Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Summer Snacking: Baba Ghanouj

Here's a little appetizer that I served to friends at a pre-ballet supper last weekend. "You made this at home, from scratch??", someone asked incredulously. In fact, it is the easiest thing to make from scratch and needs only a handful of ingredients. Baba Ghanouj is a close cousin of our Indian bharta, a nuttier and creamier version of it.

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.


  1. you wont believe me if i say ive never had this so far..i dunno why??!! nice pic!

  2. There is a Penzeys in Cleveland, but they were closed the last two times I went there, hopefully not permanently :(
    I am definitely an odd one out when it comes to eggplants, don't like them :( But I've tasted baba ghanouj at a few Mediterranean restaurants and liked it. I like the flavor of aleppo pepper too :D

  3. I have heard of all these words before,but today I have learnt that Tahini is sesame seed paste.
    How does aleppo pepper taste? Is it spicy?

  4. Oh it looks so creamy and delicious - love the tempting picture.

  5. Definitely one of my favorite dishes!! Looks awesome, Nupur. :)

  6. Love Aleppo pepper! I always have a small jar right near the stove for cooking.

  7. That looks very tempting..feeling like dipping my chips in that..

  8. Hey Nupur,
    Never heard of it before... thanks for sharing..

  9. Thats a awesome dish....looks creamy and rich....

  10. such a funny name for eggplant dip, i have always felt :) only ever had this in restaurants but i am more a fan of hummus i guess..

  11. Looks fantastic! And I'm so happy I've gotten you hooked on Aleppo pepper, I'm just about to order more from Penzey's myself.

  12. i can eat truckloads of this stuff - very dangerous. tahini is a treasure and i've been making a few dips with it this summer!

  13. hi Nupur,

    Baba Ghanoush looks incredible on ur blog and I have a special affinity towards middle eastern food. Well, I have got a jar of tahini lying around for long and I was looking forward to a recipe where i can actually use it. Any other ideas on how to use tahini will be very helpful...

    Good to see the blog going active again !!!

  14. Ok this may sound weird but never heard of this dish, infact when i saw the title name Baba Ghanouj is assumed to be some kind of tantric baba :) Oh boy m glad its not as this dip looks fantastic!

  15. Looks delicious!
    I love the photo too.

  16. Superchef- Well, I hope you get a chance to try it soon- it is delicious :)

    Priya- Oh, I hope the store is not closed...but they do most of their business by mail order or online, so you will still have access to their products.
    Baba ghanouj does have a very subtle eggplant taste so I can see how people who don't particularly care for eggplants would like it.

    BDSN- Aleppo pepper does have a spicy bite, but it is not too fiery, rather a medium pleasant heat. It is a very flavorful pepper.

    Laavanya- Thanks :) It was really creamy and YUMMY :D

    Kalai- one of my favorite dishes too!

    Diane- I've been sprinkling Aleppo pepper on finished dishes for the most part. May I ask you what your favorite ways are of using it?

    Pratibha, Anon, Preeti Singh- Glad you like it :)

    Nags- I am partial to hummus too but now that I got this recipe to work well, I think I may be making more of Baba ghanouj.

    Kalyn- Now I have to go back and try all your recipes that use Aleppo pepper :)

    MeetaK- Tahini really is perfect for summer dips, isn't it?

    Raakhee- Nice to see you here- how are you doing? The monsoons must have hit Bombay by now.
    Tahini can be used to make all kinds of dips and spreads. For hundreds of recipe ideas, type in tahini in this search window.

  17. Parita- This is a Middle-Eastern dish, so the term "baba ghanouj" may be new to you because it is from another cuisine. It tastes fantastic- give it a try.

    Rose- Thanks!

  18. I've never been a big fan of eggplant, but I keep trying. I think it was last year that I tried this for the first time and I loved it. The recipe I used didn't call for Aleppo pepper though and now you've got me very curious about it... a trip to my nearby Penzey's is in order!

  19. What a coincidence! i made baba ghanoush last weekend, it tastes great. didn't add the special pepper though, just some regular chillies :)
    do you know how long that stuff would last in the fridge?
    love, shoots:)
    ps. am so happy that you are back to blogging

  20. Cathy- Someday, I'll have to make you some of my favorite Indian-style eggplant dishes to see how you like them.
    I think you will enjoy Aleppo pepper...and good to know you have a Penzey's nearby too.

    Shoots- You are quite the cook...I'm so thrilled :) I think you need to start your own food blog!
    I keep this stuff in the fridge for 3 days so it lasts at least that long.

  21. Hubby loves eggplant, so looks like i can surprise him with this one !! Dont have Tahini .. but loads of sesamme seed.. can i substitue that instead?

    Nupur -Do you know , that you actually inspire me to cook , I am so lazy otherwise!

  22. My favorite 'way' to eat eggplant is after it is roasted and mashed-bharta, thuviyal and this!! (also the Persian eggplant borani is yum..:)). Will try to make this sometime..Thanks for the recipe!

  23. Wow so cool... and just in time. I have been wanting to make the whole Mediterranean meal at home from scratch one of these days - falafel, humus, tahini, etc. Will add this to the list. Do you have recipes for making any of the others on your blog? I have a vegeterian Mediterranean cookbook I was planning to use. Thanks for the recipe!

  24. Hi Nupur,

    We have a Penzey's nearby as well -- I can't help but smile at the irony of you bringing 'American masala' to India while we sit here drooling over all the lovely masalas from India :)

    Baba ghanouj looks great -- I haven't tried aleppo pepper but will next time. I always wondered what was missing when I make this. Radishes are nice, but I could eat yours with a spoon!

  25. Hi Nupur, Good to see new posts from you. I'm going to try making this. Looks yum!

  26. hi nupur thanx for all your amazing recipes. i am also partly from mumbai n now living in the new zealand. since i have come here i have been craving for dabelis. wonder u dont have them in your recipes. dont u like them??? please post the recipe for me even if u dont like them cuz i am crazily in luv with them.

  27. This is a lovely dish. Looks yummy. nice pic too..

    I love your banner and the way you keep us hooked with the last line of your post. Sure will wait to see what it could be.

    Guess this is the first time I am here and sure would be back everytime you post something. :)

  28. Aleppo pepper is new to me, but i've made baba ghanouj successfully without it. Great picture!!!

  29. Aleppo pepper looks alluring enough

  30. Hi Nupur,

    I have been reading your blog since quite a while now, but was just too lazy to type in a comment saying how much I enjoy reading your recipes and following them. Btw, I drool over the pictures you post, good job girl.. :)

    And now that I have finally complimented you, can you tell me what substitute I can use for that special pepper? Will chilli flakes or just "mirchi cha thecha" work?

    - Preeti

  31. Went all over town to find the aleppo and in so doing found a great mid-eastern market with all kinds of delights to try.

    I made this last night to take to a party today--it's great.

  32. I also use it for finishing dishes mostly (great on fried eggs!), but I also throw it in many "grain" dishes and stews to give it some round pepper flavor without much heat. I use it in bulgar pilafs, eggplant stews, almost every middle eastern dish I make. Plus in uncooked dishes like egg salad, pasta salads, etc.
    Don't get me wrong - I love serious chili heat! - but the Aleppo pepper is so nice as an alternative.

  33. Diane- All wonderful ideas for using Aleppo pepper! I especially love the idea of sprinkling them on fried eggs, and in egg salad. I'll be using it even more now :)


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