Here are the basics: Whole Eggplant, Fresh Lemon, Tahini Sauce, and Cumin. The Nigella (which I discovered in Turkey!) is optional. There are a few more options I will note along the way.
Cut the eggplants in half, length-wise and roast under a broiler, flipping halfway through. They need to be well-browned on each side, and smooshy all over. Bonus points: Grill over a fire, for a nice, smokey flavor.
Let the eggplant cool (seriously!) and then peel the skin off. I sometimes leave a little bit of charred skin on for flavor. Some liquid will pool in the bowl– don’t pour it off– it’s sweet and delicious!
Here’s your next bonus ingredient: Cilantro. This bunch is fresh from our garden, which is very exciting. Parsley is also great, and I really don’t think it’s possible to add too much.
In this bowl: Roasted Eggplant, Lemon Juice Cilantro, Cumin, Salt, Pepper… And another bonus: Roasted Garlic. There are lots of more complicated ways to roast garlic, but I just throw a whole head of it into the oven while I’m broiling the eggplant. It gets soft, and the flavor mellows and deepens. You can of course use fresh as well, depending on how you feel about garlic. When I am in an especially dedicated mood, I fry the cumin and any other spices (fresh garlic included) in some olive oil to bring out the best flavor before adding it to the mix. But that step is for over-achievers.
In comes the Tahini… All of these ingredient proportions are really to taste, but with the four eggplants, I probably added about 1/4 cup of this sesame paste. And a word about tahini– I have been without it a number of times, and got away with using a few heaping spoonfuls of sesame seeds, well-blended with the rest of the ingredients. So don’t let finding this slightly-exotic ingredient slow you down! That said, I have been able to find it everywhere I’ve lived (besides the Philippines, but things may have changed since then…)
I used an immersion blender to blend it all really smooth. Of course you could use a blender or a food processor. I have often made this just with a fork, a nice chunky version– naturally, you would need to chop the ingredients pretty thoroughly first if you go that route.
This is the part where you taste and season. I most frequently end up needing to add more salt and lemon juice, and frequently add olive oil for extra richness. More bonus points for: Smoked Paprika (Pimentón de la Vera, or Ahumado) and Cayenne or Chili powder. Or, you could of course go the extra mile and broil a whole Chile and add it to the blend. (Here is a great place to find high-quality spices, which make all the difference in the world to dishes like these.)
This is one of my favorite summer foods, perfect as a snack or to be packed in a picnic. We took this with us to the beach for our rowboat picnic, and enjoyed it with cucumbers, radishes and potato chips. Enjoy!
Do these sorts of recipes work for you?… Or do you need more structure? Where do you find cooking inspiration?