Better than baba ghanoush: a versatile dip or sandwich topper!
I have to confess that for many years I didn’t really like eggplant, called aubergine in some parts of the world. Too often, I found it prepared in ways that didn’t highlight this vegetable’s strengths. With time, that has changed and I now really enjoy eggplant, though I tend to look for smaller varieties when I go to cook it. This dip was borne out of a friend’s frustration – when her daughter was recently diagnosed with a sesame allergy, it knocked two of her favourite commercial dips out of the picture: baba ghanoush (sometimes spelled ghanouj or ganoush) and hummus, both of which usually contain tahini, which is made from sesame seeds. She also relayed that her daughter is a huge fan of bacon, which is why I thought a dip with a smoky flavour might be extra appealing. The verdict is in: the dip’s a winner, with kids and adults alike. Don’t be intimidated by the smoking process that I’ve carefully explained below – it’s super simple on a standard gas barbeque and gives the eggplant an incredible flavour. If you really don’t want to do the smoking, just halve and grill the eggplants over medium heat for about 20 minutes for small ones, 30 minutes for large; they’ll still take on a smoky taste from the grilling. If you enjoy this dip, check out these scrumptious grilled flatbreads with grilled eggplant.
- 2 cups (500 mL) wood chips
- 3 small or 1 medium-large eggplant
- 1 teaspoon (5 mL) minced garlic
- 1/3 cup (90 mL) olive oil
- 3 tablespoons (45 mL) freshly squeezed lemon juice (or more, to taste)
- 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) salt (or more, to taste)
- 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon (15 mL) minced parsley (garnish)
- Soak wood chips in water for 30 minutes.
- While chips are soaking, cut eggplant in half lengthwise.
- Drain wood chips thoroughly and place on a sheet of heavy duty tin foil; fold up edges to make a packet. Pierce holes all over the top of the packet. Place directly on top of burner of gas barbeque (under cooking grates) and preheat barbeque to very hot.
- As soon as packet begins to smoke (depending upon your grill, this could take up to 30 minutes), reduce heat in barbeque to medium (or, if possible, leave burner under packet on high and turn other burners to medium-low).
- Place eggplants, cut side facing up, on the grill (preferable over one of the burners that has been turned off).
- Smoke for about 25 minutes (by this point the packet will stop emitting smoke).
- While eggplant smokes, put garlic and olive oil in a glass measuring cup or microwave-safe bowl. Cook 1 minute on medium-high heat then set aside.
- Remove smoked eggplant from barbeque and let cool 15 minutes before handling.
- With a spoon, scoop cooked pulp from eggplant (it’s ok if a little bit of the skin is included; use a paring knife to remove as much skin as you can, however) and put pulp in a blender or food processor.
- Add garlic and oil mixture, lemon juice, salt and pepper to eggplant pulp and process until smooth. Depending upon the amount of pulp, you may need to add another teaspoon or two of olive oil to get it to a smooth but thick consistency. Taste and add a bit more lemon juice and/or salt if needed.
- Transfer to a small serving bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle parsley on top. Serve with toasted flatbreads, cut vegetables or whatever dipper you prefer, or spread on a sandwich. Leftover spread freezes well.
Makes approximately 1 1/2 cups (375 mL).