I’m unapologetically excited about vegetables and fruit, and I feel the same way about condiments. When I go to fancy burger joints, I’m never shy about asking for a side of ketchup. I’m equally liberal with mayo, dijon, hot sauce, vinegar, olive oil and the like.
Rejoice! Summer is condiment season, with dips, dressings, spreads and sauces being just the ticket for casual entertaining. A bit of grilled pita or crisp flatbread and a few seasonal, water-packed vegetables such as cucumber or endive leaves to dip, along with a glass of chilled wine, and dinner is served. Dips, like this easy baba ganoush, a Levantine eggplant dip, can be made-ahead, so there’s nothing to fuss about on the day of. Without an ounce of mayo or dairy, it will remain safe to eat at room temperature for hours. In fact, it should be served at room temperature for best results, a benefit being it won’t take up precious refrigerator real estate.
Traditionally you’d want to char the outside of the eggplant on the grill or your gas stove’s burner, though you can, as I did, still get beautiful results in the oven (the grill marks you see are due to a grill pan used in the oven – a baking sheet works perfectly well, too). With eggplant, especially in the application of baba ganoush, it’s important to cook the eggplant until it loses every morsel of structural integrity, collapsing into a creamy, silken, defeated mass. Medium-rare eggplant is not the way to go. The outer skin should be crinkled and a dark purple-black when it’s done, rendering it edible and delicious.
For a smoky taste without the grill or a gas burner, a hint of smoked paprika is all you need – entirely optional, but I love the faint fire-free char it lends. A bit of pomegranate molasses whirred into the base and to garnish brings this easy baba ganoush recipe together (NOTE: Find pomegranate molasses in the international section of your supermarket). Dip or spread baba ganoush onto your vehicle of choice, or, if you’re like me, dive directly in with a spoon and call it a day.
Creamy Baba Ganoush (Eggplant Dip) Recipe
A baba ganoush recipe (Lebanese) made with tahini, lemon, garlic, charred eggplant and smoked paprika. The eggplant (aubergine) dip can be made in the oven or on the grill. It’s a Middle Eastern specialty that’s creamy – without mayo or dairy – mildly smoky and perfect for entertaining. Its luxuriously silky consistency is thanks to tahini (which also makes this baba ganoush recipe vegan), and pairs well with toasted pita bread or flatbread, raw vegetables as well on toast and sandwiches. Traditionally, baba ganoush is part of a mezze platter or spread.
Serves 4 to 6
1 large eggplant, top greens removed and halved lengthwise
1 to 2 cloves garlic (add 2 for a more pungent dip)
1/3 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses, plus more to garnish
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
Extra-virgin olive oil, to garnish
Sesame seeds, to garnish
Chive blossoms or chopped fresh mint, to garnish
- Preheat oven to 400ºF. Line a large rimmed baking sheet or cast-iron grill pan with parchment paper and place eggplant cut side-down. Prick eggplant skin several times with a fork or paring knife. Roast for 40 to 50 minutes, until meltingly tender and collapsed. Cool to room temperature.
- In a food processor, pulse garlic until minced. Add roasted eggplant (including the skin) and blend until smooth. Add tahini, lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, cumin, smoked paprika and salt. Blend again until smooth and creamy. Transfer to a wide serving bowl.
- Garnish with a drizzle of additional pomegranate molasses, a thread of olive oil and sprinkle of sesame seeds and chive blossoms or mint. Serve at room temperature. Refrigerate leftovers for 4 to 5 days.