Some words are fun to say: serendipity, onomatopoeia, mozzarella. Mozzarella of course has to be said with the proper Italian accent — mozz-ahh-rell-a. The words roll off the tongue, while others get stuck and thud out. Does anyone else struggle with dachshund?
Baba ghanoush is another delightful word. It apparently loosely translates to “pampered papa” or “coy daddy” in Arabic. Hmmm. It borderlines on silly sounding, so that when you say it, it almost feels made up.
But there’s nothing fake about its creamy, zingy taste. I recently ate at a Lebanese restaurant in Washington D.C., and ordered a trio of dips served with a crispy wood-fired pita: hummus, baba ghanoush and tzatziki. Since then, I have craved them often, especially the baba ghanoush. It’s not easy to find baba ghanoush in restaurants around Aspen, and the store-bought stuff is alright. Like almost everything, especially dips, homemade is better.
Baba ghanoush is roasted, pureed eggplant combined with tahini, lemon, olive oil and seasoning. Eggplant is considered a vegetable although technically it is a berry, according to botanical definition. It doesn’t have a ton of nutritional value, says research, but because it absorbs flavors so well it’s used in cooking across the globe, from Asia to Italy. In Korea, it’s often fried or served in stir fries. In the Philippines it sometimes goes in a stew.
In fact, some of eggplant’s names in other countries, and dishes that involve it, are also fun to say; in France, the aubergine is used to make a vegetable stew dish of ratatouille. And a perennial palate pleaser, eggplant parmigiana is made using a melanzana.
1 large eggplant or 2 two medium
4 cloves of garlic, peeled
4 teaspoons tahini
4 tablespoons olive oil
Paprika to taste
Salt and pepper
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Peel eggplant and cut off its ends. Cut eggplant horizontally into small rounds. Lay rounds on a nonstick baking sheet and drizzle with 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until middle of rounds softens and then remove from heat.
In a food processor combine eggplant, garlic, tahini, lemon juice and the rest of the olive oil. Puree until it’s creamy. At this point you can taste and add ingredients to desired flavor profile, i.e. more garlic for intensity, more tahini for creaminess, more salt and pepper.
Pour into a bowl, and drizzle with a little more olive oil to taste. Serve with pitas and fresh veggies, like cut carrot sticks or sliced cucumber. Parsley can be used as a flavorful sprinkle on top.
This recipe can also be adapted using zucchini instead of eggplant.
Christine Benedetti writes about food here every other week. Mostly the plant kind. She’s editor-in-chief of Aspen magazine, but you can reach her @cabenedetti.