I’m of the opinion that a well-flavored dip along with crudité, crackers, cheese, olives and other nibbles constitute an easy-to-do, but elegant appetizer. And baba ghanoush, a combination of smoky eggplant purée and tahini, is one of my favorites. Some form of seasoned eggplant purée is made throughout the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East regions, and a variant can be found as far east as India. Eggplant, inedibly bitter when raw, is transformed by deep roasting or grilling into something mild and almost sweet. Because people seem to make it at home only rarely, it feels a bit special and is nearly always warmly received. Usually I wait until eggplants are in season in mid summer to make baba ghanoush, but I was asked to make it for a wedding reception I catered this week, so I thought I’d share this recipe while it’s fresh in my mind. File it away until the day when eggplants appear at your farmer’s market…
Yield: about 2 1/2 cups/ Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
3 medium eggplants (1 1/2- 2 pounds), washed and cut in half lengthwise
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
6 tablespoons tahini (roasted sesame butter), or to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)
pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
pinch of salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1. Place the eggplants cut side down on a baking sheet lined pan with parchment paper. Roast in a 400 degree F oven 45 minutes to an hour, or until the eggplants collapse and the skin is at least partly charred, alternatively, cook on a grill.
2. Cool the eggplants enough so you can peel them. Peel, and keep only the tender, inside pulp.
3. Place the eggplant pulp and the other ingredients, except the parsley, in a food processor and process until everything is well chopped and combined–it doesn’t necessarily have to be completely smooth (if you are adept with a mortar and pestle, use that for this process–you’ll have done it the traditional way). Taste and adjust seasoning (balance all the seasoning ingredients until it tastes right to you).
4. Turn into a bowl, stir in the parsley and drizzle with a little olive oil, if you like.
5. Serve with pita bread, crackers or veggie crudité.