Roast garlic and veggies to uncover their splendid flavors!
Preheat oven to 400F.
Follow directions (below, in Notes) for roasting the eggplant, bell peppers and garlic.
Peel and seed bell peppers and pat dry between paper towels. Place eggplant in a food processor (peel, for a smoother consistency, or keep skins on for more antioxidants). Add bell peppers, fresh lemon juice, fresh basil (washed, stems removed and chopped), roasted garlic and spices. Process until smooth, add Neufchatel cheese and combine until creamy.
Add sea salt and pepper to taste. Serve with warmed pita bread triangles, crackers or fresh raw veggies.
I learned this method from an Italian grandmother who said "This is the key to the perfect eggplant parmesan. NOW EAT!"
~EGGPLANT: Halve or quarter the eggplants as desired. The best way to extract the
bitterness from the eggplant is to generously salt it and let it sit in a
strainer until most of the bitter juices seep out. The trick is to catch it
before osmosis begins to work in the other direction and the salt begins to
be soaked into the eggplant with the liquid, leaving you with a very salty
eggplant! Another approach to removing the bitterness is to soak in cold salted water for 20 minutes.
Rinse and pat the eggplant quarters dry with a clean towel and then brush them with a little olive oil. Roast eggplant at 375°F until tender (about 20 minutes). Remove from oven and let cool. Remove skins if desired (or keep them on for extra antioxidants) and you're ready to use them in any recipe.
~PEPPERS: Rub olive oil on ripe peppers and place them in your toaster oven or regular oven (at about 375F) and keep turning them till they're black on all sides. When you take them out of the oven, put them in a brown paper bag for a few minutes. That makes them very easy to peel. Core out the seeds and chop them up. They are excellent in any kind of salad or casserole.
~GARLIC: Peel outer skin layer from head of fresh garlic, leaving cloves and head intact. With a sharp knife cut off the top of the head of garlic, about 1/4 inch. Place head on aluminum foil, or use pottery designed for roasting garlic. Top with 1/2 teaspoon olive oil. Fold up and seal. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 55-60 minutes. Squeeze cloves from skins and set aside. Discard skins. A sweet treat that'll make your whole house smell divine!