I love eggplant and I am always looking for new ways to prepare it. One of the simplest and yet most delicious in my book is Baba Ghanoush, a specialty of the Levant. If you’ve ever made hummus, then the recipe will sound very familiar.
- 1-2 large eggplants
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
- Juice of a freshly squeezed lemon
- Tahini (Sesame paste)
- Cumin or chili powder
- Fresh parsley or mint
- Olive oil
Place a whole eggplant (or several, since the eggplant reduces quite a bit when cooked this way) on a hot grill (or in a hot oven) and roast until the eggplant is fully tender and the skin well charred, turning from time to time to ensure even cooking. This will take anywhere from 30-45 minutes, depending on the size of your eggplants.
Remove the eggplants from the heat and let them sit, covered, until they have cooled off enough to handle. Then split the eggplant in half and scrape out the tender pulp from the inside, making sure to leave the charred skin behind. Drain the pulp in a colander for at least 15 minutes to remove any excess liquid.
In a food processor, spin a couple of cloves or garlic around with some salt. Then add your eggplant pulp, a bit of freshly squeezed lemon juice and tahini (sesame paste). If you like, add a bit of cumin or chili powder, mint or parsley. Process until smooth.
The amounts of all to taste. The amount of tahini, in particular, varies wildly from recipe to recipe. You can add as little as a spoonful or two if you want a ‘light’ version or lots more if you want a richer version.(I usually just taste and adjust as I go, although using this method you risk winding up with precious little to actually serve after you’re done…) Some recipes specify that the eggplant pulp should be chopped not mashed or puréed.
Baba ghanoush is typically served as a dip to be eaten with pita bread, but I ate it with—hold on to your hats—some tortillas chips I had left over from a party. It was perfectly delicious, although I must admit that the chips may have overpowered the delicate taste of the dip. Next time I’ll stick to pita.
Baba Ghanoush is a wonderful example of how using many of the same ingredients, the peoples of the Mediterranean basin have come up with such different taste experiences. For someone from an Italian background, the taste of this eggplant dip is familiar and yet, for lack of a better term, exotic. It works perfectly as an antipasto in an otherwise Italian menu, or as part of a buffet or as a nice savory snack.
This blog post, from the Green Prophet website, has an excellent discussion of Baba Ghanoush and its many variations.