The small victory here is learning how to go past the point where you think you should stop. It’s essential to burn the eggplant on the outside to transform the inside to the totally yielding softness needed for this baba ghanoush–ish dip.Cooking is often not only about learning how to trust your instincts, but also about how to discover new ones. The za’atar, a Middle Eastern spice blend that often has some combination of herbs, spices, and seeds (typically oregano,sumac, sesame seeds), can be swapped out for an equal amount of toasted sesame seeds and/or a pinch of minced,fresh thyme leaves.
MAKES ABOUT 2 CUPS [480 ML]
1 lb [455 g] eggplant Kosher salt
1 Tbsp tahini
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice, plus more as needed 3 Tbsp plain full-fat Greek yogurt 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil 1 Tbsp torn fresh mint 1 tsp za’atar
Warm pita for serving
Prepare your grill for medium-high heat (or heat a large grill pan set over a couple of burners) and make sure your grates are super-clean
Prick the eggplant in a few spots with a fork and grill it,turning now and then, until the skin is completely blackened and the flesh feels soft when you pierce the eggplant with a paring knife, about 45 minutes. Transfer the eggplant to a plate and let cool to room temperature. (Alternatively, you can roast the eggplant whole in a 425°F [200°C] oven; turn it over halfway through roasting or char over the flames of a gas stove.) Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise and use a spoon to scoop the soft flesh into the bowl of a food processor. Discard the eggplant skin. Add 1/2 tsp salt, the tahini, lemon juice, and yogurt to the eggplant and pulse everything a few times just to combine. Do not let the machine run for longer than a couple of seconds at a time—you want the dip to have a bit of texture and not be completely smooth. Taste the dip for seasoning and add more salt and/or lemon juice if needed.
Transfer the dip to a shallow bowl and smooth the surface with the back of a spoon. Drizzle the dip with the olive oi land sprinkle with the mint and za’atar. Serve immediately,with plenty of warm pita for scooping and dipping.
FOR A BABA GHANOUSH–HUMMUS HYBRID, puree a rinsed and drained can of chickpeas in the food processor before adding the eggplant. Add a bit more tahini and lemon to taste.
FOR ROASTED PEPPER AND EGGPLANT DIP, puree three cleaned roasted red peppers in the food processor before adding the eggplant. Leave out the tahini and yogurt and substitute red wine vinegar for the lemon juice. Serve topped with capers and/or chopped pitted olives.
FOR A PSEUDO-INDIAN EGGPLANT DIP, make the dip as directed, but leave out the tahini. Heat 3 Tbsp canola or vegetable oil in a small skillet and add 1/2 tsp each cumin seeds and black mustard seeds, and toast until fragrant and the seeds begin to pop. Pour this mixture over the eggplant dip.