Smoky eggplant dip

Up there with Mexican food on the list of cuisines I could eat everyday is anything Mediterranean.*

I love it because it brings together my favorite flavors – nutty, smoky, savory, herby – and my favorite way to eat – grazing on lots of different things at once.

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When I lived at home, if my mother was out of town and my dad and I were left to our own devices we’d go to Whole Foods and spend way too much money on a smorgasbord of meats, cheeses, olives and spreads. It was divine.

Actually, I also owe my dad my love of Mediterranean food. He introduced us to Lebanese restaurants and makes a killer lamb dish where he cubes it, spreads it over hummus and serves it with pita. It’s inspired by something we get at Al Hamra, an amazing Lebanese place in Shepherd Market, London.

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FYI, this is not smoky enough :-O

On our last visit there, I had a life-changing babaganoush and since then I cannot get eggplant dip off the brain. I’m calling it eggplant dip here because when I was looking for a recipe, Deb Perelman informed me (not literally, I don’t know her personally, I wish) that I’ve been confusing two different dips: babaganoush and moutabbal.

The former has pomegranate molasses and tomatoes like the one I had at Al Hamra. The latter is the one you’re going to make for dinner tonight if you know what’s good for you. I’m not super technical so I’ll probably keep calling this babaganoush but now we know the difference. Minimalist Baker calls it babaganoush too and I can’t wait to make her version.

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Whatever you want to call it, make a big batch tonight and serve it with chicken or lamb for dinner, dip veggies in it for a snack or ladle over this salad for an amazing lunch tomorrow.

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Smoky eggplant dip (formerly known as babaganoush)
(Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

Makes about 2 cups

2 medium eggplants (should be about 1 pound each)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons tahini (I love Soom! It doesn’t get as hard when it separates as other brands)
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
Juice of 1 lemon, plus more to taste if you’d like
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Pinch of cumin
2 tablespoons well-chopped flat-leaf parsley, divided
Toasted sesame seeds or za’atar to top

Heat oven to 375°F.

Spread 1 tablespoon of olive oil on a baking sheet or roasting pan and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of salt. Prick eggplants a few times with a fork or tip of a knife.

There are multiple methods for smoking your eggplant: you can do it over a gas flame, on a grill or under the broiler in your oven as I did. Whatever you do, don’t be shy about it – you want the skins to be totally black,with no purple visible, to get an ideal smoky flavor. Check on them throughout the process and turn halfway through to get an even char.

Transfer eggplants to a cutting board, let cool, then trim off stem and cut lengthwise. Place cut side down on prepared baking sheet and roast for about 30 minutes or until very, very tender when pressed. My oven is hot so I only needed about 20 minutes – check after 20 and assess if further roasting is needed. Let cool to room temperature.*

Scrape eggplant flesh from skin and into a blender or food processor. Add tahini, lemon juice, cayenne, cumin and 1 tablespoon parsley. Blend in short pulses until combined but still coarsely chopped – the texture makes it great so you don’t want it completely smooth.

Taste and adjust ingredients if needed – I added more salt and lemon.

To serve, spoon into a bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with remaining parsley and top liberally with za’atar, or toasted sesame seeds.

*Lebanese? Middle Eastern? I’m pretty sure what I’m referring to here is a hodge podge of different regional cuisines so let’s just call it Mediterranean food.
**:Like me, you may be impatient and want to eat the dip immediately but definitely wait until it’s room temperature. My dip was still slightly warm and honestly, it was a little weird.

Smoky eggplant dip: https://smittenkitchen.com/2014/08/smoky-eggplant-dip/

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