Baba Ghanoush. Fun to say, difficult to make look pretty. Food this colour is generally not a good idea.
But even the most aesthetically demanding foodies I know make an exception for Baba — it`s just too smoky, creamy and delicious to pass up.
We had it out on the deck last night with some flatbread and beef short ribs fresh off the charcoal grill. The sun may be acting a little shy lately, but I am determined to usher in summer, post-haste. Enough with this inside living stuff…
I dragged our Weber Kettle out of the basement and up 13 stairs to the deck, then went back for the briquettes and lighter — 19 coals in the bottom of the bag. Rain threatened and fuel was low, yet I persevered. The eggplants had to go in the oven to save the charcoal for later, but that was my only concession.
What a meal! The bread was smoky from the grill and the donair dry rub I tried on the short ribs was almost there. It didn’t rain — we even had a young visitor! Mama wasn’t far behind…
Baba Ghanoush is a middle eastern appetizer and side dish. Different countries see slight variations. Some cube their eggplant, others puree it. Onion replaces the garlic in some versions, while everyone seasons theirs just a little differently.
My version has developed from years of different recipes and oral instructions. Recently, I was inspired to try the food mill instead of the food processor. A friend told me it’s how the family she lived with in Turkey made theirs. I loved the extra texture — so now the food mill becomes the latest adapatation to a recipe that is always in progress.
Come to think of it, aren’t all recipes works in progress?
If you have access to a barbecue, especially charcoal, then it really is worth it to grill the eggplants. The smokiness from the open flame adds a depth that you won’t think possible in food. So much umami, Brillat-Savarin would have been at a loss for words. Yes…that deep.
Approx 1½ cups
|Eggplant (1 large or 2-3 small)||1 lb||500 g|
|Salt||1 t||5 ml|
|Olive Oil||2 T||30 ml|
|Garlic, minced||2 cloves|
|Tahini||¼ C||60 ml|
|Fresh Lemon Juice||2-3 T||30-45 ml|
|Parsley or Cilantro, finely chopped||2 T||30 ml|
|Ground Cumin||1 t||5 ml|
|Salt||¾ t||3 ml|
|Fresh Ground Pepper||TT|
|Olive Oil||¼ C||60 ml|
|Olive Oil & Smoked Paprika for garnish|
lb=pound g=grams t=teaspoon ml=millilitres
T=tablespoon C=cup TT=to taste
Trim off the tops of the eggplants and halve lengthwise. Salt the cut sides of the eggplant liberally with the 1 teaspoon of salt. Set aside for 30 minutes to draw moisture and bitterness from the eggplants.
Preheat the oven to 400° F, or fire up the grill. After 30 minutes, wipe away the salt and moisture from the eggplants with a paper towel.
To oven roast, put the eggplants in a pan skin side down and brush the cut sides with the 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Roast the eggplants until browned and very soft, about 40 minutes. The skin should be slightly blackened on the bottom. Remove from the oven and cool completely.
To roast on the barbecue, brush the cut sides lightly with olive oil and grill, covered, turning occasionally until browned, very soft and slightly charred, about 30 minutes.
If using a food mill, chop the eggplant into large pieces and put it through the mill (using either the coarse or medium plate). Some of the skin will make it through the mill — discard what remains in the bottom of the mill. Stir the remaining ingredients, except for the ¼ cup olive oil, into the eggplant puree. Incorporate the olive oil in a slow drizzle while stirring vigourously.
If using a food processor, scrape the flesh from the skins of half of the eggplants. Discard the skins and add the flesh to the food processor. Chop the rest of the eggplant into large pieces, skins and all, and add it along with the remaining ingredients except for the ¼ cup olive oil. Process until smooth. With the motor running, add the olive oil through the food chute in a slow drizzle.
Allow to sit for at least 1 hour before serving. This allows time for the flavours to meld.
Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with smoked paprika and serve with grilled flatbread or pita — or veggies for that matter — it’s all good.