Baba Ganoush

It is time for another go at baba ganoush with Chinese Eggplant. Once again, the serving size is one, but since I am one, it will likely work out.

First, the eggplant is washed and the loose leaves on the tip are torn away. They will just burn if left and the top of the fruit (or berry), named for a gamete, will not cook fully.

I most often use the gas stove top, putting the eggplant right on the open flame. You can use the broiler but it uses a lot more gas and the kitchen gets much hotter. If you happen to be using your BBQ, that is another option. Just put it right on the grate close to the coals. I have heard of some who will put it directly on the coals but you must not walk away or you might have nothing left but char.

You can use any kind of eggplant. In the U.S.A., the most common is the large Globe variety. I personally do not like to use these as much since the thickness makes it harder to cook fully on a gas range burner. I have done it enough times to know that it takes a long time. The smaller, thinner Italian variety is easier to cook through and a bit sweeter but the Chinese or Japanese eggplant is the winner in terms of roast time.

I may have to cook a Globe for 20 minutes or more to make sure it is done while the thin Chinese fruit is done in perhaps 6-8 minutes in total. The key here is to make sure the eggplant is totally limp. If you pick it up with a set of tongs (a good idea) it will be very droopy. If using a thick eggplant, cook it until you are sure it is burned beyond reason or it will not be cooked through. When you are sure it is done, either wrap it in foil or put it into a bowl and cover to steam for 20-30 minutes. Not only will it continue to cook but it will slowly cool enough to handle.

Because the eggplant may leak juices as it roasts, I usually put a piece of aluminum foil beneath the burner to make clean up easier.

After it has cooled, carefully remove the charred skin. I usually use a serrated steak knife and my fingers. If you have wrapped it in foil, this can be easily tossed with the burnt bits when you are done. Try to take off just the burnt skin and leave the browned flesh underneath. That is where the most flavorful smoke flavor is. If some sticks and reveals the white inside that is O.K. But leave as much as you can. The Chinese variety also seems easier for me to peel. If you work next to the sink, leave the water running just a bit so you can rinse your hand as your go.

After you have gotten it as clean as you can, remove to a bowl and pick out as many of the charred bits as you can. Don’t stress if a few black specks are left. They provide a nice smoky flavor. The next step is one that I have not seen often referred to but I find essential to a smooth final product. Use a sharp knife and cut the eggplant across the grain, in other words from side to side to cut the long fibers. The fibers in an eggplant go from top to bottom and if you do not cut these short, you can end up with a stringy dip. It is just like cutting a steak across the grain for a more tender bite.

After it is cut, add salt, pepper, lemon juice, and garlic (I like the crushed for this). I usually add just a touch of cumin and either Spanish smoked paprika or Chipotle powder for a bit of spice. Use a fork to smash the eggplant and mix well before adding the Tahini (Sesame seed paste). Start with a little, mix well and give it a taste. Add more and taste again until it suites you. The last ingredient to add is the olive oil. Use the good stuff, it tastes so much better. Again, this is to taste but by adding the oil last, you can make sure that it emulsifies well with the rest of the ingredients. If you add the oil early, it may not fully incorporate and separate out later. I am using Pompeian EVOO Smooth.

It can be eaten immediately but gains some flavor if held for an hour or so. Let it come to room temperature before serving with a sprinkling of paprika and a drizzle of the good olive oil. Accompany with crusty bread or crackers. Make a plate with some Parmesan cheese shavings, good oil cured olives, and tomato for a nice light Summer meal. Get your vegetables, eat Baba Ganoush.

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