I used to be a huge fan of hummus. In college I got into the habit of making a batch every week to snack on or include in my packed lunches, but after taking out grains and legumes from my diet, I’ve lost my taste for the chickpea-based dip. Don’t get me wrong – I won’t turn down a scoop here and there, but I’ve found a replacement that I think is superior in texture and flavor.
Baba Ghanoush is a tangy, garlicky Middle Eastern dip made with roasted eggplant. With the addition of plenty of olive oil and a few choice spices, the ingredients are pureed to a silky smooth consistency that goes incredibly well with crisp cucumbers, briny olives, and honey-sweetened mint tea.
You can also slather it on flatbread or a wrap (these and these are favorites of mine), or serve it alongside chicken or lamb. With plenty of fresh crudités, it makes an easy way to get in extra veggies throughout the day – I particularly like it as a pre-dinner snack. Thin it with a bit more oil and some water, and you can drizzle a baba ghanoush sauce over a skewer of grilled vegetables for a little extra flair.
I really love this stuff. Now, instead of making weekly batches of hummus, I’m making huge weekly batches of baba and putting it on everything. The key to really good baba is to use roasted garlic – anything else is too harsh. Two other important factors to pay attention to are your use of lemon juice (be liberal) and the quality of your olive oil (be selective). And finally, it keeps very well in the fridge for a week, with the flavors deepening into delicious complexity, but there’s no question that it’s best when it’s fresh, with the eggplant still hot from the oven.
2 medium globe eggplant
1/2 head garlic (go ahead and do yourself a favor - roast an entire head...or five)
1/2 c. cold-pressed olive oil, plus more for the roasting pan
1/3 c. tahini (sesame seed paste)
4 lemons, juiced
1 Tbsp. sea salt
1 Tbsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. cayenne
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Drizzle a little olive oil in a baking pan - I use a 9x11 Pyrex casserole dish. Wash and trim your eggplant, slice each one in half, and arrange cut-side up in the pan. Slice the top off a head of garlic and throw it in with the eggplant; generously splash everything with another tablespoon or two of olive oil, making sure the garlic is well oiled. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the garlic is golden and fragrant, and the eggplant is fork-tender.
Along with the rest of the ingredients (olive oil, tahini, lemon juice, salt and spices), puree the eggplant and roasted garlic (skin removed) in a food processor or high-speed blender. If using a blender, it's best to put the olive oil, tahini and lemon juice at the bottom, followed by the spices, with the vegetables on top. If the mixture is too thick to blend/puree, at one or two more tablespoons of olive oil until it reaches the right consistency.
Serve with tomato, cucumber or bell pepper slices, carrot sticks, kalamata olives...
(Note: I have accidentally made this without the tahini, and it's still delicious. If you don't have any on hand and don't want to go out and buy some, feel free to make the recipe without it, although if it's your first time with baba you don't want to miss the rich depth and complexity the tahini imparts.)