Happy Fourth of July! Many of you are planning to attend cook-outs and Independence day parties. I would like to give our readers a chance to serve a healthy, savory, crowd-pleasing appetizer. It’s pretty easy to make and one of our favorite recipes.
The weekend after the Hubster’s birthday, we went to Washington D.C. for a quick weekend get-away. Our plans were to eat dinner there, see a late comedy performance by Michael MacDonald (best known to us as “Stewart” from MadTV), spend the night, and go to the Smithsonian National Zoo the next day. Little did he know that I had a few (last-minute) surprises planned for him. Friends and family joined us for dinner and the comedy show to wish him a happy birthday. He was pretty surprised and tickled. I was pleased that I was actually able to keep this a secret from him as one of the Hubster’s super-powers is guessing my gifts to him just by looking or touching the wrapped item, even if it is in a box to conceal its shape!
Neither one of us had been to the National Zoo since we were young’uns. The Hubster went on a school field trip that his Mom chaperoned. I went with friends when I was in high school and finally driving. So we were both long overdue for a more up-to-date promenade. The zoo was enjoyable, and definitely a place in D.C. where you can spend the entire day there. We ambled along, glancing at all the different animal exhibits. We loved the Amazonia exhbiti, which had an open room where birds, small monkeys, and butterflies roamed freely, tended and watched carefully by zoo-keepers. The biggest treat, however, was that the new baby panda Bao Bao was finally on display to the public! She romped around with her mother Mei Xiang, hopped on her back, and tumbled around tree branches in their exhibit. We even watched them being fed by their keepers; they tossed paper bags of goodies down into the enclosure. If you’re not close to the Zoo, you can watch the Giant Panda Camera here. Both of us took pictures to share with friends, family, and our readers.
It was late afternoon, early evening by the time we finished touring the Smithsonian National Zoo. We were starving and in dire need of food. Since all the restaurants are located around the metro stop, we headed back in that direction. Just past the station entrance, we found a little bistro that served wonderful Middle-Eastern fare. Instead of ordering a meal, both of us decided to do a tapas-style type of dinner and order several appetizers from the menu. One of the dishes we sampled, which I haven’t had in a very long time, was Baba Ganouj, a deliciously smoked eggplant purée garnished with paprika, served with toasted pita shells (which we did not eat).
The experience lingered with me for a while, and I wanted to make my own version of this dip. Baba ganouj is traditionally made with eggplant fire-charred on a grill, tahini, garlic and/or onion, lemon juice, and spices. Some variations serve it with any of the following: tomatoes, olive oil, pomegranate concentrate, anar seeds, salt, pepper, or cumin. The ingredient that I have some difficulty with is the tahini (sesame seed paste). Lately, I’ve been having a mixed reaction to sesame seeds. Sometimes, I end up with a crippling migraine; sometimes, there’s no effect. I’ve chalked it up to being an ingredient that can set me over the edge if I have been exposed to too many other allergens. So I wanted to avoid the possibility of getting one because this dip is just too delicious to miss out on!
I omitted the tahini altogether, deciding to use olive oil in its place instead. As eggplant can be expensive, I supplemented locally-grown squash to add to the bulk of the recipe as well as augment the delicate smokey flavor. I used the broiler in our oven since cooking on our grill would take quite a long time with the amount of eggplant and squash. Instead of garnishing with paprika, I sprinkled a small amount of smoked paprika instead, which just knocked the grilled taste out of the park. Try this; I think you’ll love it as much as we did. To make it Paleo, serve as a vegetable dip, a dressing for salads, or even as a “cheese sauce” for your grain-free pasta!
- 3 medium-large Eggplants
- 1 large Zucchini (green squash)
- 1 large Yellow Squash
- 1/2 cup Olive Oil
- 1/2 cup Fresh Lemon Juice
- 1-2 TBSP of Fresh Parsley
- 1/2 TBSP Black Pepper (or White Pepper)
- 1 head of Roasted Garlic (or 4 cloves of raw garlic)
- 1 tsp dried Onion flakes
- 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
- 1/2 tsp Sea Salt
- Smoked Paprika to Garnish (Or regular paprika if you don't have it)
- Set your broiler to low, move rack to highest spot just under the broiler (allowing 2-3 inches of space). Allow oven to preheat.
- Line a baking pan with aluminum foil. Please note that you will probably need to use two baking pans to get the job done. Spray aluminum foil generously with olive oil.
- Slice the green leafy ends off your eggplants and squash. Cut the eggplant and squashes in half and place them skin side up on the baking sheet. Brush with olive oil.
- Place in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the flesh is nicely charred (your squash may finish before your eggplant).
- Flip to meat side up, brush generously with oil, and place back under the broiler for an additional ten minutes.
- Cut up your charred squash and put in blender. Scrape the charred meat out of your eggplant (you don't want the skin) and place in blender.
- Add garlic, oilive oil, lemon juice, and all spices except Smoked Paprika. Pulse blender until creamy to your liking.
- Garnish with Smoked Paprika and serve!
- Cut off the head of the garlic until the cloves are exposed.
- Spray with olive oil.
- Wrap the entire head of garlic in aluminum foil.
- Place in oven, under the broiler, for 20 minutes. (I put mine in the oven in the last ten minutes of the Eggplant and Squash, then continued cooking it after they came out of the oven.)
- Open foil and either use it to squeeze the garlic cloves out, or pick each individual clove out with a fork.
Some people like their baba ganouj more sweet than savory. If you're one such person, cut back on the pepper to about 1/4-1/2 tsp. Add a little extra lemon juice until the taste is sweeten to your liking.
Traditionally, baba ganouj is spiced with white pepper because black pepper makes it look "dirty." Personally, I see no difference because you have color added from the charred flesh.
If you want a more "chunky" baba ganouj, squeeze your eggplant and yellow squash once finished cooking, and use a large bowl and a potato masher to break down the vegetables. I like mine a little creamier.
To add more to the taste and texture, char some artichoke hearts beneath the broiler and add to other ingredients in the blender!
© Julie Marie Pierpont and Death Defying Diet 2013-Present