Baba Ghanoush: Eggplant Mush

I find it no coincidence that so many cultures like to tame eggplant by beating them to a pulp. My run-in with not-so-well-cooked eggplant earlier this summer has put me off the poisonous plants for a little while, but I’m not calling it quits just yet. Baba ghanoush, eggplant “caviar,” so to speak, has been enjoyed throughout Middle Eastern, North African and Eastern European cuisines for many centuries before peasant food became chic. They must know what they’re doing.


true colors

Tempted by their sheer beauty, I scooped up a small assortment of eggplants at the Farmers’ Market last weekend: a common deep-purple one, a snow-white one, and a lavender brushstroked-looking one. Aside from these colorful specimen, I kept the recipe for the dip very basic. Drawing from the traditional recipes, I added only tahini, lemon juice, garlic and a splash of spice — cumin, cayenne and smoked paprika to play up the smokiness of the roasted eggplant. While mint is a common herbal addition, I found tender basil leaves a complementary match, too, and a convenient one, as my little outdoor plant is on its last legs.

I always liked the way over-cooked eggplant melts into the sauce of a Chinese braised or stir-fry dish (which, by the way, if you’re looking for a recipe for, one can be found here). The range of sliminess to meatiness plus the texture of its silken skin is fascinating, if slightly weird. Therefore, I decided to mash up my eggplant for this baba ghanoush with the skins (ooh! the scandal!). They were so pretty, I had to question why they needed to be sacrified, as I generally question, likewise, why any part of any vegetable needs to be sacrificed. But what would happen? Would it turn purplish? Leave unpleasant things in my mouth?


keepin’ it real

Yes, to its color darkening significantly (which translates to more vitamins). No to the unpleasant texture. The optimum texture for baba ghanoush may indeed be skinless. But after a long roast, the skins had become thin and elastic, and when torn to tiny bits in the food processor, they were barely detectible in the texture of the dip. This result was probably helped by the variety of eggplants I had chosen — the white ones having slightly thinner skins. All told, I can’t see what the fuss over scooping eggplant from its skin to make baba ghanoush is all about. It’s not like the color of baba ghanoush is beautiful to begin with.

If I haven’t said so already (and looking back, I haven’t, though I often wanted to), I highly recommend checking out Amanda Park Taylor’s excellent case for freezing the last of the summer’s harvest in her column in The L Magazine a few weeks ago. The hard reality is that the Greenmarket won’t be giving us the same love in tomatoes, eggplant, or zucchini or fruit for much longer. Eggplants, it’s almost time to kiss goodbye. So make some fresh tomato sauce, she says, and keep it in your freezer all winter. It’ll keep your freezer full of thaw-able delectables, and even conserve energy in the process.

So why not make fresh baba ghanoush, and take it out of chilly hibernation when you have a party. You can be the Goddess of Ghanoush; the Ali Baba of Eggplant. Also, the stuff has proven to be fairly versatile so far. It’s worked its way into sandwiches both warm and cold, in addition to being a dip.


applications Part I: dipping doodads (with homemade “flat” bread, aka “foccacia” that didn’t rise)


applications Part II: chimichanga-like baked wrap with baba ghanoush and red onion, topped with fresh homemade tomato sauce

Basic Baba Ghanoush
(makes enough servings for a fine party)

2 pounds of eggplant, about 2 or 3 depending on size, any color or variety
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon tahini
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
sprinkle of fresh basil or other herbs (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Trim and halve eggplants lengthwise. Coat with a little olive oil and roast for 45-60 minutes. Let cool, and squeeze out any remaining juices.

Cut eggplant into coarse chunks and place into a food processor or blender, working in batches if necessary. Pulse together with tahini, lemon juice, garlic, salt and spices for a minute or two, stopping to scrape down the sides occasionally. Drizzle in two tablespoons of olive oil while pulsing. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt or spices if desired.

Transfer to a bowl and serve immediately with a drizzle of olive oil on top. Or, cover and chill for an hour before serving to let flavors develop. Keep covered in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Cost Calculator
2 lbs eggplant: $2.00
1 lemon: $0.33
1 Tb tahini (at $4/jar): $0.25
1 garlic clove, salt, spices: $0.25
3 tablespoons olive oil: $0.50

Total: $3.33

Health Factor

 

Four brownie points: My only objection to this dish is the copious amount of oils it flaunts. Tahini is a lovely flavor and protein packer, but it’s as fatty as peanut butter. It’s traditional to serve baba ghanoush as a dip with a generous drizzle of olive oil on top, in addition to the olive oil already in it. But other than that, it’s essentially eggplant, which are high in fiber, potassium, and plenty more vitamins — especially when you leave on the skins!

12 Responses

  1. OhioMom
    |

    “The hard reality is that the Greenmarket won’t be giving us the same love in tomatoes, eggplant, or zucchini or fruit for much longer”

    The farmers at my market said they will be gone by the end of this month … sigh. I have put up so many veggies/fruits in the freezer there is no room for meat 🙂 I have decided to can next year.

  2. Deborah Dowd
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    Seriously, Baba Ghanoush has to be the ugliest delicious food there is. It never really looks appealing no matter what you do, but if you can get past that.. delicious!

  3. Yvo
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    Yummmmm!

  4. Lilster
    |

    I love eggplant in many forms — I’ve never made Baba Ganoush before (I live too near too many excellent middle eastern restaurants and markets to bother), but I have made eggplant dips before. I usually do a variation on Italian eggplant flavors — roasted eggplant, fresh basil, olive oil, a bit of roma tomato, maybe some gratings of parmesan cheese, balsamic vinegar — whoosh, in a blender.

    However, my vote for ugliest delicious food is my mother’s lentil “soup” (which we like with a drier texture, so it cooks down in a greyish mushy mass). Real easy — 1 cup green/brown lentils, 4 c water, 1 onion chopped, 2 carrots chopped, salt, pepper, a dash of olive oil. Throw it all in the pot (rinse/sort lentils first). Simmer on the stove until everything is tender, and then at the end add in anywhere from 1/2-1 cup of a small bead pasta (Acini de pepe is what we use). That will absorb the rest of the water (you may even need to add some more — keep an eye on it). Really gross looking — I once made it for a vegetarian roommate and she didn’t want to eat it (“what’s that?’), but I made her taste it and she asked me after that all the time to make it again.

  5. […] to Deborah and Lilster for inspiring this contest with their comments on my recent Baba Ghanoush post. Deborah declared the eggplant dip “the ugliest delicious food.” (I might add that I […]

  6. […] of her readers remarked that her Baba Ghanoush was “the ugliest delicious […]

  7. Leah
    |

    Fabulous! I added a bit more techina, but this recipe tasted almost exactly like my mom’s baba (she’s Israeli), which I’ve never really been able to replicate.

  8. Megan from MN
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    Heck yeah! I just made this, like 2 seconds ago–so good! I love eggplant and Baba Ghanoush but have never made eggplant other than saute or grilled… so this is great! Yum yum yum!

  9. Heather
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    This recipe is great! I’ve made baba ghanoush many times but I like to try out the small differences between different recipes (like the paprika in this one). I typically use a bit less olive oil than is called for and still enjoy it to no end.

  10. josh
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    i know this was a major throwback recipe, 2007!!, but I just tried it, delicious…

  11. Katy
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    Thanks SO much for the “skin-on” recipe. I hate wasting anything that has to do w/ veggies (we have 4 kiddos who grew up in orphanages in Africa and believe you me, it is a crime to waste such healthy, filling goodness.)
    We LOVED making this today… GREAT recipe. We did sub the tahini with homemade greek yogurt (2 tbsps) and it was AWESOME… we live in SE Asia and can’t always find tahini!

  12. Sherrie
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    I am making it at this moment, kept looking for a recipe that included the skin! Can’t wait to try this one and share it with our local CSA where I write and kitchen test recipes. I’ll think I’ll use basil, cumin, smoked paprika and homemade tahinni as well as grated garlic and lime juice. I will try sour cream instead of the Greek yogurt, just because it’s what’s on hand at the moment, it sounds great as is, but I like to mix things up a bit. Will also add Sugar Rush Peach Hot Pepper 🌶 Sauce for a kick. I grew my own Peach Hot Peppers this year and I am looking for ways to use these awesome flavorful peppers.

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