Baba Ganoush literally means Pampered Daddy in Arabic. I imagine that this would be the perfect dish to butter up that man in your life. When you char the outer purple skin of eggplant it softens the flesh and infuses it with a campfire taste that is simply addictive. Throw it in the food processor with bright lemon juice, pungent garlic and soothing tahini and you have a spread that is equally at home smeared on a baguette at a picnic or served to the in-laws with fancy-shmancy crudités.
For a varied Middle Eastern spread try making my creamy almond based Labneh, Muhamarra (Syrian red pepper spread), and golden Fava. Instead of boughten pita chips why not bake up a batch of Seeded Rosemary Crackers. I promise you, you will not be disappointed.
When you travel through the middle east it becomes obvious that eggplant is a main staple on every menu. Traveling through Turkey with friends in the 80s and having eaten eggplant every day for a months we thought to write a travel guide abut Turkey with the opening line.
Turkey is a country roughly the size and shape of an end of season eggplant.
There are some countries in the Middle East where a young woman was expected to make 100 distinct dishes from eggplant to prove her worth as a bride. My favorite name for an Ottoman eggplant dish is Imam Bayaldi. There are two takes on the name which translates directly as The Imam Fainted. One story goes that a newly married bride cooked for her husband an eggplant dish so delicious that when he tasted it he swooned and fell to the floor in rapture. Another story goes that an Imam married the daughter of an olive oil merchant. For her dowry she received 60 jars of golden olive oil. Each night she would cook an incredible dish of aubergine, tomatoes and olive oil for her beloved. On the 61st day of their marriage he came home and there was no simmering pot of eggplant stew on the stove. She confessed to him that she had used every drop to cook for him the most delicious food possible. When he heard the olive oil was gone he fainted.
Very well I will marry you if you promise never to make me eat eggplant.
-Gabriel García Márquez
When eggplant meets smoke there is a flavor explosion. This smoky, garlicky spread can be made ahead and used on sandwiches and salads or served to guests with pita chips.
- 2 medium eggplant (about 2 pounds total)
- 1/4 cup tahini
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 pinch salt
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/4-1/3 cup good quality olive oil
- 1/3 cup pine nuts optional
Place one of your eggplants over the open flame of a gas burner and leave it until it is charred. Then turn it to an unburnt section and repeat. Keep turning until the whole eggplant is charred. Place it in an empty pot and cover. Repeat with the other eggplant. If you have access to a grill then by all means char the eggplants in that manner.
Allow both charred eggplants to sit in the pot covered for 20 minutes.
Remove the eggplant form the pot and wipe off the blackened skin. Do not rinse under water or you run the risk of loosing some of the smokey taste. If the skin is not sloughing off easily you can use a kitchen towel to wipe it away.
Place your eggplant into a food processor with the tahini, lemon juice, paprika, garlic, salt and 1/4 cup of the olive oil.
Puree until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings. Feel free to add the rest of the olive oil if that is more to your taste.
Toast up your pine nuts in a dry skillet until golden and fragrant but watch them as they go from golden to ash in the blink of an eye. Sprinkle them on top of your Baba Ganoush for flavor.
Serve with carrot sticks, pita chips, or crackers.