BABA GHANOUJ (Mediterranean eggplant spread, enough for 15 to 20 as hors d’oeuvres)


2 large eggplants (about 2 pounds each)

3 garlic cloves, minced then mashed to a paste with a little salt

¼ cup tahini

¼ cup lemon juice

2 teaspoons cumin

a large pinch cayenne pepper, or to taste

1 cup peeled, chopped tomatoes

1 cup green and/or red peppers, diced fine

8 scallions, sliced

¼ cup chopped parsley

2 teaspoons salt

pita toasts to accompany

1. Preheat the oven to 400*. Spear the eggplants several times with a knife so that they will not explode in the oven. Bake them for 25 to 35 minutes, or until a knife goes through them with no resistance.

2. Slice the eggplants in half. With a spoon, scoop the flesh from the skin into a sieve (This is easiest to do while the eggplants are still hot. Wear rubber gloves). Set in the sink to drain for 30 minutes, then either mash the eggplants in a bowl with a fork for a chunky texture or puree the eggplants in a food processor for a smooth consistency.

3. When the puree has cooled, stir in all the remaining ingredients, reserving a little parsley and diced peppers for garnish. Taste for salt, and add more if necessary. Serve with pita toasts and leaves of curly endive or chicory.

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