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Golden Persian nibbles: Ikra (eggplant caviar) and farci-carrot

I say golden, because, well… just look at them! Vibrant, glistening, and shamelessly tantalizing the palate.

Spring is in the air (everywhere I look around) – I just can’t get enough of the local organic veggies piled mile high. They’re so fresh, I can actually smell the fresh soil. For a food lover, this is pure inspiration!

I love food shopping. Period. And especially so in the springtime. The store shelves are packed with bright-colored veggies…asparagus, fava beans, beets, broccoli, carrots, pea pods, spring mesculin greens…it’s sheer heaven.

My eye caught the golden carrots and the unblemished shiny smooth deep purple skin of the eggplants. Young carrots. Young eggplants. I just had to bring them home with me.

…and when I think of what to make with carrots and eggplants, well, so many dishes come to mind, but the first and foremost on my list would be Persian farci-carrot and ikra or eggplant caviar.

Ikra or eggplant caviar is called as such because, well, the texture due to the eggplant seeds, resemble that of caviar. The classic way of eating ikra is on toasted Persian barbari (whole wheat barbari shown in pics) laced with butter topped with a generous dollop of ikra. Ummmm.

As for the farci-carrot, farcir in French means to stuff –as such, this farci-carrot is not only good on its own, but is amazing as stuffing in the various bell peppers, green bell pepper, in particular. It makes for a delicious vegetarian and vegan dinner or half a stuffed pepper, as a side dish with fish, which I’m certain my pescetarian friends will absolutely adore!

Remember in my previous post on tabboulé I named hummus and tabboulé as primary staples on Chez Suz’s menu? You can add on these two, to that staple list. Honestly, I have one or all of these nibblers in my fridge at any given week – pending on the local season’s bounty.

Whether you enjoy them on their own, use them as stuffing in a filet of sole roulade, in your favorite vegetable, or alongside grilled lamb or chicken, I guarantee culinary happiness.

Again the key for both here is to keep it simple.

Ikra or eggplant caviar

3 eggplants, oven roasted 425-430, until fork tender

2 tbsp veg oil + 2 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, small dice

¼ green bell pepper, julienne

4-6 garlic, germs removed, grated

1-2 tbsp red wine vinegar, deglaze

3 tbsp good quality tomato paste

3 tbsp crushed tomato sauce

Wash the eggplants. Slash skin. Roast them on parchment-lined sheet pan, in 4250F preheated oven for 1-1/2 hrs or until fork tender.

Heat oil, sauté onions until translucent. Add the garlic and the julienned green pepper, sauté for another minute until aroma of garlic and peppers release. Deglaze with red wine vinegar, au sec.

Add tomato paste and tomato puree. Heat through. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Remove green peppers; set aside (you don’t want to puree them).

Transfer the onion-tomato base and the eggplant pulp to a food processor. Purée to desired consistency. Return to pan, add the green peppers back in, heat through, season to taste.

Stores well in refrigerator for up to 1-2 weeks.

Farci-Carrot

1 small bag of carrots, approx. 5-6 large carrots, peeled, shredded or grated

2 tbsp vegetable oil + 2 tbsp olive oil  – with the evoo, the results are more like a confit

2 large onions, small dice

2 large garlic cloves, germs removed, grated

2 bay leaves

12 whole black peppercorns (just not the same with ground black pepper)

1 small green bell pepper, medium dice

4 tbsp good quality tomato paste, to taste

2 tbsp red wine vinegar, deglaze

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Water, as needed

Sauté onions with bay leaves until onions become translucent.

Add grated carrots and peppercorns, sauté until carrots become moist.

Add garlic and peppers, sauté until garlic and pepper release their aroma.

Add tomato paste, au sec. Deglaze with vinegar, au sec.

Season to taste with sea salt.

Over low heat, simmer carrots; add water, as needed, until carrots are cooked through and soft.

Stores well in refrigerator for up to 1-2 weeks.