My sister in law loves eggplant. She just dices it, pours a little garlicky vinaigrette on it and roasts it in the oven until it gets soft. Her version is delicious, but when it's obviously eggplant, around here that's tantamount to declaring war. I prefer a more subtle approach. Baba Ganoush (or Baba Ganouj) fits the bill.
Baba Ganoush is a Middle Eastern eggplant spread that's perfect scooped up with pieces of pita. This version reminds me of a restaurant I really loved called 5th Runway Cafe. It was a Middle Eastern buffet down near Georgia Tech. Everything they served was wonderful. I'm not sure why the closed, but when I found that out, it was heartbreaking.
There's something so appealing about eggplant
Makes approximately two cups
2 lbs. eggplant
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup tahini (sesame paste)
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt, with a little extra to finish
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
olive oil (optional)
Ground Sumac (optional, found in Middle Eastern markets)
Roast the eggplants in a 400 degree oven for 40 minutes. Don't prick the skin or cut the eggplant. You want it to cook inside the skin, and the liquid to stay in the eggplant. If you're using two larger eggplants (I did three smaller ones), you will want to check at 40 minutes and add more time if they're still too firm. Remove from the oven and let them cool. They should look like deflated soccer balls. Skin the eggplants and place in a colander. You will want to squeeze the juice out of the eggplant; leaving it in makes the eggplant bitter. Doing this in a colander in the sink allows you to catch some of the smaller pieces of eggplant.
Chop two cloves of garlic and add to the bowl of a food processor (blenders are okay too). Add the eggplant, tahini, lemon juice, 1/2 tsp. of Kosher salt, and pepper. Run the processor for about a minute, making sure that the eggplant and garlic are pureed. It will be a thick paste. Use a clean spoon to taste for seasoning. Add a bit more lemon juice or salt to taste. Put the Baba Ganoush in a serving bowl and drizzle with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with a small amount of ground sumac. Serve with pita pieces.
Two notes: Kosher salt isn't the same as Iodized Table Salt. Table salt is saltier. If you don't have Kosher salt, use around half of what the recipe calls for. Tahini is ground sesame seed paste. Like natural peanut butter, the oil rises to the top of the jar. Stir it well to blend before measuring. You want the paste with the oil incorporated, rather than the top layer of oil.
Baba Ganoush begs for some prettifying
The finished product