There were lots of things I missed about Michigan when we lived on the west coast, but I think I missed Middle Eastern food the most. You know, besides family and friends. Baba ganoush, a dip made of smoky roasted eggplants, is one of my very favorite things to order, along with grape leaves and tabbouleh and garlic sauce and fattoush and… you get the idea. I love a good mezze platter, and this homemade baba ganoush with warm pita always hits the spot.
Detroit, and especially Dearborn, have some of the best Middle Eastern food outside of the Arabian peninsula. Our favorite Lebanese restaurant was always one of our first stops when we came back into town. But as is the way of things, now that we’re back living within easy driving distance of a bunch of great Middle Eastern restaurants, we hardly ever seem to go. So I decided to start learning how to make some of my favorite dishes at home, thanks to my copy of The Middle Eastern Vegetarian Cookbook. It’s late summer, which means beautiful purple eggplants are showing up at the grocery store, so it only seemed right to start with baba ganoush.
When they’re roasted, eggplants develop a smoky flavor unlike any other vegetable. I like them in stir fries and pasta salads, but they’re tasty enough to shine on their own. This baba ganoush is as simple as it gets, with lots of roasted eggplant, a little garlic and salt, some tahini, and elbow grease or a food processor to mash everything together. Serve this smoky, filling dip with pita as an appetizer or part of a platter, use it to fill pitas stuffed with falafel and tabbouleh, spread it on top of burgers… the possibilities are endless. And it’s healthy! It really doesn’t get any better.
- 3 small or 2 large eggplants
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 tablespoons Tahini
- Juice of ½ lemon
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Poke the eggplants all over with a fork or knife, then place on a baking sheet and roast for 35-45 minutes, until soft. Once they're cool enough to handle, peel off the skin and discard it. Set the eggplant flesh aside to cool completely.
- If you have a mortar and pestle, place the garlic in with a little salt and crush it with the pestle. Add the tahini and lemon juice and mix well. Otherwise, finely chop the garlic then, in a small bowl, use the back of a spoon to crush salt into it, then add the tahini and lemon juice and mix with the spoon.
- Chop up the eggplants and add them to the bowl of a food processor. Add the garlic-tahini mixture and pulse until combined and to your desired consistency. If you don't have a food processor, you can chop the eggplant finely and mix in the garlic-tahini with a fork.
- Season with more salt if desired and serve with warm pita.