As a child I hated eggplant. Then I grew up and decided I should try them again. Turns out they weren’t too bad after all (this didn’t work with mushrooms, though).
Let’s be clear. Baba Ganoush (also spelled baba ghanoush or baba ghanouj) isn’t Greek. Greece does sit fairly close to the Middle East and shares many foods from the region, but not all. Baba Ganoush originates from Lebanon, but the recipe has spread to other parts of the eggplant loving world. I wouldn’t expect to see it served in a Greek restaurant, but wouldn’t be at all surprised if I did.
My only issue with this dish is that it often tastes, err, um, well… burned. Burned isn’t good. Traditionally, the eggplant used will be cooked whole over an open flame, like a wood fire, until the skin is charred and the pulp soft, giving baba ghanoush its characteristic smokey flavor. Most people fake the wood fire nowadays and go for their gas stove, instead. I don’t have a gas stove, and I’m sure not building a wood fire in the summer when the eggplants are growing. It’s hot here. Really hot.
I do, however, have a nifty gas outdoor grill and most people have a broiler setting for their oven. What this lets me (and you) do, is get a good roasted flavor without the overly burned taste. This happy compromise exists because I slice the eggplant before grilling it. This allows the eggplant to cook more quickly, before the burned taste sets in. You’re welcome.
Grilled Eggplant Baba Ganoush Recipe
I’ve written this recipe to be based on the amount of actual eggplant flesh you get so it won’t matter how many or what size of eggplant you start with.
For each cup of roasted eggplant flesh:
To roast the eggplant, cut it into slices about 1 inch thick and coat each side in olive oil. Sprinkle a little salt on each side, then grill until each surface is a dark golden brown (not burned) and the flesh is soft. If you want to impart more smoke flavor, you can put a handful of wood chips meant for smoking food into a foil pouch with a hole poked in it. Set the pouch in a hot spot of your grill and allow it to heat up to the smoking point before putting the eggplant in. I happened to come across some canned wood chips (really!) meant just for gas outdoor grills that does the same thing. Keep the lid of the grill closed as much as possible to keep the smoke trapped to add the flavor.
If you don’t have an outdoor grill, you can also broil your eggplant. It won’t have the smoky flavor, but they will still have a great taste as the flesh will caramelize. Roast the eggplants on a rack set about 6 inches away from the broiler and check on them regularly to make sure they don’t burn.
Remove the eggplant slices from the heat, place in a pan and cover until they are cool enough to easily handle with your fingers. Scrape the flesh away from the skins and put into a measuring cup, packing it in. (The skins are compost ready!) Add the garlic, tahini, and lemon juice based on how much flesh you get, and mash it all together. Add any salt and additional olive oil to taste. The final consistency should be somewhat smooth, but with some texture. It does not need to be pureed.
It is best to let the dip sit for at least a few hours to allow the flavors to blend. This way you can better adjust the seasonings as desired. The dip is usually served chilled or at room temperature with an additional drizzle of olive oil on top, and with wedges of pita bread on the side. Enjoy!