There were four eggplant just sitting, waiting, to be used. But how? At least three hours of research and thought went into the process of figuring out something fun to do with them. Eggplant parmigiana would’ve been great, but the idea of fried, cheesey eggplant felt too heavy for the occasion. A salad would’ve been nice, but a few ingredients were missing. Eggplant is great as the main star of a stir fry, but for some reason, that didn’t quite measure up either. Sometimes you spend so much time trying to go overboard when simple is all you really need. We’ve found that happen to us many times, and it’s nice to pull back and just let the natural flavors of the star player do their thing. That’s how those four eggplants ended up taking a ride in a food processor for one of the easiest dips you’ll ever make.
Baba Ghanoush may have several spellings, but it’s preparation is pretty much always the same. It’s a blend of softened eggplant, tahini, olive oil, lemon juice and salt. Anything else you add is your special touch. There are usually two points of contention with baba ghanoush. The first revolves around the eggplant. Many people will tell you, even the nice folks at a local Middle Eastern restaurant, will probably tell you that the roasty toasty flavor of the dip comes from the eggplants. You can cook them over a grill for the best flavor, or you can try this broil then bake method. Second, there’s the tahini. Tahini–roasted sesame seed paste–is surely optional, but it does add that seedy, rich umami note that really sings in this dip. Instead of using tahini though, this recipe utilizes sesame oil, in conjunction with olive oil, to bring out those flavors.
You can dress it up as you like, and for this version, smoked paprika adds an aromatic, oakey earthiness to each scoop. Cayenne would be nice too. Baba Ghanoush is great with crackers, bread or vegetables. It also can serve as a perfect spread for sandwiches. The key is to keep it simple. You can’t go wrong.
Baba Ghanoush (Middle Eastern Eggplant Dip) – Serves 4
4 medium Italian eggplants
3 cloves garlic, unpeeled
Zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/8 – 1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
1. Place the eggplants on a baking sheet and slide under a preheated oven broiler set to high for 5-7 minutes, turning the eggplants over every minute or so to ensure all four sides are blackened. Remove from the oven and turn off the boiler. Set the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Wrap the garlic cloves in a small piece of aluminum foil and place them on the baking sheet with the eggplants. Put the baking sheet back into the oven and roast the eggplant and garlic for 30-35 minutes or until soft. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
3. Once the eggplant and garlic are cool enough to touch, peel the skin off the eggplants and place the meat in the bowl of a food processor. Squeeze the roasted garlic cloves out of their skins and put them in the food processor as well. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, salt and sesame oil. Secure the lid on the food processor, turn on the machine and drizzle in the first 1/8 cup of olive oil until just combined. Add up to another 1/4 cup of olive oil based on your preference.
4. Scrape the mixture into a serving bowl and top with the parsley and a sprinkling of smoked paprika. Pair the dip with your favorite crackers, bread or vegetables. If desired, cover and chill for a couple of hours to allow the flavors to build.
Click HERE for the printable recipe.