White Bean Babaganoush

I finally bought Tahini.

Finally.

For years I have been meaning to buy Tahini, and for years it has somehow managed to elude… well, I was going to say “shopping lists”, but what I should say is “my ability to give a sh*t”. Because ironically enough, despite the fact that I am a committed list-maker and love making all sorts of lists, I never really make shopping lists. Maybe this is because I so rarely cook from a recipe, having somehow managed to maintain a mysterious confidence in my ability to successfully substitute or simply do without certain key ingredients… despite a good deal of evidence to the contrary.

(I don’t write about those.)

On those rare occasions when I spontaneously decide to turn over a new leaf, become an organized shopper, and organize my grocery needs into lists — and actually remember to take them out of my pocket once I get to the store, instead of four days later — I tend to treat them more as “suggested guidelines” than anything else. Usually it’s the harder-to-find, more specialized, less generally-useful or immediately-necessary items — like green curry paste, brown rice vinegar, fish sauce, or (yep) tahini — that get forgotten about, ignored, or put off until the next shopping trip.

Basically what I’m telling you is that I’ve managed to make this particular procrastination stretch on for years. YEARS.

Part of me almost feels as though I should be proud of myself.

But I digress. The day has finally come: Tahini is officially the newest member of my kitchen. And as all kitchen-members must pull their weight around here, Tahini (whom I have decided to spontaneously personify and capitalize) was immediately put to work. Together, Tahini and I made this:

Behold: White Bean Babaganoush. Just the first of many things on my long list of adventures for Tahini and I.

(See? Lists. I *do* make them… I swear.)

Obviously, Tahini and I had the help of some eggplants — eggplants that I got from this farm I just started working with: a small, organic, turkey-shaped urban farm here in the city, where kids come to learn about organic gardening and where we grow a gorgeous array of vegetables that we sell at a farmstand a mere stone’s-throw from the farm itself.

It’s pretty awesome.

For a fairly small farm, we produce a LOT of produce. In the two weeks I’ve been there, I’ve happily plucked and carted home a buttercup squash, two kinds of basil, Swiss chard, purple and green peppers, more cherry tomatoes than I can shake a stick at, and — most recently — eggplants: long and skinny, pleasantly rotund, squat and round, in colors from deep purple and lavender to stripey ones with a curious yellowish blush on their bottom. On my way home from work last week I grabbed a few fat lavender stripey specimens and carted them home with a plan to turn them into babaganoush.

Lucky for you, you don’t have to work at, on, or with a farm to make babaganoush. All you need, really, is Tahini.

And a lemon, some garlic, salt and olive oil. Maybe a little cumin. Oh, and some cannelini beans, because I just couldn’t leave well-enough alone. I just couldn’t not mess with a good thing.

Again — lucky for you.

Why? Well, the addition of the white beans to the babaganoush doesn’t drastically change the flavor, although it does mellow it out a bit and make it a touch creamier. What I like about it is not so much that it ups the flavor, but rather the protein content. Eaten with a generous serving of vegetables and some pita or whole-wheat seeded crackers, this is potentially a light yet filling meal. (And we all know how I like light-yet-full meals, especially those involving lots of vegetables.)

In addition to being nutritious, filling, low in fat and meat-free (always a plus), it travels well (perfect picnic food!) and even gets better with a day or two in the fridge (earning it an inclusion on my beloved list of make-ahead party food for easy entertaining).

The only area this dish doesn’t score so well in is the looks-department.

The finished product, which vaguely resembles all manner of unpleasant substances (which I shall refrain from further elaborating on here) is arguably even less appealing than its already unattractive earlier stages.

If you’re offering this to guests, probably you should serve it sprinkled with some finely chopped parsley and/or a drizzle of olive oil to dress it up. And definitely surround it by some colorful vegetables for distracting dipping.

Or, if it’s just you and you don’t have any of that on-hand, just eat it the way it is. Clearly my half-arsed addition of sesame seeds didn’t really accomplish a whole lot… except to make it look like something it’s not. Like maybe oatmeal. Or an oatmeal cupcake. A dwarf oatmeal cupcake, with sprinkles… sesame sprinkles.

Yep. That comparison isn’t really upping the attractiveness-quotient either.

Sigh.

White Bean Babaganoush

  • 2 medium or 3 smallish eggplants
  • 1/2 cup Cannelini beans
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 generous tablespoon tahini
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • pinch of cumin and/or cayenne (optional)

Set oven to 375. Use a fork to prick a few holes in the eggplants, then hold them over the flame of your gas stove (if you have one) or some other flame (if you don’t). Alternately, you can grill them briefly. Or stick ’em under the broiler. The point here is to char the skin a little bit, to impart a smoky flavor, as per the genius that is David Lebovitz.

After the skins are somewhat charred to your liking, place eggplants in a baking dish or on a cookie sheet with little edges (to catch any liquid) and roast for roughly 30 minutes, or until eggplants are very soft and collapsing in. (Strangely, the smallest of my eggplants took the longest — roughly 50 minutes to start collapsing.) Remove them from the heat and let them cool.

Once they’re cool enough to handle, either slice eggplants in half and scoop out the soft flesh, or remove the top and peel off the charred skin. Then puree the eggplants with all of the other ingredients until well-combined and smooth.

Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more salt, tahini, lemon juice, or even another small clove of garlic until it tastes right to you. Be careful not to overdo either the cumin or the cayenne — it’s easy to do, on both counts.

Enjoy immediately or (even better) refrigerate overnight.

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