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Baba ghanoush. “Pappa” who?

Arabic mezze: Baba Ganoush & Tabbouleh

Arabic mezze: Baba ghanoush (left) and tabbouleh (right)

Arabic mezze, with its wide variety of small dish choices, can be equally overwhelming as it is fascinating. One of the more popular dishes found in this genre of food is a funny-sounding aubergine-based dish called baba ghanoush. I admit that I first tried this dish more out of a curiosity for its unusual name than for any other overriding reason, but my experience with it was love at first bite and it is now an item I consider a “must” for every foodie. 

I find aubergine — or eggplant as it is also called in certain parts of the world — generally insipid, so it came as a positive surprise when I first tried baba ghanoush and expereinced its explosion of flavours. And what transforms normally bland (at least in my opinion) aubergine into a delightful and essential appetiser? The trick is that by grilling the aubergine, baba ghanoush develops a smoky flavour which completely changes its nature. Then enhance this with a hint of fresh crushed garlic and tahini (ak.a. sesame paste) and the grilled aubergine base turns into an appetiser fit for royalty (or an emir or sheikh). Baba Ganoush

Ingredients:

– Aubergines: 2 (medium size)
Tahini: 1 teaspoon (very rich, so be careful with the amount)
– Garlic: 2 cloves
– Olive oil: 1 tablespoon
– Yoghurt: 1/2 a cup
– Salt and pepper: To taste
– Parsley: To garnish

Preparation and cooking (25-30 min):

  1. Wrap aubergines in aluminium foil and grill on high heat until they burst open (baking in an oven also works, although grilling will give it a nice smoky flavour)
  2. Let the aubergines cool and scoop the cooked flesh into a bowl
  3. Whisk the pulp into a fine paste
  4. Mix in tahini, a spoon of olive oil and yoghurt
  5. Add crushed garlic and mix
  6. Garnish with parsley

Serve with pita bread as an appetiser or on a side of grilled meats.

Tabbouleh

Another interesting appetiser I tried for the first time after moving to Dubai is parsley salad, or tabbouleh as it is known in the Arabic-speaking world. As a child I never imagined  parsley as anything more than a garnish let alone be a base for a dish, so was completely intrigued by this dish. Tabbouleh is prepared in many ways, often with bulgur (a Turkish cereal food). In the recipe below I omit bulgur for ease of presentation:

Ingredients:

– Fresh parsley: Large bunch
– Tomato: 1 (large)
– Onion: 1 (small)
– Fresh lemon juice: 2 tablespoons
– Olive oil: 2 tablespoons
– Salt and pepper: To taste

Preparation (10 min):

  1. Chop parsley as fine as possible — basically until your hands get tired!
  2. Dice the tomato and onion
  3. Mix it all together with spices, lemon juice and olive oil

Serve as a mezze or side dish.

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