Eggplant is one of those vegetables that you start out hating as a kid and as an adult you can’t get enough of. Lebanese cuisine has many outstanding eggplant dishes. This one is by far the easiest to produce and the most popular. It is served at every mezze. Actually the best m’tabbal I had in Beirut was at the landmark restaurant El-Ajami. It was exceptional! why? because it did not taste of tahineh, only eggplant and it was so light it was ethereal, with a faint lemony/garlicky subterranean flavor. I should also mention my dear aunt Wadad, who when I complimented her on her m’tabbal declared that she barely adds tahineh, so as to avoid ruining it. I could have swallowed the entire platter but I did not out of consideration for the other guests at her table.
OK. So, m’tabbal is easy to make.
INGREDIENTS: This quantity will produce about 6 to 8 servings as a dip.
- 2 large and shiny (and smooth) eggplants (when cooked, weight about one pound)
- 2 teaspoons of mashed fresh garlic (mashed with a teaspoon of salt)
- 1 lemon, juiced (about 1 ounce of juice)
- 1/4 cup of tahineh (using a standard measuring cup or 3 tablespoons)
- 2 teaspoons of pomegranate molasses also called debs al-remman (optional)
- If you have a gas grill or stove, place each eggplants on the burner and let it darken and blister.
- If you have only an electric oven, place the eggplants on broil and let them darken all over.
- When black all over, cool on a flat surface or by running it through cold water if you wish or simply waiting a few minutes.
- Peel the eggplants.
- Gather the flesh and place it on a large sieve. Let it drain for an hour or more.
- Use that time to mash the garlic with some salt, juice the lemon, and measure the tahineh into a small bowl. You can mix all the ingredients together.
- Flip the eggplants onto a large mixing bowl. Add the garlic, lemon juice and tahineh mixture.
- Mash the mixture by hand with a wooden mallet or a spoon vigorously so as to combine all the ingredients but preserve the chunky texture if possible. Taste.
- Add 2 teaspoons of pomegranate molasses if you like a sweet/sour taste. Taste again.
- When it is perfect, spoon it delicately and lovingly into a bowl, garnishing it with some olive oil, pomegranate seeds or anything else that suits your fancy.
- Serve at room temperature with either pita bread, fresh or toasted, or fresh vegetables like celery sticks and carrots, or, and this is my all-time favorite, french fries!!!!
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