. Serve with bagel chips or other crackers, toasted breads, or crudites.



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