I planted more eggplant last spring than we need, but the plants were so beautiful and healthy at the farmer’s market that I could not resist. Last week I put some in our pad Thai, and the night before Mike grilled some next to our steaks (slice, brush with olive oil, and sprinkled with minced garlic and spices). I also made Baingan bartha the other day which uses the charred eggplant technique explained below. We ate it on thick slices of French bread, but it is more traditionally served with puri, dahl and rice.
Many Americans say they dislike eggplant, but I’ve never met anyone who did not like baba ghanoush. I first had baba ghanoush in a pita sandwich at a place on Broadway just around the corner from the Empire Hotel and Lincoln Center in NYC (1978). In 1986 in Bakersfield I made baba ghanoush and presented it as a dip – with potato chips – at a 4th of July gathering. I refused to tell anyone what it really was until after it was (speedily) consumed. And another time I took some to the Lincoln Elementary School International Food Festival along with the ever-popular Greek salad. I figured one or two people might be brave enough to try it. Imagine my surprise when crowds of children kept coming up and requesting the baba ghanoush! (There were some very hip – or hippie? – families living in the Lincoln district at that time.)
Here is a baba ghanoush basic recipe, but I would insist that you need to roast your eggplant over an open flame to get the essential smoky flavor. This is simple if you have a gas stove top (open a window, please!), but can also be done on a hibachi or grill. Prick the eggplant first to avoid unexpected popping/explosions. I prefer to use the skinny Asian type eggplants, as they cook through must faster. If you get a good char on the eggplant then you can quickly rinse it off under some running water. But it’s ok to leave a little bit of the char on the eggplant when you mash/blend it up. Note: many recipes included ground cumin and cayenne.
Mike and I love traditional Eggplant Parmesan, but we’ve been restricting ourselves to a once (or maybe twice) a year indulgence. I know, there are lo-cal versions, but they are just not the same! People who claim that you can make eggplant Parmesan without generous amounts of olive oil are probably the same people who say carob tastes just like chocolate.