Two and a half years writing a Mediterranean diet food blog and I’m only now sharing a baba ganoush recipe. Sorry, but I just didn’t get it before. But I get it now! Baba ganoush is all about the eggplant. You need to make it the star of the show. You need to make it taste like something. You need to…read on.
The Deal with Baba Ganoush
Baba ganoush. You know any time you discuss…this with…me…Zzzzzzzzzzzz.
Oh, excuse me, I must of drifted off there for minute. I’m so sorry! I hope I didn’t drool. We must have been talking about baba ga…Zzzzzzzzzzzz!
Dang! It happened again! See what happened here?
Relax. This is only a dramatization. I ‘get it’ now, so this no longer happens. But it used to happen. Why? Well come on. Baba ganoush? Baba ganoush is hummus’ boring cousin. Hummus is what you want. Hummus has chickpeas in it, and chickpeas are zippy and fun. Chickpeas like to party! Baba ganoush, on the other hand, is made with eggplant. Frumpy old eggplant. Depending on where you live you might know it as dowdy old aubergine. This is why hummus is interesting and baba ganoush is a snoozefest.
To drive home my point, the morning I was going to make this baba ganoush a friend of mine called. He asked what I was cooking for the blog and I told him, “baba ganoush.” And he replied, “Why?”
I played along. “I have a Mediterranean food blog, silly. Baba ganoush is a quintessential Mediterranean dish. You have to have a baba ganoush recipe. I think it’s like a rule.”
“But it’s so boring,” he replied (Ding! Ding! Ding!). “I just didn’t think you’d bother. It’s like sharing a recipe for toast.”
I used to share this opinion before I saw the light. This is why it’s taken me two and a half years.
The Deal with Eggplant (aka Aubergine)
I’ve said it before: eggplant is the vodka of vegetables. It doesn’t have any qualities. It’s not bad, mind you, it’s just sort of neutral. It’s a blank canvas. And like a blank canvas you can turn it into something beautiful if you paint it up with flavors. Don’t believe me? Eggplant Parmesan. I rest my case. Or better yet, these Eggplant Involtini! Eggplant is a sponge for flavor. It just can’t lead the show. It lacks the charisma. It’s a supporting actor at best.
That’s kind of the idea with baba ganoush as well. Or so I always thought. You add the sesame tahini and the zesty lemon juice and the garlic, and then you’re supposed to be excited. But you know, I have to tell you (and this is in no way baba ganoush’s fault!), most of the baba ganoush I’ve had has been lackluster. There’s not enough lemon and garlic on earth to make it sexy. And in most cases I find myself saying, “this is just…like…bad hummus.”
I know what the problem was now, and I know how to fix it!
Baba Ganoush is All About the Eggplant
Here’s the deal: in baba ganoush you need to let the eggplant play the lead. Supporting actor won’t work. It’s too dominant. It’s the main thing in the stuff, after all. You have to let it show off or it’s nap time. And you don’t want that.
How, you ask? How is this possible? How can dowdy aubergine possibly pull this off? Well I’m going to tell you right now. You smoke it. YOU SMOKE IT! That’s how! And then it’s all smoky. And smoky eggplant? Smoky eggplant is incredible! This is the thing I didn’t get before. This is what I never knew.
What tipped me off was that Mediterranean Stuffed Eggplant I made last month. I incinerated that eggplant under the broiler in my own kitchen until the smoke alarm went off and I frightened the neighbors. I broiled it until the skin blistered and charred black. And this was the thing. I think of smoking things over wood. The wood makes the smoke, right? But in this case the eggplant itself makes the smoke. And dang if it doesn’t take on a rich smoky flavor. It’s really really good. As soon as I took the first bite I thought to myself, “Oh! I totally get baba ganoush now!” I just knew. And so now I’ve tried it. I made it. And I will make it again and again.
You should make it too!
- 2 Large Eggplant
- ⅔ Cup Sesame Tahini
- Juice of Half of a Lemon
- 2 Cloves Garlic
- Salt and pepper to taste
- ¼ Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Additional high quality extra virgin olive oil
- Preheat the broiler in your oven (alternatively, you could do these outside on a grill).
- Cut each eggplant in half lengthwise and place the halves cut side down on a baking sheet. Place them under the broiler and allow them to cook until the skins of the eggplant blister and char (this may take 15-20 minutes even under intense heat). If the smoke alarm goes (mine did) turn it off. The exteriors should be charred black.
- Remove the eggplant halves from the oven and allow them to cool completely. They’ll soften and collapse a bit as they cool. This can be done a day ahead of time if you like.
- Scoop the soft interior flesh of the eggplants into a large food processor, together will the tahini, lemon juice, garlic, and salt and pepper. Puree the mixture in the food processor, slowly drizzling the olive oil as it mixes. The final product should be smooth and silky.
- Scoop into a bowl, drizzle the top with extra olive oil and the garnishes.