One of my favorite ethnic food cuisines is Turkish food. I love the simplicity of the ingredients and the richness of the spices. Turkish food has strong Arabic influences and is known for its wide array of meze options . A very popular Turkish meze dish (and probably my favorite) is Baba ganoush.
Baba ganoush is considered an appetizer dip that is generally served with pita or my personal favorite, lavash bread. The dip is traditionally made with roasted eggplant, tahini paste and garlic. Generally speaking, baba ganoush is considered to be a fairly healthy dish. For my baba ganoush recipe I didn’t have to do much in the way of altercation of the ingredients to create a healthy, delicious dip. I did, however, notice some issues with how traditional baba ganosh was prepared and wanted to alter the recipe to make it quicker to make.
Baba ganoush is generally an easy dip to make. However, one thing that can turn people away from making baba ganoush (myself included), was the length of the prep/roasting time involved. Some recipes have the eggplant roasting for almost 90 minutes. Since my schedule does not always allow time for 90 minutes of roasting, I was on a mission to find a way to speed up the roasting time.
After reviewing a lot of the baba ganoush recipes I started to see a trend in how the eggplant was roasted. Majority of the baba ganoush recipes roast the eggplant whole. The whole eggplant roasting recipes had, by far, the longest roasting times. Shorter roasting time recipes had the eggplant cut in half. I figured to get the roasting time to its shortest time and still be able to have the roasting flavor, I could cut the eggplant into slices before roasting.
Baba Ganoush is traditionally made with roasted eggplant, tahini paste and garlic. Depending on the recipe there can be some ingredient variations like the addition of mint, onions, tomatoes, parsley, cumin or even pomegranate purée. Since I love the flavor of eggplant, I wanted my baba ganoush recipe to be simple in its spices so that the eggplant flavor could stand out. For my baba ganoush recipe I elected to have just roasted eggplant, salt, tahini paste, lemon, garlic and a hint of dried parsley.
Some baba ganoush recipes add olive oil to the ingredient line up. Since I try to limit my intake of oils and because I knew I would be using the tahini paste (which naturally has a lot of oil), I figured I could scrap the olive oil altogether. Olive oil does make the baga ganoush creamier so if your diet is okay with additional oils and you prefer a creamier dip I have included olive oil (and the oil amount) as an optional ingredient.
In my baba ganoush recipe I included freshly squeezed lemon juice. Lemon juice is an ingredient known for adding acidity and a nice level of freshness to recipes. Lemon juice also contains citric acid which helps in preventing the cooked eggplant from turning brown due to air oxidation. For this recipe I recommend using freshly squeezed lemon juice. If you prefer to use prepackaged lemon juice just be sure to check the package ingredients first to ensure they fit within your dietary wants and needs. Majority of the prepackaged lemon juices on the market contain a lot of added ingredients.
A good amount of baga ganoush recipes include tahini paste. Tahini paste is also used in hummus and has a very distinct flavor. Tahini is basically ground sesame seeds. You can purchase different varieties of prepared tahini in the grocery store. Most varieties are just straight up mulled sesame seeds, but some do use extra ingredients like fillers and added oils so be sure to check the label. You can also make tahini at home by roasting sesame seeds and then grinding them to a paste in your food processor.
The rest of the traditional ingredients used in a baba ganoush I have kept as is in my recipe. The only ingredient I have added to recipe line up is parsley. Much like lemon, parsley gives most recipes an elevated brightness and freshness. Parsley also gives the dip a bitterness note that seems to round or balance out the dips overall flavor.
Quick and Simple Baba Ganoush
1 medium sized eggplant
1/4 teaspoon salt (for dip)
2 tablespoons salt (for pre-broil soak)
2 tablespoons Tahini paste
1 lemon (juiced)
1 clove of garlic (finely diced)
1/2 tablespoon of fresh parsley (or 1 teaspoon of dried parsley)
Optional: 1 tablespoon olive oil
Wash and slice eggplant (about 1/2″ to 1/4″ thick). Lay eggplant out onto a paper towel and sprinkle both sides with salt (2 tablespoons). Gently rub the salt into the eggplant. Allow the salt to pull some of the water out of the eggplant (about 10 minutes).
Preheat oven to broil. Rinse the salted eggplant and pat dry with paper towels. Place eggplant on a roasting oven pan/sheet or on a baking sheet covered with aluminum foil. Spread out eggplant evenly and lightly spray each side with oil (I prefer spray coconut oil).
Place eggplant into the preheated oven and roast for 5 minutes. Remove the eggplant from the oven and carefully flip the slices over. Return the eggplant to the oven and continue to broil for another 5 minutes (or until the eggplant is soft to the touch and has a roasted golden, almost brown color). Remove eggplant from the oven and allow the eggplant to cool slightly. After the eggplant has cooled the outside skin should be able to peel away easily from the eggplant flesh.
Place the roasted eggplant into a blender or food processor. Add the lemon juice, salt (1/2 teaspoon), minced garlic clove, tahini paste, olive oil (optional) and parsley to the blender or food processor. Blend the ingredients on medium for about a minute. You may need to stop the blender or food processor a couple times to reincorporate any ingredients that may have collected on the sides. Pour the baba ganoush into a dip bowl and serve with carrots, pita or lavash bread. Since the lemon juice helps in preventing the eggplant from browning, leftover baba ganoush can be covered and stored for a couple of days in the refrigerator.