Friday, September 9, 2016

Baba Ganoush

     A Lebanese Style Baba Ghanouj!
     Baba Ghanouj (Baba Ganoush) originated in the ancient Levantine (Bilad ash-Sham) region.  The old Levantine region runs along the eastern Mediterranean coastline from Southern Turkey to the Palestine and it runs east through Northern Iraq.  Syria, Jordan and Lebanon are in this region.  Many modern middle eastern recipes have their roots in the Levantine region.
     Both Syria and Lebanon have boasted a great food reputation for thousands of years.  My step grandfather was a great chef from Lebanon and I learned a lot from him.  His style of cooking made the most amount of flavor from the fewest ingredients.  That cooking philosophy seems to be the key to all Mediterranean cuisine.
     There are many modern versions of Baba Ganoush.  Colombian Exchange ingredients, like peppers and tomatoes, have found their way into some Baba Ganoush recipes.  Regional herbs and spices add character to local recipes.  Mayonnaise has even taken the place of tahini in some modern Baba Ganoush recipes.  No matter how fancy a modern interpretive recipe may be, it is best to focus on the basics when making Baba Ganoush for the first time.    
     There are four basic ingredients that are required for making a classic Baba Ganoush.  Eggplant, tahini, lemon and garlic are the basic ingredients.  Onion is usually added too.  Many Lebanese Baba Ghanouj recipes require the spice seeds to be toasted and then coarsely ground.  For today's recipe, toasted cumin seed adds a traditional flavor.  
     Today's Baba Ganouj has an old fashioned flavor.  It is not how many ingredients that are added that makes Baba Ganouj great.  It is the proportions of the basic ingredients and good simple cooking techniques that make Baba Ganouj a classic mezze!

     Baba Ganoush (Baba Ganouj):
     This recipe yields about 2 1/3 cups.  (2 to 3 portions)
     One thing to keep in mind is that tahini (sesame paste) readily absorbs liquid and the tahini will thicken a liquid just like roux.  A little bit of tahini goes a long way!
     Step 1:  Roast 2 long Chinese Purple Eggplant over an open flame or chargrill. 
     Roast the eggplant till the skin turns black.         
     Step 2:  Place the roasted eggplant on a platter.
     Allow the eggplant to cool to room temperature.  
     Scrape the charred skin off of the eggplant.  Be sure that no small bits of charred skin remain!
     Finely chop the roasted eggplant.
     *The yield should be about 1 3/4 cups of minced roasted eggplant. 
     Step 3:  Place the minced roasted eggplant in a mixing bowl.
     Add 2 1/2 tablespoons of tahini.
     Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of lemon juice.
     Add 2 tablespoons of minced bermuda onion.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt.
     Add 2 pinches of black pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of dried mint.
     Add 1 pinch of marjoram.
     Mix the ingredients together.
     Step 4:  Place a sauté pan over medium low heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of virgin olive oil.
     Add 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds.
     Gently sauté the cumin seeds till they are toasted and no more popping noise is heard. 
     Step 5:  Add 2 tablespoons of coarse chopped garlic.
     Sauté till the garlic is a golden color.
     Step 6:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Pour the hot cumin garlic flavored oil through a fine mesh strainer into the mixing bowl with the other ingredients.
     Step 7:  Place the roasted cumin seeds and garlic on a cutting board.
     Finely mince the cumin seeds and garlic.  
     Add the minced cumin and garlic to the eggplant mixture.
     Step 8:  Thoroughly mix and mash the ingredients together.
     Chill the Baba Ganoush for 1 hour, so the flavors meld.
     This recipe describes 1 mezze platter for 2 or 3 guests.
     Jars of Persian Preserved Lemons can be found in Mediterranean food markets.
     Step 1:  Place the Baba Ganouj in a shallow casserole dish.
     Allow the Baba Ganoush to warm to room temperature.
     Step 2:  Garnish the Baba Ganoush with:
     - black olives
     - sliced preserved lemon 
     - Italian Parsley leaves
     Step 3:  Place the garnished Baba Ganouj dish on a serving platter.
     Cut 4 or 5 warm small pita bread into triangle shapes.
     Place the pita bread on the platter.  

     This traditional Baba Ganoush has an old fashioned comfortable flavor that is very appealing!  

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