Blue Hen Test Kitchen: Layered Heirloom Tomato and Baba Ganoush Appetizer
We had one last big beautiful heirloom tomato and a bunch of those cute little eggplants from the farmers market. I thought I’d thick-slice the tomato and layer it with baba ganoush; kinda like a triple layer cake. What a splendid late summer / autumn appetizer... I ate it while snapping the photos. You can see how it progressively diminished... bite by precious bite!
Like most Persian foods, baba ganoush is one of those dishes where there’s a magic balance of BITTER (from the eggplant), SOUR (from the lemon), SWEET (from the sugar & tahini), SALT (from the... err... salt), and FAT (from the olive oil & tahini). To make it right for YOU, you need to follow your nose, slowly adding flavor and tasting as you go. If it’s too flat or oily, brighten it up with lemon juice; if it’s too sour, add a little sugar; if it needs overall flavor, add a little salt; if it needs “mouthfeel”, add a little more oil. Add the ingredients little by little until you take a bite and you’re like, “Oh yeah baby. Yum.”
Of course baba ganoush can be served all on its own with flat bread, chips, or veggies.
HERE’S WHAT I DID TO CREATE IT
Roasted the eggplant.
I started with fresh eggplants and roasted them over my gas stove, like we do with fresh peppers. I turned the heat up high and just plopped them down directly on the stove grates. I let them grill at least 10 minutes, and turned them frequently with long-handled tongs until they really started to “flop”—lose their shape—and get nice and soft to the touch. I let them get brownish in some places and downright charred in others. (Don’t you walk away from the stove for obvious reasons. Stay with the eggplants until done!)
Covered the eggplant.
Then I placed the eggplants in a bowl covered with a kitchen towel to let them steam a little inside their charred skins. I also needed them to cool so I could handle them. (If the eggplants have a lot of excess water, strain them in a colander for 10 minutes or so.)
Removed the pulpy goodness.
When the eggplants were cool enough to handle, I poked them open and spooned out all the yummy meat from inside. I only discarded as much of the seeds as was easy for me to do, because I know they will break down in the blender. I ended up with about ¾ -1 cup of succulent eggplant pulp.
Blended to make the ganoush.
I scooped the eggplant pulp into my food processor and added about 2 tablespoons of tahini (sesame paste). I pulsed just to incorporate. Since I didn’t want to over- process the ganoush (I like it with a little texture) I scooped it out into a bowl and stirred in the remaining ingredients by hand: juice of 2 lemons (I like it bright and a little sour!) a little minced garlic, a little sugar, a little sea salt, and a good amount of olive oil—I used at least ⅓ cup.
Made the parsley aioli.
(I actually made this after I layered the ganoush onto the tomato slices; It needed some bright green color, so I quickly whipped up the aioli. But for our purposes, definitely you should make it first!) To my food processor I added a handful of parsley, a dollop of honey, lemon juice, minced garlic, sea salt. Then while the blender was running I drizzled olive oil through the feed shoot, just enough to bind everything and make a thick sauce.
Layered the tomato slices, ganoush and aioli.
I thick-cut the tomato horizontally and put one slice on the plate, then layered that with a generous amount of ganoush. Another slice, more ganoush. I ended up with three thick slices. I sliced the whole lot into four big triangles, then I topped all with the aioli. Feta crumbles, a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt on top… And wah la! So beautiful and so goooooood!!
1 big fat heirloom tomato
Feta cheese (optional)
Eggplant/s (any variety will do, but the bigger they are the easier to stovetop roast)
Tahini (sesame paste)
Fresh lemon juice