Classic Baba Ghanouj 6.000

Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post; food styling by Bonnie S. Benwick/The Washington Post

Smoke Signals Aug 24, 2018

This way of preparing the Mediterranean mainstay includes smoke, which Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin says is an essential ingredient. A charcoal grill is unbeatable for achieving a depth of smoky flavor, but you can get in that flavor ballpark using a gas grill as well. For best results, place the eggplant directly in the embers. Oiling and salting the skin first will help develop a char, bits of which can be judiciously added to the dish.

See four VARIATIONS, below, that use this baba ghanouj as a base and are dinner-party worthy. And have plenty of olives, feta, scallions, good tomatoes and fresh pita on hand, for serving.

Unlike hummus, baba ghanouj need not be smooth. However, if you like yours pureed, use a food processor. You’ll need 1 cup of unsoaked wood chips or a couple of wood chunks, such as pecan, oak, hickory or cherry.

To read the accompanying story, see: Classic baba ghanouj requires real smoke. Then you can treat it like hummus.

Make Ahead: The grilled eggplant flesh can be refrigerated for a few days in advance; the baba ghanouj can be refrigerated for 3 days.


Servings:
6

When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 6 servings; makes about 2 1/2 cups

Ingredients
  • 1 medium eggplant (about 1 pound)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1 heaping tablespoon fresh pomegranate seeds, for garnish (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, for garnish (optional)

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Directions

Prepare the grill. If you are using a gas grill, turn the heat to high (500 degrees). Put the wood chips in a smoker box or foil packet poked with a few fork holes; set it between the grate and the briquettes, close to the flame. Once you see smoke, turn off the burners on one side.

If you are using a charcoal grill, light the charcoal or briquettes; when the briquettes are ready, distribute them on one side of the grill. For a high heat, you should be able to hold your hand 6 inches above the coals for 3 to 4 seconds. Scatter the wood chips or place the wood chunks on the coals, away from where you will place the eggplant. Have ready a spray water bottle for taming any flames.

While the coals are heating up, poke a few holes into the eggplant with a fork (about three pokes on each of the eggplant’s four sides). Use a teaspoon of the oil to coat the exterior, then season it with the salt.

Once the fire is ready, place the eggplant directly on the coals, or on the gas-grill grate directly over the heat. (The former gives you a crisper skin, which can be used in the dish for flavor and visual appeal. The latter may not crisp the skin quite so much, making it possibly unusable.) Cook, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, using tongs to turn the eggplant every 4 or 5 minutes until the skin is blackened and flaky and the flesh is soft, almost caving in on itself. Transfer to a cutting board to cool.

When the eggplant is cool enough to handle, cut off the stem end. Slice open the eggplant from top to bottom, laying it open flat, flesh sides up. Scrape out the flesh and about a teaspoon of any crisped, charred skin. (Do not include any skin if it's mushy.)

Use a chef’s knife to mince the eggplant and any of that crisped skin, if using. Transfer to a mixing bowl; add the lemon juice, garlic, tahini and salt, stirring until just blended, with some texture.

To serve, drizzle with a little oil. Scatter the pomegranate seeds or parsley on top.

FOUR VARIATIONS: Toss together bite-size pieces of salted, charred/grilled young carrots, thinly shaved fennel (from 1 cored bulb) and a few tablespoons of chopped mint in a mixing bowl. Serve at the center of a bowl of Classic Baba Ghanouj, then drizzle extra-virgin olive oil and more chopped mint on top.

Blacken a mix of seeded and diced fresh peppers (such as a long, hot red pepper; a Fresno pepper; a small, hot green pepper and a jalapeño pepper) in a hot cast-iron skillet, then toss with za'atar and extra-virgin olive oil. Serve at the center of a bowl of Classic Baba Ghanouj and sprinkle more za'atar on the eggplant dip itself.

Combine a sauteed mixture of onion, ground lamb and spices (kosher salt, allspice, cinnamon, black pepper, crushed red pepper flakes) with chopped flat-leaf parsley and toasted pine nuts. Serve at the center of a bowl of Classic Baba Ghanouj, drizzling extra-virgin olive oil on top.

For chipotle and cilantro baba ghanouj, prepare the base recipe with 3 tablespoons of tahini instead of 1/4 cup. To that, stir in a 1/2 to 1 minced chipotle in adobo (to taste). Drizzle a little toasted sesame oil or avocado oil and scatter chopped cilantro on top.

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Recipe Source

From Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin.

Tested by Matt Arnold.

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Email questions to the Food Section at food@washpost.com.