Baba Ghannouj – Fire Roasted Eggplant Dip

Baba ghannouj is one of my favorite mezza / mezze platters that adorn the Lebanese table.  Its smokey flavor and creamy texture make it unique among the other spreads.  Though it takes some time to make, at least for me, it is all worth it at the end.  I remember the very first time I made it for Kevin; he was not so keen on trying it, as he was not an eggplant fan at the time.  I asked him to try it; he did.  As they say, the rest is history.  These days, I am asked to make it quite often.

BABA GHANNOUJ – Fire Roasted Eggplant Dip

2 large Eggplants
2 Garlic cloves
2 tablespoons Tahini
1 – 1 1/2 teaspoons Salt
1 1/2 large Lemons – juiced
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tablespoon Italian Parsley – finely chopped

It is very important to pick the right eggplant to ensure the good quality of the baba ghannouj.  The eggplant must be smooth and shiny, without any blemishes, bruises, or wrinkles.  The stem must be green, and it should feel heavy for its size.  If the eggplant feels light for its size, do NOT use it.  The smaller the eggplant, the less bitter and less seeds it has.  However, the larger variety is needed to make this Lebanese dip.  I suggest picking the smaller of the large variety.

Once you have picked out the eggplants, roast them on an open flame over your gas stove.  You may also choose to roast them over a charcoal grill for amazing results.  However, if you do not have either option, you may roast them in the oven.  **If you choose to do the latter, you will not have the distinctive smokey flavor for which baba ghannouj is known.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Turn one of your gas stove burners on to medium heat, and place the eggplant on it.  Flip the eggplant on all sides to ensure each side gets charred properly.  Once you are finished with roasting one, place it in an oven proof dish and cover it with foil.  After you have charred both eggplants, and placed them in the oven proof dish covered in foil, place the dish in the oven for 30 minutes to completely steam and roast the eggplants on the inside.

Now that your eggplants are ready, gently peel the skin off and discard.  Cut each eggplant down the middle to inspect for seeds.  If your eggplant has large seeds in it, you MUST remove them, as they will turn bitter.  If a few seeds are left after the removal process, do not worry about it.  You just don’t want a dip full of eggplant seeds.  Take all the flesh of the eggplants and place it in a strainer or cullender for an hour or two.  The eggplant flesh must drain, as it is full of water.  That water will turn your baba ghannouj to a bitter, watery mess.

Once the eggplant seems properly drained, finely dice it and place it in a large enough bowl.  You may use a food processor, but I prefer to finely dice it for the texture.  Mash the garlic in a mortar and pestle, or grate it with a microplane.  Add the tahini, garlic, lemon juice, salt, and extra virgin olive oil to the eggplant and stir enough combine into a paste.  Plate in a nice bowl and make a little well in the middle of it.  Top with more extra virgin olive oil and some finely chopped Italian parsley to garnish.  You may also add a small amount of paprika as a garnish for some color.  Warm up some very thin Lebanese pita bread, and enjoy your freshly made baba ghannouj.

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