1–5 eggplants (the big round/long ones, not small Japanese ones). The variation in amounts of eggplant is related to how much you want to have on hand for the volume of folks you are serving
tahini 1 tablespoon per eggplant
juice of ¾ to one whole lemon per eggplant
salt (a few shakes or pinches of good salt, not table salt) See my post Let’s Talk Salt.
drizzle of olive oil (approximately ¼ cup for 2 or more eggplants)
1–3 cloves of peeled garlic per eggplant. It is crucial to remove the centers of the garlic cloves for this dish, so your Baba is not bitter.
DISCLAIMER: The following recipe descriptor is considered inappropriate by some. It is R rated and for mature audiences.
This is the easiest eggplant dish there is, and in fact the key is to forget you are making it. Wash your eggplant and fork it, then place it on a baking pan in the broiler or oven. You can do this over a flame or in a cast iron pan on the stove, but I don’t recommend doing it that way. It takes a lot more effort on your part. You have to turn it every few minutes so all the sides get exposed and the eggplant cooks through and through. The oven method is less hard on your fingers, but the flavor will be less smokey. Preheat your oven to 400° or use the lower rack of your broiler. The broiler method is much faster cooking and you have to turn the eggplants at least once, so it’s not the walk away method.
The key here is that once you’ve placed that eggplant in the oven, with some oil spread on the baking sheet or on a piece of tinfoil, walk away, wash your hair, write a few letters, do something else! When you smell the eggplant and wonder what that aroma is, then it is done.
It will be collapsed and mushy. This can take anywhere from 20–40 minutes depending on your eggplant. Using a hot pad or glove remove your eggplant from the broiler or oven. Let it sit for about twenty minutes until you can handle picking it up by its stem. My hands are seasoned from years of cooking, so I do this fairly quickly. You can wait an hour if you want. In a bowl, start to peel your eggplant, with your fingers. It will start to fall apart, that’s fine. If it’s a very seedy eggplant, get rid of as many seeds as you can with your hands. You need to gentle the seeds away from the pulp. The seeds can make this dish bitter. It’s very hard to get all of them without also losing some of your eggplant, so a few seeds is okay, but you want to remove as much of them as you can.
This is the best part of the dish. Getting intimate with a warm wet eggplant is like interacting with a certain lovely part of the female anatomy. In fact making this dish can be a good prelude to sexual activity. When you’re done enjoying yourself put the eggplant pulp into the blender or if you want to continue your sensual experience, mash it with your fingers or use a fork. It will be wet and juicy.
I often do this step directly over the blender if the eggplants aren’t super seedy since I want the smoked eggplant oils as part of the flavor. Discard the stem, the peels and the extra seeds. Combine all the other ingredients into the blender or your bowl and mix. Add more salt if you need to or more lemon. Serve warm with a garnish of fresh chopped parsley. This can be eaten with crackers, bread, vegetables, or served over rice. It is best at room temperature or warm. It will keep in the fridge for a week or so. Some folks like their Baba more blended with a creamy texture, others like it more thick and wild. Use the blender for the smoother variety and the fork and finger mushing for the chunkier variety. No matter which way you like your eggplants, you will enjoy making this dish!
From my heart, hands and other parts of me, Lots of Love to you as you get into your Baba! See Commandment number 6!
This recipe is based on years of experimentation and work by Kevin’s mother Maren, it far exceeds any pallid imitations or pretenders you might have encountered previously. I always double this recipe, but I’m giving you the smaller amount instructions here. If you double this recipe you will end up with the two large pans and one smaller one that you see at the end of this post. I don’t think it’s worth doing this recipe for a small amount. You can always invite the neighbors over. Also, this dish gets better as it sits, so left-overs are Divine.
Four regular eggplants, not the Japanese ones (picked according to Nicole’s instructions; click on this link to my Iranian Eggplant post to see the correct way to pick eggplants)
Good Salt for eggplants (Kosher probably best, but Himalayan Pink okay as well, see Let’s Talk Salt)
Egg/Flour mixture: 2 large eggs or 3 small ones, 2–3 tablespoons of flour, ¼ cup of water, a dash of garlic salt or powder, fresh or parsley chopped very fine or dried parsley and some white pepper also
Cheese: 2–3 blocks of part–skim, low fat or whole, never fat–free mozzarella, ½ cup or more of grated Parmesan cheese
Olive Oil:Option A: about a pint of good olive oil; Option B: use two good nonstick pans, you will then use less than a pint of good olive oil. I sometimes mix a little sunflower oil or canola oil in this, but the olive oil really makes it taste better.
A pot of warm tomato sauce (see Sapta Rachel’s Best Tomato Sauce prepared a day or two ahead or add another several hours of prep time, prior to beginning to make this dish). If you are doing my sauce, do not put fresh basil in it, use a little dried oregano, this dish doesn’t do well with fresh basil in the sauce. If you have to use prepared tomato sauce, the final outcome will reflect your choice. Maren recommends Prego, and only Prego, if you don’t have me handy or if you didn’t take the time to make my sauce, shame on you! I prefer organic sauces so I use Muir Glen or a locally made one from the Italian deli in our neighborhood. The fresher the better.
One container of Contadina or Progresso Italian Flavored Bread Crumbs (don’t try other fancy, organic ones unless you are sure they have the same weight and consistency as these). We have tried the other kinds and been upset by the results. Since this recipe is a three to five hour effort depending on if you have helpers, it is not worth making a mistake. Follow our instructions and you will be pleased, stray from this path and feel the ache in your back and the frustration of a lot of time spent to yield something that isn’t that great.
Optional: Sauté up some mushrooms in butter, garlic, salt, pepper and parsley to use in one of the layers, or to serve on the side.
What you will need that isn’t a specific food item:
Two large Baking Sheets
Two large non–stick frying pans or two well–seasoned cast iron frying pans or one of each
A sous–chef and a clean–up crew (these last two are highly recommended, if you can’t do this dish with a helper, make sure you have some good red wine handy to fortify yourself with ½ way through)
Peel eggplants, slice into ¼ inch round slices. Place a layer of paper towels on your baking sheet. Put a layer of the sliced eggplant down, sprinkle very lightly with salt. Put another layer of paper towels on top of these and repeat this whole process until you have used all your eggplant slices. Make sure you put a final paper towel on the top, then put the other baking sheet on top of all of this, weigh it down with your large cast pan or several heavy cans of food. The object here is to help drain the eggplants of extra water, the lightly salted layers release their water out into the paper towels and the weighting down further encourages this process. This must sit for at least ½ hour, during which time you will prepare the following:
Egg/Flour mixture: in a small covered jar, shake the ¼ cup of water and flour together so they are well combined. Beat eggs in a shallow dish or bowl. Add the flour water and mix, add white pepper, and garlic and parsley. In another shallow dish pour a small amount of breadcrumbs, if you pour a lot in, they goop up and get clumpy, which is not what you want. You want a light layer of bread crumbs.
Turn your oven onto 350° at this point.
After the ½ hour has passed, remove the top weights from over your eggplant layers and pat the top layer with paper towel.
You will need a couple of plates or platter to put the breaded eggplant on. We recommend arranging your counter space in a kind of assembly line. Eggplants, then egg mix, then bread crumbs, then plates.
Dip each eggplant slice in the egg mixture, then in the breadcrumbs so that it coats on both sides, place on your dish. Continue on ad–infinitum, until all the eggplant slices have been dipped and coated.
Now, over to the stove we go. Have your baking sheets clean and on hand to receive the fried eggplant. Take a deep breath or two. Pour olive oil into your pans, less for non–stick, more for other kinds, you need to cover the bottom of your pan and then have some extra, if you use a good amount, you won’t have to add oil in later to a smoking hot pan. Once the oil is hot, not smoking, it should be on a medium setting, fill each pan with the eggplant. Cook these a few minutes on each side, so that they brown a little.
You don’t want them to burn, PAY ATTENTION! Remove from stove and layer onto baking sheets. Once you have filled up a baking sheet, repeat frying procedure with remaining eggplant. This method allows you to use less oil, which makes a difference. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes. Remove the baking sheets from the oven and put the baked eggplant rounds on fresh paper towels over cooking racks or grates, this step helps get rid of extra oil. You can layer paper towels and cooked eggplant onto a plate as well, if you don’t have cooking racks or grates.
Have grated or shredded cheese in a separate bowl and the Parmesan cheese also in a separate bag, bowl or container.
Now we are back to the assembly line process again. Assemble the Eggplant Parmesan in the following manner. Put a small amount of sauce on the bottom of your pan, just a little bit. Then you will put one layer of eggplant on the bottom of the casserole dish.
Now, take several spoons of the sauce and spread it lightly over the top of each eggplant slice, don’t pour a large amount. You want the end result to be moist, but not runny.
Sprinkle a generous amount of the grated mozzarella over this, then sprinkle a little bit of the Parmesan cheese over this, then repeat the whole procedure, don’t do more than two full layers per casserole, because you don’t want a gooey oven mess.
If you are into the mushrooms, you can insert the sautéed mushrooms after the first layer of eggplant, before the cheese. Your final layer, must always be the cheese. Use a little more Parmesan on the final layer. If you use too much this dish will be too salty and you’ll be sad.
Put them in the oven and bake for 45 minutes or more until the cheese is starting to get brownish. Remove from the oven. You are done! Except for the clean up which will take at least an hour or two. This dish is really only made for those your truly love, or those you are hoping to have love you for the rest of your life!
garlic 1:1.5 ratio, one eggplant to 1.5 cloves of garlic pressed
lots of fresh ground pepper
feta cheese (I prefer French sheep milk feta, it is less salty and softer) If you won’t be using this kind, your dish will be saltier, so use less salt in your preparation.
Heat ¼ cup or more of olive oil in a non–stick or well–seasoned cast iron pan on medium heat. Slice the eggplants lengthwise in long thin oblong strips about 3–4 per eggplant. Slash them with a knife on the pulp side two or three slashes per strip and give them a quick slight dash of salt. Place them in the hot oil and fry them until they are reddish brown on both sides. Layer them into a glass baking or other nice baking dish, one layer only, so use a larger dish if you need to. Grind fresh pepper over each wedge. When all the eggplant has been fried, empty the oil out of the pan and grate the tomatoes, with a cheese grater over the pan, this is the quick way to peel tomatoes, because the skin stays in your hand and the pulp goes in the pan. Heat the tomato pulp on medium for awhile. You are trying to burn off the liquid, stir frequently. You shouldn’t need to add olive oil, because the pan was previously coated in it. Add the pressed garlic and a dash of salt. Let this cook down until it’s mostly a thick pulpy sauce, not too watery, 20 minutes perhaps. Spoon the tomato sauce over the eggplant and sprinkle the dish with the feta. Cover with an oven–safe lid or aluminum foil and cook in the oven at 375º for about 20 minutes. Serve with a nice fresh salad and some corn on the cob and good bread to soak up the juices.
Eggplant Realities and Recipes
All the eggplant dishes I cook require the following knowledge; picking the proper eggplant is what makes the difference between a dish that is bitter and one that is sweet and lovely tasting. Whether the eggplants are Japanese style or your traditional fat purple variety; the key is how heavy they are. The only proper way to pick an eggplant is to get involved in the veggie bin or with your farmer. If you are at your local market you may need to rearrange or make a mess for the grocery clerk to deal with. I actually recommend budgeting the time to arrange the eggplants back when you are done so as to ensure future harmony between yourself and the person who stocks your groceries. The deal is, you have to pick up every eggplant and compare it with every other eggplant. The heavier ones go in the reject pile, the lighter ones go in the keep pile. If there are ten eggplants and you only want three, after you’ve selected the five lighter ones, repeat the process with your remaining five until you’ve got the three lightest eggplants. If they are all heavy, make a different dish because it just isn’t worth the time and effort. All the eggplant recipes I know take hours to make, (with the exception of this recipe and Baba Ghanoush) so if you don’t have a good eggplant to start with, why bother?
All the eggplant dishes I cook require the following knowledge; picking the proper eggplant is what makes the difference between a dish that is bitter and one that is sweet and lovely tasting. Whether the eggplants are Japanese style or your traditional fat purple variety; the key is how heavy they are. The only proper way to pick an eggplant is to get involved in the veggie bin or with your farmer. If you are at your local market you may need to rearrange or make a mess for the grocery clerk to deal with. I actually recommend budgeting the time to arrange the eggplants back when you are done so as to ensure future harmony between yourself and the person who stocks your groceries. The deal is, you have to pick up every eggplant and compare it with every other eggplant. The heavier ones go in the reject pile, the lighter ones go in the keep pile. If there are ten eggplants and you only want three, after you’ve selected the five lighter ones, repeat the process with your remaining five until you’ve got the three lightest eggplants. If they are all heavy, make a different dish because it just isn’t worth the time and effort. All the eggplant recipes I know take hours to make, (with the exception of Baba Ghanoush) so if you don’t have a good eggplant to start with, why bother?
The following recipe is an adaptation of one from Madhur Jaffrey’s World- of-the-East Vegetarian Cooking. This cookbook is in my Top Five Cookbooks List. Check out Ms. Jaffrey’s blog and link to her books above.
three to five eggplants (depends on size of eggplant, this dish always amazing, so making more means left-overs and this dish is amazing a day later as well)
olive oil, grape-seed or canola oil (at least 1/3 inch or more so you cover the pan for frying the eggplant in)
two to three large tomatoes or 5 small ones (chopped small)
one bunch of green onions (chopped finely)
one bunch of fresh Italian (flat leaf) parsley, chopped finely
fresh ground pepper
lots of good salt (kosher or other high quality, see Let’s Talk Salt for details)
Slice the eggplants into rounds, not super thin, ½ inch thick. Cut into wedges or halves if you are using a big eggplant or just keep them in the rounds if you are using the thinner japanese style eggplants. Sprinkle with a goodly amount of salt and put them in a colander. Place the colander in a large bowl so the liquid that sweats off the eggplants can drain. They will have to sweat for at least 30 minutes.
I recommend having 2 non–stick or well–seasoned cast–iron pans going to speed up the cooking process. Heat a lot of oil, olive oil is my preference, or some combination of olive oil and another oil, about 1/3 inch of oil per pan until the oil is hot, but not smoking ever! Medium heat will work fine. Lay out several clean dish towels and put the salted eggplant rounds or wedges on the towels. With another dry dish towel pat the eggplants dry. I endeavor not to use paper products in my kitchen, but if you have to use paper towels, I’ll never know.
Place the dried wedges in the oil. They will be in the oil for a while, until they turn reddish-brown, then turn them over somewhere between three and five minutes per side. Have another colander next to your stove, also sitting in a bowl. When the wedges are reddish-brown on both sides, take them out with a fork, letting as much oil as you can drip back into the pan, and put them in the clean colander. This process is the time-consuming part of this adventure in cuisine . It will take about 40 minutes to an hour or more standing over several pans of hot oil with lots of wedges of eggplant in them for a dish that everyone will love and which will be consumed in ten minutes.
You have to love your guests to make this dish for them. While the eggplants are cooking and you are checking on them, you can prepare the tomatoes and the onions. Chop finely the parsley, and green onions. You can do the tomatoes in smallish chunks, not tiny, and place all of this in a bowl together.
When all the eggplant wedges have been cooked, drain the largest of your pans (that has a lid) of the hot oil. Do not wash out this pan just drain it. Put it back on the stove and turn it on low, put the cooked eggplant wedges and all the other ingredients in the pan and stir them up so they are combined well. Grind a ton of black pepper over all of this, mix and cover. Cook on low heat for about 15–20 minutes, stirring two or three times. You won’t need extra oil or salt.
Serve this with Paul’s Perfect Raita and some fresh greens. You can make a grain like couscous or rice and some kind of tofu or fish dish or just eat this plain with a good ethnic bread. Make sure you scrape the pan of the yummy juices when you are done. This dish is also great a few days later, so if you want to make it ahead of time and then refrigerate it, that’s fine. It takes two to three hours from start to finish to make. Important tips, using more than one pan to fry wedges in, lightly wiping the salt or salt sweat off each wedge, breathing a lot and not attempting this dish with children nearby. If it didn’t take so long to do, I’d make it every week in the summer months when eggplants and tomatoes are at their peak.