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Recipe for Babaganoush an Eggplant Dip
Babaganoush has a rich history with as many variations on ingredients as it does spelling. Sometimes its written as baba ganoush, baba ghanoush, baba ghannouj or even baba ghannoug. There are somethings though that don't vary: the main ingredients. Babaganoush always incorporates eggplant, garlic, lemon juice and tahini, which is a ground sesame paste.
It originated somewhere in the Middle East and just about every country in the region has their own take on the popular dish, hence all the different spellings. People in Lebanon insist its only to be eaten as an appetizer while in Egypt it often accompanies meals as a side dish. Some recipes will call for pomegranate seeds, or parsley or even chopped pistachios.
A Brief History of the Eggplant
Eggplant has been around since pre-history. Its widely thought that botanists in India developed the fruit. That's right, like tomatoes and potatoes, it belongs to the family of plants known as Nightshades and is technically a fruit. It has soft white flesh encapsulating lots of seeds so its actually a berry. If eggplant is prepared improperly, the seeds can be quite bitter. They have an element known as nicotinic alkaloids which also makes the fruit a relative of tobacco. Though, you'd have to consume 9 kilos or, over 20 pounds, to come close to the amount of nicotine found in one cigarette.
During the Middle Ages, Arabs introduced the fruit to the European continent. But, because of its association to the Nightshade family, it was avoided. Europeans called it mala insana, or mad apple. It was thought to cause insanity, though it was much loved for its depth of color and beautiful blossoms. In Courts around Europe it was often used to decorate table tops.
Our third president, Thomas Jefferson who was also an avid botanist, brought the fruit back to America from one of his European trips. Sadly though, the misperception that eggplant was dangerous persisted into the Americas where it was also only used as a table decoration.
The Truth About Eggplant
In spite of it's scary relatives, eggplant is extremely healthy. Its very low in saturated fat, has no cholesterol and according to studies done by the Institute of Biology of São Paulo State University, Brazil, its thought to be effective in the treatment of high blood cholesterol. Its also high in essential nutrients like manganese, phosphorus, folic acid, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Thiamin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Copper and potassium. Its an excellent source of dietary fiber and with only 10 calories per 1/2 a cup, it packs a lot of nutrition under its beautiful purple skin.
Eggplant comes in many sizes, shapes and colors in spite of the fact that you can only find one or two types at the grocery store. If you'd like to really get an idea of the diversity of this fruit, then head down to your local farmers market toward the end of summer when eggplants are abundant. It will delight your eyes.
Eggplant is an extremely versatile food. Before its cooked it has a spongy texture so eggplant will really soak up all the flavors of what ever you add to it. That means it lends itself extremely well to all sorts of dishes and is an excellent substitution for meat.
Ingredients for Babaganoush
This will make a very large portion of Babaganoush which is great to serve at parties with triangles of toasted pita bread. Since it freezes very well, I usually make a big batch, reserve what I'd like to eat that week, and freeze the rest.
- 4 Med. Eggplants
- 4 Cloves of Garlic
- 1/2 Cup Tahini
- Juice of 1 Fresh Lemon
- 1/2 C. Good Olive Oil
- 1 1/2 tsp. Salt
Directions for Babaganoush
There are two ways to prepare the eggplant for pureeing. The first is to roast them over an open flame until they're soft. It doesn't matter if the skin gets burned because even though its edible, you will be peeling it for this recipe. The grill will give the eggplant a wonderful smokey flavor.
The second method is roasting them in the oven. Preheat the oven to 180 c. or 350 F. Place the eggplants on a tinfoil covered baking sheet or in an oven proof dish and bake for about 45 minutes. The duration of cooking time will depend on the size of the eggplants. They should be nice and soft when they're finished. If they need another 10 minutes, stick them back in.
Take them out of the oven, or off the flame, and let them cool down enough to handle.
Peel and cut off the tough green stem at the top. Add them to a food processor and puree. Add the garlic then tahini. Sometimes the tahini really thickens the dip up, but don't worry, the lemon juice and olive oil will take care of that. Add the salt and taste for seasoning. Since eggplant is the star of this dish, that is what you want to be tasting the most but it should be balanced by the lemon, tahini and olive oil. As alway, adjust the flavors to suit your palate.