BABA GANOUSH (EGGPLANT DIP, MIDDLE EAST)
Faced with the challenge of back-engineering a dinner entree to go with a nice aged Rheingau Riesling Spatlese, I came up with a thoroughly non-traditional choice tonight: Lebanese Baba Ganoush.
This pita filling/dip, a blend of smoky grilled eggplant with tahini (sesame seed paste, available at Near Eastern groceries), lemon juice, garlic and spices, served in pita halves with fresh lettuce and spinach leaves from the garden, worked perfectly with the aromatic flavors of the older Riesling.
I based the procedure on recipes from Madhur Jaffrey's World of the East Vegetarian Cooking and Nikki and David Goldbeck's American Wholefoods Cuisine (both highly recommended for mostly meatless fare), along with my recollections of the best-I-ever-ate Baba Ganoush at Al Dewan, a really good Lebanese restaurant in Queens. Here's the scoop:
Fire up the Weber grill until it's good and hot, throw on a couple of chunks of soaked hickory wood, and grill two medium eggplants, in their skins, for 20 minutes or so, turning every five minutes, until the skins are charred and the insides steaming and creamy. If you want to make it even more interesting, cut a few slits in the eggplants and slide in slivers of garlic.
Meanwhile, process at least two large cloves of garlic, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon cumin in the Cuisinart until the garlic becomes a paste. After the eggplant has cooled enough to touch, peel it, discard the peelings, and throw the meat into the Cuisinart; process with the garlic until it's smooth. Add about 1/4 cup tahini and three or four tablespoons lemon juice, and continue processing until the Baba Ganoush is smooth. Pour out into a serving dish, smooth surface, and drizzle about 1 tablespoon of olive oil all over the top. Garnish with chopped Italian parsley and a bit more cumin, let stand for at least 30 minutes for the flavors to blend (actually, it improves overnight), and serve at room temperature in toasted pita halves. (I took advantage of the cooling grill to warm the pitas briefly, which gave them a nice smoky flavor, too.)
Not your typical wine meal, but it sure worked with the Riesling!