July 10, 2006
Grilled Baba Ghanoush

As part of moving to the Baltimore/Washington corridor, I was requred by the Secuity Unit of the Baltimore Urban Reaches Board (SUBURB) to purchase a gril. After much negotiating, which consisted mainly of me pointing at grills at Lowe's saying "How about that one?" and the Redhead saying "No" when she saw the price, we settled on a classic and inexpensive charcoal Weber kettle grill.

One of my friends says that the difference between cooking on charcoal grill and a gas grill is 40 minutes. I don't disagree that charcoal takes longer than a propane tank grill to get going, but I do like the flavor that smoke from the charcoal gives the food cooked on it. In our case, that food includes portobella mushrooms, fish, corn, and for this dish - eggplant.

Baba Ghanoush is a classic Middle Eastern dish usually served with pita as a starter or as part of a mezze-style dinner with hummus and a parsley and lemon salad. Smoky charred eggplant is blended with tahini, a thin paste or thick sauce (depending on your perspective) made from sesame seeds, and good olive oil. A touch of salt and a hint of garlic seal the deal. You can find tahini in most supermarkets with a decent ethnic foods section or in any Arabic/Persian market.

You could make this dish without a grill. If you do, first char the eggplant lightly with your broiler or with gas burners before baking it on a cookie sheet to soften up the flesh.

Griled Baba Ghanoush
1/4 cup vegetable oil for prepping the grill
1 good sized Italian eggplant - about 1.5 pounds.
1/4 cup tahini
3-5 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
chopped parsley or a pinch of sumac to garnish

First start your grill and get your coals hot. I use a chimney-style starter and a little newspaper. You'll know the coals are ready when a light gray ash coats them all. I don't recommend using matchlight or other charcoal soaked with lighter fluid. It may give a gasoline taste to any food cooked on the grill.

Move all the coals to one side of the grill. This gives a choice of using a direct or indirect heating method with the egplant. It also lets you add other items to the grill, like the shallots I grilled for a recipe for shallot-yogurt moosir that I'm working on.

Using tongs, dip a wad of paper towels in the vegetable oil and wipe the grill lightly with it. This will help prevent food stickage.

Poke a few holes in the eggplant with a fork or knife all over the body of the vegetable. Place the eggplant directly over the coals. Put the lid back on the grill and leave the smoke holes about half open. After 15 minutes, check on the eggplant. Flip the eggplant so the cooked side is up and replace the lid. Cook another 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, if the eggplant isn't soft throughout, either continue cooking for another 10-15 minutes on the grill, or finish the eggplant in a 375 F oven until it is soft, but not without structure throughout.

Peel the finished eggplant. Leave some charred bits clinging to the veg, but get most of the tough skin off. Cut the eggplant into 1-2" chunks. Precision is not required as this is all going into the blender.

Ideally, you should wait until the eggplant has cooled completely for this next step. Place the eggplant chunks and the tahini in the blender. Peel and smash the garlic cloves and add them to the belnder. Using pulses, blend until the eggplant is a lumpy paste. Add a pinch of salt. Add the lemon juice a bit at a time, blending lightly, until you like the flavor. Put the blender on a low setting and slowly drizzle in the olive oil, stopping to taste occasionally until you are staisfied with the texture.

Cool completely in a refrigerator, preferably overnight so the flavor can develop more. Serve with pita wedges.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at July 10, 2006 8:01 AM Print-friendly version

It looks great. Congratulations on the grill.

I said the main difference was 40 minutes. I'll never argue with the flavor. Even with woodchips thrown into the gas grill the flavor of the charcoal grill is more noticable and usually better. But, I'm a lazy griller and I like that the meal is over by the time I usually had the coals just right. Darn families demanding on-time dinners!

Did you use this one as a main dish or as an appetizer?

Posted by Bryan on July 10, 2006 at 3:49 PM

Actually, we ate it by its lonesome as a "not quite time for dinner" snack. It didn't last long. I'll be making more as eggplant prices drop.

Thanks for saying nice things. Must be like talking about the Cubs, only completely the opposite. (Grrr.)

Posted by barrett on July 10, 2006 at 4:02 PM

Do you have a chimney charcoal starter for you grill? From what I understand, they make all the difference....and the cult of Alton Brown tells me that it can be used to make a quickly-seared tuna.

Posted by tihleigh on July 10, 2006 at 7:32 PM

I really should learn how to read.

Don't mind me.


Posted by tihleigh on July 10, 2006 at 7:36 PM

Nothing like a charcoal Weber. We have one that uses a small propane tank to start the coals. And, if you can find it, use real Tennessee charcoal and ditch the Kingsford. VERY fast start up with the "real thing".

Posted by Lu on July 10, 2006 at 8:58 PM

Mmmm, baba ganoush. That looks amazing. Chargrilled eggplant is amazing if you have access to a grill (which I don't). Have you ever tried making tahini gravy? I know this place that does a great tahini brown gravy that goes well just sloshed over some brown rice.....mmmmmm!!!!

Posted by Justin Lo on July 11, 2006 at 3:39 AM

Oh lovely, Baba Ganoush. Well just waiting to get it cooked and will eat it! It's lokking so yummy that I can't wait anymore. Thnx for the ingredients that can help me in cooking. Keep up the good work!

Posted by Graham Stewards on July 11, 2006 at 6:18 AM

I completely agree that charcoal cooking tastes much better than propane. It's definitely not as quick or easy but the extra time and energy is worth it.

Posted by Duane on July 11, 2006 at 1:39 PM

Cooking on charcoal grill or a gas grill hardly matters, the food should excite all the senses and not only the taste, that's above all even if you ve to wait 40mins extra.

Posted by Paul on July 18, 2006 at 2:55 AM

Looks good!!!!! I have made this and it goes good with a cold beer and your favorite chip. I like to roast my garlic and add extra to ward of the vampires.

Posted by gn1227 on July 20, 2010 at 8:42 AM
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