I am not an eggplant fan. Truly, I’m not. I’ve had it prepared in many ways and while it’s not the worst thing I’ve ever eaten — it’s definitely not something I crave. It may go back to the avalanche of eggplant that my parents harvested from their recession garden in the 1970s. Mom would use it, along with zucchini, squash, tomatoes and onions to make mountains of ratatouille. I still remember the “custom shelves” my Dad built on one wall of our kitchen to store the canned bounty. The shelves took up the entire wall, but were just wide enough to hold a row of quart-sized ‘Ball’ canning jars. My younger brother, Cameron, loved the ratatouille. I hated it. Sorry, Mom.
I’m convinced that it was the texture of the eggplant that turned me off to her ratatouille. It was spongy. And though I enjoyed the other vegetables, there was always a piece of that squishy, pulpous aubergine, lurking on my plate.
Recently, at the farmer’s market, I came across an eggplant so unusual, I was compelled to buy it. To me, it looked like Pinnochio after telling a small lie. All it needed was a hat and some lederhosen. I could almost hear Jiminy Cricket singing in the background!
I brought this eggplant home, showed it off to my friends and neighbors and had a good time cracking jokes. But then I was stuck with an eggplant. (See the first sentence in this post). However, I can’t waste food – even food I don’t like.
So what to make? Ratatouille? Not! Eggplant parm? Eh, maybe. Then, I saw that David Leibovitz does a beautiful rendition of baba ganoush. I decided to use his recipe as a jumping off point. In addition to the eggplant, I also had some zucchini in the fridge and considered what the flesh would be like after being blistered over my gas stove. I thought it would be similar to the eggplant and decided to give it a shot. The addition of smoked paprika is not traditional, I know. But hey — it’s my kitchen!
The baba ganoush has a silky-smooth texture, and smoky finish. It goes great with toasted pita chips, a cold beer and a good bowl game on tv (that last part was Scott’s addition).
- 1 medium eggplant
- 2 medium zucchini
- 1/2 cup tahini paste
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- zest and juice of one lemon
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley leaves
- 1/4 cup cilantro leaves
- Char the outside of the eggplant and zucchini. This can be accomplished over a gas stove or grill or in a hot oven.
- For the gas stove or grill. Place the vegetables directly on the grates and allow the flame to blister the skin of the vegetables, turning occasionally with tongs. About 10 minutes, until the skin is wrinkled and charred and the flesh is a bit slumped.
- For the oven method, preheat oven to 400 degrees and roast vegetables on a rimmed baking sheet for 20-30 minutes until skin is wrinkled and charred and flesh is a bit slumped.
- Remove to a cutting board, slice vegetables in half, lengthwise and cool until you can handle them.
- Meanwhile add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl of a blender or food processor.
- Scrape out the flesh of the zucchini and eggplant and add it to the other ingredients.
- Process until smooth.
- Season to taste with additional salt, lemon juice, additional fresh herbs, a drizzle of olive oil or a light sprinkle of paprika.
- Serve with toasted pita chips, thinly sliced toasted baguette or a selection of raw crudités.