Meet My Friend, Robert Ganoush (aka Baba)

If you have been to a farmers market lately, you'll notice an array of colorful produce. It's officially summer and that means a rainbow of fruit and veggies. Despite the horrific drought that south Texas is enduring (months without a drop of rain...though we did get a few inches two nights ago), the wild diversity of produce is definitely amazing!

Granted, Texas peaches are in short supply, but there's about a dozen varieties of tomatoes at the Quarry Farmers & Ranchers Market, more than four kinds of cucumbers (including an organic Indian cucumber from My Father's Farm), okra, 1015 and red burgandy onions, shallots, leeks, a wide variety of both squash and zucchini, carrots, peas, beets, bell peppers, jalapenos, Serranos, quite an impressive selection of melons (watermelons, cantaloupes, yellow canary, Santa Claus and honeydews), blackberries and eggplant.

Gorgeous auburgines, what the French call eggplants. These purple, pear-shaped vegetables are one of my all-time favorites. Maybe it's that purple is my favorite color, or maybe not, but these beauties are truly fantastic. Their versatility is immense. They can be sauteed, grilled, fried or roasted. Sliced, diced, chopped or pureed.

And once you learn how to work with eggplant, they can brighten your world. Or at least bring a spectacular dimension of flavor to it. They are also loaded with vitamins and phytonutrients, a great source of dietary fiber, potassium, manganese, copper and thiamin (vitamin B1). 

Thanks to my fellow farmers market vendor and friend, Luis Morales of Humble House Foods who makes a fantastic hummus, I have been on a hummus kick as of late. But I may have eaten my weight in hummus and cucumber spears over the last few weeks, so I decided to change things up a bit by making baba ganoush. It's something David and I both love, but I had never made before.

Like hummus, baba ganoush also calls for tahini (sesame paste), garlic, lemon juice and olive oil. But instead of using garbanzo beans, you roast the eggplant so it gets a lovely smokey flavor and creates this creamy concoction that goes well with toasted pita or other grilled bread and also raw veggies if you're low-or no-carbing it.

I've been enjoying taking advantage of the fresh picks at the farmers market and making entirely new dishes. Though I may have screwed that David knows I can make a stupendous roasted tomato soup and baba ganoush, I may have to keep on making them.

Buen provecho!

Baba Ganoush
The Cowgirl Gourmet adapted this recipe from David Lebovitz's version

Print recipe

The trick to baba ganoush is to get a smoky flavor which is created by charring the eggplants on a gas stove or under the broiler until the skin blisters and pops. You could spice things up by adding a pinch of cumin or chile powder, though I like it just the way it is.

2 medium-sized eggplants
1/4 cup tahini (organic sesame paste)
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
3 Tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice 
3-4 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
3 Tablespoons olive oil
Handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Smoked paprika for garnish
Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, garnish

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Prick each eggplant about 8 times (twice per quarter side) and then char them on the outside by placing them directly on the flame of a gas burner or charring them under the broiler. 

Whichever method you use, turn the eggplants until they are uniformly-charred on all sides. If using the gas stove top, this can be a messy job but worth every clean up cost. (If cooking under the broiler, place on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet.)

Roasted on the cooktop and ready for the oven.

Nothing that's good is ever easy...

Next place the eggplants on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet and roast in the oven for 30-40 minutes, until they are completely soft. You should be able to easily poke a paring knife into them and meet no resistance.

Remove from the oven and let cool.

Split the eggplants and scrape out the pulp into a food processor. Add the other ingredients and puree until smooth.

Taste and season with additional salt and lemon juice, if necessary. Chill for a few hours. An hour before serving, remove from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature. Sprinkle with a pinch of smoked paprika for garnish and then drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil.

Serve with toasted pita, grilled bread or plenty of raw veggies such as red and yellow peppers and cucumber spears.


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