Baba Ghanoush (Roasted Eggplant Dip) With Kalamata Olives

The 2014 growing season in New York’s Hudson Valley has produced bountiful deliveries of biodynamic produce from Roxbury Farm, a CSA (community supported agriculture) farm in Kinderhook (Columbia County) which I have belonged to for the past four years.  Once a week from June to November, my across-the-street neighbors and I take turns picking up the farm share we split from one of the six sites in the Capital Region where Roxbury Farm delivers its bounty (in our case, the garage of an Albany neighbor a couple of blocks from our homes).  We have not missed a pick-up this season, but there’s no worries since our share would not go to waste since all leftover produce is delivered to a food pantry or community kitchen in our hometown.

Plus splitting a share has ensured that nothing has gone to waste: my share of hot peppers I gladly turn over to my friends and in return I happily use eggplant which is not a favorite food of theirs.  I don’t seem to ever have enough eggplant since it is so easy to turn what is also known as aubergine into roasted eggplant dip or baba ghanoush, the Arabic term meaning “pampered papa” or “coy daddy,” perhaps with reference to its supposed invention by a member of a royal harem according to Wikipedia.  In fact, I’ll even supplement my supply of eggplant from my Roxbury Farm CSA farm share with organic eggplant from the farm stand operated by Dennison Farm (an organic farm in Schaghticoke, Rensselaer County) at the Troy Farmers Market.

Eggplant, like tomatoes, is a member of the nightshade family, and the fruits of this bushy annual can vary in color, depending on the type of cultivar, from white to purple-black and up to 8 inches wide.  Purple-black aubergines are the most widely recognized and eaten aubergine cultivar in the Western world according to the informative entry on “Aubergine, Eggplant” in the National Geographic Society’s wonderful reference book, EdibleAn Illustrated Guide to the World’s Food Plants (Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society, 2008).  This highly recommended book, reviewed earlier on this website, also provides an intriguing summary of the uses of eggplant by various world cultures:  “In Asian cuisine the aubergine is stir-fried, stewed, or used in hotpots and simmered dishes . . . commonly used in India, Afghanistan and Iran to make a hot pickle….In Italy it also pickled for use in antipasto dishes  [and] in many Mediterranean countries, aubergines feature in dishes such as the Greek moussaka, French ratatouille, Italian melanzane parmigiana, and Sicilian capanata.”

This recipe complements the easy to make recipe for hummus that was posted earlier on this website.  It’s easy to avoid empty calories from junk food, when delicious homemade baba ghanoush and hummus are in the refrigerator.

2 or 3 medium eggplants (about 3 pounds)
1/2 cup tahini (sesame paste)
1 lemon
2 garlic cloves (optional)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon of salt
handful of Kalamata olives

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F

Rinse off the eggplants, pierce the skins with the point of a sharp knife in a 3 or 4 places, and place on a baking sheet. Roast for approximately 50-60 minutes (depending on the size of the eggplant) until the skins are dark mahogany and the eggplants are very soft.  Let stand at room temperature until the eggplants are cool enough to handle.

Split the eggplants with a knife, and scoop the insides into a colander, placed over a bowl, press lightly with a fork to drain excess liquid.  Remove to a large bowl and mash and stir.  I like to use an old-fashioned potato masher and a wooden spoon.  Continue mashing and stirring, after adding tahini (Once Again organic tahini available at my food co-op, the Honest Weight in Albany), the juice of one lemon, olive oil, chopped garlic and small dash of salt.  Slice the Kalamata olives (Mediterranean Organic Kalamata olives also available at the Honest Weight) into small pieces and as a final step, add to the bowl and stir.  I like to spread the dip on crusty bread, top with a sliced ripe tomato and some fresh lettuce for a perfect lunch.  Enjoy.

(Frank W. Barrie 10/2/14)

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