Do you know that botanically speaking, eggplant is a fruit? It is a member of the solanum or nightshade family, like the tomato or potato. First of all, the key ingredients in baba Ganoush include the eggplant, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, red pepper flakes, cumin and olive oil. Try add some tomato water, this spread will turn into a baba ganoush gazpacho or soup. Indeed, a very versatile play with a summer vegetable.
There is more to the baba ganoush, starting with the eggplant. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall writes: “Aubergines go beautifully with the produce that thrives in the same regions, in other words, garlic, tomatoes, capers, basil and peppers… In France, they’re a vital component of ratatouille, along with peppers and tomatoes… They play a starring role in Sicilian caponata, the combination of aubergine, celery, tomatoes and capers… They are at their velvety best in southern Italian melanzane parmigiana, the meltingly delicious dish of layered aubergine, tomato and cheese… Of course, Greeks love moussaka. From Turkey comes one of the world’s most poetically named dishes, imam bayildi, aubergines stuffed with onions, garlic and tomatoes…”
Eggplant is the star ingredient in many classic dishes from around the world: the French ratatouille, Sicilian caponata, Italian melanzane parmigiana, Greek moussaka and Turkish imam bayildi. Moreover, you can easily find eggplant in some common Japanese and Korean dishes. Clearly, there are so many ways to cook the eggplant. You can bake, boil, braise, broil, grill, roast, sauté or stuff it. No surprise, eggplant plays well with the garlic, onions, tomatoes, peppers and the like. It’s mild flavor and spongy texture can take on the flavor of strong herbs and spices too. Think cumin in the baba ganoush and paprika in the eggplant caviar I posted recently.
Start with roasting the eggplant in the open flame on a gas stove until the skin is charred. Since the eggplants I had on hand were huge, I roasted them in the oven, to ensure thorough cooking. Then, transfer them a bowl and cover with a plastic wrap. Meanwhile. you may put the cooked eggplant in the fridge overnight for the flavor to meld. Ultimately, you get the baba ganoush that’s smokey, nutty and flavorful. This my favorite way to prepare the eggplant. Vary the herbs and spices to suit your taste. Yogurt is optional.
I’m linking this post to IHCC where you’ll find more dips and spreads to go with summer veggies, breads or crackers.
Baba GanoushPrint Recipe
- 3 aubergines
- 2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 4 tbsp tahini
- Juice of 2 lemons
- ½-1 tsp chilli flakes
- 50g Greek yoghurt (optional)
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1-2 tbsp olive oil
- Finely chopped parsley (optional)
Roast the aubergines over a barbecue or over the flames of a gas ring (use tongs to turn them frequently) until the skins are blackened and the flesh soft. Alternatively, prick all over with a fork, place in a roasting tin and cook in a hot oven (200C/400F/gas mark 6) for 25-40 minutes, depending on size. Leave to cool slightly, then peel.
Put the flesh into a bowl and mash to a rough paste with the garlic and a little salt. Stir in the tahini, lemon juice and chilli, whirl in the yoghurt, if using, and spoon into a bowl. Scatter with cumin, trickle over some olive oil and scatter with parsley. Serve with warm pitta or flatbread.
Adapted from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's the River Cottage site.