Friday, November 12, 2010

Mediterranean Baba Ghanoush

I found myself with this amazing grocery bag of eggplant, zucchini, and tomatoes this week, and I wanted to do something awesome with them.  Now, some of the best eggplant recipes I know are Greek and Middle Eastern (and believe you me, after researching Arabian culture from the Islamic Golden Age, I have a heck of a stash of recipes).

I adore non-traditional American food, and I especially admire the way Britain has embraced it so eagerly that curry sells better there than fish and chips.  Germany is embracing kebabs like nobody's business; I had the best kebab of my life when I visited my sister in Wiesbaden this summer and we celebrated my birthday with a heck of a lot of German beer and the now-traditional stumble to the all-night kebab place.

Another pretty awesome thing about this kind of food is that, while it usually does include a great deal of meat, yogurt, ghee, nuts, etc., you don't have to use those things to make food taste non-Western; that's what the spices are there for.  It's like Thailand and fish sauce, lime juice, cilantro, lemongrass, and chilies; it's Japan with quality soy sauce, ginger, rice wine vinegar, pickles, and really good rice.

So here's a lovely Greek and/or Middle Eastern recipe (depends who you're talking to!) that you can eat hot, cold, or at room temperature, and it's great with celery sticks for dipping at a party (or on an evening where four of you are eagerly playing Settlers of the Catan for four hours...).   Combines as a nut-based meal/snack with the Natalia Rose program, but only if you use the tahini.

Baba Ghanoush
Makes about 1 1/2-2 cups.

1 eggplant
1 tbsp tahini (optional; I've made it without and it's still good)
3 cloves garlic
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 tsp dried fenugreek
1/4 cup fresh parsley or sweet basil, chopped
2-3 shakes cumin
Extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Cut the end with the spiked stem off of the eggplant, then slice the eggplant lengthwise down the middle.  Slash cuts horizontally and vertically through the eggplant flesh like an avocado, being careful not to cut too deeply and pierce the skin.*  Place on a lightly greased baking sheet, cut sides up, and drizzle lightly with olive oil.  Sprinkle salt and pepper over each eggplant half, then bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes.

Remove eggplant from oven and let cool to room temperature.  Chop roughly and add to food processor, along with tahini, garlic, lemon juice, fenugreek, cumin, and most of the parsley, except for a pinch or a small sprig.  Pulse until combined, then add olive oil gradually until the baba ghanoush is as creamy as you like it.  Add salt and pepper to taste; pulse one final time.

Spoon baba ghanoush into a serving bowl along with crudités of all kinds, garnish with a leftover pinch of parsley or sprig of basil,** and enjoy!

*This allows the olive oil and salt and pepper to ooze down and flavor the whole eggplant, not just the surface of the eggplant or the aluminum foil covering your sheet.
**You can garnish with just about anything:  chopped kalamata olives, pine nuts, chopped sundried tomatoes, a lemon wedge, some freshly pressed garlic...

A sizzlingly savory Turkish tomato/eggplant dish, garnished with pine nuts, is up next!