baba ganoush lite

Like most iconic traditional recipes, baba ganoush has many variations. The characterizing ingredients are roasted eggplant guts and tahini (sesame seed oil). Apparently tahini is pretty good stuff nutritionally, with mostly unsaturated fats, but it has high calorie content which is the incentive to use it with moderation. Along with hummus, baba ganoush is a staple of Middle Eastern mezze, which are the collections of numerous appetizers that precede a main course in many full course meals in that region of the world, or which alone serves as a light meal. dr bob likes to use both as a sauce for many different dishes that invariably raise eye brows at the in-laws, who like to keep their tastes separate. In contrast bob is a notorious food blender.

dr bob's sister-in-law nora's aunt araxi for some reason during her second pregnancy had a restricted diet that led her to consider this alternative to the most usual combination of ingredients, reducing the tahini and salt and tossing labneh into the mix. labneh is somewhat dehydrated yogurt, easy to find these days in the supermarket without having to strain yogurt yourself to achieve this more viscous state.

If you are going to go to the trouble of roasting and gutting an eggplant, you might as well do two (economy of scale), so we give the recipe for two large eggplants. We compare the lite version with the Lebanese recipe that we had been following until this in-law intervention. Apparently the Turks also use yogurt in their baba. At least the Turks we know... The Italians also have a bab but with the accent on the last syllable and in a whole different food group: pastry. The French apparently invented this brioche, saturated with rum usually, but apparently also with limoncello in Italy (Campania), where the bab is a Neopolitan speciality that had been imported to Naples (Napoli!) by French cooks.

ingredients

baba lite    more traditonal lebanese baba
2 large eggplants   1 large eggplant
    approx 1/4 c lemon juice
1 T tahini (not exact)   4-5 T tahini
3 super heaping T (6oz, 3/4 c?) labneh (see notes)    
1 clove garlic, pressed   2 cloves garlic
salt to taste (less than 1 t)   1 1/2 t salt
parsley sprig for decoration   1/4 c finely chopped parsley garnish
olive oil drizzle and Middle Eastern red pepper
   for that extra serving kick
   

instructions

  1. Wash the eggplants and cut in half lengthwise, then place open face down on a Spammed (veggie sprayed) nonstick cookie sheet pan (with sides to catch the liquid!).
  2. Bake 30 minutes in a preheated oven at 450 F.
  3. If there is time, let it cool a bit before working on it with your bare hands. If not try to avoid burning yourself.
  4. Remove and peel away the eggplant guts (is there a better word for this?) from the skin. Remove the long pods of seeds from the layers of eggplant meat. This is the tedious part. Allow maybe 15 minutes for one person, less for two depending on the talent for this task.
  5. Then place in a strainer to drain, pressing lightly to push out the excess liquid.
  6. Dump into a bowl or glass serving dish (see illustration) and stir in the tahini briefly with a fork until mixed in uniformly.
  7. Do the same for the labneh, garlic and minimal salt to taste. If you like a smoother product, just food process this a few pulses instead of doing the fork thing. When we did this ourselves, instead of looking at our guests, ani found the stringiness left by the forking unacceptable, so she pulsed it a bit while adding the salt and the last bit of yogurt to taste.
  8. Transfer to a serving dish or dishes if you did not directly mix the extra ingredients already in a single serving dish like we did.
  9. To serve, drizzle extra virgin olive oil over the surface and sprinkle lightly with Middle Eastern red pepper.
  10. A finishing touch of a spring of fresh parsley in the middle gives the dish a touch of elegance.
  11. If you were crazy enough to pull the eggplant apart with your bare hands while hot, you have our permission to serve the finished product still warm. Remember this is Middle Eastern comfort food. Whole wheat pita or lavash or other whole grain flat bread products are a nice accompaniment, but you can also use your baba as a sauce for ground meat shish kebab or grilled zucchini (our favorite). Use your imagination. Bob always gets looks from the in-laws for mixing stuff together while eating.

notes

  1. Wiki : Baba ganoush.
  2. The first time we made this, we were out of labneh and used thick fat free Greek yogurt instead. The second time we made this our local supplier of labneh, Whole Foods, was out of stock, so we again used Greek yogurt instead.
  3. Nora, sister-in-law once removed: Ani's brother's wife. Ani's sister is also named Nora, which results in occasional confusion requiring conversational clarification for clueless bob: "which Nora?"
  4. We nearly finished off the entire batch among 5 adults, but there was enough left over the next day for spreading on a lavash square with some red pepper hummus and some left over grilled zucchini. A simple yet delicious wrap for two.
  5. With the increasing number of food bloggers out there on the internet, it is easy to find cute remarks about eggplant: From Eggplant to Baba Ganoush With Love, Tigers & Strawberries Aubergine Rhapsody.
  6. Illustrations available.
babalite.htm: 20-sep-2008 [what, ME cook? 1984 dr bob enterprises]