|Smoky and Rich Eggplant|
I’ve always been drawn to mysterious tales that hook me and pull me deep into a magical realm. One of my all time favorite reads is The Arabian Nights, a collection of tales culled from various cultures and dating back over 1,000 years. The stories are framed by the tale of the beautiful young virgin, Scheherazade who against her will has been married off to the moody and unpredictable King Shahryar. Scheherazade knows only one thing for sure about her new husband: he has a reputation for killing his wives after a single night of intimacy.
Desperate and unwilling to meet such an end, Scheherazade cleverly decides to outwit the king. She convinces him to listen to a story before consummating the marriage and once he agrees, she begins to tell the most mesmerizing and engaging tale. Then, just before bringing the tale to an end, she pleads utter exhaustion and begs him to give her until the next night to finish. Thus begins Scheherazade’s tales of 1001 Arabian Nights. Not only does she put off her execution, but along the way she tames the king.
This smoky Middle Eastern spread is the perfect way to ring in summer. So, nab a few eggplants, fire up the grill and make a batch. Find a copy of 1001 Arabian Nights, grab a generous handful of pita chips and find a comfortable spot to recline. Then let yourself fall head first into Scheherazade’s magical tales.
Also known as eggplant caviar, Baba Ganoush is a lot like hummus in that it really depends on your personal tastes (and guest list) when preparing the dish. If you like an intense smoky flavor, leave the eggplant on the grill past the point of reasonably charred. The same goes for the garlic–among friends, more is fine, but if you’re just meeting someone new, you may want to tone it down.
2 large eggplant, left whole
Fresh lemon juice
2-3 cloves of garlic, peeled
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Handful of chopped cilantro leaves
Pita chips for serving
1. Heat the grill until very hot, then toss on the whole eggplants and cook until they are charred and collapsed; transfer to a plate and allow to cool.
2. Once the eggplant are cool enough to handle, cut them open and scoop out the insides; dispose of the skin.
3. In a food processor, puree the eggplant along with the garlic, tahini, olive oil and lemon juice to taste. I like to use a ratio of 1/2 cup olive, 1/3 cup of tahini and 2 cloves of garlic.
4. Add cayenne pepper and sea salt to taste.
5. Allow the flavors to meld for several hours before serving.
Heap the eggplant mixture onto a large platter. Make a well in the center of the mixture and fill with additional olive oil then sprinkle with the paprika and chopped cilantro. Serve with pita chips and good wine.