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Baba Ganoush
Correction - it's about thyme
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Baba Ganoush

What's a Baba Ganoush? Sometimes spelled "Baba Ganouj" or other variant transliterations from the Arabic, it's one of my favorite ways to use an eggplant. Known throughout the Middle East, it could be described as eggplant dip, or hummus with an attitude. A bowl of Baba Ganouj, a stack of pitas, maybe a little salad, and you've got a light summer dinner ... and it even goes with wine!

I have been making it for years, using a variety of recipes from ethnic or vegetarian cookbooks, but my personal recipe "kicked up a notch" after I tasted - and sought to replicate - the unusually complex and smoky flavors of the Baba Ganoush that I enjoyed around 1993 at Al Dewan, our favorite Lebanese restaurant in New York City's Queens.

Its secret of success was simple: Rather than starting with a routine oven-baked eggplant, they cooked this luscious purple veggie over coals and wood. The combination of wood smoke and a gentle, mellow garlic flavor added an entire new dimension to something that was already a treat.

Here's the recipe - it's a bit time-consuming but involves very little effort.

INGREDIENTS: (Serves two)

2 medium eggplants
Several cloves garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt
Cumin
Juice of 1 lemon, about 2 to 4 tablespoons
1/2 cup tahini (sesame paste, available at ethnic groceries)
Italian (flat leaf) parsley

PROCEDURE:

1. Wash and dry the eggplants. Slice a couple of garlic cloves into thin slivers. Cut slits all over the eggplants and insert slivers of garlic.

2. Start a fire in your barbecue grill and allow plenty of time for the coals to get good and hot. Add a couple of well-soaked chunks of hickory or other aromatic wood, and put the two eggplants (whole, in their skins) on the grill. Cook them over direct heat for 20 minutes or so, turning them every five minutes, until the skins are charred and the inside steaming and creamy. The fat eggplants will probably collapse into something resembling a deflated football. Don't worry about that.

3. Meanwhile, slice two more large cloves of garlic into paper-thin rounds, and cook them gently in 1 tablespoon olive oil until translucent but not brown. Put the garlic and oil into the bowl of your food processor and add 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon cumin. Process with the steel blade until the contents become a paste.

4. When the eggplants are done, allow them a little time to cool. Then peel them - the charred skin should be easy to remove, and you needn't worry if a few bits and fragments remain.

5. Put the eggplant "meat" into the processor bowl with the garlic mix and process until the contents are smooth. Add the lemon juice and the tahini, a little at a time (you may not need it all), processing until smooth and tasting as you go, until the flavor and texture are as you like it.

6. Spoon the Baba Ganoush into a serving dish, smooth the surface, and drizzle about 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the top. Garnish with a little chopped parsley and a bit more cumin. If you can resist pitching right in, it's good to allow a half-hour or so for the flavors to blend. Serve with toasted pita quarters (or give them a quick warming over what's left of the coals).

WINE MATCH: It's fun to experiment with dishes like this that aren't traditionally served with wine. I've found that off-dry German Rieslings at the Spatlese or Auslese level work surprisingly well. A drier but aromatic Alsatian Riesling or Gewurztraminer should also be interesting; ditto an Austrian Gruner Veltliner. Want a red? A dry and acidic item, perhaps a Chianti or Cotes-du-Rhone, ought to work well. Don't be afraid to experiment - and if you find an exceptional match, please let me know!

Correction - it's about thyme

As several of you advised me, I carelessly neglected to tell you what to do with the thyme in last week's Italian lemon chicken recipe. I hope you figured out without my help that it should be included in Step 4, when you add the lemon juice, lemon zest and chicken broth.

You'll find the corrected recipe in our online archives at
http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor/tsfl020829.phtml.

Let us hear from you!

If you have suggestions or comments about The 30 Second Wine Advisor's FoodLetter, or if you would like to suggest a topic for a coming edition and recipe, please drop me a note. I really enjoy hearing from you, and I try to give a personal reply to all mail if I possibly can. The Ask A Question form at
http://www.wineloverspage.com/ask_a_question.phtml
is the easiest way to reach me, but if you prefer, you may also send E-mail to wine@wineloverspage.com.

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Thursday, Sept. 5, 2002
Copyright 2002 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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