Baba ghanoush – roasted eggplant dip

Versatile baba ghanoush can be served as a dip with crackers and veggies or as a topping for grilled lamb or fish.

The Kitchen Paper
Roasted eggplant, or baba ghanoush, is a versatile spread that can be served with crackers and crunchy veggies as an appetizer or as a topping for grilled meats.

This silky, nutty eggplant dip has a lovely, complex flavor and a surprising sweetness. Baba ghanoush (also spelled baba ganoush) makes a great snack served with crudites (a fancy word for sliced, fresh veggies), pita bread or chips and is a must-have component of any self-respecting mezze platter. It's also a great way to make use of the overwhelming number of eggplants in our garden right now. So I made some.

According to Wikipedia, the translation of baba ghanoush is "pampered papa." Why not? In any case, it's fun to say.

The preparation is pretty simple and although it takes a little while to roast or grill the eggplants, the rest is very quick. Start with the freshest eggplants you can find. Ours are a mix of three varieties – any kind will work.

Pierce the skin with a fork a number of times all over. Cut each eggplant in half lengthwise, brush them with olive oil and lay them cut-side down on a heavy baking sheet. Roast for 35-40 minutes until the flesh is soft and the skin is all wrinkly.

Let them cool down enough to handle them safely then use a spoon to scoop the flesh out of each one. Don't be discouraged if it looks unappetizing – it will taste delicious!

In the bowl of your food processor, add lemon juice, garlic, tahini paste, olive oil, cumin powder and salt. You can also add cayenne pepper for a little bit of kick (I didn't have any). Process until smooth – 30 seconds or so. Taste and adjust the seasonings as needed. That's it!

Baba goes beautifully with all sorts of things – grilled lamb, chopped salad, hummus, feta cheese, orzo salad, couscous, fish and more. A note about the tahini: If you hate it or are allergic to it, you can substitute mayonnaise and make a very similar dip which is called salat ḥatzilim b'mayonnaise though I admit that I have not tried this yet.

Baba Ghanoush
Serves 4-8 as an appetizer

Several eggplants (the number varies based on the size of the eggplants but you want them to add up to about 2 lbs)
3 tablespoons organic olive oil
3 tablespoons tahini paste
1 large clove of garlic, minced or pressed
Juice of one lemon
1-2 teaspoons sea salt, or more to taste
1 teaspoon ground cumin

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Pierce the skin of the eggplants with a fork and cut each one in half the long way. Brush the cut side with olive oil and place, cut-side down on a baking sheet. Roast for roughly 35-40 minutes, until the skin is wrinkled and the interior is very tender. Remove the tray from the oven and let cool for 10-15 minutes. If you prefer to grill the eggplants, preheat your grill, pierce the skin with a fork, rub them with olive oil and cook over high heat for several minutes on each side, flipping once the skin is blackened. Take the charred eggplants off the grill and put them in a paper bag, fold it closed and let them steam in their skins for 15 minutes before proceeding with step 2 below.

2. Use a spoon to scoop the flesh out of the skins – it should come out easily. If you want a chunky, rustic-style dip, mash teh flesh with a fork until it reaches your desired consistency, then add the other ingredients and mix well. Or, if you prefer a smoother dip (I do), place the flesh in the bowl of your food processor along with the garlic, remaining olive oil, tahini, lemon juice, salt and cumin powder. Process briefly, until somewhat smooth. Taste and adjust the seasonings, as needed.

3. Let cool to room temp, drizzle with olive oil and serve.

Related post on The Garden of Eating: Thai Roasted Eggplant Salad with Herbs and Greens

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