At the start of every summer, I do this. I tell myself I am going to make all kinds of new foods with the summer's produce bounty, particularly vegetables that I have never cooked myself before. Like a high school girl on summer vacation between sophomore and junior year, I want to flirt with all different kinds of vegetables that I find randomly at the farmers' markets!
Um, never mind about that "high school girl on summer vacation" part. I took college prep classes during the summers...
Anyway, at the start, I always tell myself I want to expand my cooking horizons by challenging myself with something new in the kitchen every day, or even every week, and I always end up having one long torrid affair with one vegetable every summer. One summer I was enamored of zucchini. The summer before that, I was having a hot fling with every kind of tomato I could get my hands on. This year, I've been seeing eggplant. A lot. In fact, you might call us "an item."
Eggplant is one of my ATF vegetables (that's All Time Favorite for those of you who don't speak Slashfoodian). However, I have most often eaten it in its small slender format, the Japanese eggplant, and in Asian preparations -- stir-fried with other vegetables or steamed and served with a sticky sweet sauce. Obviously, I've also had eggplant in its many Italian preparations, most notably, a vegetarian lasagne. I swear I could live on eggplant.
As much as I love eating eggplant, though, I have not cooked much with it. I am well aware of its versatility in the kitchen, so this summer, I am all about eggplant. In fact, I plan on making ratatouille right before going to see the movie. But for now, I''m doing my go-to recipe for eggplant, baba ghanouj.
Baba ghanouj is really just the Middle Eastern version of an eggplant dish that's also found in other Mediterranean cuisines like Greek (melitzanosalata). Eggplant is either roasted or grilled, then mashed with different spices depending on the cuisine, and served with some sort of bread. This is my recipe, which started from a basic one I found in the Joy of Cooking, and transformed over the years to suit my tastes.
Sarah's Baba Ghanouj
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Wash, dry, and slice eggplants (about 2 pounds) lengthwise. Place cut-side down in rimmed baking sheet that has a generous coating of olive oil. Roast in oven for about 45 minutes.
(As a side note, I also toss a whole head of garlic in the oven to roast, either to use with the baba ghanouj, or for later. May as well make good use of all that heat.)
Scrape the eggplant flesh into a mesh strainer set over a bowl or the sink, let it cool, or if you have asbestos for finger, go ahead and press down on it to squeeze out as much liquid as you can. There will be a lot. Toss the juice. I have no idea what you could use roasted eggplant juice for.
Pulse 2 cloves of fresh garlic in a food processor until minced, then add eggplant pulp, several cloves of the roasted garlic, 1 Tbsp olive oil, 2 Tbsp tahini, 2 Tbsp lemon juice, a pinch of cumin. Puree.
Salt and pepper to taste, then serve with warm pita bread.
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