Basil Baba Ghanoush

September 15, 2009


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The time has come, the gardener said, to talk of many things… of shoes and ships and ceiling wax, of eggplants and kings. Ok, so, eggplant may not be the most poetic of vegetables, but really, they are fit for kings.

There’s nothing an eggplant couldn’t do, I think, spongy wonder that it is. You slice it, drain it and lo! Never have I met a vegetable so obliging in its texture, so willing to crisp up against some bread crumbs or soggy-down with a nice sauce. They’ve got their own flavor, sure, but better still, they’re the chameleon of the produce kingdom, able to suck in whatever you pour onto them, happy to absorb everything, while holding out some delightful texture and a signature chew. Chew and chew and chew. I could eat eggplant all day long—and in so many forms—which is good, because that’s what happens this time of year.

There are eggplants popping out of every garden in all their oblong glory, and I’ve found more than a few things to do with them lately. This quick spread is something of a baba ghanoush-pesto hybrid. Sometimes I find the pungency of pesto a bit sharp for plain old crackers or crudités, but this smooth, nutty dip is slightly softer and easier to palate on its own.

The day after I served it, I found myself spooning it onto salads as well: it goes well with some arugula, roasted tomatoes and cured olives, as you might expect. Best of all, I was able to surreptitiously serve it to someone who simply refuses to eat eggplant. It was a little bit sneaky of me, I’ll admit, but I think it’s always wise to feed people vegetables when you can. Especially when they’re overwhelming your garden.

If you’re too bashful to bring bushels of straight eggplant next door, I suggest a nice dainty mason jar of these as a neighborly offering—a basket full of pita chips won’t hurt either. It may seem like an effort, but the one thing eggplant doesn’t do is freeze well.


Basil Baba Ghanoush

Inspired by Patricia Wells

1 large eggplant or 4 small eggplants (In total about 16 oz worth)
2 Tbsp sesame tahini
Juice of 1 lemon
2 garlic cloves
1 c fresh basil
s & p to taste
sesame seeds for garnish


Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Prick eggplant all over with a fork. Place directly on oven rack, with baking sheet below.
(Patricia Wells explains that roasting eggplant in the oven must be done this way in order to keep air circulating, which prevents the vegetable from steaming.)

Roast until eggplants are soft and start to implode, about 25 minutes.

Remove eggplants from oven and trim off ends. Cut eggplants in half lengthwise, and scoop out flesh with a spoon. Discard the skin and tops.

Place the tahini, lemon juice, garlic and basil in a food processor and pulse until combined. Add eggplant and purée.

Season to taste—if you like a richer blend, add more tahini.

Garnish with basil and sesame seeds and serve cool or at room temperature.

*This recipe can be made with the herb of your choice. If you’ve got lots of parsley around, add some  pine nuts or sun dried tomatoes for garnish.

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