• 2 pounds eggplant (2 medium globe)

  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise (store-bought or homemade)

  • 1/2 garlic clove, finely grated

  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste

  • pinch ground cinnamon

  • 1/8 teaspoon cumin seed

  • 1 tablespoon pitted oil-cured black nicoise olives, chopped 

  • Pinch of Aleppo pepper or paprika for garnish (optional) 

If smoking the eggplant on a gas range, preheat the oven to 350º F.

Smoke the eggplant by laying them directly onto a stovetop gas flame or onto a hot grill. Cook over high heat, turning often, until the skin is evenly charred but you still feel some resistance at the center, about 8 minutes. Transfer the eggplant to a baking sheet and bake until completely soft in the center, about 10 minutes longer, depending on the thickness of the eggplant. (Skinny, Asian eggplant may not need any baking.) If grilling, transfer the eggplant to indirect heat, cover the grill, and cook until tender.

When cool enough to handle, pull off the blackened skin (it will feel like flaky bark) and discard. Remove any heavy seed sacks, and finely chop the flesh. Reserve the eggplant and all its juices.

In a medium bowl, combine the mayonnaise, grated garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and cinnamon, and whisk to combine. Pour the cumin seed on a cutting board, cover with a few droplets of olive oil, and chop finely. Add the cumin, along with the eggplant, to the mayonnaise mixture, stirring until combined.

To serve, pour into a shallow bowl and garnish with a little olive oil, chopped black olives, and a pinch or two of Aleppo pepper. Serve with pita or bread for dipping. 

Amy Thielen
Amy Thielen is a chef, a TV cook and a two-time James Beard Award-winning food writer. She is author of The New Midwestern Table and appears on the cooking show "Heartland Table." She has written for Men’s Journal, Midwest Living, Epicurious, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and Saveur, where she is a contributing editor.