Baba Ganoush

I like saying it over and over again. It sounds like the name of a character in a Russian fairy tale.

It’s not, though. It’s a roasted eggplant-garlic mash-up of Levantine origin. The first baba ganoush I ever ate was a horrible jarred concoction from the supermarket, and I do mean horrible. With a capital HORRIBLE. It didn’t even taste like food, more like an industrial adhesive. IIRC, I swallowed that first bite and trashed the rest. I was turned off the idea of further testing, much less attempting to make a batch myself, for years.

The thing is, though, I love eggplant. And when I checked recipes online, they all contained items I like and use in hummus and some salad dressings–varying amounts of tahini, olive oil, lemon juice. A chopped green herb like parsley or basil. Salt. Red pepper flakes or other heat source. The only issue seemed to be that a smoked flavor is a characteristic, so recipes required grilling or roasting the eggplant over the flame of a gas burner. I have an electric stove and it’s currently too cold to break out the charcoal grill, so those weren’t options.

After a little searching, though, I found a recipe over at Minimalist Baker for Simple Baba Ganoush that called for broiling the eggplant–that, I could do. If I wanted to add a smoky flavor, smoked salt would have to suffice. So I sliced up what I thought was a medium eggplant, maybe 8-9 inches long, arranged the slices on a baking sheet, and sprinkled them with smoked salt and a drizzle of olive oil. No, I did not pretreat the eggplant beforehand by salting/draining/drying. It already seemed fairly dry, and I figured any excess liquid would be driven off by the broiler heat.

Pre-broiled eggplant

After a few minutes, some flipping, and a few more minutes:

Broiled eggplant

I bundled the slices in the foil to steam a bit so the peel could be removed more easily. The eggplant was very dry, with a consistency that reminded me of bread. There also wasn’t enough of it to allow use of the full-size bowl of my food processor, so I added everything to the small insert. I’m not crazy about that insert–the sides are curved instead of straight and the baba ganoush was thick, which meant that I had to repeatedly stop the blending and push the spread down around the chopping blade. Nevertheless, I eventually processed it to a spreadable consistency. I didn’t have any fresh herbs on hand, and made do with a teaspoon and a half of dried basil.

The finished product

The verdict? A world away from jarred supermarket stuff. Not very smoky, I do confess, but mild, fresh-tasting. Next time, I will use a bigger eggplant as I used the zest as well as the juice of a whole medium lemon, and the cup or so of final product was maybe a bit too lemony. But now I can add baba ganoush to the list of items–hummus, mayonnaise, salad dressings–that I will likely always make from scratch from now on.

The final product topped with homemade roasted cherry tomato spread
and a sprinkle of za’atar