HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
Brewing beer, curing meat, or making cheese?
TELL US

Help save bitter baba ghanouj

m
mellie Mar 30, 2007 05:29 PM

We love baba ghanouj from Middle Eastern restaurants. Tried making it myself for the first time. Roasted 2 eggplants and then removed some of the seeds but unfortunately not all... Added lemon juice, tahini, salt and minced garlic. The end product is bitter :(
What can be done to save my poor baba? Sugar, more lemon, more something else??

  1. chowser Apr 3, 2008 10:26 AM

    I don't know about saving it now but in the future, bleeding the eggplant (cut, salt, lay between paper towels for half an hour or so) might help.

    3 Replies
    1. re: chowser
      ponocat Apr 3, 2008 11:07 AM

      Nyleve is right, as is chowser. The older the eggplant, the more bitter it becomes. That doesn't mean just the greater amount of time between picking and eating, it also means that the egglplant on the vine can also become too old/bitter. Chowser's method can help if the eggplant is on the cusp of being too old. However, if the eggplant is young and fresh, the leaching by the salt is unnecessary.

      1. re: ponocat
        chowser Apr 3, 2008 12:32 PM

        I've read this (about age) but always bleed the eggplant because I can't tell. How can you tell if it's new or not? I've read the darker it is, the more likely it is to be older, but most eggplants I see are dark.

        1. re: chowser
          scubadoo97 Apr 3, 2008 01:09 PM

          Firmness and weight are good indicators as they get spongy as they age and dry. The larger they are the more seed usually but eggplant are difficult to judge. Some people have claimed you can tell male or female from the shape of the flower end but that's been debunked as an indicator of sex of quality.

    2. scubadoo97 Apr 3, 2008 09:22 AM

      Maybe too late to save this one but the advise mentioned already is sometimes an eggplant can be bitter.
      I find eggplants to have both a bitter and an astringent nature which are unique and different. I make baba ghanouj often and use the same basic methods. An Israeli restaurant here makes theirs a unique way from my traditional method buy adding mayo. Before you all go gross, you have to try it.

      I have adapted this recipe for my routine eggplant dip

      2 medium to large eggplants.
      1 lemon
      1/4 cup tahini
      1/2 to 3/4 cup mayo. You can use light mayo
      1-2 cloves of garlic, mashed with salt
      1 tsp sugar optional depending on the eggplants

      Here is the secret to this dip. First blacken the eggplant on the grill. I have a gas grill and add wood to my smoker tray to get a lot of smoke going. I first give the skin a light coat of olive oil and blacken the eggplant on all sides until it is well done.

      The eggplants are removed to a large bowl and allowed to cool. As they cool they exude a lot of liquid. I toss this out. Once cooled I scrape the flesh and even use the seed pods but you could eliminate them if you want. I try to remove as much flesh off the burnt skin as possible and even add a lot of the charred skin. It all goes into a food processor.

      Blend all ingredients. The pectin in the skin will also add some thickness as well as the tahini. The mayo really helps to balance the astringent and bitter components found in eggplant. I really enjoy this over the more traditional method and I am a big one on tradition.

      This dip is so smoky in taste due to the skin being processed along with the flesh. My wife loves it as does everyone who has tried it.

      1. TongoRad Apr 3, 2008 08:09 AM

        Adding extra lemon really helps with the bitterness, whether from the eggplant itself or from the charred skin (personally, I really like to push the smoky flavors to the limit so it helps me to be able to mitigate the potential negative elements that come along with it.) I am assuming that the bitterness/astringency has an alkaline element that is negated by the acidity in the lemon- but whatever the reason, if it is too bitter another squeeze of lemon seems to do the trick.

        Roasting your garlic and using a nice rich tahini (the brand I like is called Nirav) also help.

        1. h
          Heatherb Apr 3, 2008 07:41 AM

          I know ithis is one year too late, but I roasted the garlic most recently when I was making Baba Ghanouj, and that really made it sweet. However, I think next time I will use some fresh minced garlic AND some roasted garlic as the minced garlic lends a bit more bite.

          1. sixelagogo Apr 1, 2007 07:01 AM

            Something my Lebanese grandmother told my mom who in turn told me:
            "Sometimes its just a bad eggplant"

            sound life- advice for more than just eggplant if you ask me

            1 Reply
            1. re: sixelagogo
              n
              Nyleve Apr 1, 2007 12:56 PM

              So true.

            2. amyzan Mar 31, 2007 04:54 PM

              I don't know if this batch can be rescued, but next time be judicious about your choice of eggplant. I often use the Japanese variety because they are reliably sweet. You have to buy more, and they involve more peeling for less flesh, but the flavor is worth any extra effort. Another option, if that doesn't appeal, is to look for smaller varieties like rosa bianca at farmer's markets. Here are desriptions of some of the varieties: http://www.kitchengardenseeds.com/cgi... Failing that, just look for smaller fruits, no more than 6-8" inches long--they will likely have fewer seeds.

              1. Rick_V Mar 31, 2007 04:41 PM

                I think at this point your best bet is more tahini, which should smooth over some of the bitterness. I worry about adding sweetness, because that doesn't really belong. Also maybe a bit of cumin.

                1. m
                  mellie Mar 31, 2007 04:29 PM

                  I tried adding a tsp of honey and it definitely helped! I think next time I'll use Chinese eggplant - the ones I got this time were regular Italian, I think. Large but full of seeds which I read could have been indicative of male eggplant. Female ones are not as bitter with less seeds and smaller? Next time I go grocery shopping I'm going to examine the eggplant section more closely and see if I can spot the female ones.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: mellie
                    n
                    Nyleve Mar 31, 2007 05:56 PM

                    I suspect all that male/female business might be just mythology. But what I do know for sure is that a young, fresh eggplant - very shiny, firm, not gigantic - is your best bet. For baba ghanouj or other roasted eggplant dishes, I usually use the standard purple eggplant because it yields a decent amount of pulp compared to the skinny Asian ones. So they're definitely not all bitter. But occasionally you do hit a dud.

                  2. n
                    Nyleve Mar 31, 2007 08:56 AM

                    I don't think any of this was your fault. I've found that some eggplants are just more bitter than others. When I make baba ghanouj I just roast the eggplants whole on the barbecue until black, then use all the pulp, including the seeds and juice. Once in a while you just hit a bad eggplant and it's bitter. Honey or other sweetener might help, but you may just be throwing good honey after bad eggplant.

                    1. Euonymous Mar 30, 2007 08:03 PM

                      You don't need to remove the seeds, just the juice. Here's my method; I've been doing it since I was a young girl. I make it to taste, so you might want to go with one lemon at first, then add more juice if you think it's necessary.

                      2 italian eggplants
                      2 lemons
                      1/4-1/2 C tahini
                      Finely chopped garlic (as much as you like)
                      Salt
                      Olive oil
                      Flat leaf parsley

                      Preheat the grill to medium high. Prick the eggplants and place them on the hot grill. Cover if possible and leave until they're nice and black on the bottom. Turn them over and let them cook until they have collapsed.

                      Let cool briefly, then place them on a platter and cut them open. Raise one side of the platter using another plate or something similar, and position the platter so that the eggplant juice can drain into the sink or something.

                      After about a half hour help to drain the eggplant juice, then scoop the flesh out into a bowl or platter. Squeeze the lemon(s) over the top. Add some tahini and garlic (less than you think you'll need at first), and mash it all together. Add salt, taste, and add more garlic, salt, or tahini as you see fit. Stir in some good olive oil.

                      One thing I've learned over the years is that as the garlic chopper, I'm not terribly sensitive to the garlic flavor. So I try to put in a bit less than what I think is necessary. This usually works out well.

                      Mound onto a plate and decorate with lots of drizzled olive oil and chopped flat leaf parsley.

                      1. m
                        maestra Mar 30, 2007 06:24 PM

                        Did you blacken the eggplants and peel off the skin? The smokey flavor makes such a difference. If you just roast it, make sure it's very soft. Sounds like you used the right ingredients, and unless your proportions were off, maybe you just got some bad eggplant.

                        1. cafecreme Mar 30, 2007 05:42 PM

                          I make really good baba ghanouj and this is what I do: take a whole eggplant and pierce it in several places and shove in whole garlic cloves (I try to get at least three or four in there). Then just stick the whole thing in a hot oven and roast till the eggplant collapses. It's easy to peel after that and you can just scoop the flesh and by now, roasted garlic into the food processor or mini prep. Then, I add olive oil, lemon juice, cumin (not too much) paprika, tahini, puree the whole thing (or to a rough chop if you prefer) and if you have some on hand, plain yogurt to make it creamy. It's so delicious while it's still warm and not harsh tasting at all. Plus, really easy and quick to make (no cutting, salting, etc. of the eggplant).

                          1. m
                            mojoeater Mar 30, 2007 05:31 PM

                            Honey!

                            Show Hidden Posts