Mezze – Babaghanoush and Hummus

This is a wonderful and traditional “mezze” dish. Mezze are small dishes that can be served for either lunch or dinner and can also be starters for a larger meal. I personally like to have 4 or 5 different ones and serve them as a meal.
There are many versions popular throughout the Middle East, but fundamentally most are quite similar. I like this one because it is smoky and richly flavored.

Ingredients 

3-4 Medium Eggplants
2 cloves crushed Garlic
4 Tbsp Tahini
Juice of 2-3 Lemons
2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Sea Salt
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Take the eggplants and prick them all over. This is essential so they will not explode when you cook them. Turn on a gas flame and brown the eggplant skin on all sides, turning them frequently. A pair of tongs makes this very easy. This will take about 5-8 minutes, but keep a close watch on them.
After they are well browned, put them onto an aluminum foil lined baking sheet and into the preheated oven for approx 45 minutes or until they are wrinkly and soft.
Take them out and allow them to cool. Then slice them in half and take a soup spoon and gently remove the flesh. Make sure to get all of the darkly colored flesh close the skin, as this is where you will get the smoky flavor. Make sure not to get any of the skin.
Put the flesh into the food processor and pulse and then add the remaining ingredients. Begin by adding the lemon juice, garlic and then the tahini a bit at a time. Finish with one tablespoon of the olive oil and the reminder of the olive oil can be poured over the top just prior to serving.
I prefer this after it has rested in the refrigerator for a few hours. Once it has cooled, taste again for salt and serve with warm pita bread.
Note: This dish is made by tasting, as some eggplants can be bitter and some less so.
 
Hummus
This is another traditional “mezze” dish and again there are many versions. I like this one, because it is smooth, creamy and is well balanced with garlic and lemon.

Often I find that people add too much garlic in hummus or use garlic salt and it is bitter and sharp. The garlic should be an afterthought, not front and center. Come to think of it, this is a good rule of thumb for most spices!

Ingredients 
1 15oz can of Chickpeas, drained
2 cloves of fresh Garlic, crushed
3-4 Tbsp Tahini
Juice of 2 Lemons
2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Sea Salt
Smoked Paprika-Optional
Place the drained chickpeas into a food processor, and pulse to bring them to a creamy consistency.
Add lemon juice, garlic and pulse again. Add the tahini one tablespoon at a time. It may get thick, but it will loosen up again.
Add all remaining ingredients, holding back one tablespoon of the olive oil and pulse until the consistency is creamy. You may add a bit of water if it is too thick.
Put into the refrigerator and then sprinkle with smoked paprika the remaining olive oil and serve with warm pita bread.
Note: As a variation, you can also top this with a some pine nuts which have been lightly sautéed in olive oil. Just pour this over the top and omit the other tablespoon of olive oil.

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