Ingredient SpotLight

Eggplants, also known as aubergines, are members of the nightshade family and bear a fruit known by the same name. While they are relatively easy to grow and can be cooked in a wide variety of ways, they are utilized more widely in countries other than America ... which is a shame.

We can, however, take a lesson from our friends in China, India, Thailand, Greece, Turkey ... the list goes on and on. Because there are so many varieties of eggplant, the uses tend to vary widely as well. Raw, it has a bitter, disagreeable flavor, but it develops a rich, complex flavor that blends well with cooking fats and seasonings when cooked. It can be baked, broiled, grilled, sautéed, stir-fried, roasted ... you get the picture.

To introduce you to this culinary powerhouse, I thought I'd start simple and give you a taste of the Middle East. Baba Ganouj (pronounced BA-BA GA-NOOSH) is a delightful blend of roasted eggplant and garlic which makes for a great dip, sauce or spread. It's traditionally paired with warm pita bread and can often be found as a condiment in Middle Eastern meals. I like it because it is versatile enough to be served hot or cold (although I like it best at room temperature) and it plays nicely with other food. It's a great way to showcase eggplant because it plays so prominently in it, yet it does much to show off the other ingredients as well. Enjoy the recipe and have fun exploring eggplants!

Baba Ganouj

While traditionally used as a dip with pita bread, I like this richly flavored mixture on everything from grilled chicken to my favorite sandwiches.
  • 2 medium eggplants -- about 2 lbs.
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1/2 c. lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves -- minced
  • 1/4 c. tahini
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Peel and chop the eggplants into 2" cubes, toss with the olive oil and put into a baking dish coated with cooking spray. Roast at 450 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until the flesh of the eggplant is soft. Remove from the oven, spoon the eggplant into a food processor and cool for 10 minutes.

Process the eggplant until it is smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and process again to combine. If desired, chill for about an hour before serving.

  • Yields: about 6 servings
  • Preparation Time: about 1 hour (without chilling)