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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.