Baba Ganoush and the Big Bowl of Garlic

Smoked-Eggplant

Several weeks ago, after planting our fall garlic beds, I ended up with a big bowl of leftover cloves on my kitchen counter. It hasn’t moved much since. We shuffle it around and I’ve whittled it down a bit but it’s still there; big, garlicky and always in the way. Not that it’s a huge problem. The garlic will last a year and sooner or latter I’ll muster the energy to walk it down to the root cellar. But until then, they’ll live on the counter. And while it’s occasionally irritating, having a big bowl of garlic underfoot, it’s also kind of nice. It gives me an excuse to use garlic in every dish. We’ve made garlic soup with poached eggs. We’ve done 40-clove chicken. We’ve roasted it. We’ve toasted it. We even whipped up a batch of garlic-scented gougeres. But recently my favorite garlic dishes have all been dips, spreads and purees.

Which brings us to baba ghanoush. Baba ghanoush is a great outlet for garlic. It’s strong, smokey, creamy and lucious; pure comfort food for more than a few people on this planet. It’s super easy to make, lasts for days and can be eaten with almost anything. In America we usually serve it as a appetizer dip with either pita triangles of raw, cut vegetables. In the Middle East it’s more often served as a side dish or as a salad. The best part about baba ghanoush is that it’s supposed to taste garlicky, Make that real, real garlicky. So I’m never shy. I push the garlic much farther than I do with other dishes. Baba is my number one answer to the big bowl on my counter.

Unfortunately, as far as seasonal eating goes, baba ghanoush in December, in Colorado, is pure abomination. Baba is about eggplant and eggplant simply cannot be grown here off season. It’s the definitive summer vegetable. Even with a fully insulated greenhouse, a phalanx of heaters and my own personal coal mine, I don’t think I could keep things warm enough to grow eggplant over winter. That being said, I’m completely hooked on baba ghanoush. I make it at least every couple weeks. And yes, I do feel a tiny bit guilty. I live on a farm. Under the snow, inside the low hoops, I have a smorgasbord of fresh produce growing right outside my back door. I shouldn’t be eating organic Mexican eggplant in December. I certainly shouldn’t be paying $3.99/lb for it. But I do and I love it.

Baba Ghanoush is a puree of garlic and smoked eggplant with lemon, olive oil, some tahini and spices. It’s a little different from other veggie purees in that it doesn’t absolutely need a binder. Many purees, cauliflower for instance, can be very wet and will run all over the plate unless some starch is added to give it body. I usually add either a bit of cooked potato or some damp crouton to my veggie purees to stiffen them up. It’s different with eggplant. If well smoked and roasted, eggplant is dry enough and creamy enough to hold up on it’s own. That being said, almost all baba ghanoush recipes call for tahini, which adds flavor and does fortify the body. The more tahini you add the stiffer your baba ghanoush will be. But feel free to leave it out if you choose. The baba should be just fine.

eggplant-fire

Good baba should have a strong, bold flavor. For me this means smoking the crap out of the eggplant. I smoke my eggplant on the open flame of my gas stove top. I crank the gas as high as it goes and turn the eggplant until the skin is blistered, charred and black. The longer it cooks on the stove the smokier the flavor will be. Personally, I like baba ghanoush pretty smokey. So I’ll leave the eggplant on for 10-15 minutes. If I’m cooking for more timid eaters I’ll usually pull it after five minutes or so.

We’ve never grown eggplant on our tiny farm. The economics just weren’t there for us. But this summer, because of my new found love of baba ghanoush, we’re going to give it a go. We are planning for a single 30-foot trial bed in our of the summer greenhouses.

Unfortunately, as far as seasonal eating goes, baba ghanoush in December, in Colorado, is pure abomination. Baba is about eggplant and eggplant simply cannot be grown here off season. It’s the definitive summer vegetable. Even with a fully insulated greenhouse, a phalanx of heaters and my own personal coal mine, I don’t think I could keep things warm enough to grow eggplant over winter. That being said, I’m completely hooked on baba ghanoush. I make it at least every couple weeks. And yes, I do feel a tiny bit guilty. I live on a farm. Under the snow, inside the low hoops, I have a smorgasbord of fresh produce growing right outside my back door. I shouldn’t be eating organic Mexican eggplant in December. I certainly shouldn’t be paying $3.99/lb for it. But I do and I love it.

Baba Ghanoush is a puree of garlic and smoked eggplant with lemon, olive oil, some tahini and spices. It’s a little different from other veggie purees in that it doesn’t absolutely need a binder. Many purees, cauliflower for instance, can be very wet and will run all over the plate unless some starch is added to give it body. I usually add either a bit of cooked potato or some damp crouton to my veggie purees to stiffen them up. It’s different with eggplant. If well smoked and roasted, eggplant is dry enough and creamy enough to hold up on it’s own. That being said, almost all baba ghanoush recipes call for tahini, which adds flavor and does fortify the body. The more tahini you add the stiffer your baba ghanoush will be. But feel free to leave it out if you choose. The baba should be just fine.

Good baba should have a strong, bold flavor. For me this means smoking the crap out of the eggplant. I smoke my eggplant on the open flame of my gas stove top. I crank the gas as high as it goes and turn the eggplant until the skin is blistered, charred and black. The longer it cooks on the stove the smokier the flavor will be. Personally, I like baba ghanoush pretty smokey. So I’ll leave the eggplant on for 10-15 minutes. If I’m cooking for more timid eaters I’ll usually pull it after five minutes or so.

We’ve never grown eggplant on our tiny farm. The economics just weren’t there for us. But this summer, because of my new found love of baba ghanoush, we’re going to give it a go. We are planning for a single 30-foot trial bed in our of the summer greenhouses.

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