I learned how to make Lebanese food when I was visiting Acapulco, Mexico in 1990. Sounds odd that I would learn to make Lebanese food in Mexico. Here is the story.
I went to Acapulco in 1990 to present a research paper at a conference. I was vegetarian at the time and this was my first visit to Mexico. I found a Lebanese restaurant with a large vegetarian menu right next to our hotel. The food was so good that I ate every meal, breakfast, lunch and dinner there. I asked the waiter to introduce me to the cook. He told me that his mother was doing the cooking and she would love to meet me since I kept coming back for every meal. When I met his mother, I asked if she would teach me how to cook Lebanese food. She said yes and taught me how to make many of her dishes.
This was so much fun. My scientific conference turned into an unexpected culinary adventure. I live in Texas now and I put a spicy Texan kick on this recipe. Following are a few ways to serve Baba Ganoush.
- 2 medium eggplants
- 2 jalapenos
- 1 cup of tomato water
- 1 cup of Tahini (sesame seed) paste.
- 1 tablespoon Sherry Vinegar
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil to coat the eggplants and jalapenos and a bit extra for garnishing the platter
- 1 teaspoon sumac (and additional for sprinkling on top)
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- mint sprig for garnish
- sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Ingredient Note: Traditionally this recipe is made with lemon juice instead of the sherry vinegar and tomato water. I had no lemons available so I substituted tomato water and sherry vinegar. If you are using the lemon juice, add the juice of one large lemon to a cup of water in place of the sherry vinegar and tomato water.
PREPPING THE EGGPLANT:
- Use a small paring knife to poke holes in the eggplants and jalapenos. This will prevent them from exploding in the oven during roasting.
- Coat the eggplants and the jalapenos with olive oil and place in a glass baking dish.
- Heat your oven to 450 F. Roast the veggies until the skins are charred and the flesh is soft. Use a pair of tongs to turn the veggies during the roasting process to ensure that the skin chars on all sides.
- Pull out the jalapenos first since they will be done before the eggplants. Set these aside for later in the recipe.
- Once the eggplants are roasted. Let them cool so you can handle them. Peel off the skins, remove the seeds and use a cutting board and chef’s knife to finely chop up the eggplant. Do not use a food processor because the eggplant will get gummy.
MAKING THE EGGPLANT DIP:
- In a large food processor add, the roasted jalapenos, tomato water, sherry vinegar, sumac, smoked paprika, minced garlic and a half a teaspoon of salt and pepper.
- Tahini is sesame seed paste. When you open the jar you will see the sesame oil float on top like it does when you open up a jar of natural peanut butter. Stir to mix the oil in and then add a cup of the paste to the food processor.
- Turn the food processor on and blend until the mixture is smooth. If the mixture is too thick add some water so that the consistency is like a thick pancake batter.
- Taste the Tahini mixture and adjust the salt and pepper.
- Add the eggplant mixture and pulse the food processor to combine gently. Turn out in a glass bowl and finishing mixing by hand. Adjust the salt and pepper to taste. If you would like more acid then add sumac.
Turn out the dip onto a platter. Sprinkle some sumac. Drizzle some olive oil and garnish with a sprig of mint.
When my husband is firing the charcoal grill, I ask him to roast the eggplant on the charcoal. This gives it a smokier flavor. The oven works fine but the charcoal grill makes it extra special.