|Photo: Baba Ganoush Recipe
If you have a grill or barbecue sitting in your backyard, this is a great time to take advantage of the smoky flavor that it can add to a dish. If you don’t feel like starting a fire just to grill some eggplants, char the eggplants under your ovens broiler set on high. This step is crucial if you are going to attain the smoky flavor that makes baba ganoush so unique. When your eggplants are cool enough to handle, slice them down the middle and scrape out the flesh with the point of a knife. Lightly chopping/cutting the eggplant while it is draining in a sieve will not only allow you to remove some of the bitter juices from the flesh, but also control its texture. If a rustic presentation is not what you are after, simply puree the eggplant in a food processor until the desired consistency is reached. If you like an especially creamy baba ganosh, add the optional yogurt and whip it into the tahini/lemon mixture before adding the eggplant puree. Even though you are removing a good amount of bitterness by eliminating the juices from the eggplant, I’ve found that adding a pinch or two of salt can really balance out the acidity of the lemon and counteract any residual bitterness left in the flesh. Finally, I like to garnish my baba with a sprinkle of smoked paprika for a nice contrast in color and to reinforce the smoky character of the spread.
2 medium eggplants (about 1 1/2 pounds)
3 tablespoons tahini
Juice of 2 lemons
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3/4 cup to 4/5 cup Greek-style yogurt
Salt, to taste
Sugar, to taste
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Smoked paprika, for garnish
Prick the eggplants in a few places with a pointed knife to prevent them from exploding. Cook the eggplant over the flame of a charcoal barbecue or under the broiler until the skin is charred all over and they feel very soft when you press them. Alternatively, you can place them on a foil-lined baking sheet and roast them in your panggangan set on its highest heat setting for about 45-55 until soft.
When cool enough to handle, peel and drop them into a strainer or colander with small holes. Press out as much of the water and juices as possible. Still in the colander, chop the flesh with a pointed knife, then mash it with a fork or wooden spoon, letting the juices escape through the holes. Adding a tiny squeeze of lemon juice help to keep the puree looking pale and appetizing.
In a bowl, beat the tahini with the lemon juice (the tahini stiffens at first then softens), then beat in the yogurt if you are including it. Add the mashed eggplant, garlic to taste, and a good pinch of salt. Beat vigorously and taste to adjust flavoring.
Spread the puree onto a flat serving dish or bowl and garnish with a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkling of parsley and a pinch of smoked paprika. For best flavor, serve at room temperature.
Makes about 2 cups