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Baba Ganoush is my new hummus. I love the smoky, charred flavor of the eggplant, with that slightly bitter tinge, softened by just the right amount of rich tahini and a dash of olive oil. And I love that I can make it in no time.

But before we get to the recipe, I feel compelled to have the eggplant chat with you. Yes, I believe you are at the age now where you should know that eggplants do not have sex. There’s a pervasive myth that you should “sex an eggplant” to determine if it will be bitter. The story goes that male eggplants have fewer seeds, and seeds make eggplant bitter, so you want to be sure to buy male eggplants.

That’s just silly. Eggplant is hermaphroditic: both male and female parts (stamen with pollen and pistil) exist together in one perfect flower. (Botanists call flowers that have both male and female parts perfect. ) I used to think eggplants were sexless, but they are actually sexfull.

Now that we have discussed the sex life of eggplants, I’d like to delve more into your eggplant relationship.

* Choose an eggplant that is somewhat resilient. Press it with your thumb, and the flesh should bounce back a bit. If not, don’t be suckered by it’s fragility– you need and deserve a more balanced relationship. Move on.

* An eggplant should be somewhat weighty. You want good, solid flesh. A lightweight might be attractive, but the flesh will not be deeply flavorful. You’ll spend all your time trying to eek meaning out of it, and really– what’s the use in that?

*  The salting question is one of the great unsolved mysteries of the universe. Believers say salting before cooking removes some of the bitterness. Non-believers like me say salting before cooking removes some of the moisture (which is desirable or not, depending on how you’re cooking it), none of the bitterness, and makes the eggplant taste better because a little salt makes most things taste better. I can only suggest you experiment on your own to determine what you prefer. You can never know what is really right for you unless you experience that which is not.

And now I believe you are ready to eggplant.

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Grilled Eggplant Dip (Baba Ganoush)

2 medium eggplants, about 3 pounds

¼ cup tahini

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons lemon juice

¾ teaspoon sea salt

  1. Heat the grill for direct heat cooking.
  2. Prick each eggplant in about half a dozen spots  with a fork. Place them directly on the grill and cook, turning occasionally, until they are soft and wrinkled, about 25-30 minutes.
  3. When cool enough to handle, cut the eggplants lengthwise in half and scoop out the flesh; discard the skin. If there are large, dense pockets of seeds, discard them, but don'[t worry about picking out all the seeds. Place the flesh in a colander or strainer and drain 5 minutes, tossing once or twice. Transfer to a food processor and add the tahini, olive oil, lemon juice and salt and process until smooth. Because all eggplants are different, you may need to thin the baba ganoush with a tablespoon or two of water to get the desired consistency.

Makes 6 servings

Nutritional analysis for each serving: 128 calories, 4 g protein, 14 g carbohydrates, 6 g fiber, 8 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 358 mg sodium

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