Pharmaceutically Elegant

Sunday, May 25, 2014

    In our beautiful town here in the southeast we have fantastic food. Rich, delicious marriages of southern comfort food with classical French and Italian cuisine. Really, I have nothing to complain about. And yet!

   We are woefully lacking in the ethnic food department. When I lived in buffalo there were teeny holes in the wall run by even teenier Asian women, churning out huge bowls of delightfully ethereal Pho, friendly ladies from Jamaica each with their own version of jerk chicken- so spicy and fragrant it made my eyes water. And the Indian food! There are no words.

   In the early months of our relationship our favorite restaurant was a boisterous Greek place that made the flakiest Spanikopita I've ever had and lamb gyros that I still have dreams about. Although as far as I know baba ghanoush is a traditional Lebanese dish, the owners of this place had their version that Steve just loved- he ordered it every single time we went. I'm not a fan of the eggplant in nearly any recipe, much as I have tried to be, but whizz it up in a silky bowl of baba and I'm in love.


   We've tried baba ghanoush at a few places down here in the south and it's always been a weird, grainy, failure. One of the reasons I love to cook so much is because with a little time and effort, a little care, you can make the things that you and your family love- and make them just exactly as you like them.

   We went and saw the movie Fed Up last night. It is a major eye opener and really drives home just how deceitful and greedy the modern food industry is. In such an unpredictable world full of people just waiting to pour harmful bits of this and that into your food, sometimes that extra bit of control in the kitchen is awfully nice. This dish offers that kind of unusual comfort- slightly exotic and lusciously complex, no guess work or hidden ingredients allowed.

   When I first brought this dish to the table and proudly proffered it to Steve he exclaimed in delight, "It's so pharmaceutically elegant!" At my baffled (and maybe slightly offended- I don't want my food to appear pharmaceutical anything!) look he quickly explained that when a pharmacist compounds a cream, they can haphazardly cram it into a container or they can take the time to smooth the top and make the pleasing finishing swirl. That extra bit of attention and effort results in a pharmaceutically elegant product. Before meeting Steve I never would have believed that such phrases could so melt my heart.


   Whether you enjoy this with chewy chunks of naan or crunchy wedges of carrot, make sure you don't forget the finishing flourish!


Baba Ghanoush
From David Lebovitz's My Paris Kitchen
Makes approximately 3 cups

2 eggplants (the dark purple globe variety)
1/2 cup tahini
3 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus a little more for brushing the eggplant and garnish
Freshly squeezed juice from one lemon
1/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley leaves plus extra for garnish
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt

   Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with tin foil. Pierce the eggplants a few times with a sharp knife and trim the stem/caps off. Use tongs to hold them over an open stove flame to get the skins charred all over.  Cut them in half, brush the cut sides with a little bit of olive oil, and sprinkle with some kosher salt. Place cut side down on your prepared baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes. They will be very soft and appear a little collapsed at the end of the cooking time. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
   When cool, turn the eggplants over and scoop all the flesh out, discarding the charred skins. Place the flesh along with the remainder of the ingredients (including 1 tablespoon olive oil) in a food processor and process until smooth. Scrape into your serving dish, drizzle with some olive oil and garnish with additional fresh parsley.
   I like to serve this with triangles of naan that have warmed/toasted in the hot oven, or carrot sticks.

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