September 8th, 2008

Baba ganouj – Don's version

bio_donThis is my baba ganouj recipe, from Lebanon, but widespread through Israel, Palestine and Jordan, and a bunch of other Mediterranean countries, I think. It’s more like hummus since it has tahini as a key ingredient:

Ingredients

1 big or equivalent medium sized eggplants
juice of half a lemon (use the rest to make tahini sauce)
1/3 c of tahini (sesame paste – staple around out veggie household – get a good brand)
a clove of garlic (to taste)
Dash of salt
For garnish, dipping (high quality) olive oil, chopped up parsley

Prep

There are two ways to prep the eggplant, and it changes taste. The easy way is to simply bake it in the oven until it is soft. I usually cut it in half, put it cut side down on a cookie sheet with olive oil on it, and let it cook, about 15 or 20 minutes until soft.

The alternative is to use the traditional technique, which gives the ganouj a markedly smoky flavor (some people hate it, others demand it). The American kitchen way to do this is simply lay the eggplant on a burner and let it char. This also takes about 15 minutes – it needs to get soft inside. Here’s a thing from the hummus blog showing how.

Either way, smoky or non, you essentially let the eggplant cool down after it cooks, scoop out the inside (I don’t leave the skin, but I don’t bother to fish out little pieces either).

Pass the garlic through a press and add it, the lemon juice and the tahini to the eggplant. Then mix it up and moosh it up good. You can use a food precessor, but don’t over do it – make it smooth, but not paste-like.

Serve it in a bowl, garnish with a bit of olive oil on the top (make a little indentation) and parsley. Scooping it up with pieces of pita bread is the way to go at our house. It keeps well for at least 3-4 days in the frig, if it lasts that long.

Make a little homemade hummus, get some good falafels, make some fool and some tabouli,  set it out with the baba, and you have perfect Middle Eastern feast. Slice up cukes and tomatoes on the side.

One of my favorite things is a simple tahini dressing to go with everything:

The other half of that lemon’s juice.
1/4 c more or less of tahini
Garlic clove (or 1/2 clove, depending on how much you like garlic)
Water
Pinch of salt

Put the tahini in a little bowl, squeeze in the lemon juice, press in the garlic, and mix. It’s like magic – it becomes a lumpy thick paste, partly solid, with a whitish color in places. Then slowly add water, little by little, until you get the consistency you want – really runny for a sauce to pour on falafels, kind-of thick as a dip. Salt to taste (very lightly).

I don’t use cumin regularly in these dishes (though I really like it for beans, etc – it’s a great spice) because it has such a marked taste, and because when I ate a lot of hummus and baba – back when I lived in Africa in the Peace Corps, and before that the Middle East – it wasn’t spiced with cumin. At this point in life, I taste memories, too. I will, though, sometimes grind in a bit of fresh pepper.

Comments

    Don! This looks delicious. I will definitely try it.

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