Thursday, February 26, 2009

Baba Ghanouj (or Baba Ghanoush -- either way, it’s Daddy Spoiled Rotten)

I, personally, dislike eggplant. I haven’t had it in any form that I could stand. This is a shame; I know lots of people who love the stuff, and it makes me feel like an avenue of licit pleasure is cut off to me. One of the people I know who really has a thing for eggplant is SWMBO. The most excited I saw her get about a meal while we were in Rome was when we walked past a pizza-by-the-slice place near the Trevi Fountain. They had pizza with incredibly thinly shaved eggplant on it. That's where we ate that night, and she was happy.

Liking eggplant as she does, SWMBO is naturally a big fan of Baba Ghanouj, a Mediterranean dish that is to roasted eggplant what hummus is to chick peas. The ingredients are simple enough: eggplant roasted until soft, tahini (sesame butter), olive oil, garlic, lemon, salt, and whatever other spices you want to add. Some people include parsley, too. The problem I have in making the stuff is that I can’t taste it to see if I have the proportions right. The times I have accidentally gotten some into my mouth, it has taken a couple of hours to get the flavor of the eggplant out.

So I cook and have SWMBO taste and tell me when I should add more of something. Last time, I apparently got the mix pretty close to perfect. So this time, I’m going to record the recipe so that I have a base line to work from. If you’re thinking of trying this, I should warn you that SWMBO likes it zingy -- lots of garlic & lots of lemon. She also likes an earthy, smoky taste, which I enhance by roasting the eggplant nearly to the point of burning and then adding some cumin at the end.

So here’s my procedure:
  1. Roast one medium eggplant at 400° for about an hour. (During the winter, it’s best to thoroughly prick the skin of the eggplant before roasting; the skin is thicker in the winter, and I’ve had an eggplant explode on me when the steam couldn’t escape. It made quite a mess of the toaster oven.)
  2. Let the eggplant stand until cool enough to handle; about two hours in the oven or one outside the oven. If you leave it in the oven, you’ll have time to take a nap, and how nifty is it to have a recipe that includes a nap?
  3. Make a paste of seven cloves of garlic and 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt or kosher salt. Sometimes the food processor will leave some garlic chunks, so a little pre-mashing will get it mixed in better. Not that SWMBO minds the occasional chunk of garlic. Come to that, neither do I; I just don’t want to have to fish it out of eggplant.
  4. Put the garlic paste you just made into a food processor along with:
    • 1/3 cup of tahini,
    • 1/3 cup olive oil,
    • the juice from three lemons
  5. Cut open the eggplant and scoop out the innards (they should come out very easily; sometimes you can just dump the innards out of the skin). Add those innards to the contents of the food processor.
  6. Process until smooth.
  7. Dust the top of the paste with cumin & process a bit more. Repeat. (That's right, two dustings.)
  8. Transfer to a serving dish for a party or a storage container for the fridge so you can enjoy a bit at a time over the next several days.
So that’s it. If anything needs adjusting, I’m sure it will appear in the combox so I can adjust the recipe next time I make it.