Smoky Baba Ghanouj

The baba ghanouj recipe is a little nod to the only Middle Eastern restaurant from my Oregonian hometown of Coos Bay/North Bend, simply named Cafe Mediterranean. My family is reasonably certain that when they first opened that we generated a venerable chunk of their revenue. Back in the early 2000’s, living in such a small town, we hadn’t really ever been exposed to food like that before, and it was such a welcome influence that it sent us on a mezze kick in our own kitchen that lasted for years. They had a strong menu, but for us, the star of the show was their baba ghanouj. One day, we asked for the recipe, and they graciously revealed the secret ingredient that made it so addictive: a little kiss of liquid smoke. It ties everything together so nicely, opening up a larger dialogue between the eggplant and the garlic.

Since then, we’ve tweaked it to make it our own, for instance, roasting the eggplant longer for a deeper flavor and adding a lot more garlic. We also boost the smoky flavor by garnishing the dish with a little dusting of smoked paprika.

Smoky Baba Ghanouj:

  • 1 large eggplant, halved
  • ¼ cup tahini
  • 4–5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • A drop of liquid smoke
  • Salt to taste
  • Olive oil for garnish
  • Smoked paprika for garnish

Preheat oven to 350°F. Cover a baking sheet in aluminum foil then lightly oil the surface. Roast the eggplant on the baking sheet skin side up for about 2 hours or until the flesh of the eggplant is very tender.

When the eggplant is cool enough to handle with your hands, scoop the flesh out of the skins and place into a food processor with the tahini, garlic, cumin, lemon juice, and liquid smoke. Pulse at first, breaking everything up into more manageable sizes for the blades, then blend steadily until completely smooth. Taste test and add salt to your liking. When finished, place the baba ghanouj into a serving dish and drizzle with a little bit of olive oil and a light dusting of smoked paprika.

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