Most Americans know baba ganoush as the smoky eggplant tahini dip pictured here at right, but in the Arab world, baba ghanouj (as it is spelled there) is a more colorful eggplant salad. In this feature, chef Reem Assil makes it both ways. (Photography by Angelina Hong)

Cooking Video: Make baba ganoush two ways with chef Reem Assil of Reem's California

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We love a good mezze spread, and no Arab-style feast is complete without baba ganoush. But what we know as the smoky eggplant dip made with tahini here in the United States is actually called mutabal in the Levant; originally, baba ghanouj (as it is spelled in the Arab world) is actually more of a chunky eggplant salad that exchanges tahini for tomato, bell pepper, and onion.

In the first episode of The 7x7 Spice-In, chef Reem Assil, founder of Reem's California in Oakland and San Francisco's Mission, is preparing both versions of the classic Middle Eastern dip, which she promises will impress our friends at dinner parties (you know, when we start hosting those again).


Until that time when we may again break bread with our friends and families, Assil recommends making either or both versions at home for a healthy, yummy snack. "I love them both and they are easy to make," she says.

Both are typically eaten with other dips, flatbread, and a "whole ensemble of crudites"—including cucumber spears and radishes—as part of a mezze, a smorgasbord of shared appetizer dishes.

While flatbread can be found at most grocers, Assil recommends baking homemade or store-bought pizza dough on a griddle or cast iron skillet. Of course, if you live in the Bay Area, you can also pick up a bag of freshly baked bread from Reem's.

Know what also pairs well with a mezze feast? Wine! At Reem's, they recommend Kalecik Karasi, a medium-bodied, ruby-red Turkish varietal. Pinot noir, with its smoky tones and acidic notes of currant, also pairs well with baba ganoush, especially with the pomegranate molasses used in the garnish.

Happy cooking!

Recipe: Reem Assil's Baba Ghanouj Two Ways

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

2 medium to large globe eggplants

2 cloves garlic, sprout removed, minced

¼ cup tahini (Chef Reem likes Tarazi brand)

2 lemons, zested and juiced (about ¼ cup juice)

½ teaspoon cumin (The Spice Hunter)

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper (The Spice Hunter)

Garnish

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons pomegranate arils (optional)

1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses

1 tablespoon rough chopped parsley


Directions

On a gas stove, sear eggplant directly over a medium high flame. Rotate every 5 minutes until the entire globe is blackened, about 15 minutes. Alternatively, place the eggplant on a baking tray, poke with fork, rub with olive oil and place in 450 degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes until it collapses on itself and the skin is blackened.

Place cooked eggplant in a bowl and seal with plastic wrap to steam in its own juices. In a small bowl, combine the garlic, tahini, lemon, cumin, salt, and pepper. When the eggplant has cooled enough to touch, split it lengthwise. Using a spoon, scrape out the pulp, leaving behind the skin and stem. Add the eggplant pulp to the bowl with the garlic and spice mix.

With a fork, mash the eggplant into the spice mix and swirl to incorporate. Adjust salt to taste. Spread on serving plate. Use a spoon to create a well in the center for the olive oil, and top with garnishes.


For the Arab-style variation, omit the tahini and fold in:

2 small roma tomatoes or 2 vine ripened tomatoes, diced finely

1 red bell pepper pepper, roasted and diced finely

½ medium onion, diced finely

Adjust seasoning and top with the same garnishes.

Enjoy!

Tune in July 20th for episode two of The 7x7 Spice-In—Chef Reem will be making saucy kafta meatballs!

We'll post the ingredients needed on 7x7.com on Monday, July 6th; you can use the promo code 7X7SPICEIN to receive 20 percent off purchases from our partners at The Spice Hunter, spicehunter.com.

Thanks for watching!

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