Roasted eggplant dip is one of my absolute favorite used for eggplant. While I may have disliked eggplant as a child, as an adult it’s become one of my favorite vegetables. The rich, smoky/sweet flavor that permeates beautifully roasted eggplant is one of the best things about cooking with eggplants and while I’ll always love Eggplant Parmesan, Baba Ghannouj has become my favorite use for this incredible vegetable.
For the uninitiated Bad Ghannouj is a roasted eggplant dip common in Mediterranean and middle easter cuisines. Seasoned with fresh chopped garlic, lemon juice, and a generous amount of tahini, this sweet, smoky, spicy mezze dip is the perfect accompaniment to fresh pita and roasted meats.
I was first introduced to Baba Ghannouj while cooking in a Lebanese restaurant years ago. While I will always be the first to say that Greek food is some of the best in the world, the cuisine of Lebanon found its way to my heart through my stomach, and Baba Ghannouj was a big part of that campaign.
The way the rich tahini blends with tart lemon, spicy garlic, and finally the sweet/smokey roasted eggplant flavor is truly amazing. Eggplant has a sort of numbing quality at times when eaten in large amounts, and this dip has an almost electric quality that’s hard to describe.
When making Baba Ghannouj the biggest question is: “how do you want to prepare the eggplants?” While roasting your eggplants in a high heat oven is a perfectly acceptable way to prepare your eggplant dip, grilling them over a charbroiler is in my opinion the best way to get the most flavor out of this recipe. I personally like to use a charcoal grill, but if you’ve got a gas grill at home that will work just fine as well. If you don’t have access to a grill, don’t worry, your Baba Ghannouj with be just as delicious, you just won’t get to use a grill which I think is half the fun.
Once you’ve roasted the eggplants and they are soft and tender to the touch, allow them to cool before peeling away the roasted skin. Try to reserve as much of the flesh as possible before chopping it into a rough puree on a cutting board with a sharp knife. You can use a blender or food processor for this step, but be careful, the eggplant will break down really quickly and I think a knife is easier to use given the fact that it takes a minute tops to properly chop the eggplant by hand.
To finish the Baba Ghannouj, mix the chopped eggplant with salt, pepper, fresh garlic, extra virgin olive oil, lemon, and lots of tahini. The tahini and olive oil will help thicken the eggplant dip by creating an emulsion that gives Baba Ghannouj its rich creamy texture.
For this recipe, I like to use a lighter, fruitier extra virgin olive oil that will blend well with the sweet, roasted eggplant and nutty tahini. A fuller-bodied olive oil would add to much bitterness and overpower the dip, so stick with something light and vibrant.