"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Smoky Baba Ghanouj and Spicy Vegetarian Gumbo


Smoky Baba Ghanouj

Baba Ghanouj is a common Middle Eastern dish, usually prepared with the large eggplants that one finds in all supermarkets.  The key to the taste of a good baba ghanouj is to grill the skin to that it imparts the smoky taste that is characteristic of the dish.  In large eggplants the proportion of skin to flesh is much less than that for small eggplants, such as the ones shown here.  If you use the long, dark ones pictured on the right in the first photo and in the bottom photo, you will come out with a dark, smoky, pungent dish that I find is better than any I have made or eaten.



* 15 small, long eggplants (as above) or approximately 2lbs, cut into 2-3” pieces skin on, stems and hard tops removed

* 2 lg. Tbsp. tahini (sesame paste)

* 1 lg. lemon (juice)

* 3 medium garlic cloves, quartered

* 6 kalamata olives (garnish)

* 6 extremely thin slices (rounds) lemon (garnish)

* 1 Tbsp. olive oil (garnish)

* salt and pepper

- Prick all the eggplants many times with a fork or sharp, pointed knife (this will allow the blackened smoky taste to permeate the flesh).  Then cut into pieces.

- Put the eggplant pieces on tinfoil in a large cookie sheet

- Place them in preheated oven and BROIL until brownish-black (20 min. approx.), turning after 10 minutes

- Put the eggplant, tahini, lemon juice, and garlic into a food processor or blender and blend until well mixed.  The mixture should be somewhat rough, and not like a smooth puree.  This gives a little character to the dish. Adjust to taste for tahini, lemon, salt and pepper.

- Plate on salad plates by spreading evenly to cover the plate

- Garnish each plate with olives, sliced lemon, and olive oil with a few grindings of black pepper and a pinch of salt

- Serve.

Spicy Vegetarian Gumbo

Gumbo is usually made with chorizo and sometimes with oysters; but this recipe is just as good.  The combination of okra, red pepper, and tomatoes with cumin, chili powder, and Bay Spice is unbeatable.  It is spicy, has a great consistency without being gummy, and is a perfect dish to be eaten as a first course (serve in small soup bowls), over rice, or as a vegetable side dish.  It is fabulous.

* 2 lb. fresh okra (approximately), hard stems and tops trimmed off, and cut into 2’ pieces

* 1/2 red pepper, chopped

* 1 medium onion, chopped

* 5 lg. cloves garlic, chopped

* 2 medium fresh tomatoes, chopped

* 1/2 can canned Marzano tomatoes, chopped

* 2 tsp. ground cumin

* 1 tbsp. chili powder

* 2 tsp. Bay Spice

* 2 Tbsp. olive oil

- Sautee the garlic in olive oil

- Add all the other ingredients and simmer for about one hour, stirring every 15 minutes or so.  The okra should be soft and not mushy, same with the red peppers.  Adjust for taste.  At this point you can add more spices if you wish and even add some garlic flakes for more garlic flavor.

- Serve

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