Friday, October 31, 2008
Eggplant Even I Can Love
NaBloPoMo has started. I will do my very best to
a) post everyday
b) not bitch about how hard it is to post everyday
Onward! I don't know when it was that I first tasted hummus. I think it was somewhere around the time that I became a vegetarian but for the life of me, I can't remember where it was or the circumstances. But I do know that I fell in love. I swooned over the recipe in The Greens Cookbook and begged my mom for her Cuisinart so I could make it. She surprised me by buying me my own - the one I still have 15 years later. Every party I would throw, I would make a huge batch of hummus and people would just wolf it down.
Baba Ghanouj came to me later in life. I shied away from it for a long time because I don't really like eggplant. I have mentioned this here before here, but it feels almost like blasphemy to be a vegetarian and admit to not liking eggplant. You are supposed to like it because it has a "meaty" texture and can be substituted for meat in certain dishes. Personally, one of the reasons I don't eat meat is because I don't like the texture of it, so eggplant scores no points with me there. Another reason I don't like it is because, well, it's bitter. Or it can be.
If you are with me on either of the above two points, meet your new best friend, baba ghanouj. This incredible smoky, rich, and tangy dip is a close relative of hummus in that it stars some of the same ingredients. But, and this is hard for me to believe - the person who LOVES chickpeas - but I like baba ghanouj better. The flavor is more complex and the smokiness just can't be beat. I like to serve it with grilled pita bread, but any kind of vegetable dipped in it tastes just great.
I have tinkered around with different recipes and have come up with one that I really love. There are a couple of keys here. Make sure the eggplant is completely soft before you take it out of the oven. You can also grill it, but I would cut it into slices to make sure that it gets cooked through. Finally, in my experience, both hummus and baba ghanoush need a lot of salt, cumin and lemon juice to wake up the flavors. Be sure to taste as you go and adjust as necessary.
Makes about 2 cups
Almost all recipes you see for both hummus and baba ghanouj call for garlic. I don't add any to mine because I really don't like the bite of raw garlic, but feel free to add it if you like. 1-2 cloves would be right for this amount. I like my baba ghanouj very smooth but you can leave it chunkier.
3 lbs. globe eggplant
3-4 tbsp. olive oil
4 tbsp. tahini
1 tsp. ground cumin
Juice of 1-2 lemons
1 tsp. salt
Freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut each eggplant in half and drizzle with olive oil. Place cut side down on a baking sheet and bake until completely soft, about 1 hour. Remove from oven and allow to cool enough to handle.
Over the bowl of a food processor, scrape the eggplant flesh out of the skin and discard the skin. Add the tahini, lemon juice, salt, cumin, salt, and cayenne and start to blend. Add the olive oil through the tube of the processor until you have a paste-like consistency. Stop, scrape down the sides and taste, adjusting seasoning as necessary, and adding pepper. Process one more time.