Move over hummus; it's time for baba ghanouj
Not too long ago, hummus seemed exotic to many Americans. Now, it is practically an everyday food. In light of that, it seems baba ghanouj is ready for its close-up.
This dip/spread offers much the same appeal as hummus: It is rich and creamy, with sumptuously earthy Middle Eastern flavors, and it is made with healthful, plant-based ingredients. But because it is less common (for now!), it brings an element of surprise to the table, whether served as part of a mezze spread, in a pita sandwich or as a dip with vegetables and chips.
I get as much of a kick out of making as I do eating it because it involves cooking whole, uncut eggplant over an open flame, a technique that somehow seems radical but is incredibly easy. You just place the eggplant directly on the grates of a gas stove top, on a grill or under a broiler with either an electric or gas heating element. The idea is to sear the eggplant until its skin is charred and blistered all around, which ultimately imbues the dip with a mouthwatering smokiness.
Once the eggplant is charred, you roast it until it is collapsed and soft inside, then let it cool and scoop out the "meat." Although you discard the skin, the smoky flavor from the charring permeates throughout, and, as you scoop, some flecks of char make their way into the mix to delicious effect. After a brief whir in the food processor, the eggplant is mixed with a mash of garlic and salt (turned into a paste, so the garlic flavor is evenly distributed throughout the dip), tahini, lemon juice and parsley. It makes a dip so delicious, I know you will agree it's time hummus shared the spotlight.
• Ellie Krieger is a registered dietitian, author and host of "Ellie's Real Good Food."