Meatless Mondays are making a comeback that they haven’t seen since the Great War–um, meaning World War I. Okay, yes, they had a resurgence in World War II, but that war was much less about slogans and much more about the reality of rationing. All that history aside, Meatless Mondays are a healthy way to add more vegetable protein to your life and help save our planet. They can also be incredibly tasty and, frankly, more satisfying and filling that meat-filled days–especially if you include such a rich dish as baba ghanouj (baba ghanoush). Baba ghanouj can form a centerpiece of a perfectly light, healthy, and cool summer meal.
I got introduced to Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food more than a quarter of a century ago when I lived in Boston. I doubt if I’ve ever had authentic, but I know that the large ethnic enclaves in Michigan where I lived more recently got pretty close. Baba ghanouj, believe it or not, was probably the first way I had eggplant. I really like it.
Today we can get beautiful smaller eggplants like Japanese varieties that have little bitterness and form the ideal foundation for baba ghanouj for two. Two Japanese eggplants should serve four.
For two servings, roast at 350 degrees F for 20-30 minutes a Japanese eggplant, slit but not cut through, in a glass or cast iron covered pan along with 2 to 4 (or more) garlic cloves, peeled and tough ends cut off but otherwise intact. Slice the eggplant in half, scoop it out of the tough skin, and mash it with the garlic and about a tablespoon or two of tahini (sesame paste). Yes, it’s okay to let everything cool a bit. That’s it. What you’ll have is a thick dip ready to serve at room temperature that has an unexpected sweetness from both the garlic and eggplant. The tahini has the advantage of being the only food that can actually lower your cholesterol without drugs–that is, sesame does that!
Serve baba ghanouj with whole-wheat pita wedges (yes, you can make pita at home too, but that’s another post) and slices of chilled seasonal vegetables like zucchini, cucumber, carrots, peppers, and radishes (in cooler climes) for dipping.
Baba ghanouj works great as an appetizer but also works for a whole meal. We like it with falafel (fried chickpea patties, easily made from mix or homemade, to stuff in more pita) and tadziki (thick yogurt with diced cucumber, dill, and lemon) to increase the protein content of the meal. I’ll post those recipes in the near future. Meanwhile, consider baba ghanouj for a cool summer supper or your next picnic or potluck.
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