My senior year of college I was elected to head the campus writers’ union. Essentially, this put me in charge of planning, or assigning the job of planning, student readings and a couple of parties. I learned two things that year:
- I enjoyed hosting events that had an air of seriousness but were actually excuses to get tipsy and smugly congratulate ourselves for our really insightful work (everyone, it seemed, had a knack for writing bravely, turning out poems that sang, and finding profundity in the mundane.)
- Snacks are very important, and the refreshments you offer can mean the difference between a successful event and a total wash.
Almost a decade later, I’m no longer that interested in hosting readings or any event where the objective is to cast oneself as an intellectual polymath, but I maintain that snacks are important. At those college gatherings good snacks meant slices of Irish cheddar and tortilla roll-ups with hummus. We were too poor to afford ingredients for fancy canapés or platters of gravlax and flavored cream cheeses, and even though we had a kitchen at our disposal, we were, for the most part, still novice cooks.
I’m not such a novice any more, but I still prefer simple snacks that don’t require a lot of time in the kitchen. That means canapés are out because who has time to arrange morsels just so on a bit of bread or cracker? But dips and spreads? They are in. They are so in I don’t even need the excuse of an impending gathering to make them.
Case in point: this easy Middle Eastern eggplant spread (baba ganoush). With its tahini base and lemony, garlicky flavor, it’s a salute to my tortilla and hummus roll-up days. Except instead of chickpeas it features roasted and pureed eggplant. I chose Trader Joe’s tahini dip as the base and added a bit more lemon, garlic, salt, and oil. Once I stirred in the eggplant, this stuff was as good as the baba you’d get at a decent Middle Eastern restaurant.
Lately I’ve been making at least one batch a week. We slather it onto pita and add cucumbers, olives, tomatoes, and feta for the best ever vegetarian sandwiches. Addie enjoys swiping fingerfulls straight from the bowl. We all love it so much, I plan to make at least 52 batches over the next year.
- One medium eggplant
- ½ cup tahini sauce (I used Trader Joe’s brand)
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 2 cloves roughly chopped garlic
- ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley for garnish
- Kalamanta Olive for garnish
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees
- Rinse eggplant, cut off stem and base, and slice in half lengthwise
- Place eggplant halves on a baking sheet and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon of salt and drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Roast in oven for 40 minutes, or until the surface of the eggplant begins to brown
- Allow the eggplant to cool, and then scoop out the flesh and add to food processor, along with garlic. Puree until smooth
- In a medium bowl, combine eggplant puree with tahini sauce, lemon juice and zest, ½ teaspoon of salt, and half the remaining olive oil, stirring until well-mixed
- Prior to serving, drizzle remaining olive oil over the dip, sprinkle with parsley, and garnish with olive if desired
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