Can you smell the smokiness??
Baba ghanoush isn’t baba ghanoush without that distinct smokiness. I’ve had versions that were missing the smoke, and found them bland and boring. Blah.
Have you ever wondered how to achieve that smokiness you find in well-made baba ghanoush — the traditional, distinctly smoky Middle Eastern eggplant dip? Well, you just need to char the heck out of the eggplant. Plain and simple as that.
There are a few ways to accomplishing this: 1) grill, 2) stove top (if gas), 3) grill pan, and 4) oven.
If I had a backyard (and a grill for that matter), I would go with option #1. Second best option for me is on the gas stove top (but options 3 and 4 work just as well). Just place the entire eggplant over the flame on your stove top, turning every few minutes (with a pair of tongs), for a good 10-15 minutes until the eggplant is completely charred, shriveled, and black (see photos below).
At this point, the eggplant looks absolutely inedible. However, you won’t be eating the skin. First, cut the eggplant open and scoop out the flesh (making sure the charred bits are left behind). Then, place the eggplant over a colander to drain any excess liquid. By the way, you can reserve the eggplant liquid and add it to other dishes to enhance their flavor; haven’t figured out exactly what to do with the eggplant liquid just yet?
The flesh takes on a subtle smokiness that adds much depth of flavor. From there it’s just a matter of adding a few more ingredients — olive oil, tahini, lemon, garlic, parsley, salt — mash with a fork, and then…time to dip in (with some toasted pita).
You really want to get a nice char on the eggplant…It’s not pretty, but that’s just the exterior. The prize is on the inside — the smoky, tender flesh is where the flavor is located.
My basket of summer goodies…used the tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, along with basil, purslane, baby arugula, baby beet greens, onions, and smoked mozzarella (that I smoked myself) to make a simple salad (dressed with extra virgin olive oil, coarse sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper) to accompany the baba ghanoush.
Serve with plenty toasted pita bread to scoop up the baba ghanoush…
Baba Ghanoush — Smoky, Eggplant Dip
3 medium eggplant (about 2 to 2 1/4 pounds)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 large clove of garlic, crushed to a paste with the side of a chef’s knife or in a mortar and pestle with a little salt
2 tablespoons tahini
3 tablespoons lemon juice, to taste
4 tablespoons chopped parsley
salt and pepper
smoked paprika (optional)
Prick each eggplant with a fork a few times. Place eggplants over the flame of a gas stove top. Turn the eggplants from time to time with metal tongs, until the skin is completely charred and the flesh is very soft, about 10-15 minutes. Alternatively, grill over a charcoal grill or grill pan.
When cool enough to handle, cut the eggplant in half and scoop out the flesh, making sure not to incorporate any charred bits. Place the eggplant flesh over a colander to drain.
Mash the flesh to a rough puree with a fork. Mix in the garlic, tahini, lemon juice, parsley, and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil, a pinch of hot smoked paprika (optional), and plenty of toasted pita for dipping.
Note: You can refrigerate baba ghanoush for 4-5 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.