Baba ghanouj with homemade tahini

Summer arrived months ago in Houston, but my recent foray to San Diego for a half marathon (my first!) served as the official season kickoff for me. B and I stopped by the farmers market at Rice University yesterday, where I picked up a bucket of tomatoes for just $4 and an eggplant. It feels too hot to make the Hyderabadi curry, bhagar e baigan (excellent recipe here), so I decided to slow roast the tomatoes for use in pastas later and make baba ghanouj out of the eggplant.

It was my first go, and I was surprised by how easy it was. I made the tahini first, and it really wasn’t that difficult. If you have sesame seeds on hand, it’s probably easier to make your own than to run to a store that sells tahini.

The result was a cool dip that I sunk into with grilled sourdough (what I had on hand) for dinner. A great light summer dinner.

Here’s the recipe for baba ghanouj with homemade tahini:

1. Start by toasting 1/2 c. white sesame seeds in a skillet over a medium flame. This will only take a minute, and be sure to keep stirring until all the seeds have a light tan. Remove to a bowl immediately to avoid burning.

2. Put the seeds in a food processor, put on the lid and slowly pour in 1 tb. sesame oil, followed by 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil. Give the seeds a few minutes to blend in with the oil. You want a consistency that resembles a thick milkshake. I found that my tahini was a little watery, but when I refrigerated it, it set up just right.

3. Next, take 1 large eggplant and slice it 1″ thick. Salt the slices and layer them under between two plates. Place heavy cans on the top plate to let some of the water inside the eggplant come out. This will help keep the eggplant from taking in your entire oil supply later.

4. After a 20 minute soak, place the eggplant slices on a baking tray, salt lightly and brush them with a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Bake them in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for about half an hour, until they are soft throughout.

5. Mince 1 garlic clove in the food processor and add the zest of 1 lemon. Drop in the eggplant slices, 4 tb. of the prepared tahini and the juice of 1 lemon. Blend into a thick paste, adding oil if needed and salt to taste.

Cool completely, and drizzle with a bit of olive oil and pine nuts before serving.

Note: This makes a zesty baba ghanouj. Most people roast the eggplant and remove the slices, but I like the color and texture they added to the mix, and I found the eggplant baked a lot faster when sliced.

As for the leftover tahini, I’m planning to make some hummus later in the week! More on that soon.

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