W. Beaty 2005

I love the "professional" Baba Ganouj found in Mideastern restaurants.

To approach that flavor in DIY, the basic trick is to char eggplants with a broiler until they start to collapse (20min or longer.) Then turn them over and char the other side. To avoid violent yet humorous eggplant steam explosions, first poke them repeatedly with a knife before broiling. And to avoid a big cleanup job, broil them on a foil-covered cookie sheet. On my stove the broiler element shuts off if the oven door is closed for over ten minutes, so I prop it open an inch by stuffing a potholder down the crack along one side of the oven (FAR down, so it doesn't catch fire!) We want eggplant charring, not baking. [Optional: to speed things up, stab and then microwave each eggplant for 3min before broiling, or about 5min for two.]

I found one professional secret: avoid using low-oil American tahini; the stuff that's like solid paste. Instead buy tahini at a mideast or Indian or Greek grocery. The real stuff needs stirring, pours like syrup, and carries far more flavor. Hint: if you like overkill garlic, then mix the crushed garlic clove into the tahini rather than into the finished product. The sesame oil will let *all* the garlic flavor out. GNARL-IC!

Another secret: after broiling the eggplants black, scrape out the meat onto the broiled black juices on the pan, and also onto the charred skins. Let it sit that way for 20min or so, and all the carbon-y goodness dissolves, turning the meat golden brown. Then peel off the eggplant meat, pick out the black flecks if desired, and proceed as usual. This gives complex smoky overtones. Much better than tasting like cooked eggplant with tahini.

To avoid that over-mixed "peanut butter" consistency, I like to leave the eggplant meat almost alone. No blenders. First eliminate long strands by slicing the cooked meat crosswise with a sharp knife while scraping it off the skins, then just stir it into tahini with a fork. Perhaps mash the largest lumps. This makes the baba far more crunchy/fruity.

Actual recipe: 1/4 cup tahini and one garlic clove for each large-ish eggplant, thinned with juice from half a large lemon. Some salt required (1/4 tsp, or a bit more.) Use three or four eggplants: half for the party dip, half for the day after.

Once I tried making and freezing a big batch, then comparing it against fresh-made. The previously frozen stuff was different, and I think slightly not as good. Sometimes freezing will improve a food, but not this time. Doesn't really ruin it though.

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