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This is where I come clean. I am NOT a fan of eggplant. I’m not. Honestly. I never have been.  For me, more often than not, eggplant was always overcooked, mushy, and watery, and left little to be desired on either the flavor, or the texture front. Until recently I’ve often wondered what all the fuss about eggplant was.  It’s alright, I just wouldn’t go out of my way to eat it.

Fresh-picked heirloom eggplants

However, all that said, this season I’m becoming something of a convert. First, we’re not growing the giant market-type aubergines that most of us are familiar with. Many of the smaller varieties, although perhaps not much different in flavor, do hold their texture much better than some of their larger relatives.

Last weekend we were drowning in eggplants, as our plants have been absurdly prolific this season. As such, I needed to find a way to use some of them efficiently, and I arrived at Baba Ghannouj.

I love Mediterranean food. The spices are warm and flavorful, without being unnecessarily hot, and not afeared of making our own pita bread, an eggplant dip just seemed like a logical thing to make when one has a deluge of eggplants.

This recipe is simple, but it is a great way to breathe new life into eggplant that otherwise might be overlooked in the kitchen. It’s actually been a challenge this season for us to use our eggplant quickly enough, before it starts to lose that just-harvested luster. I’ve experimented with various stir-fry recipes, and eggplant parmigiana this season, but so far, this recipe is my hands-down favorite. If only for this recipe, I would most certainly grow eggplant again.

Equipment

Outdoor Grill*
Food Processor

Ingredients

2 lb Eggplant
3 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Tbsp Tahini
1 Large Garlic Clove, minced
1/2 tsp Ground Cumin
2 Tbsp Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
1/4 tsp Smoked Paprika

Directions:

Preheat the grill to 400F. Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise, and for larger varieties like Rosa Bianca, score the flesh two or three times.

Scoring the flesh helps the larger varieties to cook more evenly

Brush the cut sides with olive oil, and place cut side down on the grill. Grill the eggplants until tender.

Grill the eggplants cut side down to start, and turn once so they cook evenly

The time will vary depending on the variety, with smaller varieties taking less time, but larger types requiring approximately 25-30 minutes. Turn at least once while grilling.

Once tender, remove the eggplants from the grill, place in a colander, and allow to drain for 10-15 minutes to remove excess moisture.

Draining the eggplant after grilling will prevent the dip from being watery

Carefully peel, or scoop the flesh from the skin with a spoon. Some varieties are easier to peel than others.  I found Listada de Gandia to be very easy to peel with my fingers, but Rosa Bianca was more easily scooped from the skin.

Once drained and peeled, transfer the eggplant to the work bowl of a food processor

In a food processor, fitted with a cutting blade, combine the eggplant, with the remaining olive oil, tahini, garlic, lemon juice, cumin, paprika, and salt.

Cumin brings a warmth of flavor to this recipe, but don’t use too much, or you’ll overwhelm the flavor of the eggplant

Pulse the mixture until almost smooth. You want the mixture to retain a little of its texture.

Tahini resembles peanut butter, but is made from sesame seeds, and available at natural food stores

Baba Ghannouj can be served with homemade pita bread, or pita chips. However, a crusty loaf of bread, crostini, or even crackers, will work just fine too.

Baba Ghannouj is versatile as a dip or spread

Try using Baba Ghannouj as a mayonnaise substitute on a grilled vegetable or chicken sandwich, or simply serve as part of an antipasti platter, with roasted red peppers, Greek olives, and hummus. Most of all, enjoy!

* It is not essential to grill the eggplant, although grilling will give the eggplant a more traditional smoky flavor. Alternatively, you can slice the eggplants in half lengthwise, brush with a little olive and place them cut side down on a baking sheet. Roast in a 375F oven for 30-40 minutes (less for smaller varieties), until tender.