Monday, February 2, 2009

Baba Ghanouj

Baba Ghanouj (pronounced ganoosh) is a sort of Middle Eastern dip made from eggplant that is wonderful on grilled wedges of pita bread. Elly has slightly modified a recipe for this from Nava Atlas's Vegetarian Celebrations, and the result is simply delicious. Better, in fact, than we have found in restaurants or from grocery stores. The cookbook is out-of-print but is readily available on Advanced Book Exchange or you might be able to check it out from the library. Elly recently made a batch (with a small amount of help from Moi) for the first annual meeting of the Dahl Metters Eggplant Tasting Club, more on which in my next post.

The first step is to roast two whole eggplants (about three pounds) in a 500 degree oven for 40 minutes. These are the big purple kind found in most grocery stores. The eggplants must be pierced first with a fork so they don't explode. Elly recommends puncturing each egg plant about 16 times -- four lengthwise rows of punctures distributed around the eggplant. Smaller eggplants might need less time but this isn't too critical. You might also need three eggplants if they're smaller. Just make sure the total weight is about three pounds. I helped by puncturing the eggplants. Sorry, I don't have a picture of this or of roasting them in the oven. Atlas's recipe calls for roasting them on broil, but baking at high temp is more reliable. Also, the eggplants only need to be turned once (after about 20 minutes). Keep baking them until they collapse inward. It doesn't matter if the skins get charred because they will be discarded anyway. An alternative approach, which adds a pleasing smokiness to the dish is to grill them on a barbecue grill. They must be turned during this process so they char up evenly. Again, keeping grilling until they collapse.

After the eggplant is roasted or grilled, set it aside to cool. While the eggplant is roasting (or cooling, you'll have plenty of time) saute one heaping cup of chopped yellow onions and four gloves of minced garlic in one table spoon of olive oil over moderate heat until translucent. Hint: start the onions sauteing before adding the garlic to prevent the garlic from getting too brown.



You will also need 1/4 cup of tahini (sesame paste). The texture is a little like thick peanut butter. The Krinos brand is available at many grocery stores and is consistently good in our experience. Also, the juice of one lemon (use fresh!) and 1 teaspoon of ground cumin.



Once the eggplant is cool enough to handle, slit them open lengthwise and scoop out the insides with a spoon. This looks pretty scary. Just keep your courage up and don't worry! :-) Hint: if your friends or family are squeamish about eggplant, don't let them see you make this dish!



Glop the eggplant, sauteed onions and garlic, and the rest of the ingredients into your food processor. It will look even scarier than the eggplant by itself. Don't worry, be happy! Do do do do do do do...



Slap the lid on and press the button. Continue until it looks like this. Don't over do it. You want the baba ghanouj to have a little texture.



I'm sorry I don't have a picture of the finished dip in a serving dish. Elly makes a lovely presentation by swirling the dip with a spoon so there are a few circular grooves, drizzling some olive oil on top (it will settle into the grooves), and the adding a light sprinkle of Cayenne pepper. Serve the dip at room temperature. It will hold in the refrigerator for several days, but allow it to warm up to room temp before serving for the best flavor.

3 comments:

waxwing said...

I love Baba Ghanouj. I've tried making it, but I never get that smoky flavor I get in middle eastern restaurants. Maybe I don't roast the eggplant at a hot enough temperature.

Thanks for the recipe!

Fiske said...

Waxwing:

Roast the eggplant on a charcoal grill -- you won't get smokey flavor from roasting it in the oven no matter how high the temp. A Weber is great for this sort of thing. It sounds scary, but it is really easy to do. You might even try adding some wood chips to the charcoal to increase the smokey flavor. Hickory? Cedar?

I roast tons of veggies on the grill. In fact, I don't roast meat on the grill much at all any more.

You know what is terrific grilled? Patty pan squash, believe it or not. They are shaped in such a way they won't slip through the grate, they're easy to turn, and they taste terrific grilled. A fennel bulb is another awesome grill veggie. Cut off the green tops, quarter the blub, brush it with some olive oil, sprinkle on some kosher salt, and throw it on the grill.

Kosher salt and olive oil are sort of grill veggie secret weapons.

Fiske

PS: In fact, you can just pitch the idoized salt and use kosher for all your cooking and seasoning. You'll be glad you did. All your friends will think you are a "foodie." ;-)

Robert said...

There is of course the other way of preparing the eggplant - a la exploding aubergine curry. Take eggplant and impale on long skewer. Hold over high gas flame until all the skin, in theory, is charred and can be slipped off. If misjudged somewhat, the eggplant explodes with a pleasing "phuff" and the skin can then be removed from the eggplant shrapnel. Actually, it works quite well ...
Rob