The Star of Your Next Party: Roasted Garlic and Eggplant Puree with Olive Oil Crackers

Crackers seem to get a bad rap. They're decidedly un-chewy, they're usually equated with boring, and eat too many of them and you'll find yourself choking on crumbs for a glass of water. Or...they can be awesome. With just a touch of rosemary and garlic, these crackers are just interesting enough without overwhelming their utility, namely, being a conveyance for something. The "something" I whipped up today is a slightly smoky roasted eggplant and garlic puree blended with fresh goat cheese. Feel free to play around with the combinations and flavors here,  add spices to the crackers or switch out roasted eggplant for roasted sunchokes. mvp-header
Thumb For a delicious spread like this one, you'll need a bowl to hold all of the awesome.  I love the rustic minimalism of this little side dish. Large Ramekin, $14, Heath Ceramics.
for the puree: 1 medium eggplant, base and tip removed, cut into 1 inch thick slices 1 teaspoon rosemary, finely chopped 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil 4 ounces fresh goat cheese 1 head of garlic, split in half crosswise 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice kosher salt and freshly ground pepper 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke (optional) for the crackers: 1 cup all purpose flour, plus more for kneading 1 teaspoon sea salt 1 teaspoon baking powder 1 garlic clove, minced 1 tablespoon rosemary leaves, roughly chopped 1/2 cup water 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for brushing
(makes 8 servings)

For the puree:

1. Preheat oven to 450F.

2. Spread the eggplant slices across a baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle with a few pinches of salt, pepper, and all of the rosemary.

3. Meanwhile, place the two halves of garlic over a sheet each of aluminum foil, drizzle the remaining olive oil over them and sprinkle the garlic with a pinch of kosher salt.

4. Wrap each garlic half up in the foil and add to the tray of eggplant.

5. Roast the eggplant for 15 minutes. Flip the slices, and roast for another 10, until a deep golden brown.

6. Remove the eggplant slices and set aside, but continue roasting the garlic for another 10 to 15 minutes (35 to 40 minutes total), or until the garlic cloves are deep golden brown.

7. Once the garlic is roasted, roughly chop the roasted eggplant and add to a food processor along with the fresh goat cheese.

8. Using a butter knife remove the garlic cloves from the head and add to the food processor.

9. Puree until a hummus-like texture forms. Season with salt, pepper, fresh lemon juice, additional olive oil if necessary, and, if using, the liquid smoke. Serve at room temp or keep in the fridge for up to a week.

For the crackers:

1. Sift together the flour and baking powder into a large bowl, mix in the sea salt, garlic and rosemary, and make a well in the center.

2. Pour in the water and olive oil, and mix together with your hands, forming a dough.

3. Knead it until it is smooth, about 5 minutes, and wrap loosely in plastic wrap and pop in the fridge for one hour.

4. Set the oven to 425° and line several baking trays with parchment paper or a silicon mat. You may have to bake the crackers in batches.

5. Lightly dust your work surface and hands with flour. Pull off a golf-ball sized lump of dough and roll it into little log between your palms, lay it on your floured work surface and roll the dough with a rolling pin into a long oval, about 1/16 inch thick.

6. Lay it onto the lined baking tray. Brush the dough generously with olive oil.

7. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Keep a close eye on them during the last few minutes, as you want the crackers to be lightly golden brown, and not too dark.

8. When they are ready, pull the tray from the oven and slide the crackers onto a wire rack.

9. Cook the next batch. Let the crackers cool completely before serving and to store, put into a sealed plastic container or bag and keep on your counter for up to 2 weeks. For more entertaining ideas, head to the Kitchy Kitchen. claire-signature-layout Photographs: Claire Thomas