I take a strange measure of satisfaction in recipes that allow me to burn things on purpose. I’m the kind of weirdo who leaves her popcorn in the microwave for an extra 15 seconds so the bottom pieces will get brown and toasts my bread twice to get it dark enough. I chalk up this quirk partly to the fact that, as a vegetarian, I mostly miss out on the smoky-flavored goodness of barbecue and have to seek out that charred flavor in other ways.
One of my favorite burnt food fixes is baba ghanoush, a roasted eggplant dip with tahini and lemon. With it’s one of a kind flavor, it is possibly the most crave-able food on the planet. If you haven’t tried it, you should find a Lebanese restaurant that will deliver to your home and order it right this minute. But if you get addicted, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
This adaptation of burnt eggplant dip comes from the utterly fantastic cookbook Plenty by British chef Yotam Ottolenghi. My dear friend Marlene bough the book for me last weekend. She said it was a gift to celebrate my surviving the first year of med school, but I’m pretty sure she bought it for me so she will no longer have to wait for me while I drool over this book for 20 minutes every time we go into a book store. I’m entertaining ideas of cooking my way through every recipe in the whole darned book, Julie and Julia style. Stay tuned. But for now, here is the eggplant. It’s not baba ghanoush per se, more like baba’s hip British cousin, so I call it ghanoush-y dip.
Even I, the pyro chef herself, was skeptical of leaving the eggplant under the broiler for a whole entire hour. High on the list of things I don’t enjoy setting on fire: my apartment building. I checked it every few minutes in the beginning and quickly realized that I just needed to put my trust in Mr. Ottolenghi. If you’re lucky enough to have a gas range, you should probably opt for the stovetop options of roasting. Just please don’t burn yourself. I am only one quarter of a doctor and I will not be available to heal your wounds for another three years.
1 large eggplant
1/3 c tahini
1/4 c water
2 TBSP pomegranate molasses (you can find this at a Middle Eastern grocery or health foods store)
Juice of 1 lemon
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 c chopped parsley
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 of a large cucumber, chopped
3/4 c cherry tomatoes, halved
First, burn the eggplant. If using a gas stovetop, line the area around the burner with foil to protect against drip. Put the eggplant directly on a moderate flame and roast for 12-15 minutes, rotating frequently with tongs. It is done when the flesh is soft to the point that the whole thing looks deflated and the skin is charred. If using the broiler method, pierce the eggplant with a sharp knife, place on a foil-lined tray, and put directly under a hot broiler for one hour, turning a few times. The eggplant is done when deflated and charred all over. When cool enough to handle, split in half and scoop out the pulp into a colander, avoiding the burnt skin. Let drain for at least 30 minutes or your dip will be soggy!
Chop the eggplant roughly and transfer to a medium mixing bowl. Add all other ingredients except cucumber and tomato and mix well with a whisk. Taste and adjust seasonings (I found it needed more lemon and salt). Stir in the veggies. Top with pomegranate seeds and a drizzle of olive oil if you’re feeling fancy. Pita wedges and carrot sticks are good for dipping.