Saturday, August 26, 2017

Thank you, Middle Eastern cuisine, for baba ganoush

Here's the thing about eggplant: I love eggplant. So, on a Saturday when I do my bi-weekly shopping, I buy an eggplant.

I’m going to make eggplant parmesan or eggplant melanzane (which is like saying “eggplant eggplant,” but in Sicilian it’s pronounced “moo-lin-yan’” and that’s what my grandmother called a casserole with just marinara, eggplant and romano cheese).

On Saturday I have great plans for that eggplant…

…which don’t take place that night because – duh – I’m tired out from shopping and doing all the stuff that doesn’t get done during the week. Fire up the grill and let Dirtman do the cooking. Men like that, right?

So, Sunday…we take a drive on Sunday, just anywhere. We try to get lost.We come home late. Too late for eggplant anyway.

Monday…I work at the DM V. And it’s a Monday. Need I say more? Leftovers.

Tuesday…Again, DMV. Cheese quesadillas. Again. If it’s Tuesday it must be quesadillas.

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday are days I work at a food pantry. By the time I get home, playing with food is the last thing on my mind. I ditch my weekly pledge to cut down on carbs and boil up the pasta – a little olive oil, a little parsley, some garlic and a lot of cheese, done. Or eggs. (Yawn)

Back to Saturday and there is my lovely eggplant – only now it’s blotchy and sad.

Another eggplant destined for the trash…

…until I discovered baba ganoush*.

It’s simple, really. Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise, poke a few holes in the skin, brush the cut side with olive oils and bake, cut side down, for 35-40 minutes at 400 degrees. As it cools, finely mince a clove or two of garlic. Scrape out and mash up the meat of the eggplant, add the garlic, two or three tablespoons of tahini, the juice of a lemon, a teaspoon of cumin, ¼ teaspoon cayenne (this makes it pretty hot) and salt to taste. Use it as a dip for pita wedges, cucumber slices, celery – whatever.

(Disclaimer: Dirtman hates baba ganoush. But, then, Dirtman is compelled to dump cream sauce on fresh, tender asparagus and was raised on Miracle Whip. So, basically, he's brain damaged.)

The wonderful thing about baba ganoush, in addition to its snappy taste, is that it only uses the interior of the eggplant. So when I have a week like the one I just mentioned – which is, like, always – that sad, blotchy eggplant can still be a perfect starter with a smooth goat cheese... and a martini as dry as a Stephen Fry quip.

*I’ve seen this spelled so many different ways, I opted for the one that was phonetic. I’m sure it’s not authentic.