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In response to a request in our Food Forum, I experimented with different versions of this traditional Middle Eastern dish. The two favorites are included in our Recipe File, Baba Ganoush I and Baba Ganoush II, as our staff was evenly split on their favorite. This version has less lemon juice and tahini than Baba Ganoush I, and so is a little bit heavier and has a more distinct eggplant flavor. Vary the ingredients and their amounts as you wish (Baba Ganoush I has za'atar instead of cumin, for example). This is a wonderful recipe to have in your repertoire for an hors d'oeuvre – it is tasty, healthy, easy to make (double it for a crowd), and can be prepared in advance. Serve it in a bowl or, in the traditional Middle Eastern presentation, spread on a platter and drizzle with a little extra olive oil. Pass the pita and enjoy!
1 large eggplant (1 – 1 1/4 pounds)1/2 teaspoon minced garlic1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice1 tablespoon tahini1/2 tablespoon olive oil1/4 teaspoon cuminSalt to tasteFresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped, as a garnishPita bread, for dipping
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Prick the eggplant all over with a fork or sharp knife and place on an oiled cookie sheet. Bake for about 40 minutes, turning occasionally so that all sides brown. The eggplant will look like it has deflated, and juices may run out onto the pan. Instead of baking, you can also broil the eggplant close to the heat source, turning every few minutes to make sure it is cooked through evenly. The eggplant should be quite soft. Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 10 minutes. (I let it cool almost completely, as it is easier to handle then.)
Next you need to separate the skin from the soft inside flesh. You can either peel off the skin and discard or you can cut the eggplant in half and scoop out the flesh with a grapefruit spoon. Some recipes call for mashing the eggplant with a fork, but I just put it in a food processor. Add the rest of the ingredients, except for the salt and parsley, and process until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings, including salt.
Store the baba ganoush in the refrigerator and serve either cold or at room temperature. Place in a bowl and sprinkle with the finely chopped parsley. Or spread the baba ganoush in a platter, drizzle a little more olive oil over the top, sprinkle with the parsley, and garnish with some dark olives for contrast. Don't forget the pita!
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