I bet you all think today is a special occasion, with back-to-back blog posts happening. Well, it is eggplant time in these parts, which is definitely cause for a little celebration. When the eggplants start rolling in it means I get to make (and eat) one of my all-time favorite dips, baba ganoush. Up until a couple of years ago, I didn’t even like eggplant. Whenever I had it I found it to be either tasteless or bitter. So I pretty much kept away, frequently using the “no thanks, I really don’t care for eggplant” deflection whenever it was offered. But then we joined our CSA and I suddenly had a lot of eggplant in my possession.
Since Marc lives to smoke things, we decided to break out the smoker and try our hand at baba ganoush. I figured that I liked hummus, so maybe I would enjoy this Middle Eastern dip too. After I had my first taste, I was in love. Fast forward three years… this recipe for baba ganoush is on the menu every summer. Even the kids like it. When Thing 1 was a baby, she used to call it “gaba noush”.
The key to truly good baba ganoush is smoking the eggplant. You can make this recipe by roasting the eggplant in a 400 degree oven but it won’t have the same smokey, slightly sour flavor that wood chips impart. Luckily, it is easy to create a “smoker” using your gas or charcoal grill. Get some smoking chips (they are easy to find at big box stores or your local hardware store) and soak them in water for at least an hour (you can leave them overnight if you want). Make a packet with the chips in the center using heavy duty aluminum foil, poke a few holes in it so the smoke can get out, and toss it directly on the charcoal or flames. Voila, your very own smoker, easy as pie. Just make sure you close the lid while you cook so all the smoke doesn’t escape.
Adapted from Joy of Cooking
~2.5 lbs eggplants (any color will do)
1 large clove of garlic, chopped
juice of one large lemon
1 1/2 tbls tahini (this is sesame paste and can be found in the ethnic section of most grocery stores)
1 tsp salt
Soak smoking chips in bucket of water for at least one hour prior to grilling the eggplant. Heat your gas grill to 400F or a charcoal grill to medium-hot. Put wet wood chips in a packet made from aluminum foil with holes poked in it and lay the packet directly on the flame tamers (or the coals). Pierce the eggplants all over, place on the grill, and close the lid. Let the eggplant roast until is it soft all over and the skin is nicely charred, about 45 minutes. Make sure to keep half an eye on your eggplant. Depending on the size, yours may cook slower or faster than ours did.
When the eggplant is soft, remove it from the grill and allow it to cool until it can be handled. Cut the eggplants in half and scrape the flesh into a colander, allowing any excess liquid to drain. Discard the skins. Put the eggplant flesh into a food process along with the garlic, lemon juice, tahini, and salt. Process until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasonings as necessary.
Right before serving, drizzle with good quality extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle lightly with coarse salt. There are endless ways to serve this dip. I like it spread on warm pita breads, on pita breads that have been baked until they are crisp, as a dip for fresh or roasted veggies (especially tomatoes), dolloped on a grilled lamb chop, etc. Makes about 2 cups.