Even though the evenings are still pretty chilly in the snowy mountains, we’ve been seriously getting into our barbequing. There’s something so wonderful about cooking outdoors over an open flame with a glass of wine or two. I just love the smokey flavours, even if it means your clothes smell equally as smokey the next morning.
Needless to say we’ve been making a lot of babaganoush. I’m talking at least every weekend. Originally I was going to write this week about our barbequing exploits, but since last weeks post on getting enough vegetables, I’ve decided to talk eggplant instead. And share with you my latest favourite version of the famous Lebanese dish. Perfected with the help of my good mate Rico who was once in love with a Lebanese girl, so knows good babaganoush when he sees it.
7 Things You Should Know About Eggplant
1. eggplant are also known as aubergine
A much more fitting name for this gorgeous, glossy vegetable. Even though eggplant it the normal Australian term, I generally call my black beauties by their much prettier name. Indians call them brinjal. In Italy they are knon as melanzane which means crazy apple. The name eggplant is derrived from the egg-like shape of the most common varieties.
2. eggplant doesn’t need salting
Apparently modern varieties have the bitterness bred out of them so salting is no longer necessary to get rid of bitterness. I do remember reading an experiment where someone cooked salted and unsalted eggplant and the salted on took up slightly less oil and cooked more quickly than the unsalted. This was because the salting process had softened the eggplant, resulting in less oil takeup. I’ve also read that cooking them briefly in a microwave can achieve the same effect as salting. I rarely fry eggplant so don’t usually worry about either.
3. eggplant loves olive oil
Eggplant grilled without oil, is an entirely different beast to the same vegetable fried in olive oil. The grilled version never develops the wonderful silky texture that only olive oil can bring. So if you are going to cook eggplant, be generous with the olio.
4. eggplant dislike the fridge.
They’re a little like me in that they feel the cold. Best to keep them at room temperature like tomatoes.
5. eggplant loves the summer
While they are pretty much available year round, eggplant are in peak season from late spring to early autumn.
6. bigger isn’t necessarily better
Medium sized are usually best. Eggplant that are smooth, shiny and heavy for their size are most likely to be the freshest and have the least seeds. Like people, as eggplants get old they go all wrinkly.
7. eggplant shouldn’t be eaten raw
I’m not sure why you’d want to, but thought I’d throw this in just in case. They contain the toxin solamine which can cause gastro problems among other things.
I’ve written the recipe for indoors cooking over a gas flame, but feel free to char your eggplant over a wood fired barbeque for the ultimate experience.
The quantities below are just a guide. Every time I make baba, I tweak with a little more or less lemon and tahini so please feel free to do the same. You often see natural yoghurt in baba recipes, but since I started making it without, I’ve had much better results.
The other trick is to roughly chop the cooked eggplant, rather than pureeing in a food processor. The texture is so much more rustic and it saves on washing up. Win-win!
2 medium eggplant (aubergine)
2 – 3 cloves garlic, peeled & crushed to a paste
3 tablespoons tahini
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1. Char eggplant directly over a gas hob, turning occasionally until they are super soft and the skins are blackened.
2. Place in a bowl and allow to cool.
3. Cut each eggplant in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, scoop out the soft flesh and discard the blackened skin. It’s ok to leave a few bits of charry skin in for flavour.
4. Coarsley chop the flesh until it is like a chunky puree. Place in a clean bowl.
5. Stir in garlic, tahini, lemon. Taste and season. It may also need a little more tahini and/or lemon. Best served warm or at room temp.
Aubergine is such a classic word. I love it. Oh, and – how can you stop eggplant from turning black when you boil it? Most restaurants actually achieve that by frying it first.
Another great tutorial! I’ve made this before but didn’t realize I no longer need to salt first. This will save some time. Love the videos.
Interesting about the salting. I just roasted a few tiny eggplant from a friends garden last night and salted them beforehand. They seemed to cook faster than when I don’t use salt. I’ll try foregoing it next time.
I think I like melanzane best of all the terms for this veggie.
I call my aubergines “malancane” – an Istrian term that is a variety of Italian…
Concerning babaganoush – would roasting the aubergines in the oven also be a solution? (as I don’t have a gas hob and barbeceue season is sadly over in Europe:-(
In my family, eggplant has never been too popular, therefore I do not know much about preparing it or anything else. That’s why I find above tips particularly helpful. The recipe seems great, I’ll definitely try it. :)
I had no idea that you weren’t supposed to store them in the fridge….oops!
me neither, oh well, I know for next time now.
I think they discolour if you’re using iron or aluminimum pans. So best to use stainless to stop the blackening.
I agree melanzane is wonderful. And you’re right to observe that they cook a little faster when you salt them first because the salting starts the softening process.
you can roast them in the oven but the flavour won’t be as smokey. If you have an overhead grill that would be preferable.
try adding some chopped parsley. my (arabic) family always do and I prefer it that way too. a sprinkle of paprika and oil on top for good luck. otherwise your recipe is the same
thanks for the tips ran… would never have thought of parsley but it would add some lovely freshness!
A very informative post, great tips on eggplant there. The babaganoush looks fantastic.
I’d love for you to submit one of your beautiful photos, and a link to your post, to my new vegetarian food photo gallery showcasing beautiful vegetarian food. Feel free to submit photos of any other vegetarian dishes as well :)
thanks for the invitation vegolicious
will submit the babaganoush
I love you trick of putting the tasting sample on your hand, instead of tasting from the spoon and then going through 101 spoons. I can’t believe I’ve never thought of that.
I totally love you.
Omg. Brilliant. How did I never think of that. I too go thru 100 spoons every time I make anything new in the kitchen. Duh??!
you say the sweetest things.
I actually got the trick from a masterclass I did with the Australian chef Tetsuya… when I saw him do it.. I had the exact same thought ;)
I really like the look of your chunky babaganoush as opposed to the super smooth versions your most often see. What can I say? I like pretty much everything chunky :D
I must say that I really love your photos.
Here in Greece we really love eggplants. They are called “melitzana”.
Apart form a million dishes we use eggplant in we make a “melitzano-salata” – salad much the same as the babaganoosh you’re describing here. We just add some chopped parsley as RAN suggested.
A tiny tip for those who want to try. After roasting your eggplant try to peel off the skin as soon as possible to keep the inside white and of course oil – lots of olivw oil.
Before frying eggplants, (the long, thin striped ones are best for that) it’s a good idea to put the sliced eggplant in salty water for at least an hour .to take out the bitterness.
Eggplants are called “brinjal” in Indian market, I learned that from my Indian friend.
Here is what I learned or know to add to your list;
1. Eggplants, tomatoes, onion and garlic goes well.
2. Eggplants can soak up so much oil.
3. Roasted eggplants tastes better.
4. Long eggplants are better for roasting (per my grandma)
I made this tonight–found I needed only two tablespoons of lemon juice and we upped the garlic. We ate it with pita chips and a cucumber salad. It was a hit!
An exciting moment during the preparation: I put the eggplant under the broiler in the oven instead of over the stove flame, and when I went to check on it, it exploded! Stayed mostly in one piece, thankfully, but it cracked open with a loud pop! I poked the other one with a fork to avoid a second explosion.
wow I’ve never had an eggplant explode – glad there were no injuries – I guess the enclosed space of the broiler was too much for it!
pam & rainbow
thanks for sharing your insights
I’m hearing you on the chunky = good
Jules, the eggplant was in the main oven, but I had it right under the heating element. Never again without poking some holes first! Finished product: http://flic.kr/p/8R6SEo
Well done for not not sticking the eggplant in the food processor! A Lebanese fairy dies everyone does that. It’s just not right! Saw someone blitzing away on SBS Food Safari and shuddered. Great recipe recipe, and very authentic. Just like mom makes it.
I like charring it and then putting it in the oven. This draws out any extra juice and results in a more concentrated flavour, and also allows the smokiness to infuse into the flesh before the burnt skin is removed. Not a necessary step – your recipe will work a treat. It does need a good deal of olive oil on top.
Also, if you take out the tahini and add diced tomato on top with the olive oil, you have mutabbal, another Lebanese classic. Try both with roasted pine nuts :)
I am in a rental flat and am stuck with an electric cooktop and electric oven. How shall I cook the eggplant to ensure a good flavour, seeing as I have no gas burner?
Hubby looveess baba but we’re stuck at how to get it tasting “real” without using a gas burner. This is the first house we’ve been in that has electric bloody EVERYTHING.
Liking the idea of the tomato & pinenut option – thanks for sharing!
tough – if your using electric you could char it under the grill (broiler) on the hottest heat – but pierce the eggplant first so it doesn’t explode. IT’s all about getting the skin charred.
olio. haha, like it. big fan of aubergines and been looking for a simple recipe for babaG, can’t wait to try this!
go the babaG
thanks for reminding me I have an eggplant in the fridge that needs some love
I didnt know they could not be eaten raw!
I looove eggplant and babaganoush in general. Never knew eggplants should be kept at room temp – I’ve been keeping mine in the fridge !
Thanks for the tutorial! I’m going to try this today. I have eggplant from my CSA that needs to be used soon. Also, I tried the burnt carrot recipe, and it turned out really well! I love the visual appearance of the dish.
Glad you liked the burnt carrots!
I just wanted to say: I thought I hated eggplant until I tried this recipe.
WOW! All these tips & recipes….I’m overwhelmed but in a good way. There are things I wasn’t aware of that do make a lot of sense. Such as: a better flavor is achieved with a charred eggplant, scooping out the seeds, the reasons behind to / not to salt, size / shape making a difference, when you ‘only have electric’ to cook with, not using measures for tahini & garlic / as needed is best…
There are however a couple things that weren’t covered that I’d like to hear / see l opinions on : how long is the shelf life of raw & cooked eggplant, do you cut the ends off B4 cooking, is slitting & adding sliced garlic B4 cooking good / bad, should you combine ingredients when eggplant is hot / cold, best type / brand of tahini, baking / frying (for Parmesan) breaded / not for better flavor. LOL…as you can see / tell eggplant is one of my favorites! Sorry this is so long, thought I’d get answers at one time. Thanks & I apologize if I’ve ticked anyone off with this ‘longer than it should be’ post.
Why can’t eggplant or any fruit or vegtable be eaten raw? Just bought eggplant from a local farmer who shared many tips on eggplant and one was eating raw is perfectly fine. Most vegatables lose their nutrients when heated, just like tomatoes lose their nutrients when kept in the fridge, so please explain why eggplant can’t be eaten raw.
Raw aubergine/egg plant is not poisonous raw. It is from the nightshade family of plants, but so are potatoes, tomatoes and peppers. It does contain a small amount of solanine, but you would need to eat 36 or more for there to be any problems.
Thx Ray… Good to know just in case I ever get cravings for raw eggplant
Please, please, don’t say that aubergines are not poisonous raw. I was served raw aubergine by a River Cruise Line in Germany, and was unbelievably ill. And, four years later, I still have significant health issues. There is a theory that some people are more susceptible to solanine poisoning, and that the poison is only in the leaves and flowers, but when there are so many safe and tasty raw alternatives, my advice is, do not eat aubergine raw.
This looks so yummy! I am going to make some tonight! Thank you for sharing.
I made this recipe babaganoush I used sour cream instead of the tahini it was delicious thank you.
Solanine is not destroyed by cooking – aubergines don’t contain high levels of solanine. That’s not to say I would eat them raw, just that solanine poisoning from raw aubergine is a myth :-)
Good to know thanks Cathy
Last week I made some fried eggplant. Six small eggplant….I diced to bite size pieces. Put in salad lettuce spinner with salted water for 30 minutes. Lifted the drainer and poured out water. Spin eggplant to get dry.
Then I dusted them with organic corn starch. Fried in 350 coconut oil …. OMG so good I ate the whole thing over the next three hours. Couldn’t get enough. Will be cooking again soon….like this week.
I just sprinkled hot out of the oil with Maldon Salt for some of the eggplant pieces and Harrissa for some others. Smoky Paprika got put on the rest. All were delicious. Pick your spices and enjoy.
Very little of the oil got into the eggplant. Some I cooked some longer and they were actually crispy like potato chips. Probably best served right after cooking….although that didn’t stop me from finishing the batch over a three hour period. Blessings, Anne
I can definitely taste the difference between salted and unsalted eggplant. The bitterness is quite defined for me and it gets worse over time so if you want to eat the eggplant dish the next day or day after eg in a curry, you definitely need to salt it.
Wow Lynn… you must be a super taster for bitterness! most of us aren’t that sensitive:)
Thanks for showing. Sounds like an authentic Australian voice. I’m from south west victoria.
Why do so many cooks use the blade of the knife to clean the food off the cutting board, whether a plastic one or wood. I cna’t work that one out. Doesn’t it make sense to use the back of the knife so that tiny particles from the board don’t get into our stomachs?
I’ve never thought about board particles getting into the food!
And yes an authentic Australian accent ;)
Eggplant.YOU DONT KNOW EGGPLANT UNTIL YOU GO INDIAN??.ITS Incredible in indian dish there are varieties of way its cooked..curry eggplant with potatoes or chicpeas….its a magic pair in a pot..smoked grilled eggplant with garlic onions .chilli.dash of tomatoes. is very popular..delicious.eaten with rotti or naan..like appetizer.or a chutney..its got a smoke taste incredible..or simply deep fried seasoned with with breading..western style.eggplant is all around companion.on lot of indian dish..i was amazed stunned tofind out about its toxicity.on google..after eating 50+ years..eggplant potatoe curry is a must indian wedding..i mean the pots they are cooked in humungus in size..almost round the size of standard stove..lol?
ooh I love Indian flavoured eggplant Mahendra!