Smoky Grilled Baba Ghanouj

smoky baba ghanouj

smoky baba ghanouj

This is a magic dish. Years ago when I first ever tasted baba ghanouj it seemed like another-planet food. My taste buds in confusion asked: What is that? It’s creamy, but it’s a bit slippery. It’s color is not describable. And the flavor…the flavor is all its very own. Like nothing else. Like eating ancient-foreign-vegetable-garden concentrate. The whole garden. Earth and all.

I used to be intimidated to make it. But now that I’m not, I feel like I’ve got a secret. Making it is  surprisingly easy. Exotic flavor at your fingertips. And the aroma sticks to your fingertips long after you’ve consumed the dish. That’s a good thing. You don’t want it to be over.

It’s all eggplant. And garlic. And tahini. And olive oil. And seasonings. But it is mostly and basically and really just eggplant.

I used mini-eggplants this time. They have packages of mini-eggplants (about a dozen in the pack=about a pound and a quarter) at my favorite local international market, K & S. I don’t see them anywhere else.

mini eggplants

mini eggplants

But it’s just as easy to use normal-sized eggplants…process is the same.

I got the grill started on medium high. And greased the grate with Pam. I used skewers for the little guys so they’re easier to handle.

skewered eggplant

skewered eggplant

I also poked each one with a knife a couple of times to allow any steam to escape (so they don’t pop with heat excitement!).

eggplant skewers on grill

eggplant skewers on grill

After about 10 minutes, I turned them over, and let them cook another 10 minutes or so. You can’t really overcook this much. You want the skins to get charred and the center soft.

charring the eggplant

charring the eggplant

Take them off the grill and let cool.

grilled eggplant with ingredients

grilled eggplant with ingredients

When they are cooled, cut them half…

cut cooked eggplant

cut cooked eggplant

Scrape out the flesh into the bowl of food processor and discard the skins.

eggplant ready to puree

eggplant ready to puree

Add a couple of tablespoons of tahini, juice of 1 lemon, healthy dashes of ground cumin, 2 peeled and smashed garlic cloves, salt & pepper to taste. Pulse until smooth. Taste to see if you need more anything. Sometimes salt. Sometimes more cumin. And then add a few healthy swirls of olive oil. Pulse smooth.

pureed baba ghanouj

pureed baba ghanouj

And it’s done! Traditional pita points are used for dipping. But we’re trying to not eat bread around here and instead we dipped raw, crunchy fennel.

baba ghanouj with fennel

baba ghanouj with fennel

It’s a very delicious combination. Celery and carrot sticks work great, too. I also had some crushed pistachios on hand (left over from the cannoli cake we made in class) and sprinkled them on top. And a light swirl of olive oil completes the dish.

Brings you a taste of foreign lands (Syria, Palestine, Egypt, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Armenia). And is a typical part of a full spread of small tasty treats (meze). If you make it, let me know how it goes! (And how far the taste transported you.)

 

 

 

 

The Zucchini, Peppers, Eggplant Reunion

Zucchini, Eggplant, Peppers

Zucchini, Eggplant, Peppers

You can use the above picture as a color palette for painting the walls of the rooms of your house. Bright yellow kitchen walls (I have that), Deep red dining room walls (I have that). Eggplant saturated office walls (I have that). And green…green…bedroom walls? (I don’t have that. No green walls.) (But the garden is green!)

Green Garden

Green Garden

The other thing you can do with that basket of wonder is cook it. Especially now when the shelves of the supermarket and the bins of the farmer’s market are spilling over with zucchini, eggplant and peppers. Those veggies just SAY summer (listen closely you can hear them) (they have tiny voices that squeak a little) (except for the eggplant, the eggplant is deep & bass-y). I’ve got a recipe that brings them together into a melange that makes them start singing.

First: cut each vegetable into uniform bite-sized pieces. Line 3 sheet pans with foil. Toss the cut-up zucchini on one, the cut-up peppers on the other, the cut-up eggplant on the third. Drizzle each with olive oil, sprinkle with salt & pepper (add a little hot pepper like “aleppo” if you’re so inclined), and roast each pan in a 400 degree oven until golden and softened.

NOW (in a large mixing or serving bowl) mix them all together. In a food processor (or by all means mince with a knife) pulse some basil and parsley and garlic. Add a little olive oil and season with salt. “Dress” your roasted veggies with the mixture and serve. Hot or room temp (I like room temp best for this).

When you take a bite you’re tasting summer, you’re swallowing the sun. You’re engaging with 3 separately grown vegetables that are finally having their reunion (because they are really lifelong friends…didn’t you know they went to high school together?)

Roasted zucchini, eggplant, pappers

Roasted zucchini, eggplant, peppers

And if you’re at the grill today and your CSA basket is overtaking your home with zucchini, eggplant and peppers, get them on the grill!

grilling zucchini, eggplant, peppers

grilling zucchini, eggplant, peppers

Slice each veggie. Toss with some olive oil and salt. Grill till grill lines make their appearance and your veggies soften up.

Make the pesto like above but add a bit more olive oil. Serve on a pretty plate (the veggies are, of course, the prettiest) and stare at the beauty for a while. But don’t wait too long. Your taste buds are dying to join the party.

grilled zucchini, eggplant, peppers w pesto

grilled zucchini, eggplant, peppers w pesto

Got Eggplant? Here’s a very quick parmigiano!

eggplant

eggplant

Okay I’ll admit it. I’m not a big fan of eggplant. (Please don’t boo so loudly.) I’m Italian-American and 3 quarters of my background is Sicilian and Sicilians love eggplant. But I’m not one of them.

However. There are times when an eggplant dish just hits the spot. I try hard to make that happen so that even I like eggplant.

Here’s one of those dishes/times.

It all came about because an eggplant in the refrigerator was going to turn from good to bad. I had to cook it quickly and didn’t want to take too much time doing it.

I sliced the eggplant thinly (peel and all). Placed the slices in one layer on a sheet pan (foil-lined), drizzled olive oil, sprinkled salt & pepper. Baked it till soft and a bit golden. (400 degrees, about 20 minutes)

sliced eggplant ready for the oven

sliced eggplant ready for the oven

I made a quick tomato sauce. Sautéed minced onion in olive oil and I had a few mushrooms, so I broke them into small pieces and added them to the sauté. (As well as a few minced sage leaves-happened to have some.)

onion & mushrooms

onion & mushrooms

A splash of white wine, let it evaporate, then a 15-oz can of crushed toms.

crushed tomatoes

crushed tomatoes

quick tomato sauce

quick tomato sauce

In a casserole dish I spread some sauce. Layered the eggplant. Sprinkled some shredded mozzarella and some grated parmigiano, more sauce, and repeat. (I also happened to have some cooked broccoli rabe in the fridge, so I put that in! Totally optional.)

building the eggplant parm

building the eggplant parm

 

eggplant w cheese

eggplant w cheese

Bake for 25-30 minutes. It’s GOOD. This eggplant I like. Tastes rustic, earthy, old world. My kind of eggplant.

baked eggplant parmigiano

baked eggplant parmigiano

Grilled Eggplant Parmigiano

All you need is a grill and a food processor. No need to turn on stove or oven.

Slice your eggplant into medium thin slices. Brush with olive oil, season with salt & pepper. Grill until softened, imprinted with grill lines, and even charred a bit. Also grill two big tomatoes sliced in half, 1 large onion, peeled and sliced in half, and 2-3 cloves of garlic (keep them together so they don’t fall through the grill or hold together with skewer). Pulse the grilled tomatoes, onion, and peeled grilled garlic cloves in the food processor until you have a smooth sauce (or chunky if you like). Season with salt & pepper. Spoon some sauce in the bottom of a casserole dish (I use an alimunum one since it’s going back on the grill). Place a layer of eggplant slices on top, spoon some sauce, sprinkle grated parmigiano, scatter cubes or slices of mozzarella. Repeat in one or two more layers. Place back on a very low grill (or use top grate away from direct heat if you have one). Close cover and cook until cheese melts and is bubbling.

Now pour a glass of cool Italian white wine (Frascati? Pinot Grigio? Soave?) and enjoy…preferably outoors in a garden fragrant with basil and ripening figs. 🙂