The two "special" ingredients in this dip are the tahini and the aleppo pepper, both foods that I had not even heard of a few years ago but that I have come to love.
I first read of Aleppo pepper on Kalyn's blog and finally bought myself some from Penzey's spices. We are lucky enough to have a retail location for this store in St. Louis. Penzey's is candyland for foodies- every spice you can think of (and several that I'd never heard of) arranged alluringly all over the store. I bought many of their barbecue rubs and Cajun spice mixes to give to relatives in India as "American masalas". Anyway, from the day I bought this Aleppo pepper, I've been looking for excuses to use it. I sprinkle it with abandon on anything and everything-the taste is irresistible. It is a completely optional ingredient in this recipe. If you don't have it on hand, substitute another pepper or just leave it out.
As for the tahini, it is nothing but sesame seed paste. If it is not available where you live, you can make some at home . Tahini can sometimes taste bitter but I found a local Missouri brand (East Wind; I've bought this brand in Golden Grocer and from the bulk bin at Whole Foods) that has a mild and pleasing taste. Tahini is useful to have on hand for creamy dips and salad dressings- I use it often in hummus and yogurt-tahini sauce. Because sesame/tahini plays a starring role in this eggplant dip, I'm sending it to Think Spice: Sesame.
Baba Ghanouj (Eggplant Dip)
1 large eggplant
2 tablespoons tahini
1 clove garlic, minced
Juice of ½ lemon
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (or to taste)
Salt to taste
1. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Wash and dry the eggplant. Cut it in half lengthwise. Brush all over with olive oil. Place it (cut side down) on a baking sheet and roast for 40 minutes or until the skin is wrinkled and the inside is soft (test with a knife).
3. Place the roasted eggplant halves in a colander and let the excess juices drip away for 30-40 minutes.
4. Peel the eggplant and place the pulp in a food processor. Add all the other ingredients. Pulse the eggplant mixture until it is blended together (some chunks are fine).
5. Taste and adjust the balance of flavors.
6. Garnish with sliced radishes, sprinkle with extra Aleppo pepper and serve with a drizzle of olive oil if desired.
This dip is excellent with pita chips, pita bread or crudites. I've been taking a little jar of it to work; it makes for a tasty and filling mid-morning snack.
Coming up next: A dish that needed 11 hours in the oven to put it together! Stay tuned.