Baba ghanoush is a Middle Eastern dip that is ready to share the spotlight with hummus. (Photo by Deb Lindsey For The Washington Post)

Baba ghanoush is a Middle Eastern dip that is ready to share the spotlight with hummus. (Photo by Deb Lindsey For The Washington Post)

Baba ghanoush: The Middle Eastern dip whose time has come

Not too long ago, hummus seemed exotic to many Americans. Now, it is practically an everyday food. In light of that, it seems baba ghanoush is ready for its close-up.

This dip/spread offers much the same appeal as hummus: It is rich and creamy, with sumptuously earthy Middle Eastern flavors, and it is made with healthful, plant-based ingredients. But because it is less common (for now!), it brings an element of surprise to the table, whether served as part of a mezze spread, in a pita sandwich or as a dip with vegetables and chips.

I get as much of a kick out of making as I do eating it because it involves cooking whole, uncut eggplant over an open flame, a technique that somehow seems radical but is incredibly easy.

You just place the eggplant directly on the grates of a gas stove top, on a grill or under a broiler with either an electric or gas heating element. The idea is to sear the eggplant until its skin is charred and blistered all around, which ultimately imbues the dip with a mouthwatering smokiness.

Once the eggplant is charred, you roast it until it is collapsed and soft inside, then let it cool and scoop out the “meat.” Although you discard the skin, the smoky flavor from the charring permeates throughout, and, as you scoop, some flecks of char make their way into the mix to delicious effect.

After a brief whir in the food processor, the eggplant is mixed with a mash of garlic and salt (turned into a paste, so the garlic flavor is evenly distributed throughout the dip), tahini, lemon juice and parsley.

It makes a dip so delicious, I know you will agree it’s time hummus shared the spotlight.

Baba ghanoush

1 large or two small eggplants (about 1¼ pounds total)

1 clove garlic, minced

½ teaspoon kosher salt

3 tablespoons tahini (sesame seed paste)

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Place the eggplant(s) directly on the grates of the burner of a gas stove or on a preheated grill or grill pan. Cook over high heat, turning several times with tongs, until the skin is charred and blistered all around, about 10 minutes total.

Transfer to a baking sheet. Roast (middle rack) until the eggplant is completely softened and collapsed, about 20 minutes.

Let it cool, then cut it in half lengthwise and use a spoon to scoop the eggplant’s flesh out of the skin. Discard the skin. (Use a knife to help separate them, as needed. It is OK if some charred bits remain.)

Place the scooped eggplant in a food processor and pulse until it is broken down but not completely smooth.

Meanwhile, place the minced garlic in a small mound on a cutting board and sprinkle it with the salt. Use the flat side of a chef’s knife to work the garlic and salt together to form a paste.

Transfer the eggplant to a serving bowl. Stir in the garlic-salt paste, tahini, lemon juice and parsley until well incorporated.

The dip can be refrigerated a day in advance.

Makes four servings. Per serving: 100 calories, 4 grams protein, 12 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams fat, 1 gram saturated fat, 0 miligrams cholesterol, 150 miligrams sodium, 5 grams dietary fiber, 5 grams sugar.

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