There’s a mediterranean restaurant near my parents’ house that serves an awesome plate of four different dips (and a big bowl of pita bread) – I believe it includes a regular hummus, a spicy hummus, a white bean and rosemary dip, and baba ghanoush. They are all good, but I always kind of want to ask if I could just replace the other three dips with more baba ghanoush – I love it so much!
I’m obviously a big fan of eggplant in general, as evidenced by my eggplant parmesan and eggplant stack recipes – I even use it instead of noodles for a gluten free lasagna. (There are actually a lot more things I use eggplant for but I do try to space it out a little so this doesn’t turn into The Eggplant Blog.)
Baba ghanoush (or baba ganush, baba ghannouj or baba ghannoug. Wikipedia offers them all as options) has a wonderfully complex flavor that makes it seem like a much more elaborate dish than it really is. If you’ve never had it I highly recommend it! Turns out it’s not terribly complicated to make as long as you know the secret trick to getting that fabulous smoky flavor.
Take an eggplant, and without removing the peel or anything, pop it directly onto a burner on the stove. I don’t know if this would work with an electric stove, but I bet it would work with a grill.
Using tongs (or at least an oven mitt) roast it over medium-high heat until the outside starts to get all black and bubbly – this should take maybe five minutes or so, not too long.
Then pop it in a pot and let it heat, covered, for about 30 minutes, turning once halfway through.
Once it’s all nice and soft, take it out of the pot and put it in a bowl. Cut it in half (you’ll want to cut it while it’s in the bowl so you can keep the juices that come out) and scoop out the flesh and seeds from the inside, removing the burnt skin. Try to get most of the skin out, but a few little pieces are fine, that’s what gives it a great smoky flavor.
Once you’ve got the flesh scooped out, stick it in a blender or food processor along with a bit of tahini, lemon juice, sesame seeds, salt, and a small clove of garlic and blend until smooth. Add a tablespoon or so of olive oil and quickly blend just to combine it. Serve it with some nice warm pita bread, or even just on vegetables or crackers, and you’ve got restaurant-quality homemade baba ghanoush!
Don’t skip the roasting step, it really won’t taste as good without that smoky burnt skin adding depth and flavor. Other than that, you can mix it up to your heart’s content – more lemon, more tahini, more garlic, skip the sesame seeds…just have fun!