Dear Miss Ginsu,
This week the farm share delivered a bunch of eggplants. I have not really done much with them before, so I ask your advice. Other than tossing some sauteed eggplant into a bean salad (not that there’s anything wrong with that), what other tips do you have?
— Desperately Seeking Produce Advice
Oh, you’re so lucky. I do love eggplants. They’re almost like vegetarian meat, so dice them and add them to curries and stews. Ratatouille is a classic use (or stuff hollowed-out eggplant shells with ratatouille and bake them) and there’s always the classic eggplant parmesan.
My Italian favorite, Lil Frankie’s in the East Village, roasts their eggplant until meltingly tender and almost blackened. They cut it open and top it with a zippy chili oil, but I think you’d have to have their wood-fired oven to make it taste that rich and smoky. I’ve tried it in my oven, and it’s just not the same. But eggplant does love the grill, so if you have one, consider roasting them with some wood. There’s something about that smoke that really compliments the flavor of eggplant flesh.
Here’s my Baba Ganoush recipe to get you started. It’s gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan and adaptible to your tastes!
Quick and Easy Baba Ganoush
Makes enough for 4 people as a snack or appetizer, 2 people as a side dish.
1 large eggplant
1 garlic clove
2 Tbsp tahini
2-3 tsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp good olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
Chopped parsley and/or mint (optional, for garnish)
Preheat oven to 450F. Poke the eggplant several times with a fork (to create steam-escape routes) and place on a baking sheet.
Bake until it is soft, about 20-30 minutes, or you could also grill the eggplant (it’s okay for it to char) about 10-15 minutes.
Allow the eggplant to cool before cutting in half, draining off any excess juice and scooping its flesh into a food processor/blender.
Blend eggplant, garlic, tahini, lemon juice, olive oil and salt until smooth. Season to taste with a little more lemon juice, olive oil or salt, as you like. Transfer to a serving bowl, garnish with chopped parsley and/or mint and serve with pita.
If you like it hot, I find that baba ganoush is pretty great with a little Aleppo pepper added in or sprinkled across the top.
In the US you can often get Aleppo or Turkish chili flakes at your local spice vendor, or they sell it at Penzeys (along with za’atar spice), either online or in shops.