I’ve labored through countless ho hum bowls of baba ghanouj (almost all of the them made by me). For the last three or so years, my recipe has come from The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen (a cookbook I’ve had very good luck with). Don’t get me wrong–the batches that I’ve made using their recipe have been good. Very good, maybe.
Problem is, I judge all baba ghanouj against a serving bestowed upon me by a small Greek restaurant in the food court of Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles. That baba ghanouj was insane and ruined me for all the rest. It was like a gift from heaven intended for an under-appreciated saint that I picked up by mistake. So smoky. The garlic, lemon and salt were perfect. Unforgettable. I have never found the place again. I don’t go to LA that often and the Bonaventure’s food court is spread over a couple of crazy circular floors. Seems like I run out of adventurous spirt when I stumble upon this Korean joint (Korean BBQ Plus!) that sets me up pretty well. Maybe the Greek Place is gone. Or maybe it is the Olive Branch mediterranean pizza joint I see listed. I’ll have to look more carefully next time I go. I miss that baba ghanouj!
Today I had a bunch of volunteer baby garlic that I pulled from a patch in my garden. Just single small bulbs at the end of tender green shoots. I wanted to roast it, but heating up the oven just to roast a couple of ounces of garlic seemed wrong. I had an eggplant, though, so I roasted it and the garlic together to make some baba ghanouj. [Out of an excess of blogger integrity, the pictures of the garlic above and below are not the garlic used to make the baba ghanouj. I gleaned these from my garden a day later.]
The recipe calls for four large cloves of garlic to a pound of eggplant. I had what looked like double that amount of garlic. About thirty tiny bulbs. I was going to roast them all and reserve half for another use, but when they were out of the oven they smelled too good. Into the food processor they all went.
The receipe has you roast the eggplant at 450 degrees for 25 to 35 minutes. I’m guessing I usually stop closer to 25 minutes. By then it is soft and smells great. Why wait? I’ll tell you why. Today I left it in for the full 35 minutes and, voila, all the smokey goodness showed up. Kind of obvious, but it escaped me until now. I see no reason not to try as much as 45 minutes.
Anyway, this batch is freaky good and stands up very nicely to my memory of the long ago standard-setting baba ghanouj I enjoyed in LA. So, tons of garlic and super roasted eggplant must be the keys to magic baba ghanouj. Do it (if you haven’t already–I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn I am the last one to appreciate these two points).
Now I need Lacey to get home and help me make this baba ghanouj disappear.