Sunday, August 18, 2013

Baba Ghanoush (or Moutabel)

We lived in the Middle East for three years towards the beginning of our marriage, and we absolutely fell in love with the food there.  I already liked hummus, but I had never heard of what the locals called Moutabel. It is essentially the same thing as hummus, but made of roasted eggplant instead of chickpeas.  The rest of the recipe is nearly identical.  In India they call this Baba Ghanoush, which is what most people probably know it by.  

Because it's made with roasted eggplant, it has a smokey depth that is very different from hummus.  The tahini flavor of hummus is muted a lot in the Baba Ghanoush, and instead it's creamier and richer.  I love love love this, which is why I was so happy to get some eggplants in my CSA delivery this week. I immediately knew what to make!

You can eat Baba Ghanoush the same way you eat hummus, namely with pita, crackers,
veggies, or with grilled meat or veggies.  Tonight we ate it with Arabic-seasoned beef kabobs, grilled mini sweet peppers, grilled grape tomatoes, and grilled onions.  Oh, and some homemade pita, recipe courtesy of this website.

As a note, tahini is also known as tahina or sesame paste.  Every grocery store seems to put it in a different location.  Sometimes it's with the peanut butter and other nut butters, sometimes it's with the foreign food, sometimes it's in the "health food" section.  Ask someone at customer service to look it up for you before you search the whole store.  It will save you time!

Baba Ghanoush

2 large purple eggplants (not the Japenese variety)
1/4 cup tahini (sesame paste)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tsp)
1 1/2 tsp salt
Olive oil for garnish
Sumac for garnish (optional)

First you need to roast the eggplant.  Cut away the green leafy bits around the stem of the eggplants, but leave the stem itself on, as it makes a handy place to hold.  Spray the skin of the eggplants with cooking spray, and then place them under the broiler (on a baking sheet) or on a grill.  If you have adjustable heat settings, keep it on high.  Turn them every 5-10 minutes, and cook until the skins are black and cracking, about 20-25 minutes.  Then set them aside for at least 20 minutes to cool, or until they're cool enough to handle with your bare hands.

Once the eggplant is cool, peel away the skin.  It should come off fairly easily if you've cooked it enough.  Then slice the eggplant all the way around from top to bottom, like you're cutting open an avocado.  Using a spoon, scrape out all the seeds, leaving only the firm pulpy part of the eggplant.  Remove the stem end, and toss whatever you have left (the pulpy part of the eggplant) into a food processor or blender. 

Puree the eggplant until fairly smooth.  Add in the tahini, lemon juice, garlic, and salt and process until well combined.  If it's way too thick to mix you can add a little water.  JUST A LITTLE!  When finished blending, pour the Baba Ghanoush into a serving bowl, swirl a little olive oil on top, sprinkle a bit of sumac over it, and serve!

Will keep for about a week in the refrigerator.  Can be served warm, room temperature, or cool, but I prefer slightly warm. 

Makes about 3 cups.

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