A few years ago, Al Jazeera Documentary produced a Ramadan series on the origin of traditional Arabic dishes. I remembered watching an episode on baba ghanoush. Watching it again last night reminded me of how much I miss Damascus. I have taken this city for granted and never stopped to appreciate it because I knew we were always going to go back.
I spent all my summer holidays in Damascus when I was a kid. You wouldn’t believe it, but I have always hated the first day at school after the summer holiday. All the kids used to brag about their holiday destinations and mine was Damascus! You have no idea how much I regret those days; I would have never thought that I’d even miss it! If you’ve been to the city, you’d know there is something captivating about the street markets, buzzing with colors, life and friendly vendors. This dish captures the magnificence of vegetables in Syrian markets and shows how creating food with love can produce the most spectacular dishes.
Now, to clarify things, when I am talking about baba ghanoush, I am not talking about Mutabbal. I really don’t like it when our favorite dishes are mixed up and I feel like part of our identity is being lost. So, beside the fact that baba ghanoush is a dish that is worthy of a post, I am sharing this recipe partly because I want people to know what baba ghanoush is and what they’re missing out.
Let’s get cooking!
The only similarity between mutabbal and baba ghanoush is that their star ingredient is eggplants. A vegetable which is underrated and which I love in all shapes and forms. Making baba ghanoush starts with roasting the eggplants either on open fire, on gas stove top or in the oven. The first two methods give eggplants their smoky irresistible taste and I strongly recommend you use one of them. However, it is sometimes easier to roast it on a sheet pan in the oven, which is also absolutely fine and is what we sometimes do at home. I am writing the method for the oven roasted eggplants, but feel free to contact me if you’d like to try one of the other two methods.
While the eggplants are cooking, finely diced green and red bell pepper, chilis, parsley and a deseeded tomato. Roughly chop 1/2 cup walnuts, crush a clove of garlic and juice one lemon. When the eggplants are all tender and fully cooked, 30-40 minutes, take out of the oven. Let cool for a few minutes and then peel the skin off. Roughly chop the eggplants. Add all the vegetables, pomegranate seeds, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, pomegranate molasses and salt and you’re good to go. A vegetable dip like no other that is always present on any mezze table.
Baba ghanoush is usually served with pita bread or your favorite protein. It also almost always accompanies BBQs and is amazing as a dip.
- 400 g eggplants or 2 medium ones
- ½ green bell pepper finely chopped
- ½ red bell pepper finely chopped
- 1 small deseeded tomato finely chopped
- ½ green chili pepper finely chopped
- ¼ cup parsley finely chopped
- 1 crushed garlic clove
- ½ cup pomegranate seeds
- ½ cup chopped walnuts
- ½ tbsp olive oil plus more for serving
- 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 1 tsp salt
- Make several small pricks in the eggplants to avoid bursting.
- Cook for 30-40 minutes or until very soft and full cooked.
- Let cool for a few minutes and peel the skin off.
- Roughly chop the eggplants, add the chopped veggies, garlic, pomegranate seeds, walnuts, lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, olive oil and salt and mix gently with a spoon.
- Drizzle with olive oil and garnish with pomegranate seeds.