AUTHOR: Julia TITLE: Eggplant Extravaganza (recipe: baba ganoush) DATE: 8/31/2009 08:28:00 AM ----- BODY:

Did you know that blackening the skin of eggplant over an open flame gives the meat a smoky flavor? And did you know that if you don’t prick little holes in the skin, the steam inside builds up and creates a big explosion?

Not that this has *ever* happened to me. I’ve only read about it. Really.

And that old-wives tale about salting the eggplant before cooking to remove the bitterness... For some varieties (like the big American eggplants) this is important. The smaller Asian varieties don't have the bitterness. Nonetheless, it's a crucial step for any recipe that calls for frying eggplant slices. The salting prevents the eggplant from absorbing the oil like a sponge. You'll use the less oil and the eggplant will be less greasy. Win-win, if you ask me.

I returned from the farm with a car-load of tomatoes and more produce to enjoy at home, including several varieties of eggplant. And much to my (pleasant) surprise, my garden had not wilted in the heat, and in fact I had a bumper crop of eggplant.

The fastest way to process (and preserve) the eggplant was to make baba ganoush and an eggplant chutney.

For the eggplant chutney, (after salting the slices) I fried it in a blend of canola and olive oils until very dark brown.
I chopped it up, tossed it with lemon and basil. Depending on your taste, it could use an extra shot of salt and pepper.

Baba Ganoush is a traditional Middle Eastern dip made with eggplant and sesame seed paste (tahini). Typically, it's served with pita. At Oleana, they garnish braised shortribs with it.

Baba Ganoush
Traditionally, raw garlic is added to the dip, but I prefer the flavor of roasted. If you like raw garlic, reduce the quantity to one clove.

4 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 medium eggplant
2 tablespoons tahini
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 lemon, juiced
salt and pepper
parsley or scallions for garnish

1. Prick whole eggplant with a fork. Place directly over a fire...

...and cook until blackened on all sides and the flesh is tender. Let cool.
2. In a piece of tin-foil, wrap up the garlic and olive oil. Roast in 350 oven for 30 minutes, or until the garlic is soft and golden brown.
2. Peel the black skin away and discard.
3. Put the eggplant pulp, tahini, cumin, garlic and lemon juice in a food processor. Blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
4. Garnish with scallions or parsley

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----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Katie DATE:8/31/2009 09:18:00 AM Wow, I had no idea that salting affects the amount of oil absorbed. That makes it worth the extra effort! ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous noble pig DATE:8/31/2009 11:03:00 AM I miss eggplant. My husband is allergic so it never enters our home. Boo-hoo! ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types DATE:8/31/2009 01:36:00 PM Oh, I wish I had a gas flame and not an electric stove. It's awfully hard to get a smokey flavor from one of those radiant coils! ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Katie DATE:8/31/2009 08:05:00 PM Yep, you converted me. I wanted some simple grilled eggplant for dinner, but I made sure to leave time for salting. I ended up using about half the amount of oil that I usually need. I'm so glad I learned that it's not just to get rid of bitterness! ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Bellini Valli DATE:9/02/2009 08:22:00 AM This is one of my favourite dips or spreads. Excellent tips on eggplant too. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous ntsc DATE:9/02/2009 11:38:00 AM My father did not like egg-plant so it was never served. He also didn't like steak and neither parent liked rare meat.

I learned about rare/medium-rare beef in my teens, but my wife has been working for years to get me to eat egg plant. I do like it grilled and something she calls egg-plant caviar. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Julia DATE:9/02/2009 11:45:00 AM Katie -- I'm glad your experiments proved this theory. I tried it both ways this week, too, and was amazed at the difference.

noble pig -- It's funny how controversial it is. Maybe it's a textural thing?

T.W. -- Do you have a charcoal grill? That would work too.

Bellini Valli -- the smokiness makes it addictive!

ntsc -- eggplant caviar is very similar to baba ganoush. So if you like that, this recipe may be worth a try. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger adele DATE:9/03/2009 08:35:00 AM My blog list has been reading my mind. I have two eggplants from a friend's CSA in my fridge, and I was just thinking baba ganoush... ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Grace DATE:9/03/2009 11:35:00 AM first of all, i just get a kick out of saying baba ganoush. i also enjoy eating it, and i appreciate your insight into the process of making it! ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Lori Lynn DATE:9/06/2009 06:24:00 PM I'm a fan.

Love the idea of eggplant chutney, got to try that one!
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