Almost everyone is familiar with baba ghanoush. The less popular and frankly– uglier cousin of hummus (although not as obscure as this cousin) is traditional starter throughout certain parts of the Middle East and the Levant, with each region having its own spin on the eggplant spread. While hummus enjoys popularity in home kitchens (largely due to its simplicity), baba ghanoush is not made as often by the home cook. However, the only extra step for baba ghanoush is cooking the eggplant, and after that the mixture just goes for a whirr in a food processor. The fundamental ingredients are eggplant, tahini (sesame paste), lemon, olive oil and garlic. From here other things can be added from cumin and parsley and even mayonnaise, which is how it is prepared sometimes in Israel.
Most people would argue that the key to great baba ganoush is the smokey quality of the dip which is achieved by aggressively charing the eggplant. And I would agree with most people. In fact, if you have that down, you could get creative by adding other ingredients or playing with the proportions so the baba ganoush is to your liking. You can do this under a broiler or on a grill and both ways work really well. The key is to know this: the eggplant should look so charred and wrinkly that it looks nearly inedible. Don't worry about overcooking it or burning it– trust me, you'd have to forget about your eggplant to destroy it.
- 3 eggplants
- 3 tbsps of tahini
- juice of half a lemon
- 1 small clove of garlic, minced (I'm not a big fan of dishes that have punch-you-in-the-face raw garlic, but if you like it, knock your socks off and add more)
- 2 tbsps of extra virgin olive oil
- 1/8 teaspoon of ground cumin
- salt to taste
- pita bread
Prick your eggplants all over with a fork. If you skip this step you risk your eggplant bursting and all those lovely juices running out. Just watch those fingers. If using the grill, heat your grill on high and place your eggplant on the grill when it gets hot. Close the cover and turn the eggplant every 15 minutes or so until the skin is charred, black and wrinkly. Like a really big funky raisin.
If using the oven. Place the eggplants on a foil lined baking sheet and place under the broiler with the rack positioned on the highest level. Turn the eggplant every 5 minutes so that the entire eggplant gets evenly charred and black. Place them into a 400 degree oven and cook for another 30 minutes until it is super soft inside and wrinkled on the outside.
Let the eggplants cool down and slash them open lengthwise. Some eggplants can be watery inside, so using a spoon scrape the flesh out into a colander. Let the eggplant drain out some of the excess liquid, but you still want some moisture so don't press to dry it out.
Transfer into a food processor or blender and pulse a couple of times. Add the tahini, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, cumin and pinch of salt and blend to your liking. Transfer to a bowl and taste for more seasoning or salt and adjust as needed. Enjoy this with some grilled pita bread or other flat bread.