While my mother has been making babaganoush ever since I can remember, she typically doesn’t burn her eggplant over an open fire but rather bakes it at a high temperature, usually at 500 degrees F.
I’ve watched her make this a million times, and it’s rare to come home without finding some iteration of an eggplant dish based on this “burning” method in our family fridge.
In this recipe, there are three different techniques you can play with: Baking, burning over an open fire and cooking in a dry, cast iron skillet. My mother’s favorite way is baking because there’s no fuss. My friends Onur and Gil prefer to burn the eggplant directly over the fire. My favorite is using the cast iron pan, as it imparts the same smoky flavor to the eggplant without creating a mess. It’s a fun technique that was taught to me by my Israeli friend Tzipi who swears by it. Play around and see what you like best!
Serving Size: Makes about 3 cups
2 firm, large eggplant
2 Tbsp. raw tahini
1 large clove garlic, peeled
Fine sea salt and freshly cracked pepper
Cook the eggplant using one of the following techniques:
Baking: Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Line a sheet tray with foil. Using a fork, poke a few holes around the entire eggplant. Bake until the skin is papery and the eggplant is tender and deflated.
Open Fire: Using a fork, poke a few holes around the entire eggplant. Place it directly on the grate of a burner on your stovetop. Turn the heat to medium and cook on all sides until the skin becomes papery and the eggplant begins to soften. Rotate on each side for about 5 minutes each. It’s done when tender on all sides.
Cast Iron Pan: Place a cast iron skillet or flat top over your burner(s). Turn to medium high. Using a fork, poke a few holes around the entire eggplant. Place in the pan and cook on all sides until the skin becomes papery and the eggplant begins to soften. Rotate on each side for about 5 minutes each. It’s done when tender on all sides.
When the eggplant is cooked, immediately transfer to a cutting board with the stem side at the edge. Slice off the stem side, and place the board at the edge of your sink. Prop the opposite side up with a kitchen towel and gently press down on the eggplant, allowing all of the liquid to come out of the eggplant directly into the sink.
Make a long incision across the length of the eggplant, peel the skin off to the sides and immediately squeeze the lemon juice over the flesh. This helps to prevent oxidation.
Carefully transfer the eggplant to a large stainless steel bowl. Add the tahini. Finely mince the garlic or using a microplane, grate the cloves directly into the eggplant. Stir well. Season to taste with salt, pepper and the additional juice of the remaining lemon. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly over the eggplant and allow to cool completely. Refrigerate until ready to serve. The eggplant is best served after about 2 hours of resting in the refrigerator to allow the flavors to meld. Can be made up to two days in advance and kept in an airtight container.
Cook’s note: If using the open fire technique, line the stove with foil, making sure it doesn’t touch the fire. This will help to catch all of the juices and prevent a huge crusty mess.