Eggplant is the Summer vegetable head-to-head with the zucchini. As much as I love a good (well-seasoned, light) baba ghannouj, the creative urge in the kitchen takes over more often than not. I had bought some really good zaatar in the town of Baakline (in the news lately because it is where George Clooney’s wife’s family comes from). I thought, with a bit of trepidation, why not add zaatar to baba ghannouj? Dare I?
As a Lebanese-born American, adding zaatar to baba ghannouj is like telling your family you will not be serving turkey for Thanksgiving. I was scared, but, hey, I was ready to take the plunge. I added a couple of teaspoons to the dish. It tasted…good! Emboldened, I sprinkled more zaatar on the surface, and drizzled more olive oil. The zaatar added a nice sparkle to the eggplant. From now on, I will have it nearby whenever I eat baba ghannouj.
Baba ghannouj with zaatar
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Passive Time: 20 minutes
1 large eggplant shiny and smooth, about 1 3/4 pounds
1/2 cup tahini more, to taste (stir before using)
3 cloves garlic, mashed more, to taste
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice or bottled, as a substitute
2 teaspoons zaatar mix more, to sprinkle on surface
1/3 cup olive oil to drizzle, more to taste
2 loaves pita bread cut into quarters or pita chips
1. Grill the eggplant over an open flame, on a BBQ grill or on top of the gas stove. The idea is to get it charred all over. (See instructions on my video). Cool a bit, peel and drain over a sieve.
2. Mash with a meat mallet (see video) and add the other ingredients, adding more or less of each to taste. I suggest preparing the dressing ahead and adding it gradually to the eggplant. Add the zaatar last, tasting as you go. Transfer to a plate, form a ridge with the back of a spoon, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with more zaatar if you like. Serve at room temperature with pita chips or bread.
If you can find it, you can use a canned eggplant purée if it has been smoked. If you prepare the dressing first, start by mixing the garlic and lemon juice. Add the tahini and when it curdles, add a tiny bit of water till it get smooth. Then add it to the eggplant. Keep in mind that the eggplant has water so you need to be careful and not get the tahini dressing (tarator) too liquidy.
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