Translated from Arabic, “baba” means dad and “ghannouj” means cuddly, so baba ghannouj is literally a cuddling daddy. Cute name for this Levantine Middle Eastern appetizer! An integral part of any mezze, baba ghannouj has a smokey flavor and a creamy texture that I find so addictive. The main ingredients in baba ghannouj are of course the eggplant and the tahini or sesame paste.
Tahini is made by grinding sesame seeds which are a good source of calcium and are high in unsaturated (healthy) fats. However, they do not contain cholesterol as they are of plant origin. Even though the fats in the tahini are healthy, they are an important source of calories. One tablespoon of tahini has around 90 calories.
Ingredients ( served 6 as part of mezze- you’ll have some leftovers as well)
- 3 large eggplants (the size pictured above)
- 3-4 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste)
- 1-2 cloves garlic, crushed with a little bit of salt
- 1/2 to 1 lemon, juiced
- salt, to taste
Grill the eggplants. An outdoor barbeque gives the best flavor, but for convenience you can use a stove top grill which I did. As soon as they are done, place them in a bowl and cover with a plastic wrap. Once they have cooled down and softened, peel the skin off. It’s okay to have a few bits of skin left; it will add to the flavor. Drain the water that comes out of them to remove most of the bitterness and use a pestle or a fork to mash them. You want a little bit of texture and not a puree, that’s why there’s no need to bring down your food processor! Add tahini, the lemon juice and the garlic. Taste. You can always add a bit more tahini, lemon or garlic, but I like the eggplant flavor to shine. I don’t like overwhelming it with the other flavors. If you find it to be a bit bitter, you can balance it out with a tablespoon of low-fat yogurt. To make it lower in fat and calories, you can even substitute half the tahini with low-fat yogurt. Drizzle with olive oil and enjoy it with Lebanese pita bread.