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exploding eggplants

Recipe: baba ganoush

Over the weekend, Neva spent a lot of time smooshing her little puppy body against the double-cell honeycomb blinds that insulate our glass deck door. This is her way of indicating that she’d like to go out on the deck very much please why don’t you just open the door and let me outside. Unfortunately, little Neva doesn’t understand that going out on the deck is risky business when snow is flying horizontally into the next county and the big Ponderosa pines are bending worriedly under the crush of 70 mph wind gusts. When it is this windy, there isn’t a lot of outside anything for her besides (very brief) potty breaks. But she is still a puppy – 10.5 months old and most definitely a puppy. Neva gets to play tug and chase her toys up and down the stairs when the weather is blowing like it is now. Our threshold for suck is usually wind gusts greater than 50 mph.

before the storm

throw the ball! throw the ball! for the love of god, throw the baaaaaaaaaall!!!!

After you experience windstorms like we experience on the Front Range, anything below 50 mph winds is fair game. It requires that you get out and take advantage while the weather isn’t impossibly shitty. Ever wake up to a gorgeous day and think, “I should get out for a run, but I’ll do it tomorrow,” and then tomorrow is a tornado? That’s what I’m talking about. It’s all relative, you know. The old route I used to skate ski was so hard, but my new route REALLY kicks my butt which makes skating the old route feel not so bad at all. Snow conditions were pretty craptastic on our most recent ski tour, but… it was just great to be outside. If we waited to do things until everything was perfect, we’d never do anything. Ever.

snow cover getting sparse near tennessee mountain hut

cute little ski hut

jeremy patiently waits for me to finish taking pictures

We largely ignored Valentine’s Day – working, eating leftover pizza for dinner, playing with the puppy in the house, and watching behind the scenes reels for OK Go’s music videos. Hopefully we’ll catch a break in the weather soon (tomorrow, please) and get the pup and ourselves back out for some exercise. Sometimes the wind will rage all morning and then around noon it will settle down for a couple of hours as if on lunch break and resume again later in the afternoon. Luckily for me, that’s exactly what happened last week while I was making baba ganoush.

eggplant, tahini, kosher salt, garlic, lemon, parsley, olive oil

Whenever I have good baba ganoush (eggplant dip) in a restaurant, I fall in love with it. Then I go home and make a batch, and I fall out of love with it after three bites. What gives? I did a little research and decided to try The Food Lab’s version. Kenji does several things differently, all of which result in a creamy dreamy final baba ganoush. First, you need to roast the eggplant. You can do this either on the grill (preferred for the smoky flavor) or under a broiler. I opted for the broiler because it seemed easier. I’ve always scored my eggplants before roasting them in the oven because it’s supposed to allow the steam to escape during cooking. Kenji determined that more moisture evaporates from the eggplant when you DON’T score the skin because at some point the skin will bust open and bye bye water vapor! So that’s what I did. [I made a half recipe in the photos.]

the eggplant on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet

it exploded

There was a disconcerting boom in the oven after a mere 7 minutes. I opened it to find eggplant carnage all over the inside of the oven. Sadly, the eggplant wasn’t even close to being cooked, so I had to drive to our little mountain grocery store and pray they had eggplant (they did). I’m guessing the reduced atmospheric pressure at 8500 feet resulted in the eggplant’s over enthusiasm. Ah, life at high altitude is always an adventure. The second time around I fired up the gas grill as the winds had miraculously subsided and I didn’t want to deal with cleaning up the eggplant guts in the oven. This time I decided to score the skin. The nice thing about the grill is that it takes less time – about 40 minutes as opposed to an hour in the oven. Both methods require a short period of steaming the eggplant in a foil pouch after roasting is done to help the skin separate.

score the skin

grilling the eggplant

steam the eggplant for 15 minutes, then peel off the skin

scoop all of the flesh out

strain the excess liquid from the eggplant meat

Eggplant is a spongy vegetable that contains a good deal of liquid. When you peel the roasted flesh from the charred skin, you’ll notice that liquid dripping and pooling on the foil. Kenji does a gentle salad spin on the eggplant to extract as much of the juice as possible. I don’t own a salad spinner, so I let the flesh sit in a sieve over a bowl. The juice drips out on its own good time, but to give gravity a hand, I set the sieve on top of several layers of paper towels which aid the draining process through capillary action. When the towels were soaked, I squeezed them out in the sink and returned them to the sieve, repeating this until the flow was negligible.

While that was going on, I prepped the other ingredients. I prefer to mash my garlic into a paste rather than leave it minced, because it is smoother than a sharp bite of garlic.

mincing the garlic

mashing salt into the garlic to form a paste

Rather than blitzing the bejeezus out of the roasted eggplant in a blender or food processor, this recipe has you beat it to within an inch of its life with a fork. It maintains some of the eggplant texture and winds up with creamier results.

whisk the garlic and lemon juice into the drained eggplant

add tahini

whisk the olive oil into the baba ganoush in a thin stream

fluffy and velvety

You know how I only made a half recipe? That was partly because Jeremy doesn’t like baba ganoush and I didn’t want to have to eat the whole thing by myself. Well, I wish I had made a full recipe because not only did Jeremy like this version, but he ate half of it. This luscious baba ganoush is a different beast entirely from whatever it was I was making before. It’s not just the difference in texture, but the flavor is also superior. I definitely feel grilling is better than broiling the eggplant. Straining out as much liquid as possible is better than leaving it in. And manually whisking the dip with a fork beats the pants off of using a food processor or blender. I’m back in love with baba ganoush.

finish with olive oil and parsley

serve with pita and crudités

Baba Ganoush
[print recipe]
from The Food Lab

3 medium eggplants (about 2 pounds total)
2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2-4 tbsps fresh lemon juice (start with 2, add more to taste)
4-6 tbsps tahini (start with 4, add more to taste)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more to taste
kosher salt to taste
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Score the skin of the eggplants lengthwise, about five times evenly spaced around each eggplant.

Grill the eggplants (preferred method): Heat your grill to medium heat (around 350°F) and place the eggplants directly over the heat source and cover with the grill lid. Grill for 30-40 minutes, turning the eggplants every 10 minutes to char on all sides. The skins should be blackened and the eggplants should appear deflated when ready.

Broil the eggplants: Set oven rack to 6 inches below the broiler. Turn broiler to high. Place the eggplants on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet and broil for about an hour, turning the eggplants ever 10-15 minutes until charred on all sides. The ends should be soft (not firm) when the eggplants are ready. Remove from the oven.

Both methods: Seal the charred eggplants in a foil envelope to steam for 15 minutes. Set a strainer over several layers of paper towels or on a kitchen towel and then set the ensemble over a bowl. Open the foil. If the eggplant skins peel off easily, peel the skins and place the flesh in the strainer. If not, then slit each eggplant lengthwise and scoop the flesh into the strainer. Let the liquid from the eggplant drain for 10 minutes, turning the flesh over every few minutes. If the paper towels are soaked, wring the liquid out and return them to the bottom of the strainer to encourage wicking of the liquid from the eggplant. [Note: you can also place the eggplant in a salad spinner and gently spin the liquid from the flesh, but I don’t have a salad spinner.] Place the drained eggplant in a clean bowl.

Set the minced garlic on a cutting board and sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of salt over the garlic. With the flat of your knife, smash the salt into the garlic to make a paste. Vigorously stir the garlic and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice into the eggplant with a fork until it resembles a rough paste (about a minute). Continue to stir vigorously and add the tahini, and then the olive oil in a thin stream. Add more of the lemon, tahini, and olive oil to taste. Season with salt to taste. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle parsley on top. Serve at room temperature with warm pita bread or crudités. Makes 3 cups.

more goodness from the use real butter archives

eggplant fries miso peanut butter vegetable dip baingan bharta (indian mashed eggplant) vietnamese braised eggplant

16 nibbles at “exploding eggplants”

  1. Linda says:

    I love Kenji’s recipes, too! I have always liked eggplant, so maybe I’ll give it a try. My mom used to just peel and slice the eggplant, dip the slices in seasoned beaten egg, and fry the slices. Probably in Crisco. I might try doing the same in a little butter. I don’t think I’ve ever tasted baba ganoush, but I love hummus, so I probably would love it too.

    I love the caption for Neva waiting for the ball. It’s mean to tease the baby like that, you know. 8-)

  2. Katrina says:

    One of my all time favourite dips! Love this recipe!

  3. Kristin says:

    I’ve never enjoyed baba ganoush, even though I love all of the ingredients. Maybe I’d better try this one! Thanks for sharing, and for making the sacrifice of your oven to test the broiling. Our gas oven broils terribly, so I am glad to have the grilling option.

  4. alberta says:

    enjoy your site tremendously, but found the “word” bejeezus offensive

  5. Crafty Minerva says:

    Thanks for this recipe! It’s my birthday and I’m going to make some of this for ME! :)

    And, @alberta, SERIOUSLY??? Life is short. Spread love and spend time worrying about what really matters….

    Again, thanks for your blog and for all the work you put into it! I have made sooooooo many of your recipes and I always look forward to your new posts!!!

    LIVE-LAUGH-LOVE cuz life is oh so very short and precious!

  6. Lilly says:

    you can also “roast” the eggplant by putting it directly in to the flames of a gas range. Keep turning it around with tongs until it is charred all around

  7. sassygirl711 says:

    find the concept surprising that beating with a fork
    vs. blending with a Vitamix or cuisinart
    gets smoother results. will try the fork!
    thanks for the recipe!

  8. Melora says:

    That exploded eggplant reminds me of nothing so much as some kind of as-yet unidentified echinoderm (sea stars, urchins, sea cucumber, etc.), many of whom can evert their stomachs. And yet, still leans toward delicious…

  9. Lisa says:

    Too funny, I was reading Ottolenghi’s “Plenty” cookbook this morning and he talked about eggplant exploding in the oven and then I read this and see the results of the exploding eggplant. Have never had that happen before.

    And “bejeezus”??? Really?

  10. Annie says:

    All summer long I buy extra eggplants to throw on the grill when we are done cooking whatever else is on there. We have found that if you kill the heat and let the eggplant cook in the residual it will be ready to pull when dinner is over. The smoky grill flavor makes all the difference for Baba. I can’t wait to try the fork method to see the improvement in texture. I like mine lemony and will always add a couple drops of pure lemon oil to get a bright citrus flavor without watering down the dip with too much juice.

  11. bee says:

    Jen, I started out with Kenji’s recipe too and have simplified it considerably with good results.

    Cut the eggplants in half, put then cut side down on a foil-lined baking sheet that has been oiled. Then broil an inch away from the heat for exactly 20 minutes. The skin will be charred and crisp. Take the sheet out of the oven and cover the whole thing with a foil tent for 10 minutes before peeling.

    To remove the liquid, place the peeled eggplants in the fridge in a covered bowl for 6 to 8 hours (or overnight). The liquid will be pooled at the bottom.

    Proceed with flavourings and seasonings (I use a food processor to get a chunky texture).

  12. Tegan says:

    Re: bejeezus it’s probably offensive to overly religious people. The kind who write G-d.

    Anyway, I apparently never left my comment! My Bengali friend roasts her eggplants over the gas flame on the stovetop. Using tongs to turn them, and when the skin is blackened and crispy, she removes it, lets it cool, and then finds that the skin peels off easily. She mashes it and serves it with mustard and hot chili oil I think?

    But if you don’t feel like trekking out to the grill, you could try that way.


  13. Rocky Mountain Woman says:

    That looks so good! Windy here also, 60 to 70 mph. What the heck? Sideways snow also. I’m anxious for spring, but I know you’d rather hold on to winter for a bit!

  14. Kristin says:

    Whoa…I just made this, and I repeated your error…I only made half a recipe, because I wasn’t sure I would like it. It’s delicious!! Thanks!

  15. jenyu says:

    Linda – If you like hummus, then baba ganoush is like a close cousin. I hope you try it! Oh, and we don’t tease Neva if we can help it, we just insist that she sits for her ball (or for anything) – it’s just part of training :)

    Katrina – :)

    Kristin – you know, I’ve always loved baba ganoush in the restaurants, but the texture just wasn’t the same at home. Now I know why. Glad to see you tried it and that it was a success!! Another convert!

    alberta – that’s too bad. I’m sorry you were offended, but I love that word.

    Crafty Minerva – Yay! Happy (belated) birthday! I hope you made the recipe and enjoyed it :) xo

    Lilly – thanks for the tip! That will be handy for those who can’t or don’t want to grill it (and still get that nice smokey flavor).

    sassygirl711 – I know, right? I assumed that more blade power would mean better and smoother baba ganoush. Well, it’s definitely smoother, but it somehow kills the texture that way. With a fork, the eggplant is able to maintain some of it’s own fiber and structure which I think makes it taste fluffier and creamier (if that makes sense). So good!

    Melora – I know! I thought of octopus when I saw it ;)

    Lisa – exploding eggplants are very exciting. Maybe I just got lucky ;)

    Annie – Wow, that is a great idea for charcoal grillers! Try the fork, it REALLY makes a huge difference and it’s so dang good. I like the lemon oil idea!

    bee – Wow, nice! You should write to Kenji and tell him your short-cut!

    Tegan – yeah. I am (obviously) not a religious person and this is most definitely not a religious blog, so… I’ve found after ten years of writing a blog that someone somewhere is going to be offended by something (it happens on a nearly daily basis) and they will tell you about it. Thanks for the tip – apparently others do the same and it’s a decent alternative to grilling :)

    Rocky Mountain Woman – looks like we’ve been getting spring for the past few weeks. Argg!

  16. Pey-Lih says:

    This is the recipe I need to make, so I don’t have to keep going to my local Persian market to buy the vegetarian combo plate. Thank you, Jen. I am craving for this.

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