Sunday, September 09, 2007

Mezze, part one

Mezze. It is such a great word. According to Wikipedia, it means a selection of appetizers or small dishes taken with alcohol. What can be more perfect then that? And the alcohol is optional. In fact, I didn't actually know that was part of the definition until now but it certainly makes me love the concept even more. Enjoying a mezze-style meal is like having a little party. So tonight, we had a little mezze. No occasion. Sunday night. Football. Mezze.

The idea of making Middle Eastern food came from two sources. First of all, we went to one of our favorite Middle Eastern restaurants last night. And I mean favorite. Here in NYC, you have to really love a restaurant to return. After all, there are hundreds of thousands of more out there. Why return for just "okay"? But this restaurant in the East Village is fantastic. No menus, $35 for 7 plus courses and just a delicious mezze of food. But last night, they weren't up to their usual standards. Yes, the falafel was outstanding, but the hummus tasted bland. The usual fattoush salad had been changed to an avocado feta salad (also too bland) and there were several other similar changes. I was left wanting more.... wanting the fattoush salad and wanting better tasting hummus. This, coupled with the three eggplants picked from the garden this week planted the idea of making a mezze for dinner tonight into my mind. And then, I just couldn't think of anything else.

Baba Ghanouj is a personal thing. I like mine creamy, smoky from the grill but with enough tahini to make the flavor fuller. M. prefers his thinner and smokier. To each their own. Except that I was the chef tonight. :)

Baba Ghanoush (Roasted Eggplant with Tahini)
Deborah Madison
Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

1 large or 2 medium eggplants, about 1 1/4 pounds
3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup tahini
Juice of 1 large lemon
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Chopped parsley
2 tablespoons of mayonnaise

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Slash eggplant in several places so it won't explode, and then put in pan and bake until the point of collapse (30-40 minutes). Let skin harden and char in a few places to give it a smoky flavor. I cooked my eggplant on the grill for about 40 minutes. Let rest for 15 minutes or so. Peel eggplant, and puree in blender or food processor with the garlic and tahini. Season with lemon juice and salt to taste. I added a couple of tablespoons of mayonnaise to round out the flavor even more. Mayonnaise is a common ingredient in Israeli style baba ghanoush, but again optional. Mound puree in a bowl, create slight depression with the back of a spoon. Pour a little olive oil in to the depression, sprinkle with parsley and serve.

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