Updated: 03/31/2014 3:54 PM
Created: 03/29/2014 10:00 AM WNYT.com
By: Jaired Crofut
JULIE TABOULIE® LEBANESE CUISINE
BLISSFUL “BABA GHANOUSH” ? ? ? ??? ???
Copyright© 2014 Julie Ann Sageer, Julie Taboulie® Lebanese Cuisine. All Rights Reserved.
In-active cooking time: 45 minutes. Actual active time: 15 minutes. Total time: 60 minutes.
♦ Vegetarian ♦ Vegan ♦ Gluten-Free ♦ Dairy-Lactose Free ♦ Heart-Healthy ♦ Low-Cholesterol ♦
Babaganoush ~ A rich and robust roasted and earthy eggplant spread, seen as a significant stand-out
star among the magical Mezze small plates presented at a Lebanese table and throughout the Middle Eastern regions.
Meaning “father of pestle” the word “baba” meaning father and “ghanuj” meaning stone this luscious Lebanese-Levantine extraordinary and earthy eggplant spread is a sheer stunner to make and enjoy for oneself! Traditionally the eggplants are either prepared by baking, broiling or fire roasting over an open flame or in an utterly hot oven then the crusty and crunchy or charred skin is peeled off revealing a soft as-can-be center with either a faint roasted fragrance or a super-smoky flavor depending upon your cooking choice. The aromatic eggplant is then mashed and blended with tasty tahini, glorious garlic cloves and fresh flat-leaf parsley spiked with fresh lemon juice and sprinkled with sea salt and freshly ground pepper into a tempting and textural taste that is truly like no other spread on the scene. In my recipe I’m opting for roasting in the oven as I prefer a more subtle smokiness that won’t over-power the tasty tahini sauce that is sure to tickle your tongue!
This signature spread is virtually the counterpart to its close and charming (first) cousin Hummus! Roasted eggplants are exchanged for cooked chickpeas and essentially all of the other key ingredients are the same, although the significance and secrets stand the test-of-time in the traditional techniques to achieve this unique taste and texture that only Baba Ghanoush brings. Seemingly this mainstay side-kick always appears to take a back seat- sitting in the shadows of Hummus and I am striving for Baba Ghanoush to take to the steering wheel and steal the spotlight on the table. And, speaking as a loyal Lebanese I obviously love Hummus but I must admit that I love Baba Ghanoush just a little bit more and I believe that you may too with just one rich and robust bite of my blissful Baba Ghanoush!
2-3 Italian eggplants, pierced and roasted (preferably small sized eggplants)
2-3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1/3 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
2 tbsp. cold water
2 lemons, freshly juiced
1tsp. sea salt
2 small pinches freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 450* degrees
First, using the end tip of a small and sharp paring knife, pierce small slits all along and into the outer skin of each eggplant. The small slits will allow air to release from the eggplants as they roast while also
allowing them to roast evenly inside in the oven. Then lay each eggplant on a heavy-bottomed sheet pan and place in the center rack of the preheated oven and roast for approximately 40-45 minutes. Halfway throughout the roasting process turn the eggplants over to allow for equal roasting on each side of each eggplant. Roast until the eggplants are completely cooked through from tip to tip, soft to the touch and visibly deflated- the skin will appear almost burnt and the eggplants themselves will completely collapse. Remove from the oven at once and transfer from the hot sheet pan to a clean plate to cool until they are warm to the touch and you are able to handle. Then slice each eggplant in half lengthwise, split apart with your fingers, lay flat on a board and starting from the bottom working your way up to the tip scrape and scoop up the roasted eggplant flesh. Then place the flesh in a fine mesh sieve over a catch-bowl and press down on the flesh with the back of a spatula to release as much excess water liquid as possible and set flesh aside.
In the meantime, in a food processor first finely mince the garlic and parsley then add the tahini, cold water, fresh lemon juice, sea salt and ground pepper and process until all of the ingredients have blended well together, scrapping the sides and the bottom of the processor periodically. The consistency should be smooth and silky being able to lightly coat a wooden spoon. It should not be too thick or too thin and runny for that matter. It should have a light fluidity.
Now, add the roasted eggplant flesh to the tahini sauce and pulse the food processor for a few times just enough to incorporate the eggplant with the sauce into a substantial and full-bodied thick texture that will turn into an earthy light brown color with specks of green parsley leaves running through. Remember we are not going for hummus here so be sure not to over-process.
Transfer from food processor and generously spread onto a large serving plate or bowl, drizzle with good quality extra virgin olive oil and sprinkles of crushed red pepper flakes for a flavorful finish! Traditionally served room temperature with warm pocket pita bread or crispy and crunchy pita chips along with freshly sliced vine-ripe-ruby-red tomato wedges sprinkled with sea salt or roasted yellow squash and zucchini slices making for a mouthwatering Mezze mini-meal!
Sidebar: Selecting Exquisite Eggplant
Freshness: First and foremost freshness should always come first! First clue for freshness is the outer skin should be shiny and glossy and the second is that the top stem should be green and not brown.
Size: Select small to medium sized Italian eggplants as the smaller the eggplants are the tastier and tender it will be. The bigger the eggplants the more tough they will be.
Color: Look for deep dark pristine purple/black eggplants and not reddish purple as this is an indicator that they stood on the vine too long and are older.
Touch & Texture: Go for firm eggplants that have minimal to no imperfections, bruising or soft spots.
Taste Tip! There is one golden rule-of-thumb to always remember when it comes to finding the most exquisite eggplant especially for this recipe and for all of my eggplant recipes which is the bigger the eggplants the bigger seeds and the smaller the eggplants the smaller the seeds. So why does size and seeds matter? The bitterness sits and settles in the seeds so therefore the smaller the eggplants the less likely you are to come across any sort of bitter taste or bitter bite that you would more likely find in bigger eggplants. Follow my eggplant explanations above and your outcome will always be blissful and not bitter!
Takloull Bil’ Hanna! Eat In Happiness!