Meze. This word translates to small bites in my Bosnian upbringing. I grew up with my deda (grandfather) enjoying a more “tapas” or “charcuterie” version of dinner. His ideal meze, consisted of various white cheeses, olives, pickles, crusty bread, fresh tomatoes in a vinegary marinade, and of course cured and smoked meats. We even went as far as purchasing a smoker to smoke our own meat at one point. Dedication people. That is true dedication.
Eating a smorgasbord of Mediterranean-influenced bites is still MY FAVORITE way to enjoy dinner. I am my deda’s granddaughter. You can guarantee I will ask to try a bite of whatever someone else has ordered, even if a meal was not meant to be shared.
When I host a girl’s night it is pretty much assumed that dinner will be in the form of dips, veggies, meats, cheeses, olives, breads—you know “family style”, sharing food, and eating a little bit of everything. I had invited one of my girlfriends over for one of these “meze” nights this past week, I had an eggplant that needed to be used, and I decided to man up and get over my fear of recreating one of my favorite Mediterranean dips—Baba ghanoush.
Baba ghanoush is a food I looked forward to on Mediterranean menus because I was always too intimidated to make this dip at home. Mainly because I have never cooked with nor do I have tahini paste on hand. Upon exploring the pantry, I discovered toasted sesame seeds – why hello main ingredient in tahini pastes, why not improvise? I decided to add some sesame seeds to the food processor and keep adding oil until a thick paste formed. I knew that the eggplant and lemon juice would add more moisture to the dip so I played around with the amount of oil needed to form the thick paste. Food is art and science after all—you can always find a work-around if you are determined enough. My tahini paste substitution worked! The sesame flavor was a perfect complement to the eggplant :)
Roasting the eggplant did take longer than expected. I ended up baking it whole, and then cutting it to see if the inside was cooked through. After 30 minutes of roasting, I decided to cut the eggplant into eighths and finish baking until tender. I did not want to cut it into slices or cubes initially because I did not want the eggplant to caramelize. I will continue playing around with the best way to roast this veggie for the baba ghanoush and will keep you all posted—for now the method below works (even if it is not the timeliest)!
Oh well, I used my veggie roasting time to shower, get ready, enjoy another cocktail…you know all those girly things that need to happen ;)
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
1/3 C toasted sesame seeds (Substitute 1/3 C tahini paste for sesame seeds and 2 T EVOO)
3 T extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 large eggplant
2 cloves garlic
½ lemon, juiced
2 T fresh parsley
Sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 450 F. Remove stem from the eggplant and rinse. Pierce eggplant with fork in numerous areas then place on baking sheet.
- Bake eggplant for 30 minutes, rotating eggplant after 15 minutes. Remove from oven and slice into eighths. (Note: Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise, then quarter each half of the eggplant)
- Roast the eggplant an additional 15-20 minutes –until tender. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Then peel the skin off the eggplant.
- While the eggplant is roasting, add sesame seeds and 2 Tbsp of olive oil to a food processor. Pulse until a paste forms. (Note: you will need to stop intermittently and use a spatula to remove the sesame seeds from the sides of the food processor)
- Add the eggplant, lemon juice, garlic, parsley, and remaining olive oil to food processor. Pulse all ingredients until a hummus-like consistency forms. Taste and season with salt and black pepper to taste. Pulse an additional 30 seconds to combine.
- Serve with sliced veggies, warm naan or pita bread, or on top of salads and sandwiches. (Note: you can store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator)