When you’ve got lemons–so the saying goes–make lemonade. The same applies to eggplant. We’ve got plenty of it in the garden right now. In fact the plants themselves have long given up trying to stand upright, they are so weighted down with fruit. They just spread themselves on the ground. (Note to self: stake the eggplants next year.)
Thus, we are in the hunt lately for great dishes to make with eggplant. We’ve been perfecting our okra and eggplant stew. This week, it’s the classic Middle Eastern treatment–baba ganouj.
I did not have a particularly strong memory of liking baba ganouj so much. I love hummus, but can’t eat it any more because it’s so starchy. Eggplant has the advantage of being not only low-cal, but relatively low-carb (only 28 grams of carbohydrates in a pound of fresh eggplant). Of course, by the time you add the tahini (ground sesame), the finished baba ganouj has plenty of calories, but still is low on the carb scale. I’m happy to count it as one of my new most favorite kitchen garden friends.
I didn’t remember, exactly, how to construct the baba ganouj and so pulled out my tattered copy of the Moosewood Cookbook. My wife thought that was silly: Why didn’t I just look it up in one of my Paula Wolfert cookbooks? In fact, I have a shelf full of Paula Wolfert cookbooks. She’s covered everything Middle Eastern, North African and Mediterranean. But you know what? Her recipe for baba ganouj is almost exactly the same as the one in Moosewood, except that she recommends wrapping the eggplant in foil and cooking them over a gas flame instead of in the oven for smokier flavor. (Why not on the grill?)
To make the Moosewood version, place two medium eggplants in a 400-degree oven (either on a sheet pan, or place them directly on a rack with a pan underneath to catch the drippings). Bake until the eggplants begin to collapse and are completely soft inside. Remove them from the oven and when they are cool enough to handle, slice them open and scoop out the insides into a bowl.
To the eggplant, add 1/2 cup tahini, two or three cloves of garlic finely chopped, the juice of one lemon and a fistful of parsley leaves, roughly chopped. Mash everything into a puree with a potato masher. Season with salt to taste. Garnish with more parsley and serve with wedges of pita bread or baked pita. Or, if you are off carbs as we are, put out a spread of fresh vegetables for dipping, such as thinly-sliced zucchini, strips of bell pepper, baby carrots.