My lack of love for eggplant has been previously mentioned herein. Each summer, though, the tide of eggplant rises along with the other nightshades – tomatoes, peppers – and eventually, a globe or two shows up in our CSA box from T&D Willey and I must dispense with it. This was the week.
That "previously mentioned" link above – to a recipe for Royal Eggplant with Garlic, which is a really delicious smoky roasted eggplant puree with tomatoes, onions, spices and butter – is one of my two ways of coping with eggplant. My other coping mechanism is baba ganoush. Load eggplant up with olive oil, tahini & lemon juice, and really, there’s no reason not to eat it.
It’s sad that I have two eggplant recipes and a bajillion ways of using just about every other kind of produce, but they are two really good eggplant recipes.
So, not having posted my baba ganoush recipe previously, that’s where I headed on Saturday. The heat had broken (it was going to be 104 instead of 112; that’s what we mean in Fresno when we say it’s going to be "cooler") and so I took some time before the day got really hot to roast the eggplant in the oven.
This occasion is one of those times that I think I should buy a grill to avoid heating up the house with the oven, and then Chimp reminds me that you have to cook on a grill outside. Well, scratch that when it’s 110.
I think I could skip buying the grill entirely; just oil the eggplant up and lay it on a well-scrubbed section of patio, then go out and kick it every 30 minutes or so. Come to think of it, why don’t I have a solar oven? And along with that, why isn’t every roof in this town covered with solar panels? You’d think we could make a mint. I must be missing something.
But I’m getting off track here.
I came home from the market, washed the eggplant, and popped it in the oven to broil while I washed some shallots (for something else) to roast along with the eggplant. I was tossing the shallots in a dish with some grapeseed oil and salt when
"Aha," I thought to myself, "That must be the eggplant exploding."
I opened the door. My oven had birthed a Japanese tentacle monster.
Exploding the eggplant was not originally part of my baba ganoush recipe, but if you, like me, are tired or forgetful and omit the step of pricking the eggplant before you place it in the oven, I want you to know that this recipe has been tested with both exploded and intact eggplant on separate occasions, and both kinds work just fine.
Note: Baba ganoush is one of those recipes that is hard to give quantities for; it depends on the size of your eggplant, your affection for tahini and garlic, and where you are from. Not being from any of the places baba ganoush is, mine is based on personal preference rather than tradition. Grilled or roasted onions are a fine addition to the mix. Paprika is nice sprinkled on the finished dish. I sometimes do that. As I’ve noted below, I sometimes add fresh herb and sometimes not. I also sometimes add cumin and sometimes not. This is what I did on this occasion and the range of variations is, really, the beauty of baba ganoush.
For each medium eggplant (about 1 1/2 c cooked eggplant):
2 t. minced garlic
1 T. olive oil
1 T. tahini
3/4 t. salt
1/2 t. ground cumin
freshly ground pepper to taste
2 T. fresh mint or parsley, minced (optional – sometimes I do this, sometimes I leave it out)
sprinkle of paprika to serve
Preheat broiler. Wash eggplant and prick all over with fork. Place six inches from flame or broiling element on a broiler-safe baking sheet. Broil for 10-15 minutes, until skin is charred and flesh inside is earthy brown and smoky in appearance. Remove the skin and discard.
While eggplant is cooking, place the garlic, olive oil, tahini and optional fresh herb into a large, shallow bowl in which the ingredients can be mashed to combine them. Toast the ground cumin in a dry skillet over medium heat, watching carefully. When it begins to change color but before it starts to smoke, remove it from the heat and add to the garlic mixture. When the eggplant is cooked and peeled, add it to the bowl as well and mash the ingredients together with a fork until combined. This step can also be completed in the bowl of a food processor, which will result in a smoother, less rustic texture.
Serve with the customary pita bread, flatbread, crackers or vegetables.