What makes this an essential is the eggplant technique, which is so simple but blows your mind at the same time. I learned about charring eggplants whole when I was twenty-one years old and working in a restaurant in Tel Aviv. They’d score an eggplant, throw the entire thing on the grill, and then let the fire do all the work. The skin gets completely charred while the heat steams the flesh until it is smoky, tender, and juicy. That becomes the foundation of baba ghanoush, a smoky, velvety dip that’s an essential in its own right.
Excerpted from Eating Out Loud by Eden Grinshpan. Copyright © 2020 by Eden Grinshpan. Photography by Aubrie Pick. Published in the United States by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.
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With the tip of a knife, pierce each eggplant in two places—doesn’t need to be perfect or in the same place every time; this is just so the eggplant doesn’t explode on you (it’s happened to me, and it’s not pretty).
Pick a cooking method for the eggplant: grill, broiler, or stovetop burners. The bottom line is that you want this eggplant to be almost unrecognizable. It’s going todeflate and the skin will get white in some places, but that just means the fire is working its magic on that eggplant.
OPTION 1: Grill Preheat the grill until hot. Add the eggplants and let the fire do its thing, making sure to keep turning the eggplants so they char all over. You want them to get black in some places, 20 to 30 minutes total.
OPTION 2: Broil Preheat the broiler. Put the eggplants in a broilerproof roasting pan and place the pan as close to the heating element as possible. (You may have to adjust your oven rack to accommodate the size of the eggplants and the depth of the pan.) Broil until they are evenly charred all over, 30 to 35 minutes, checking and turning the eggplants periodically. You want the eggplants to keep their shape but get really charred and wilted.
OPTION 3: Stovetop Gas Burners Line your stovetop around your burners with foil. Working with one at a time, place the eggplant over a medium flame and let it char, making sure to turn it every 5 minutes. Continue cooking until it is deflated and black all over, 20 to 30 minutes.
Transfer the cooked eggplants to a colander in the sink and let the juices run. (The juices can make the dish taste bitter.) Once the eggplants are cool enough to handle, remove the stem and all of the skin.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggplant flesh with the tahini, lemon juice, garlic, and salt.
To serve, first make a za’atar oil by mixing together 1 tablespoon of za’atar with 1½ tablespoons of olive oil for every 2 cups of baba ghanoush.
For each serving, use a spoon to spread about 1 cup of the baba ghanoush over a platter or in the bottom of a bowl. Drizzle over 1 to 2 teaspoons of the pomegranate molasses (go easy—it’s very tart and sweet), followed by the za’atar–olive oil mixture. Finish with a sprinkling of small mint leaves (or large leaves, torn) and a small handful of pomegranate seeds (if using).
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