Turning Mad Apples into Baba Ganoush

babaI like eggplant. I like the taste and look of them. They come in all kinds of cartoon-like balloon shapes and sizes. They can be purple, elegantly striped or creamy white.

Historically, eggplants and other nightshade vegetables, have suffered from bad press.  Sometimes called “mala insana” or “mad apple,” it was thought that eggplants caused many ailments including fever, epilepsy and insanity. It’s no wonder that Northern Europeans mainly used them ornamentally until the 1600s.

The PR for eggplants in Spain was certainly more favorable. Prizing eggplants for aphrodisiac qualities, the Spaniards dubbed them, “Berengenas” or “The Apple of Love.” It’s all in the branding.

India, Pakistan, the Middle East and China have been enjoying eggplant forever or there abouts.

The real nutritional winner in eggplant is a phytonutrient found in the skin called nasunin. Nasunin is a potent antioxidant and has antiangiogenic properties, which are purported to inhibit cancer growth.

Baba Ganoush
Next time I’m making a double batch of this Middle Eastern dish. My husband and I ate it in two days and I was sad to see the empty bowl. Luckily, it’s a breeze to make so I plan to pick up more eggplant at the farmers market this week. I may even triple the recipe and pop the extra (if there is any) in the freezer.  I’d pick baba ganoush over humus for a dip any day, but it is also delicious on roasted chicken or as a sandwich spread.

Tahini is a lightly roasted sesame paste. It’s usually found with other nut butters or in the international section of grocery stores.

Ingredients
2 large eggplants (about 1 1/2 pound)
1/2 cup tahini
2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley

Method

  • Preheat oven to 400º F.
  • Trim the stem of eggplant.
  • Prick eggplant with a fork in several places and place on a baking sheet. Bake the eggplant until it is soft and deflated, about 45 minutes.
  • Let the eggplant cool. Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise. You can scoop out the pulp, but I prefer to just put the whole shabang in the food processor. That way you get all the nutrients in the skin.
  • Add tahini, garlic, lemon juice and salt to food processor and process until smooth. You can also mash this with a potato masher
  • Stir in the parsley. Season with more salt, to taste.
  • Serve with homemade pita bread. Serves four to six.

Pita Bread

pitabreadI made another big batch of baba ganoush. Nothing suits it better than homemade, hot-out of-the-oven pita bread. Seriously.

The key to getting a pocket to form is a really hot oven. Mine didn’t form perfect pockets by any means but I didn’t care. They were delicious anyway. This recipe is adapted from the Moosewood Cookbook.

Ingredients:
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups warm water
1 tablespoon sugar or honey
3 cups flour (1/2 white; 1/2 wheat)
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
olive oil

Method
-Dissolve yeast in warm water; with sugar/honey, stir and let stand for 5 minutes.
-Mix flour and salt in a large bowl.
-Add yeast/water mix to flour and mix well.
-Turn dough to a flour surface and knead for about 10 minutes.
-Place dough in a large oiled bowl, cover bowl with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place until double in size (about an hour).
– Punch dough down and knead for a few minutes then divide into 6 balls. Let stand for 15 minutes.
-Heat oven to 475ºF. If you have a pizza stone, place it in the oven to heat.
-On a lightly floured surface, roll balls into circles 1/2 thick and about as wide as your hand.
-If using a pizza stone, place the dough two at a time on the stone (or as many that will fit). If using a baking sheet, place the rolled out dough on an ungreased baking sheet. You can also place the dough directly on the oven rack. Cook for 8-10 minutes. The dough should puff up.
-Remove pita bread from the oven, wrap in a clean towel and place in paper bag for 15 minutes. This will deflate the bread and create the pocket.