There are two kinds of people in this world: Diehard eggplant lovers and um, you know. I firmly belong in the former camp, and will happily eat an eggplant dish every day of the week. Eggplants are one of those magical vegetables that can be the center of any dish, in any cuisine. Thai eggplant stirfry with basil; Japanese eggplant with soy sauce; grilled eggplant sandwich; vegan eggplant “parmesan”; eggplant caponata…and one of my very favorite eggplant dishes is this creamy, smokey baba ganoush with toasted pita bread or chips. Since eggplant season is like, right this minute, don’t be shy about trying this easy, no-fail recipe for happy hour or appetizer, and save the rest; it’ll taste even better the next day when the flavors have had a chance to mingle.
Easy Baba Ganoush
Makes about 4-5 cups, depending on the size of eggplant
1 medium to large Italian or American eggplant (look for firm texture with no brown spots or wrinkly skin)
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
4 tbsp tahini
4 tbsp water
1/2 tsp cumin
Salt and pepper, generously to taste
A pinch of smoked paprika (optional)
1. Wash the eggplant well and pat dry. Now is the only demanding part of this recipe: charring the eggplant over an open flame. If you have a grill, that’s the obvious choice. If not, use a roasting fork (or even a regular fork or two) to hold the eggplant over your stove top.
2. After about 5 minutes on each side, the eggplant skin should be turning black and wrinkled. If so, take it off the heat and put in a bowl to cool. If not, continue the charring until all sides are blackened.
3. After the eggplant is cool enough to handle, use your fingers to peel off the charred skin. You can also slip a tine of a fork beneath the skin and gently pull it off.
4. Dice the skinned eggplant and set aside. In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil and add the minced garlic and ground cumin. Once the garlic is fragrant (after about 30 seconds), add the eggplant and toss around to coat. Salt and pepper generously; don’t be shy! Cook over medium heat for about 3 minutes, then lower the heat to simmer. Cover the pan and let the eggplant cook for the next 20-25 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the tahini and the water to a creamy white consistency. Set aside.
6. Once the eggplant is done, it will be easy to completely mash and break up. Take off the heat and transfer to a large bowl. Fold in the tahini mixture, and stir well. Add the juice of one lemon. Add the paprika, if desired. Make sure you taste and add more salt if necessary. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour, preferably overnight. If you’re feeling decadent (or you’re with company), drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil and garnish with chopped parsley before serving with toasted pita bread or pita chips.
Photo: Peaceful Dumpling