While traveling in Egypt with my family, I fell in love with the cold vegetarian mezze dishes that we were served in every part of the country. Every restaurant that we ate in had freshly baked pita bread that they served with various kinds of tart pickled vegetables and thick vegetarian dips like Baba Ghanoush and Hummus. Even though most Arabs concentrate on the meaty entrees that are an integral part of their cuisine, they balance their diet with veggie side dishes and those were the ones that I liked the most there. So I got this recipe from an Egyptian friend who had invited us for dinner to her place and now I make it every time I find a good quality eggplant in the US.
1. One medium sized eggplant (about a pound or so)
2. Two cloves of garlic
3. Two tablespoons of tahini paste (available at Middle-Eastern grocery stores or even some conventional supermarkets in the international food section )
4. 2-3 teaspoons of sugar
5. One teaspoon of salt (add extra if needed)
6. 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
7. 2-3 table spoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1. Place the eggplant directly over the open flame of a gas stove and char the skin on all its sides by rotating the eggplant frequently.
2. Pre-heat the oven at 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
3. When the skin is charred, pack the eggplant in a large piece of tin foil and seal it in a way that the steam of the eggplant stays within and place it in the oven for 15-20 minutes.
4. Take the eggplant out of the oven and open the foil slowly (steam may be trapped in it).
5. Slowly peel away the charred skin of the eggplant and with a spoon scoop out the cooked flesh from the inside. Put it in a separate bowl. Also drain all the juices from the bottom into the bowl (the juice has all the smoky flavor from the charred skin)
6. When you have all the flesh is taken out, mash it using a fork.
7. Finely grate (using a micro plane) the cloves of garlic and add to the mashed eggplant.
8. Then add the Tahini paste, lemon juice, sugar and olive oil and stir thoroughly.
9. Refrigerate this mixture for 20-30 minutes.
10. Serve it chilled, with a little bit of extra olive oil poured over it and a sprinkling of paprika for color and pita bread on the side.