Both these dishes call for Tahini (white sesame seed paste).
If you are in India or some place where tahini is not easily available, try this:
Grind to a smooth paste toasted white sesame seeds with a couple tablespoons of sesame oil or vegetable oil. there are two types of sesame oil – the dark brown toasted variety, used in Chinese cooking, and the light yellowish variety used to make dosas or Indian pickles. You need the lighter variety.
If you want to prepare these dishes at the spur of the moment and have neither tahini, nor white sesame seeds, drop it.
It won’t be authentic, but it’ll still be good. Toasted and ground up almonds or cashews may work as well.
Plain hummus is fabulous. We’ve added olives to ours. Try and get the oil-cured ones, as opposed to those forlorn ones floating in brine. Or get these dry-packed ones from your local Arab, Iranian, or Afghan store.
Other recommended additions: sun dried tomatoes, spring onions, roasted red peppers, herbs, basically whatever floats your boat.
1/3 cup dried chickpeas/garbanzo beans (or 1 cup canned)
3 tbsps tahini
3 tbsps. lemon (or lime) juice
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 tsp. roasted cumin seeds
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
10 deseeded black olives
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
a sprinkling of paprika
salt to taste
1. Soak the dried chickpeas for 8 hours. Rinse and cook them with plenty of water and salt on the stove top or in a pressure cooker. When you press one between your fingers, it should mash easily. Drain the chickpeas (you should have about a cup) and save the cooking liquid. If using canned, drain the chickpeas and rinse them well under running water.
2. Add everything except the paprika, a few olives for garnish and oregano to a food processor. Blend for 10 seconds or so, then pulse it to a not too coarse paste. Add some of the cooking liquid if necessary to get a dip-like consistency.
3. Adjust the salt and lemon juice, stir in the oregano, sprinkle the paprika, and garnish with the olives.
B never recalls eating eggplant (or brinjal as it is known in India) at home growing up. Not once.
Now, we do cook it, and this is our favourite way.
Picking an eggplant:
Smaller ones are younger, and tend to have fewer seeds. The seeds are bitter. There’s also this old wives’ tale about how the male is preferable to the female.
All about it here.
No matter what eggplant you pick, for the dish to turn out well, at the checkout you need to repeat fast, ten times: Bring Big Brinjal.
Here’s how we do it:
Get one reasonably plump eggplant, or two smaller ones, weighing about a pound. Wipe them clean with a moist towel. Cut them through the middle and place them cut side down on a foil-lined baking sheet. Lightly grease the foil as well.
If it’s a big eggplant, broil on high for 20 minutes. If they are smaller, they take between 12-15 minutes. The skin on the outside will be dry and charred. Poke it with a fork. It should go through easily.
Take the tray out of the oven, and let it sit covered with a tea towel for 5-10 minutes. When the eggplant is cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh, and discard the seeds.
You should get about a cup of flesh. The next step is important. Keep the eggplant flesh in the refrigerator for 4 hours to overnight. It will release some liquid.
Drain this liquid and keep aside. You may need it for blending. Removing the liquid gives the dish its concentrated eggplant flavour.
Finely mince 2 small cloves of garlic, add it to the eggplant with 3 tablespoons tahini, 2 tbsps. lemon/lime juice, salt, and 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil.
Blend everything together using the pulse mode in your food processor. Try not to make it into a paste. Use some of the eggplant liquid to thin it out if necessary. It should be the consistency of a dip. Add a pinch of cumin or cayenne if you feel like it.
Transfer it to a bowl. We like to sprinkle it with paprika. Serve it with veggie bites, chips, pitas, or on its own.