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Thursday, March 26, 2009

baba ghanouj, also known as mtabal

Every great chef [as well as every mediocre home cook] has a signature dish.

Baba Ghanouj is mine.

I learned how to make it properly from my Aunt Nada, who chars the eggplant directly on the stovetop. Made this way, Baba Ghanouj is messy, messy. The eggplant drains brown juice all over the stovetop, and the blackend skin sticks to everything. I was obsessed with baba ghanouj and french fry pita wraps for most of 2006, and the last day in our apartment on Baltimore Ave, I was scraping hardened, black bits of eggplant off the backsplash so we could get our security deposit back.

But oven roasting, while much neater, will fail to give that ultra smoky flavor that even avowed eggplant haters embrace. Mtabal, as it is typically called in the Arab world, has wide appeal, and is ideal for picnics and potlucks.

I made some last weekend, when Ann and I successfully held our first joint social gathering, a picnic in Cobbs Creek welcoming the first days of spring. My sister and I have lived together in Philadelphia for 3 years, and in that time, nothing has proven more difficult than merging our social groups and taste in appetizers. We've been planning our housewarming party since 2006, with the last attempt ending in a fight over Swedish Meatballs.

The picnic was fun, and the baba was a hit, as always. It appeals to my bohemian hipster crowd and Ann's art school rock star buds.

I'll be moving come summertime, this time without little Annie bug, and as excited as I am to embark on a new adventure, I will miss sharing sandwiches with her.

Baba Gannouj

2 large Italian eggplants, charred until black on a stovetop

1 ½ cloves garlic, mashed or chopped

¼ cup lemon

½ cup tahini

Salt to taste

Char eggplant directly on a medium flame, or grill on a gas or charcoal grill until it is soft and pulpy. When it is totally flaccid, take the eggplants off the stove and run them under cold water, removing all the burnt skin. Careful not to burn yourself!

Mash eggplants with a fork until it is soft. Add tahini, garlic, lemon and salt, and continue to mash until it is basically pureed. A mortar works well for this task.

Served garnished with olives and parsley.

1 comment:

Jason Fults said...

Hey there Kate,
I'm so glad you posted your baba recipe! I joined a CSA here in Gainesville and have been getting lots and lots of eggplant lately, so when I got invited over to a love interest's house for dinner a couple of nights ago, I went for the baba. Your recipe was delightful (though I have to admit, the messy stovetop was too much for me, so I properly charred them in my toaster oven!).

In any event, it turned out great, and all the while reminded me of how much I miss you and how much I loved the times that we spent in the kitchen together. Keep cooking, keep blogging!

I miss you and hope that we can catch up soon.

Till then, much love,
j-dawg eternal