Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Baba Ghannouj

I'm a huge fan of eggplant (see my recipe for Grilled Eggplant Salad) and Baba Ghannouj (or Baba Ghanoush or Baba Ganoush) is such a versatile way to eat it!

This appetizer of eggplant, garlic and lemon juice is one of my favorite things to eat. It goes so well with vegetables and all kinds of bread and makes a great sandwich spread.

For the past few months, I've been trying to replicate the smoky, eggplant-forward taste of the Baba Ghannouj found at a favorite Cincinnati restaurant. Andy's Mediterranean Grille does it so well that my son Sam can't stop eating what he likes to call Baba Gagoose.

After trying recipes from many sources, I think the secret is in using just the right amount of tahini (a paste made from ground sesame seeds.) Too much and your eggplant tastes like hummus. But when you hit on the perfect number of spoonfuls, the resulting texture and slightly nutty flavor can't be beat.

That said, this is one of those dishes that I'm sure will vary with each person, so be sure to adjust the ingredients to suit your own tastes.

Mangia! Mangia!

Baba Ghannouj

1 large eggplant
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Juice of 1 large lemon, between 1/4 cup and 1/2 cup
1 to 2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 to 2 tablespoons tahini
Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped fresh parsley, optional

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Wash eggplant. Pierce the eggplant all over with a fork. Slice in half lengthwise. Brush cut sides of eggplant with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Place eggplant on a baking sheet, cut sides down.

Cook eggplant until it is deflated and soft, between 30 and 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Remove eggplant pulp from the skin and place in food processor or blender. Add 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1 clove garlic and 1 tablespoon tahini. Process until smooth. Add salt and pepper, and blend or stir to combine.

Taste the Baba Ghannouj. Add more garlic, tahini, salt and pepper and parsley (if using) to suit your preferences.

Place spread in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Note: Some recipes call for adding the olive oil directly into the spread. Try it – you might like it that way!

Garnish with parsley or cilantro.

Serve with vegetables and breads or use on sandwiches (such as a combo of provolone cheese, cucumbers and peppers.)

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