If I told you that dietitians love any and all vegetables would you believe me? I hope not. That would be ridiculous! While I do quite enjoy vegetables overall, and I can find a way to prepare most vegetables in a way that I find appetizing, I struggle the most with eggplant. I just don’t like it, and neither does my husband. I was very relieved last week when my CSA partner gave me the butternut squash and kept the eggplant for herself. This is why I love Baba Ghanouj – it’s a relatively easy and healthy way to eat eggplant, yet you would never know you’re eating eggplant. Whenever I find myself with extra eggplants hanging around (which never happens by choice), I make baba ghanouj.
If you’ve never had baba ghanouj, I’m sure you’re not alone. Also known as baba ghanoush, or by many other spellings, a lot of people have probably never even heard of it. It’s a Middle Eastern dip made of roasted or grilled eggplants, pureed with tahini, garlic and lemon juice, with a couple of extra seasonings thrown it. You end up with a creamy tasting dip that’s similar to hummus, but with a smokier flavor thanks to the grilling. It’s great with pita bread, chips or as a vegetable dip. I don’t even remember the first time I had it, but probably from the Happy Camel at Edmonton’s Old Strathcona Farmer’s Market. They make a great one in any case.
While this dip is very easy to make, it does take a little more time than hummus, only because you need to roast the eggplant. You get the smokiest results roasting the eggplant over the grill, but roasting in the oven certainly works too, and I have done it many times that way as well.
After the eggplant is grilled and slightly cooled, all you need to do is puree everything together. Everything being tahini, lemon juice, garlic, salt pepper and a little smoked paprika for extra smokiness. Top with a little olive oil, minced parsley and more paprika and you have a great tasty, low calorie dip and a sneaky way to use up those eggplants.
- 2lbs eggplant, skin poked all over with a fork
- 2 Tbsp tahini (see note)
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1 small clove garlic, minced or pressed
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp pepper
- ⅛ tsp smoked paprika (optional)
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 tsp minced fresh parsley
- Gas Grill Method:
- Turn all burners on high and heat for about 15 minutes, until very hot. Clean cooking grates. Lay whole eggplants directly on grates over high heat. Cook until all sides are soft when pressed, about 25 minutes, turning occasionally.
- Transfer eggplants to rimmed baking sheet to cool for 5 minutes. Place a colander in the sink or strainer over a bowl. Cut tops and bottoms off eggplants, and cut in half lengthwise. Scoop flesh with a spoon from the skin and set in the colander or strainer for 3 minutes to drain. Discard skin.
- Transfer drained eggplant to a food processor and add tahini, lemon juice, garlic, salt, pepper and smoked paprika. Pulse until slightly chunky, about 8 pulses. Transfer to serving bowl and cover the surface directly with plastic wrap. Chill 45-60 minutes before serving. To serve, drizzle top with olive oil and sprinkle with parsley and an additional pinch of smoked paprika.
- Oven Method:
- Move oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 500°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Roast eggplants on the baking sheet until soft when pressed, about 60 minutes, turning every 15 minutes, then follow the directions from gas grill method.
*Recipe adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Best International Recipe