This eggplant/aubergine dish is deceptively simple but we have eaten it as a side dish, snack, and even a topping for brown rice. Does anyone else call eggplant “aubergine” or is it just those of us raised in households with European and/or Middle Eastern backgrounds? Now I do know someone who is allergic to eggplant and eggplant is featured in the graphic on a recent New York Times call for comments and submissions titled “Is There Such a Thing as a Cucumber Allergy?” so hopefully this is a safe choice for your family.
Aluminum Foil (optional)
Oven with Broiler
Food Processor or Blender
1 medium to large eggplant
1 tablespoon of sunflower seed butter
1/3 of a tablespoon of fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/4 of a teaspoon of sea salt (even though E is clear of her corn allergy I still use sea salt instead of iodized salt), plus more for preparing the eggplant
Olive Oil for the pan
1 lemon’s worth of fresh lemon juice (you may want to adjust this to taste but fresh lemon juice is crucial)
2 medium cloves of garlic, crushed
To prepare the eggplant you need to peel it and cut it into rounds about 1/2 an inch thick. I prefer rounds to dicing just because it is easier to salt them at this stage and they will break up when you pulse them in the food processor or blender later on. Salt both sides of the rounds and lay them on a paper towel, sprinkling salt over both sides of each round before you place them. I like to place the paper towel on my cutting board. Then layer another paper towel on top and you can keep layering salted rounds with paper towels as needed. Now let them sit for at least 20 minutes. You’ll find that the paper towel absorbs some of the liquid drawn out from the eggplant. I believe it improves the flavor of the eggplant by drawing some of the bitterness out.
Near the end of letting the eggplant sit, you’ll want to start your oven. Prepare a baking or jelly roll pan by either lining it with foil (non-stick foil can be great if you’re trying to go easy on oil) and then brushing some olive oil on it to lightly coat the surface or just brushing olive oil directly on the pan. My pan is in pretty bad shape from years of cooking so I opt for foil. Place the eggplant rounds or cubes onto your prepared pan. Sometimes I simply bake the eggplant at 450 degrees F until they are tender, remembering to flip them at the 10 minute mark an assessing when I am content with how “done” they are before switching to the top oven broiler to give them that roasted flavor and other times I just use the broiler to start, keeping the pan 6 or 7 inches away from the heating element and turning as needed. The all-broiler method requires some attentiveness so that may help you decide but you’ll be pureeing the end result so you just want to make sure the eggplant is cooked all the way through. I apologize for the vague instructions but depending on how much oil you use on the pan and whether you have rounds or diced pieces your cooking time may vary.
While the eggplant cooks, you can juice your fresh lemon and set the juice aside. You’ll add it in increments to the eggplant, sunflower seed butter, fresh basil, and salt in the food processor or blender. You can put the still warm eggplant directly into your mixer of choice but if you are using a blender don’t put the lid on right away because you don’t want the steam to build. A food processor is more forgiving if you leave the food pusher out so the steam can escape. Give your ingredients a whirl, starting with maybe a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice and then taste what you’ve made! Warm Baba Ghanoush is lovely but letting the dip sit covered in your fridge overnight will enhance the flavor as well so it is your call. It rarely lasts overnight at my house.
According to my calculations, the recipe should be less than 200 calories for the whole dish so you can enjoy the dip fairly guilt-free with a serving of brown rice or chips.