Meet Lebanon through three great mezze that we would love to introduce you. Those little dishes that are meant to be eaten together, mezze are chosen to represent Lebanon. You can grill the aubergines for the Baba Ghannooge but they will taste even better if you are able to barbecue them. Chicken wings better baking them and The yogurt and Cucumber Salad couldn’t be easier or more refreshing but it’s important to salt large cucumbers.
Let’s start with Baba Ghannooge (Aubergine Puree)
- 3 large aubergines
- 3 tablespoons tahini
- Juice of one lemon, or to taste
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- Salt to taste
For the garnish:
- Fresh mint or parsley leaves
- Paprika or pomegranate seeds (the sour type)
- Extra virgin olive oil
Prick the aubergines in several places with a knife or a fork-to stop them from bursting during cooking-and cook whole with stalks on under a hot grill for 25-30 minutes, turning them to expose all sides equally to the heat. When cooked the aubergines should have shrivelled to about half their original size, be very soft to the touch, with blistered skin. If this is not possible, you can bake them in a preheated oven 180°C for 45 minutes (or microwave them for 5-6 minutes). However if you use the oven or the microwave methods you will sadly lose the chared taste of the open-fire cooking that is so typically Lebanese.
Cooling your fingers under cold running water, peel and discard the skin of the aubergines while they are still hot and put the flesh in a colander to drain for about 15 minutes.
Cut off and discard the stalks before putting the aubergines in a wide mixing bowl and mashing them with a masher or fork along the grain of the pulp. If you prefer to use a blender, be very careful not to liquidize the aubergines too much.
When the aubergines are mashed, stir in the tahini and salt to taste and mix well. As you are blending the tahini you will notice that the color of aubergines becomes lighter. Mix in the lemon juice and crushed garlic. Taste the puree and adjust seasoning if necessary. Garnish with mint or parsley leaves, sprinkle over paprika or pomegranate seeds and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.
The writer of “Lebanese Cuisine” Anissa Helou suggests other two mezze. Follow us, next article will be about two other mezze from Lebanon: Chicken Wings Marinated in Garlic and Yoghurt and Cucumber Salad.