I consider my tastes in food quite cosmopolitan, but when I started taking stock and cataloguing where my culinary fascination lies, I was quite surprised to discover that Middle Eastern cuisine numbers among them.
Hummus, tzatziki, chickpeas (garbanzo beans, stir fried or steamed-and-buttered), olives (especially the Manzanilla and Kalamata varieties), tabbouleh, honey, pitas, pistachios, pomegranates, dates, lamb, eggplant (in moussaka), saffron rice, and okra are high on my hit list of favourite edibles.
I was introduced to baba ghannouj a few years ago while scouting for new corporate lunch ideas. As much as the sales reps loved Japanese and Vietnamese takeout, a fresh infusion of temptations for the palate was needed. I had to be original and inventive, but not too over-the-top. I narrowed my choices down to a Levantine-themed buffet that featured these interesting appies: home-baked pita triangles with hummous, artichoke dip, and baba ghannouj.
But to give baba ghannouj the rather pedestrian label ‘chip dip’ is akin to describing caviar as ‘fish eggs’. The rich and exotic sauce has a taste that’s simply divine. I couldn’t put my finger on the why, until I Googled it recently. The main ingredients of baba ghannouj are eggplant, tahini (chickpea paste), and olive oil. In my experience, baba ghannouj isn’t a ready-made appetizer that’s easy to find in mainstream grocery stores (although tahini and eggplant can be locally sourced), but making a fresh batch is well worth the effort.
Google ‘baba ghanouj’ to see the great variety of recipes available; or visit the links below.