Friday, April 9, 2010

Turkish Feast: Baba Ganoush

Can I be honest here? I really wanted to make Baba Ganoush for Turkish feast, for one reason and ONLY one reason: I fricking love the name of this dish. I've had it in Mediterranean restaurants before and, though I can't exactly recall what it tastes like, I know I've never been impressed by it. It wasn't terrible, but it wasn't delicious either. But it's SO FUN to SAY! Try it: Baba Ganoush. BABA GANOUSH! You can't not love it.

Also, eggplants are really pretty, and I've never had the opportunity to try cooking with them before either. But I'd love to have them all over my kitchen. Or maybe just have a big pool full of eggplants, like those ball pits when you were a kid, but eggplants instead of balls, smooth, dark, purple eggplants, rolling in them, swimming naked in a sea of... well, you get the idea. I think eggplants are one of the cooler-looking berries (yeah, that's right, I said BERRIES) I've ever encountered.

So I was really excited to try my hand at some Baba Ganoush.

Most of the reading I did on cooking the eggplant suggested that it should be roasted on the grill, to bring out the smoky flavor that is a part of the dish. Unfortunately it was pouring rain all day, so grilling was a bit out of the question. (I'm not THAT dedicated to my craft.) I roasted mine in the oven at 500 degrees for about half an hour, then turned on the broiler and stuck them under for 10 minutes. Theoretically the skin was supposed to char and turn black, and maybe that would have happened if I'd had the guts to leave them under long enough, but I didn't want to overcook them so I took them out. Next time I'll be braver and stick it out for at least five more minutes before I lose my nerve!


Not charred, kind of... squishy.

Once they were roasted, I needed to let them cool. I got a bit nervous at this point, thinking I didn't really have any experience with eggplant innards, and by golly they seemed pretty squishy, and how did I know if I was doing this right? So I posted my uncertainty to facebook, calling for help, and my friend Chip came through with the best help of all: a Good Eats video clip! Yes, my Food Boyfriend Alton Brown to the rescue once again. It hadn't even occurred to me to see if Alton had ever done an episode on eggplant. Well, not only HAD he; he even made Baba Ganoush! Here's the clip if you want to watch it; it really helped me out.



If it weren't for Alton, I would never have known that the inner liquid would make my Baba Ganoush bitter, and that I had to drain the eggplant for about half an hour before mashing it up. I also would never have learned to wrap the eggplants in plastic wrap before squooshing out the innards; this was EXTREMELY helpful because those suckers were really squishy and MESSY. I was able to squoosh out as many innards as I needed, leaving the (not so) charred flesh behind, and getting nothing on my hands. AWESOME. There are so many reasons that I love you, Alton.


wrapped in plastic, ends chopped off, ready to squeeeze them like big tubes of toothpaste!

(For the record? Eggplants? Not nearly as pretty on the inside.)


eggplant innards

One thing my kitchen is lacking is a food processor. I am finding that the more we embark on these Global Feasts, the more I notice the lack of this machine. I'd love to get one, one of these days. But for now, it's me and my trusty blender. Prior to making the Baba Ganoush, I had made some homemade Hummus (which I will detail in a future post!), and that really gave my poor blender a run for its money. So I was worried about the BG, but as it turned out, this went really well in the blender. Cooked eggplant is apparently really mushy; I didn't even have to mash it up. I just tossed it into the blender along with the other ingredients, pulsed a few times, and it was done. Poured out easily and everything. (I happened to have Greek yogurt left over from the previous week; if you don't have any, check out my previous post on how to make your own Greek yogurt!)


The finished product.

I did not use smoked paprika for garnish; I poured a little bit of olive oil on top, and sprinkled it with salt and pepper, and a few bits of parsley. The only reason I left out the paprika is because... I forgot it. By the time I get around to the part where we can EAT the food, I often forget all about garnishing it in my haste to Get It In My Bellah, to be quite honest. But I did garnish it, in this case; I just didn't remember that they recommended a specific spice for the top.


Garnished Baba Ganoush

This turned out REALLY lemony. I would cut down the amount of lemon by half. It wasn't bad, but it did overpower the dish, and I'm pretty sure more of the smoky-eggplant flavor is supposed to come through. Alternately, one could increase the amount of eggplant. Also, instead of honey, I used a bit of Agave Nectar, but I imagine the results are quite similar.

Baba Ganoush

INGREDIENTS
2 medium eggplants (about 1 1/2 pounds)
3 tablespoons tahini
Juice of 2 lemons
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3/4 cup to 4/5 cup Greek-style yogurt
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Honey, to taste
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Salt, Pepper, and Smoked paprika, for garnish

DIRECTIONS:
Prick the eggplants in a few places with a fork to prevent them from exploding. Cook the eggplant over the flame of a charcoal barbecue or under the broiler until the skin is charred all over and they feel very soft when you press them. Alternatively, you can place them on a foil-lined baking sheet and roast them in your oven set on its highest heat setting for about 45-55 until soft.

When cool enough to handle, peel and drop them into a strainer or colander with small holes. Press out as much of the water and juices as possible. (My Food Boyfriend, Alton Brown, says to let them drain for half an hour or you'll end up with bitter Baba Ganoush!)

In your food processor or blender, pulse the tahini with the lemon juice, then incorporate the yogurt if you are including it. Add the mashed eggplant, garlic to taste, and a good pinch of salt, pepper, and honey. Pulse until the mixture is smooth and taste to adjust flavoring. At the end, add a couple of tablespoons of parsley and pulse a few times to chop / incorporate (do not pulse too much or add too early; it can make the herb bitter).

Spread the puree onto a flat serving dish or bowl and garnish with a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkling of salt, pepper, a pinch of smoked paprika, and a sprig of parsley. For best flavor, serve at room temperature.

Serve with pita chips and crudites.






I am participating in the Global Cook Along project, where we try recipes from around the world. We focus on one region's cuisine each week. We try to do ours as one big potluck-style meal each week, but other people are doing one meal a night, a week, whatever works for them! To learn more, see additional recipes, or to participate yourself, check out our livejournal community and / or our facebook group!

with love from K-Pidge :)

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