Tuesday, June 8, 2010

You Can Make This Yourself: Babaganoush!

Hi Everyone,

Sorry again for what feels like an extended absence. Instead of making excuses about being busy (everyone is busy) I figured that in order to make amends, I would post about something that I get recipe requests for constantly. It's delicious, easy to make, and always a hit as a side dish, condiment, or sandwich spread (or are condiments and sandwich spreads the same thing? I have no idea, I am just trying to tell you it's damned versatile) It's babaganoush!

Eggplants are our friends, and if you've been following the blog, and have made hummus, then aside from picking up some eggplants, you have ALL the ingredients in your kitchen to make babaganoush.

I went to my favorite produce place over on third avenue and 26th street in Brooklyn, Rossman Fruit and Vegetable where I can load up on provisions for at least a week and spend around $20. They had what it took to fill my eggplant needs- eggplants for $0.99/lb, and I promptly picked 4 medium sized, firm skinned purple beauties. As I made my way further into the store, I saw more eggplants for $0.69/lb. I looked at them, saw that they had a few more blemishes than the $$0.99/lb babies- see said blemish?

But with babaganoush, the skin blemishes don't really matter too much, plus I knew I was going to be cooking them right away, so I celebrated my $0.30/lb savings, let the other guy who had picked up some "expensive" eggplants that there was an eggplant bargain around the corner, and continued with my shopping.
(seriously, if you live anywhere in the vicinity, go to Rossman!)

I tried to pick 4 medium-sized eggplants that were similar in size so that they would all cook at around the same speed. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees, cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil, then, without any gentle-ness, take a fork and stab those eggplants. You need to pierce the skin in order to allow moisture to escape while they are cooking, so, did you have a bad day? have eggplants on hand? maybe it's time to make some babganoush- don't hold back, let the aggression fly!

Put the eggplants in the oven, and let them cook for at least an hour and 15 minutes. I usually flip them once after about 45 minutes in the oven.

Remember- The more you make babganoush, the more you will get a feel for how you like it cooked. I like to let the eggplants go for at least an hour and a half, even more if they are larger. Oftentimes, my parents cook them on the grill. You can't leave them on the grill as long as in the oven without the danger of burning, so inevitably, the grill doesn't cook the meat of the eggplant down as much. You end up with a nice grill flavor, but I personally prefer when they are cooked down a little more (which is why sometimes, I even turn the oven up to 450°!)

Once the eggplants are done, take them out of the oven and let them cool. Set yourself up with a strainer (I use a wire-mesh strainer) over a bowl, and, once the eggplants are cool, cut them open, just slicing through the skin.
With a spoon, scoop the innards out from the eggplant skin, and into the strainer.

You should be able to scrape right up against the skin, but if you get eggplant skin in your eggplant pulp, be sure to pull it out, as it is bitter and unpleasant texture-wise after this much cooking.

Once you have completely harvested your cooked eggplant innards (nice imagery?), you can discard the skin of the eggplants

Now is the important step- you must let the eggplant strain. I cover it loosely, and put it in the fridge for at least a few hours, oftentimes overnight. The liquid that will drain off is bitter, and if you forget this step, you will be left with water-y, bitter babaganoush, and no one will be happy. Don't worry if you have more or less liquid, or it's a different color than my photo- remember, if you cook your eggplants less, you will have more liquid- I prefer to cook a little longer, and oftentimes have less liquid.

So you've cooked your eggplants and drained off the bitter liquid. Transfer the eggplant into a dish and prepare to assemble your babganoush! Do you remember your hummus practice?

For 4-medium eggplants, I started off with two heaping iced-teaspoons of tahini (TIP: I use iced-tea teaspoons for tahini since tahini gets very thick at the bottom of the jar, the longer handled spoon gives a little leverage for better stirring the tahini) the juice of 1/2 of a lemon, 1 large garlic clove, crushed, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

I say "I started off with" because I like to put in a little of everything, and then bring it up to flavor. Today I happened to be in a lemony mood (apparently I was channeling my sister, Annie, who once tried to cure any case of scurvy anyone in my family was every in danger of contracting by using 200 lemons) so I added the juice of another 1/2 of a lemon, about a half an iced-teaspoon of tahini, and another 1/4 tsp of salt. Make sure you taste along the way, and add the flavors you are craving. I am sure you are all shocked that I only added 1 clove of garlic. I know, it's very unlike me. What can I say.

Once you have assembled your babaganoush, it's good to let it sit for a bit prior to serving in order to let the flavors marry. When it's ready, drizzle it with olive oil, and serve with pita bread, crisp bread, carrot sticks, whatever's your pleasure!


  1. I have several comments:

    (1) Awesome, I want to make it

    (2) I admire your restraint in not mentioning the Celtics (we'll get em next time)

    (3) Props for both getting the cheaper produce and clueing in your fellow customer, love that

    (4) Re: draining liquid out of stuff (I should probably do a tip post on this) I like to put a strainer with legs in a bowl, line it with a coffee filter, put the stuff to be strained on top, cover with another coffee filter, then weight down with a heavy bowl or a plate topped with a coffee mug. The more you weight it down, the more you expedite the process, and with the coffee filter you only have to just wipe off the bottom thing when you're done.

  2. thanks for the great recipe! i love the advice to strain eggplants before making -- i've never done this but will try it.

    i roast my eggplants for baba directly over the flame on my gas stove. i love the smoky flavor this gives them. seems to work best with the thin, japanese style eggplants.