Baba Ganoush - A Traditional Middle Eastern Eggplant Dip
Continuing with my testing appetizers for a dinner I am partially hosting, my latest experiment is baba ganoush.
Baba ganoush is a Middle Eastern dip. Made with roasted eggplant, tahini, lemon juice, plus a few spices, baba ganoush is usually served with pita or another Middle Eastern bread. Parsley is not a traditional ingredient, but I think it really adds to the flavor.
You would think that burning off the skin would make the eggplant taste ... well, burned. On the contrary. Charing imparts an amazing smoky flavor to the dip. If the only eggplant you have ever had was in covered in cheese and tomato sauce, you are in for a real treat.
Roasting time will depend upon the size of your eggplants. The best way I can describe the sizes of the ones I bought is that they were just slightly smaller than medium. Yes, I know that's no help. But if you go to the farm stand, you'll understand what I am talking about. In any event, whatever size you pick, select eggplants that are heavy for their size, are uniformly firm (with no bruises) and have smooth, shiny skins.
Trim excess calyx ... that's the official term for the green cap attached to the top. Trimming back the cap will reduce the possibility of it drying out during the roasting and catching fire. It is very annoying to see flames shooting out of the oven and setting off the smoke detector.
After removing the charred eggplant from the oven, let cool enough to handle, then place in a colander. THEN cut off the top. That way you won't drip all over the counter while transferring the eggplant from the roasting pan to the colander. And, make sure you have a bowl under the colander. Not that I have ever done either. Of course.
The eggplant fell apart so nicely that I did not have to do more than stir a bit to finish breaking up the few soft chunks that remained. The result wasn't perfectly smooth, but I tend to like the rustic model. If you prefer a smoother consistency, feel free to hit the mixture a few times with a hand blender (or process maybe 30 seconds in a food processor) before adding the parsley.
Add the quantities of garlic, salt and black pepper in the recipe. Taste, and only then add more to your preference. Because it's easier to add than take away.
If you are a traditionalist, you probably have your own family recipe anyway and don't want to mess with it. But if you aren't, or you don't, or you are the type to tweak tradition, try a batch with parsley. You will be pleasantly surprised.
Yield: 2 cups
2 medium eggplants
olive oil, enough to coat eggplants
1/4 cup tahini
Juice of 2 lemons (about 1/2 cup)
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 packed cup finely chopped parsley leaves
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Cover the bottom and sides of a medium rimmed baking pan with aluminum foil. Set pan aside.
Cut off any excess green cap from the top. Poke the eggplants several times around with a fork (to let steam escape and prevent the possibility of the eggplants exploding during baking).
Coat eggplants with olive oil, then place in prepared baking pan. Place pan on top rack in oven. Bake 20-25 minutes, or until the eggplants have collapsed and the skin is charred, turning eggplants once or twice. Remove from oven and place pan, still containing eggplants, on a heat-safe surface. Allow to cool enough to handle.
With eggplants still in the pan, cut off tops and discard. Place a colander over a bowl; place eggplants, top-side down, into colander. Let cool at least 15 minutes to let excess moisture drip out.
Peel eggplants, scraping any flesh that may remain on skin with a tableknife. Discard skins. Place flesh in a large mixing bowl and chop with a sharp knife to desired consistency. Stir in tahini, lemon juice, garlic, salt and black pepper. If you prefer, use a hand blender or food processor, pulsing to create a thick paste. Taste and add more garlic, salt and/or pepper to taste. Stir in chopped parsley.
Transfer to a serving bowl and serve alongside pita chips. Store leftover dip, tightly covered, in the fridge up to 2 days.