Friday, January 2, 2009

Baba Ghanoush and Hummus

Baba ghanoush and Hummus are very popular Middle Eastern dishes. Baba ghanoush is a paste made of roast or grilled eggplant and tahini, a paste made from sesame seeds, while the main ingredient in hummus is chick peas.

For Baba Ghanoush, traditionally the eggplant is first roasted in an oven for approximately 45 minutes. The softened flesh is scooped out, squeezed to remove excess water, and is then pureed with the tahini.

There are many variants of both recipes, particularly the seasonings, which often include garlic, lemon juice, ground cumin, salt, mint, and parsley. When either is served on a plate or bowl, it is traditional to drizzle the top with olive oil. As an appetizer and dip Hummus is scooped with flatbread (such as pita) but is also served as part of a meze or as an accompaniment to falafel, grilled chicken, fish or, yes, eggplant. Garnishes include chopped tomato, cucumber, cilantro, parsley, sautéed mushrooms, whole chickpeas, olive oil, hard-boiled eggs, paprika, ful, olives and pickles.

Outside the Middle East it is sometimes served with tortilla chips or crackers. Both are healthy snacks that can be eaten in a variety of ways, including as a dip with whole wheat bread or crackers, spread on pita, or added to other dishes. Many Vegetarians use baba ghanoush or hummus as a spread on sandwiches.

My friend, Manda, and I made batches of Hummus and Baba Ganoush for the holiday gifts. Even though Christmas and New Year’s have passed by already, these are easy appetizers to make for entertaining at home or bringing along to a party.

The following recipes Manda has been using for years personally, and for the catering she does at private parties. As I mention earlier there are many variations for spices and accompaniments, so take the basic recipe and modify it to your taste buds. 


4 or 5 cloves of garlic

4 cans chick peas, drained and rinsed

1/2 cup lemon juice2 tbsp.

tahini (sesame paste)

salt & pepper, to taste

pinch of ground cayenne pepper, to taste

a few drops of virgin olive oil

Mince garlic first in the food processor, then add the remaining ingredients and process well. Add a bit of warm water to achieve desired consistency. Taste and add more cayenne if you'd like it hotter, but remember that the taste will intensify after it is refrigerated.

Baba Ghanoush

4 or 5 cloves of garlic

3 large, firm eggplants

1/2 cup lemon juice

2 tbsp. tahini (sesame paste)

salt & pepper, to taste

a few drops of virgin olive oil

Put eggplants on a foil-covered baking sheet, poke them a few times with a fork (to avoid explosion) and char under the broiler, turning them several times, until skin is black and they collapse.While the eggplants char, mince garlic in food processor.When the eggplants are soft, peel the skin off and scrape the meat into the food processor. Add the remaining ingredients and whir up until all is well-combined.

Manda also recommends.....

“Although you'll need to refrigerate both of these spreads to keep them, I find that they are more flavorful slightly warmed. Either one can be popped in the microwave briefly to bring them to a more tasty temperature. If you want to get all fancy-dancy, sprinkle a bit of fresh minced parsley and a touch of cayenne over the top before serving.

And, heck Beth, while I'm at it... I usually make my own pita chips to serve with these. No big deal: soften some butter, split the pitas and spread them with the butter before cutting them into triangles, arrange on a cookie sheet and sprinkle lightly with salt, then toast under the broiler. Serve them warm with the dips.”