18 January 2009

Baba Ghanoush (Moutabal)


One of the questions I get asked most often is, "how do you make baba ghanoush?" I always reply, "well, in Syria, it's called moutabal." In one of the culinary curiosities of the Middle East, eggplant and tahini dip is called baba ghanoush all over Lebanon, and as soon as you cross the border into Syria it's called moutabal. Even more confounding, if you order baba ghanoush in Syria, you will get a plate of chunky eggplant dip studded with tomatoes and sauteed green peppers, the identity of which has confused many a tourist seeking that smooth smoky eggplant dip.

The second thing I always tell people is that you have to roast your eggplants- whether under the broiler, in the oven (my preferred method), or over a good smoky grill (the best, if not always most convenient way), it's the roasted eggplant that gives the dip the characteristic smoky flavor. From there on out it's mainly a question of taste- a good mixture of tahini, lemon, and garlic, along with some salt, are really all you need. Usually that answers most of the questions on how to make the dip, what you call it is up to you.


Baba Ghanoush (Moutabal)
While small, slender eggplants are often preferred in cooking, baba ghanoush makes use of those huge oversize eggplants with all their flesh. Using a food processor to puree the eggplant helps crush any seeds.

2 large eggplants (about 2 lbs), pricked all over with a fork
2 garlic cloves
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup tahini
for garnish: olive oil, chopped parsley, red pepper flakes, pomegranate seeds, etc.

1. Preheat a grill or preheat the oven to 450 F and roast the eggplants for 40-45 minutes, until the skins are black and the flesh is soft and collapsed.
2. Meanwhile, smash the garlic with the salt in a mortar and pestle until paste-like. In a large bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and tahini until thick and lighter in color. Add the garlic paste.
3. When the roast eggplants are cool enough to handle, split them in half and scoop out the soft flesh. Puree the eggplant flesh in a food processor until smooth.
4. Add the eggplant puree to the garlic/tahini mixture. Taste for seasoning. Allow to rest until cool.
5. To serve, spread in a platter and drizzle with olive oil and any of your desired toppings.

17 comments:

Rita said...

Thanks for another great, simple recipe!

Xander said...

Thanks for the recipe-- this dish is one of my favorites (I like it for the same reason I like smoky eggplant salad from Thailand and Laos). I was confused by seeing baba ghanoush and moutabal both listed on a menu in Jordan-- is the distinction there the same as in Syria? -X

Katie said...

I LOOOOVE baba ghanoush! I love the eggplant roasted, but in the summer, we grill it for a different flavor. Love it! Yours looks fabulous!

David said...

One of my favorite things!

vegeyum said...

Thank you for reminding me of Baba Ghanoush. I love it a lot - a great fan of tahini I love to make tahini based dips and spreads.

Suzanne said...

This is one of my favorite dips, so satisfying and the smoky flavor of the eggplant is amazing.

Antonio Tahhan said...

delicious! have you tried it with a little pomegranate juice and a dab of pomegranate molasses? The tartness of the pomegranate juice replaces the lemon juice, but the subtle sweetness cuts any bitterness in the eggplant.

Anonymous said...

Xander, in Jordan they are of the same distinction as in Syria. Mercedes, I sometimes like to add a little laban to the tahini when mashing it all together. You should also try making moutabal kousa - zucchini moutabal. It is delicious. Same exact method you used, just replace eggplant with zucchini. The arabic zucchini that's a light green, not the more widely used dark green one here in the US. Also, try adding pomegranate seeds with the flesh on as a garnish. I miss the Middle East!!
xo Dalia

Faine said...

I've never had baba ghanoush, which is odd since I LOVE roasted eggplant. Great recipe and I will totally try it out.

Sophia from Kitchen Caravan said...

I love moutabal! Roasted eggplant is my weakness. . . we did a recipe for a silky eggplant dip with yogurt and herbes de provence. It is another way of doing a Mediterranean spread!
http://www.kitchencaravan.com/recipe/silky-eggplant-dip-herbes-de-provence

Yosef said...

Great. I was scared to try making baba ghanoush again because last time it was bad. Great ratios in this recipe for tahini/lemon juice.

Michele said...

That is so strange because in Saudi you can get both, but both are different. As a child, I would order both because the consistency and flavors vary. Baba Ghanoush would be a chunky eggplant salad studded with tomatoes and peppers, but Moutabel is the more pureed eggplant and tahini dip. I find it so interesting how Middle Eastern cuisine varies from country to country

Friend Mouse said...

Mmmmmmmmm! I passed on the Dardos Award to you. Don't know if you do the whole blog awards thing or not (I never have before). But the post is on my site if you want to see. Cheers - FM

Max mickle said...

I like this recipe. these Baba Ghanoush are sure to taste great and are extremely nutritious as well. I am going to make it for the holidays when my kids will be at home. I'll be sure that what they are eating is healthy.thank you for shearing your post.

Lisam said...

Thanks so much for your recipe! Could you or someone else also post the other recipe for baba ganoush (the "salad" version you get outside of Lebanon)?? I tried to look for it on the net but it seems impossible to find :( I miss eating both of them!

Ashley said...

So... do you happen to have a recipe for "the other baba ghanoush"? I grew up in Saudi Arabia and now, seven years later, I really miss the chunky eggplant dip. If only I'd had the sense to get recipes for these things before I had to move. I *might* try this recipe, but I'd have to call it moutabal :)

Amy I. said...

Hi Mercedes- I'm so glad I found this post (and your blog). I'm an American spending some time in Dubai and have been quite perplexed on the moutabal vs. baba ghanoush issue. You cleared it up quite nicely for me, thank you! Looking forward to poking around your archives. Cheers!