Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Baba Ganoush - Eggplant Caviar

Baba Ganoush - One of those dishes, despite its absolutely amazing flavors, is, just no other way to put it, ugly.

When you roast an eggplant it in your oven you will smell this hard to pin down, exotic, smokey scent, and know you are on to something good.  
That smell is largely due to all those bitter plant alkaloids you usually drain out of eggplant with salt.  Here you get rid of them by burning them up and turning them into mysterious perfumes. 

So, despite it's drab appearance, bother with it all the same.

First, it is easy.
Second, it is so very good.
Third, it is even better the next day (flavors 'marrying' in the fridge and all that)
(And when you use the leftovers in place of mayonnaise on a sandwich it takes on "secret ingredient" status.)

Despite all aura of mystery and the myriad spellings (gannoush, gannudj, gannouj etc...).  It really comes down to roast a veggie in the oven, stir it with a few pantry items - TA DA!

There are plenty of versions that have you blackening it over a gas flame, grilling the whole eggplants, charring, whirring, dicing up a salad bowl of ingredients and hunting for specialty spices.

All good, and over time you can use these to make your signature baba ganoush.  But you should realize, at the root, baba gannoush has all the difficulty of stirring onion soup mix and fresh chives into sour cream and calling it "dip."  And yet it is so-oooooooooooo much more awesome.

For the very simplest version:


1 largeish purple globe eggplant (slightly bigger than the largest Starbucks drink or enough small ones to make up that size)
2 cloves garlic - crushed or minced fine
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
3 Tbs oil (a good time to break out some fancy olive oil)
juice of one lemon (1 or 2 Tbs to taste)
(Optional - 1 to 2 Tbs Tahini Paste - or to taste.  It adds a rich, creamy element, but is not essential.)


Shallow pan for the oven
Cutting board or large plate
2 forks
small-ish bowl (2+ cups)

Preheat your oven to 400˚F
Poke the fork into the eggplant(s) 4 - 8 times to prevent explosion.
Place just plain on your shallow pan.

No knives necessary.  Or oil or foil or....
Just poke a few times to prevent KA-BOOM! splut.
Bake for 30 - 45 min.  Turn at about 15 min if you think of it.
Keep cooking until a fork pokes all the way through and meets no resistance - down at the globe end.  The stem end sometimes remains tough.

On a cutting board or large plate use two forks to pull open the eggplant and scrape out the flesh.
Use the forks the shred the eggplant.*
If you find you didn't wait long enough, no tragedy, just pop them back in the oven (face up) for 10 or so more minutes, until they are soft through.

Eggplants have so much awesome horror-show to them.
The flesh part just scoops out easily when they are fully cooked -
and leave these odd sea-creature-y packages behind.

Combine the eggplant, lemon juice, oil, salt & garlic.  Make additions to your taste.  Serve with breads or crackers of all kinds.  Make a mezze platter with hummus, olives and other goodies.
Also goes well with lemony chicken dishes.

And it freezes nicely in zip top bags with the air removed... in case you are invaded by a wheelbarrow full of the purple fruits!

*Many modern recipes advise using a food processor, bit this tends to crush the seeds, releasing a bitter flavor.  Bleh! (Food mills are fine, but the flesh is so soft when the eggplant has been roasted enough, you don't really need mechanical help.)

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