Earlier this summer I met up with some friends in NYC for a potluck, which, oops, I showed up empty-handed to. Everything, of course, was delicious, but after the homemade pita, hands down the most popular item on the table was a dip, whose pallid, unassuming complexion, I think, caught everyone off guard — this was the smokiest baba ghanoush ever. When I asked Anna to reveal her secret, she whispered: I stopped at Chickpea en route to the party.
I couldn’t have been happier to hear this for a number of reasons but mostly because I now had something to look forward to in Penn Station, where I typically find myself longing for a noodle bar or a Shake Shack or a Motorino’s. I now never come home without a few tubs of this smoky baba ghanoush.
And now, thanks to Julia Turshen’s Small Victories, I know how to make it at home. The recipe calls for charring whole eggplant on a grill (as here) or over an open flame until the skin is blackened, but Turshen also gives an alternative path, which I took: roast at 425ºF for 45 minutes. The rest is easy: pulse the eggplant flesh in a food processor with tahini, Greek yogurt, salt, and fresh lemon, and before serving, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with za’atar.
This is an ideal meal for me: smoky eggplant dip, bread, and maybe a salad for good measure. This was the first of many delicious recipes I’ve made from Small Victories, the big victories thus far being the eggs fried in olive oil served atop a smear of lemony yogurt, lentils with turmeric, ginger, and coconut milk, and a whiskey sour sweetened with maple syrup. Nothing has been too complicated. Everything has been super flavorful. I want to give this book to everyone I know.
Lahey dough ready for the oven:
Smoky Eggplant Dip with Yogurt and Za'atar
Yield 2 cups
From Julia Turshen's Small Victories, a beautiful new cookbook I am loving — I've made the eggs fried in olive oil with yogurt and lemon, the lentils with coconut milk, and the whiskey sour with maple syrup. Everything has been incredibly delicious. I served this with flatbread, essentially Lahey pizza dough stretched into a rectangle/oval, drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt, and baked on the Baking Steel. Details here. Note: I chose to oven roast the eggplant (as oppose to grill) because I was feeling a little lazy and my gas grill is in astonishingly bad shape. If you own a charcoal grill, I imagine you'll be able to impart some serious smokiness into the eggplant flesh — I hope to one day own a charcoal grill again. Know that, however, even with a subtle smokiness, this dip is delicious.
- 1 lb. eggplant
- kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon tahini
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon
- 3 tablespoons Greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon torn fresh mint*
- 1 teaspoon za'atar
- warm bread for serving
I didn't have any mint, but t was delicious without it
- Preheat your oven to 425ºF. Place eggplant on a lightly greased or parchment-lined sheetpan. Prick the eggplant in a few spots. Transfer to the oven and roast for about 45 minutes, turning it over halfway through roasting. The skin should be black. (Alternatively: preheat a grill or grill pan over medium high heat. Grill the eggplant until the skin is completely blackened and the flesh feels soft when you pierce it with a paring knife, about 45 minutes. Note: This is the preparation Turshen suggests primarily in the book—the oven method is the alternative—and you will likely get a smokier flavor if you use a grill.)
- Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise and use a spoon to scoop the soft flesh into the bowl of a food processor. Discard the eggplant skin. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, the tahini, lemon juice, and yogurt to the eggplant and pulse everything a few times just to combine. Note: Julia warns against letting the machine run for longer than a couple of seconds at a time to ensure that the dip has a bit of texture. I don't mind it on the smooth side —the texture of the baba ghanoush at Chickpea that I love so much is on the smooth side — so pulse it to the texture you like. Taste the dip for seasoning and add more salt and/or lemon juice if needed.
- Transfer the dip to a shallow bowl and smooth the surface with the back of a spoon. Drizzle the dip with the olive oil and sprinkle with the mint (if using) and za'atar. Serve immediately, with plenty of warm bread or pita for scooping and dipping.
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