Babaganoush in 30 Minutes

January 9, 2015
by Jack McNulty
Babaganoush in 30 Minutes

This is one of the great alternatives to a traditional hummus made with chickpeas and tahini. Like its cousin, babaganoush is a staple found throughout the Middle East.  Most traditional recipes call for cooking the eggplant in a hot oven, grill or in a hot pan. The eggplant is often left whole while cooking, then peeled once the flesh inside has softened and the entire eggplant collapses.

I’ve made it this way before and I was always quite disappointed with the yield as I thought there was simply too much of the flesh (and taste) left on the peel which is discarded. So, I began searching for alternatives in cooking the eggplant.

I came across one recipe which left the peel mostly intact. This procedure calls for slicing the eggplant, then sautéing part of it in oil until browned. The remainder of the eggplant is added to the cooked eggplant and the entire contents are cooked in a bit more oil.  It sounded a bit oily to me and I was suspicious.

Finally, I decided to simply eliminate precooking the eggplant altogether, although I preserved the partial peeling of the eggplant step.  The version I came up with uses a pressure cooker to lock in flavor and aroma…and only takes 8 minutes to cook.  It yields a very soft and velvety dip…especially if you use a high speed blender like a Vitamix to blend the eggplant, garlic, lemon juice and tahini.  This method also protects the integrity of the olive oil as it is not cooked. In practice, you can substitute other oils (like hemp or flax seed), or simply reduce the entire fat content altogether.  Let your taste buds guide you in your preparation.

You can follow the same basic procedure without using a pressure cooker by using a pot with a tight fitting lid and cooking the eggplant about 30 minutes.  You can also substitute some or all of the garlic with pureed roasted garlic cloves (use 4) to produce a sweeter flavor.

I like spreading the babaganoush in a large bowl, garnishing with some fresh black olives and a bit of thyme and slathering everything up with some fresh bread. Babaganoush also makes an excellent spread for wraps.

Babaganoush in 30-Minutes
makes about 4 to 6 servings

800 gr. eggplant
2 tsp. salt
1,5 dl. water
2 cloves garlic, grated
4 sprigs fresh thyme, stripped
juice of 1-2 lemons, about 50 grams
2 tblsp tahini
30 – 40 gr. olive oil (or to taste)

Begin by preparing the eggplant. Peel alternating long stripes of the skin vertically on the eggplant. The idea is to keep most of the skin on, which is where the flavor comes from, but removing just enough to lighten the overall flavor and color. Once the strips are removed, slice the eggplant into 2-cm cubes.

Place the eggplant and water into a pressure cooker, along with the salt, grated garlic, thyme and about 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice.

Close and lock the lid of the pressure cooker. Bring to high pressure over medium-high heat (that would be the second ring on your pressure cooker), reduce the temperature to maintain the pressure and cook for 8 minutes.

Remove the pressure cooker from the heat, release the pressure quickly by placing the it under cold running water. Remove the lid carefully and take out the eggplant and place it in a strainer. Carefully strain away most of the water, making sure to reserve some of it in case you need to thin the dip later.

Place the eggplant, tahini, lemon juice and olive into a high-speed blender to produce a very smooth dip (alternatively, smash everything together with a fork or puree with an immersion blender). Start on slow and quickly increase the speed to maximum. Blend until very smooth and creamy. Adjust seasoning and serve warm. You can keep unused babaganoush for 3-5 days covered in the refrigerator.