Caveman Caviar with Grilled Pumpernickel

Caveman Caviar with Grilled Pumpernickel

Vegetable caviar is a popular Russian zakuska (hors d’oeuvre). This one won’t fool anyone into thinking they’re eating the real thing, but it does have a similar texture and a robust flavour that would do any Russian appetiser spread proud. Ember-grilling imparts an irresistible smoke flavour.

Serves 6-8


  • 1 medium onion (unpeeled)
  • 1 medium Italian or Japanese aubergine (eggplant)
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 medium carrot, trimmed and scrubbed
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled, loosely wrapped together in aluminium foil
  • 1 luscious ripe red tomato or 2 ripe plum (Roma) tomatoes
  • 2 ribs celery
  • 1 jalapeño pepper
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh dill
  • ½ tsp freshly and finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice, or to taste
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Coarse salt (sea or kosher) and freshly ground black pepper
  • Grilled Pumpernickel (recipe follows), for serving


  1. Set up your grill for ember-grilling, raking the embers into an even layer. Arrange the veggies on the coals and grill until tender and charred on all sides. This will take about 2 minutes for the celery and jalapeño, about 3 minutes for the tomato, about 4 minutes for the carrot and foil-wrapped garlic, 6 to 8 minutes for the bell peppers, 8 to 12 minutes for the aubergine, and 10 to 15 minutes for the onion. (Times are approximate, depending on your fire.) Use long-handled tongs to turn the vegetables so they char evenly (don’t forget the ends) and a metal skewer to test for doneness—it should pierce the onion and eggplant easily. Transfer the veggies as they’re done to a rimmed sheet pan to cool.
  2. Once cooled, scrape the burnt skin off the veggies (you don’t need to remove every last bit—a few black specks add colour and flavour). Cut the veggies into 1-inch chunks, discarding any stems or seeds from the peppers.
  3. Place the roasted vegetables in a food processor and process to a coarse puree, running the machine in short bursts. Work in the dill, lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper: The caviar should be highly seasoned.
  4. Serve cold or at room temperature with the Grilled Pumpernickel. Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator; the caviar will keep for at least 3 days.

Recipe from How to Grill Vegetables: New Bible for Barbecuing Vegetables over Live Fire by Steven Raichlen (Workman
Publishing © 2021). Photography by Steven Randazzo.