Oh my gosh, this was such a great meal. I had something similar at a restaurant a while ago when Dave and I stopped for lunch in Syracuse’s university area. I got the vegetarian combination plate, which included hummus, falafel, baba ganoush, pita, and I think tabbouleh. I was trying to recreate that fantastic meal at home. I forgot to make tabbouleh this time, which was fine because this was plenty of cooking as it was.
I took the easy way out and made all Cooks Illustrated recipes. The hummus is their recently published Restaurant-Style Hummus recipe, which has gotten some great reviews. I thought it was really good, although I don’t know if it was that much better than any other hummus I’ve made. But – then I made it again a few weeks later with beans I cooked myself and Oh.My.God, that was so good. I had no idea it would make that much of a difference.
Other than that lunch in Syracuse, this is the only baba ghanoush I’ve ever had. You’re supposed to grill the eggplant until it’s completely soft and smoky, but grilling isn’t an option for me, so I had to use the oven. I still thought it was really good. It reminds me a lighter, more vegetal hummus.
The falafel was my favorite part of the meal. Shocking, I know, that Dave and I both liked the deep-fried food the best. Also, this was my first experience with dried chickpeas, and I loved them. The same funky shape as canned chickpeas but absolutely hard as rocks.
There’s some overlap between these three items – tahini or chickpeas showed up in everything – but they still have very distinct personalities. Tabbouleh would have been a nice light contrast, so I’ll have to remember that next time. And I can’t wait until next time!
(I’ll talk about the pita in my next post.)
Baba Ghanoush, Oven Method (from Cooks Illustrated July 2001)
CI note: When buying eggplant, select those with shiny, taut, and unbruised skins and an even shape (eggplant with a bulbous shape won’t cook evenly). We prefer to serve baba ghanoush only lightly chilled. If yours is cold, let it stand at room temperature for about 20 minutes before serving. Baba ghanoush does not keep well, so plan to make it the day you want to serve it. Pita bread, black olives, tomato wedges, and cucumber slices are nice accompaniments.
Bridget note: Cooks Illustrated has grilling methods for this recipe as well, but I don’t have a grill, so the oven it was.
Makes 2 cups
2 pounds eggplant (about 2 large globe, 5 medium Italian, or 12 medium Japanese), each poked uniformly over surface with fork to prevent bursting
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 small clove garlic , minced
2 tablespoons tahini paste
Table salt and ground black pepper
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil , plus extra for serving
2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 500 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheet with foil, set eggplants on baking sheet and roast, turning every 15 minutes, until eggplants are uniformly soft when pressed with tongs, about 60 minutes for large globe eggplants, 50 minutes for Italian eggplants, and 40 minutes for Japanese eggplants. Cool eggplants on baking sheet 5 minutes.
2. Set small colander over bowl or in sink. Trim top and bottom off each eggplant. Slit eggplants lengthwise and use spoon to scoop hot pulp from skins and place pulp in colander (you should have about 2 cups packed pulp); discard skins. Let pulp drain 3 minutes.
3. Transfer pulp to workbowl of food processor fitted with steel blade. Add lemon juice, garlic, tahini, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper; process until mixture has coarse, choppy texture, about eight 1-second pulses. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper; transfer to serving bowl, cover with plastic wrap flush with surface of dip, and refrigerate 45 to 60 minutes. To serve, use spoon to make trough in center of dip and spoon olive oil into it; sprinkle with parsley and serve.
Chickpea Fritters-Falafel (from Cooks Illustrated’s The Best International Recipe)
The chickpeas in this recipe must be soaked overnight; you can not substitute canned beans or quick-soaked chickpeas because their texture will result in soggy falafel. A wire spider comes in handy here when cooking the falafel. Serve the falafel in lavash or pita bread with lettuce, pickled vegetables, and chopped tomatoes or cucumbers, or as an hors d’oeuvres with tahini sauce as a dip.
Makes 20 falafel
6 ounces dried chickpeas (1 cup), rinsed, picked over, and soaked overnight in water to cover by an inch
5 scallions, chopped coarse
½ cup packed fresh parsley leaves
½ cup packed fresh cilantro leaves
3 medium garlic cloves (about 1 tablespoon), minced or pressed through a garlic press
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 quarts vegetable oil, for frying
1.Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 200 degrees. Drain the chickpeas, discarding the soaking liquid. Process all of the ingredients except for the oil in a food processor until smooth, about 1 minute, scraping down the bowl as needed. Form the mixture into 1 tablespoon-sized disks, about ½ inch thick and 1 inch wide, and arrange on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. (The falafel can be refrigerated at this point for up to 2 hours.)
3. Heat the oil in a 5-quart large Dutch over medium-high heat to 375 degrees. (Use an instant-read thermometer that registers high temperatures or clip a candy/deep-fat thermometer onto the side of the pan.) Fry half of the falafel, stirring occasionally and adjusting the heat as needed to maintain 375 degrees, until deep brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined baking sheet using a slotted spoon or wire spider and keep warm in the oven. Return the oil to 375 degrees and repeat with the remaining falafel. Serve immediately with the sauce.
I’m out of town right now, eating truffles and drinking wine. I’ll be back next week to catch up on comments and other blogs!