September 1, 2004

The Best Baba Ghanoush

Scorching eggplant on the grill produces a smoky, creamy dish far superior to the wan, tasteless fare that is the bane of many dinner parties.

Baba ghanoush often appears on the appetizer table as a gray, bitter, watery, mass of eggplant puree.

A dip that has realized it's potential—full of redolent, smoky eggplant flavor and brightened with garlic and lemon juice.

For the best flavor, purchase firm, shiny, and unblemished eggplants. To achieve a deep smoky flavor, grill the eggplants directly over a hot charcoal fire until wrinkled and soft. To avoid watery texture and any bitterness, drain the flesh of excess fluid, process with enhancing ingredients, and serve with a light chill.


Makes 2 cups

When buying eggplant, select those with shiny, taut, and unbruised skins and an even shape (eggplant with a bulbous shape won’t cook evenly). We prefer to serve baba ghanoush only lightly chilled. If yours is cold, let it stand at room temperature for about 20 minutes before serving. Baba ghanoush does not keep well, so plan to make it the day you want to serve it. Pita bread, black olives, tomato wedges, and cucumber slices are nice accompaniments.

  • 2 pounds eggplant (about 2 large globe eggplants, 5 medium Italian eggplants,
    or 12 medium Japanese eggplants), each eggplant poked uniformly over entire
    surface with fork to prevent it from bursting
  • 1 tablespoon juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons tahini paste
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  1. Ignite about 6 quarts (1 large chimney, or 6 pounds) charcoal briquettes and burn until completely covered with thin coating of light gray ash, 20 to 30 minutes. Spread coals evenly over grill bottom, then spread additional 6 quarts unlit briquettes over lit coals. Position grill rack and heat until very hot (you can hold your hand 5 inches above the grill grate for only 2 seconds), about 20 minutes.
  2. Following illustration 1, "Preparing The Eggplant," below, set eggplants on grill rack. Grill until skins darken and wrinkle on all sides and eggplants are uniformly soft when pressed with tongs (illustration 2, "Preparing The Eggplant," below), about 25 minutes for large globe eggplants, 20 minutes for Italian eggplants, and 15 minutes for Japanese eggplants, turning every 5 minutes and reversing direction
    of eggplants on grill with each turn. Transfer eggplants to rimmed baking sheet and cool 5 minutes.
  3. Set small colander over bowl or in sink. Trim top and bottom off each eggplant. Following illustration 3, "Preparing The Eggplant," below, slit eggplants lengthwise and use spoon to scoop hot pulp from skins and place pulp in colander (you should have about 2 cups packed pulp); discard skins. Let pulp drain 3 minutes.
  4. Transfer pulp to workbowl of food processor fitted with steel blade. Add lemon juice, garlic, tahini,
    1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; process until mixture has coarse, choppy texture, about eight 1-second pulses. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper; transfer to serving bowl, cover with plastic wrap flush with surface of dip, and refrigerate 45 to 60 minutes. To serve, use spoon to make trough in center of dip and spoon olive oil into it; sprinkle with parsley and serve.


Turn all burners on gas grill to high, close lid, and heat grill until hot, 10 to 15 minutes. Follow recipe for Baba Ghanoush, Charcoal-Grill Method, from step 2.


Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 500 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheet with foil, set eggplants on baking sheet and roast, turning every 15 minutes, until eggplants are uniformly soft when pressed with tongs, about 60 minutes for large globe eggplants, 50 minutes for Italian eggplants, and 40 minutes for Japanese eggplants. Cool eggplants on baking sheet 5 minutes, then follow recipe for Baba Ghanoush, Charcoal-Grill Method, from step 3.


Sautéed onion gives the baba ghanoush a sweet, rich flavor.

Heat 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil in small skillet over low heat until shimmering; add 1 small onion, chopped fine, and cook, stirring occasionally, until edges are golden brown, about 10 minutes. Follow recipe for Baba Ghanoush, Charcoal-Grill, Gas-Grill, or Oven Method, stirring onion into dip after processing.


Replacing the sesame paste with mayonnaise makes this baba ghanoush pleasantly light and brings out the smoky flavor of charcoal-grilled eggplant.

Follow recipe for Baba Ghanoush, Charcoal-Grill, Gas-Grill, or Oven Method, substituting an equal amount of mayonnaise for tahini.

Copyright Cooks Illustrated

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