The new year is all about making resolutions, and I have decided that the perfect resolution for me is to finally break my mini-hiatus from CITK. First it was that I was in Israel visiting my family, then it was the packing, and then the relocating… Next thing I know it, two months have passed. But I am glad to report that I am officially back, reporting live from our beautiful new home in Austin, Texas, and today’s recipe is one of my lifelong favorites.
This blog post’s recipe star is none other than: the eggplant.
In Israeli cuisine, the eggplant is absolutely essential. It’s versatility and fantastic ability to act as a meat-like substitute has made it a quintessential ingredient in Mediterranean recipes. The eggplant has come in handy at times of meat shortages, being the perfect ingredient to make meatless “chopped liver” that is, surprisingly, hard to differentiate from the real thing, or sliced thick, breaded, and fried as a way to make vegetarian schnitzel when chicken or veal was not available. This incredible vegetable has gotten us through hard times in the past, and is still enjoyed as a vegetarian option to this day.
Although the eggplant’s value is hard to argue against, did you know that not all eggplants are equally good for cooking? Look at the picture above showing the ends of the eggplants (some people refer to this as the eggplant’s “belly button”, although in reality, it’s the eggplant’s derriere). The left eggplant’s belly button is elongated and rod-shaped, indicating that it is a female eggplant, while the one on the right has a circular belly button, indicating that it is a male. Female eggplants tend to be a bit heavier, which may make you choose them when you’re picking eggplants at the grocery store, but the heaviness is actually attributed to its high seed content. Due to this fact, female eggplants are very high in seeds and low in actual meat, and often have a much more bitter taste. Male eggplants, on the other hand, have less seeds and more meat to them, and tend to be a little bit sweeter. When choosing eggplants, it is highly suggested to steer clear of the female eggplants and stick with the male eggplants for the best quality eggplant dish.
In this recipe, the eggplant is roasted in the oven until cooked through and juicy, then mixed in the food processor with tahini and other simple ingredients that will highlight the eggplant’s sweet, meaty texture rather than cover it up as is the case with heavy spices. Use this eggplant & tahini dip as a delicious appetizer with pita bread or veggies, and don’t be afraid to get experimental with food pairings (Nate’s favorite dipping vessel so far: pizza).
Without further ado, here is my lifelong favorite recipe for eggplant & tahini dip. Happy new year’s, and see you next week!