My elbow is the color of baba ganoush. After I slipped on the stairs leaving a friend’s dinner party last week (thanks to tread-less sandals and tiredness from an epic day at Alt Summit) and landed on my arm, my poor right elbow turned the ugly purplish gray of baba ganoush. I’m not afraid to say that my favorite eggplant dip of all time is ugly, though we could call it sexy ugly, if you prefer that.
Now for your baba ganoush to achieve the purple-brown-gray hue of an elbow bruise, you have to go through a couple of steps. First, gas kitchen burners stand in for a wood fire, charring the eggplants on all sides, and putting your cooking soundtrack in jeopardy of being replaced by the fire alarm. In addition to turning even the most beautiful violet eggplants black–though you’ll scrape off the skin later–this step adds a subtle smokiness to the baba ganoush. That smokiness turns out to be one of the dip’s essential flavors. For baba ganoush is no mere eggplant spread. It has to be smoky, creamy, and rich.
After you char them, you simply bake the eggplants on a baking sheet until they are meltingly soft inside. You slit them open, which feels a bit like a violation, but it’s the only way to get the softened eggplant into your dip. You can see from the picture that eggplant flesh comes in subtly different colors: don’t worry, your dip will invariably be brownish-purplish-gray.
You scoop out all of that flesh, whatever its color, and transfer it to a big mixing bowl. That leaves behind a collage of burnt eggplant skin.
Finally, you proceed pretty much as if you were making hummus, except that you don’t stick the eggplants in the food processor. Comparative recipe analysis shows that some people actually do go for the puree, but I find nothing more pleasurable than a big chunk of eggplant in my baba ganoush, just as I love my guacamole punctuated by big pieces of delicious avocado.
Incidentally, dinner the night I slipped on the stairs was a Lebanese-style tapas spread, featuring hummus and baba ganoush from Damascus on Atlantic Avenue and homemade sumac-flavored chicken wraps. If you too are in the mindset of mezze (it’s a great hot weather dinner), here are recipes for hummus, avocado hummus, and spiced lamb kebabs.
Makes about 4 cups
3 medium eggplants
1 large clove garlic, minced to a paste with 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
6 tablespoons tahini
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
juice of 1-2 lemons
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Using the burners on your gas stove, char the eggplants over a medium-high flame for 3-5 minutes each, turning to char each side equally. Don’t worry if they look quite burnt. You can also do this on a grill or under the broiler.
Prick each eggplant 5 times with a paring knife. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet, then bake for 25-30 min, until the eggplants are very soft. The skin should be wrinkled.
Let the eggplants cool for about 15 minutes, until cool enough to handle. Slit them open and scoop out the flesh, leaving all the skin behind. Transfer the flesh to a bowl. Using two spoons, break up the eggplant so no piece is bigger than bite-sized. This should be super easy since the eggplant’s so soft. But try not to completely smush it to a puree.
Add the minced garlic, tahini, 3 tablespoons olive oil, and the juice of 1 lemon. Stir to distribute–you’ll watch the dip get creamy as you stir. Taste for balance of flavors, adding more olive oil, lemon juice, or salt to taste. Serve as is, let cool to room temperature, or store in the fridge and eat cold.
Serve topped with a drizzle of olive oil and some chopped green herbs.
I’ve teamed up with Food Network and a host of other great bloggers to bring you Summer Fest, a season-long celebration of summer produce. Follow the links below to check out what everyone else has cooked up with their eggplant this week!
Jeanette’s Healthy Living: Asian Grilled Eggplant With Soy-Sesame Sauce
From My Corner of Saratoga: Ratatouille Fresh From the Garden
And Love It Too: Slow-Cooker Paleo Eggplant Parmesan
Made by Michelle: Eggplant Zucchini Muffins
Cooking With Elise: Stuffed Eggplant
Virtually Homemade: Layered Ratatouille la Ratatouille
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Roasted Eggplant and Peppers Dip
HGTV Gardens: Garden-to-Table: Eggplant
Thursday Night Dinner: Eggplant Flatbread
Healthy Eats: Going Meatless With Eggplant
Devour: Giada’s Rigatoni With Eggplant Puree
Cooking With Books: Sriracha and Honey Eggplant Rice
FN Dish: Eggplant: Champion of the Meat-Free Meal