Baba Ghonouj (Roasted Eggplant Dip)

Photo: Courtesy flickr
Baba Ghanouj or Ganouj is a very popular Middle Eastern dish made primarily of eggplant and tahini, (a paste made from sesame seeds). My parents would always take us out to various ethnic restaurants to experience wonderful foods. Our favorites were middle Eastern restaurants, Lebanese and Greek food in particular. 

One of my fondest childhood memories was going to a popular Lebanese restaurant Sunday's after the Mosque meetings. It was located in the South End of Boston called, The Red Fez. I loved the black olives, feta cheese, their rice pilaf, and deserts. String beans with lamb was my favorite dish and on occasion Kufta Kabba. 

Baba Ganouj was our favorite appetizer.
1 large eggplant (aubergine). Must be ripe!
2 - 3 tablespoons tahini
1 - 2 lemons, juiced and strained
2 - 3 cloves garlic (use fresh - no substitutes!)
Olive oil
There are several methods you can use to cook your eggplant for Baba Ghanouj.
Open flame:

For open flame roasting or grill, use a fork to turn often. Skin will wrinkle and char, and flesh will shrivel and become soft. When eggplant is completely soft all over, remove to a bowl, slash once or twice to drain out bitter juice, and let rest until cool enough to handle. You can also just simply put the eggplant whole in the oven to bake until tender.

Oven method. Place on rack whole or split the eggplant lengthwise place face down on cookie sheet and bake in hot oven on top rack 30-45 minutes.
Scoop out flesh into bowl of food processor or blender. Add garlic, tahini, lemon juice and process. Amounts depend upon size of eggplant and your taste - please sample frequently. Salt to taste.

If you don't have a food processor or blender, the eggplant is quite easy to mash by hand. Mash the garlic with the flat of a broad knife, then mince it fine. If you have a mortar and pestle, mash the garlic with salt into a nice paste. A large mortar and pestle would do nicely for mashing the whole dish together.

Serve at room temperature, drizzled with olive oil.