As the summer wears on, our bumper crop of eggplant continues. We started with the eggplant parmesan then moved on to an asian dish I’ve been trying to replicate for years; eggplant and tofu. Most recently, I have been experimenting with Baba Ghanoush; a traditional arabic dish made from roasted eggplant. When roasted, the eggplant emits a sweet earthy smell. The flavor becomes rich and complex, with a hint of smokiness. The roasted eggplant is mashed or chopped, and mixed with lemon, garlic, olive oil, and salt. The result is an incredibly rich and sometimes potent spread, perfect on toast.
To make Baba Ghanoush you will need:
1-2 lbs eggplant
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 teaspoons tahini (sesame paste)
1-2 tablespoons good olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
a pinch of salt
Start by slitting the eggplant lengthwise. Insert your knife into the convex (bulging) side of the fruit and cut all the way through without breaking the skin on the other side. Next roast the eggplant; 40-50 minutes at 425 F. The skin will crisp up and burn a bit, which gives a nice smokiness to the dish. The grill is also great for this and really accentuates the smoky flavors. Roast until the eggplant feels like complete mush inside; this is what you are going for.
Remove the eggplant from the heat and set slit-side down in a colander in the sink until completely cool. While cooling it will produce bitter fluid; allow this to drain off. Using a large spoon, scrape the flesh away from the skin. The long deep slits means you can extract half of the fruit in one or two long swipes. Discard the skins and do a fine chop on the flesh. You can also use a food processor, but I’d go easy. Baba ghanoush varies in its texture but I like a coarse, textured spread.
Now stir in half of each of the other ingredients: juice of half a lemon, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 teaspoon tahini, 1 clove of garlic, and a pinch of salt. Stir well, even kind of whipping it up, then taste. Add more of any of these ingredients as desired.
Like me you might think roasting the garlic is a good idea. I tried it and I won’t be going back there again. The roasted garlic is delicious on its own, but makes the Baba ghanoush far too sweet. I do find the raw garlic can be somewhat overpowering, but it mellows with age.
The spread will store in the fridge for a week or so and the flavors will be a bit different every day. I made some last night with 1 large clove of garlic, and it was crazy garlicy. Today there is still a strong garlic undertone, but I get more of the eggplant sweetness and a distinct lemony note.