Simple, Spicy Baba Ganoush

The end of summer’s harvest approaches, welcoming in a new wave of bounty; this week, it means an abundance of dirt cheap, gorgeous graffiti eggplant for making baba ganoush. When I bought a handful of peppers, a bag full of scuppernongs, and a large basket of graffiti eggplant for only $5 from a local farm stand, I knew the creamy eggplant dish was in my future!

What Is Graffiti Eggplant?

graffiti eggplant

A smaller, white-and-purple-marbled version of traditional eggplant common at most grocery stores, this varietal is known to be less bitter than its solid purple cousin, which has thicker skin and is about twice the size. Some people even describe its flavor as fruitlike and suggest that steps like removing the skin or salting the eggplant before cooking are unnecessary given these sweet, tender characteristics. This sightly vegetable originates from the Mediterranean but grows well in most warm climates.

Health Benefits of Eggplant

Graffiti eggplant is rich in vitamins A and C, potassium, manganese, and folate. Additionallyy, in accordance with traditional Ayurvedic medicine, eggplant is prescribed as a means of fighting diabetes. (Eggplant contains high concentrations of polyphenols, which help the body process sugar.)

Eggplant is, on its own, a low-calorie food. Its high fiber content makes it a great addition to any diet!

Also, eggplant is high in antioxidants. This helps to prevent cancer and heart disease.

Ways To Cook Eggplant

If you, like me, find yourself with an abundance of eggplants, you may be looking for cooking inspiration! Happily, eggplant varietals are interchangeable in most recipes. When cooked, eggplant takes on a creamy texture. It absorbs neighboring flavors and seasonings very well. Here are some ways to use up your eggplant:

Clearly, there’s no shortage of ways you can use this amazing vegetable! If you want further eggplant inspiration, look up some Mediterranean, Indian, or Middle Eastern recipes. Eggplant has a rich history in the cuisines of these cultures.

What is Baba Ganoush and Where Is It From?

Simply put, baba ganoush is a creamy eggplant dish blended with garlic, olive oil, lemon, and tahini. Sometimes spelled “baba ganouj,” this Levantine appetizer pairs well with pita bread for dipping.

Primarily eaten as a spread, dip, or sauce, this delicious condiment hails from Lebanon. There are variants of baba ganoush in many other cuisines, including Ethiopian, Armenian, and Israeli.

How to Eat This Spicy Eggplant Dip

Think of baba ganoush as a cousin to hummus. Slather it into a veggie sandwich or drop it over your salad greens. Alternatively, dip rustic bread, pita wedges, crackers, cucumbers, peppers, broccoli, or other veggies into this silky smooth dip.

Additionally, baba ganoush makes a great ingredient on any charcuterie board!

Is Baba Ganoush Vegetarian?

Yes! Baba ganoush contains no animal products, so it’s even considered vegan!

Is Baba Ganoush Healthy?

Yes. Baba ganoush boasts a modest amount natural fats from olive oil. There is also a good amount of nutrient-rich sesame seeds from the tahini. These contribute anti-inflammatory properties as well as vitamins and minerals.

Of course, the real star of the show is eggplant. Since the eggplant roasts in the skin which is later removed, it absorbs a relatively low amount of oil in the cooking process. This means the eggplant is even healthier than cubed roasted eggplant. This is about as healthy as eggplant gets.

So, this fiber-rich, filling dish is incredibly satisfying and healthy! (And yes, baba ganoush is even keto-friendly!)

Simple Spicy Baba Ganoush

One great aspect of this recipe is its wonderful simplicity! Waiting for your eggplants to roast is the hardest part.

Pierce the skin of your eggplants with a fork like you would a baked potato. Drizzle with oil and roast.

unroasted graffiti eggplant

I roasted my eggplants for around an hour. They caramelized beautifully in the oven!

roasted eggplants

Allow to cool until you can handle the eggplant. Use a knife and spoon to separate the tender roasted flesh from the skin. Drain over a fine mesh sieve to remove any excess moisture.

draining roasted eggplant removes excess moisture

Simply add all your ingredients to a food processor and blitz until smooth and creamy!

baba ganoush ingredients

It’s as easy as that! I plated mine with some sumac, olive oil, and sheep’s milk feta. Yum!

finished baba ganoush

A perfect summer treat! 🙂

finished baba ganoush

Simple Spicy Baban Ganoush

Fresh serrano pepper gives this take on a traditional recipe a spicy flavor boost! Serve with pita, chips, crackers, or veggies!
Prep Time 25 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Total Time 1 hr 25 mins
Course Appetizer, healthy, Side Dish, Snack, vegan, Vegetarian
Cuisine Healthy, lebanese, middle eastern, persian, traditional, vegan, Vegetarian
Servings 4 people

Equipment

  • fine mesh sieve

Ingredients
  

  • 3.5-4 pounds eggplants (I used 7 small graffiti eggplants, but 2 standard eggplants will do)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1 small serrano pepper, stemmed and seeds removed
  • 2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil, for garnish optional
  • 1 oz feta cheese, for garnish optional
  • dash of sumac, for garnish optional

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 425°F and line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.
  • Wash and pat dry the eggplants. Pierce all over with a fork like you would a roasted potato. Drizzle with olive oil, and roll in oil to coat. Roast for an hour to an hour and half, or until eggplants are tender and collapsing.
  • Allow eggplant to cool to room temperature. Using a knife and spoon, cut the eggplants in half and scoop flesh out, discarding the skins. Place eggplant pulp in a fine mesh sieve over a medium-sized bowl and allow to drain for 15 minutes.
  • In the meantime, remove the seeds and stem from your serrano and set the pepper aside. Crush garlic with the flat side of a knife and discard the skin. Juice the lemon and set aside.
  • Place drained eggplant, garlic, serrano, lemon juice, and salt in a food processor or blender and blitz until smooth and creamy.
  • Plate with a drizzle of olive oil, a dash of sumac, and feta cheese crumbles. Serve immediately. Keeps up to 4 days in the fridge in an air tight container.
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Rustic Tomato Tart (Vegetarian)

If your vines are sagging with tomatoes and your larders are looking perilously full of produce, may I present to you a simple solution: rustic tomato tart. It has been a while since I’ve made anything so thoroughly gratifying in the kitchen, from the process of crafting this elevated form of tomatoes to digging into a savory bite of this delicious tart.

While this recipe happens to be vegetarian, what it lacks in meat it more than makes up for in flavor. Layers of spicy mustard, rich gruyère cheese, earthy herbs, and juicy, roasted, umami-rich tomatoes come together beautifully in this culinary delight, which seems to be at least cousins with pizza. You won’t even miss the meat. Promise.

This show-stopping rustic tart is definitely a labor of love. It takes nearly two hours to prepare from start to finish, but is definitely a dish you’ll want to share with other tomato fans. (Or pizza fans…or savory tart fans…or fans of wholesome-feeling food…)

There is something so comforting about ingredients enveloped in pastry, and this tomato tart is no exception. This is not a dish to get fussy over, or to try to make look perfect. The point, if I may say so, is to put summer’s voluptuous tomatoes on the pedestal they deserve, all in one scrumptious buttery crust. Forkable and finger-food-able, chances are you will not be able to cut yourself a big enough wedge of this mouth-watering rustic beauty!

Why Tomatoes Are Good For You

Whether you’re munching on a cherry tomato or digging into a funky heirloom varietal, there are certain nutritional elements that are universal in the delicious world of tomatoes.

Red tomatoes are high in an antioxidant called lycopene, for example. This gives them their red color which helps to protect them from ultraviolet light damage from the sun. Eating high amounts of lycopene can likewise protect your cells from ultraviolet rays, so eating tomatoes in summertime (i.e. when they naturally are abundant) just makes sense. Isn’t it great when nature works with us?

Additionally, lycopene is associated with cancer prevention. It also reduces “bad” cholesterol, which may help to prevent heart disease.

All tomatoes contain substances called lutein and zeaxanthin. These substances have been correlated with protecting your eyes from blue light from smartphones and computer screens. These compounds may also help to prevent age-related macular degeneration, the number one cause of blindness in the United States today.

Lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin have also been associated with lung health. Tomatoes may be beneficial to patients with asthma as well as those at risk for emphysema.

Tomatoes are also rich in:

  • potassium
  • vitamins E, C, and K
  • folate (vitamin B9)
  • soluble and insoluble fiber

Tomatoes’ high vitamin C content gives an added boost to your immune system. Their antioxidants help to reduce inflammation, and they even prevent your blood from clotting. All of these benefits are associated with stroke prevention.

Is It Better to Eat Raw or Cooked Tomatoes?

Certain nutritional elements are more easily absorbed when tomatoes are cooked, like lycopene. However, cooking the tomatoes (even gently) removes some of the vitamin C.

So, why are you eating tomatoes? (Other than their wonderful, tangy taste?!) If you are boosting your immune system, eat raw tomatoes. If you are hoping to incorporate more lycopene into your diet, cook those fruits!

Are Tomatoes Really a Fruit?

The short answer is yes. Fruits are ripened flower ovaries with seeds. By this definition, lots of produce we think of as a vegetable is actually a fruit. Zucchini, pumpkins, avocados, cucumbers, and okra are all “vegetables” that are actually fruits. For a longer list, click here.

Over time, however, botanists distinguished fruits from vegetables by their relatively higher fructose content.

Today, most nutritionists clump tomatoes in with vegetables. Turns out the answer is complex as the flavor profile of a tomato itself!

Rustic Tomato Tart

It’s time to use up those uber-ripe tomatoes! Gather your ingredients for the filling and prepare the shortcrust pastry.

super ripe tomatoes and tart filling ingredients

Simple ingredients, big flavor…what could be better?

short crust ingredients

Familiar ingredients come together in a unique way for this shortcrust pastry. If you don’t have a food processor, feel free to make a pie crust following my recipe. The recipe in the link above utilizes both rye and regular all-purpose flour, but you can feel free to use only all-purpose flour.

Are Shortcrust Pastry and Pie Crust the Same Thing?

Yes, both shortcrust and pie crust are referring to a flaky, fatty pastry that it’s best not to overwork. Shortpastry relies on minimal gluten development for its flaky nature. This means that the more you work your dough, the more you form gluten networks. Overworking means chewy crust, not flaky crust–a shortcrust faux pas!

shortcrust pastry

Roll out the pastry to fit a pie dish or tart pan between 9 and 11 inches.

unbaked rustic tart shell

Save any residual dough, as it can be used to patch any seams in your tart shell!

blind bake

As you can see, I ran out of dried beans and improvised with some rice to weigh down the crust. This is important to prevent large bubbles from forming in the shell as well as preventing the sides from slumping down. While the crust is baking, prepare the filling.

thick tomato slices "sweat" with a layer of salt

Salt your thick tomato wedges and allow them to sit for a few minutes and “sweat.” Blot them with paper towels to remove excess moisture.

basil, parsley, olive oil, salt, and garlic

Blitz herbs, garlic, and oil until relatively smooth.

basil and parsley herb puree

Once you’ve created your herb puree and blotted your tomatoes, you are ready to assemble your rustic tomato tart!

disassembled tomato tart

Spread the dijon in a thin layer over the base of the par-baked crust.

layer 1 tomato tart

Next goes the cheese…

layer 2 of the tomato tart

Over the cheese goes the herb puree. Spread it as evenly as you can, bearing in mind it will level as the tart cooks and relaxes in the hot oven.

layer 3 tomato tart

Layer your tomato slices over the top of the herb puree. Be generous and really load the tart with tomatoes. Keep in mind they will shrink in the hot oven, so don’t be afraid to layer them.

unbaked tomato tart

Roast in the oven until the tomatoes have caramelized nicely and released some of their juices.

slice of tomato tart

If you must serve yourself two helpings of this rustic tomato tart, there will certainly be no judgment from me…ENJOY!

This recipe is based on Smitten Kitchen’s tomato tart.

rustic tomato tart

Rustic Tomato Tart (Vegetarian)

Thick wedges of tomato roasted over a bed of herbs, sharp cheese, and shortcrust pastry make this tart a show-stopper!
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 1 hr 30 mins
Freezer Time 30 mins
Total Time 2 hrs 15 mins
Course Appetizer, Happy Hour, Main Course, Side Dish, Vegetarian
Cuisine American, Comfort Food, French, Intuitive, Seasonal, Vegetarian
Servings 6 people

Equipment

  • food processor

Ingredients
  

Shortcrust Pastry

  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup cold butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbsp cold water
  • dried beans, rice, or pie weights, for par-baking

Tomato Filling

  • 3 large, very ripe tomatoes (heirloom or beefsteak work great)
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1 1/2 cups basil leaves, loosely packed
  • 1 1/2 cups parsley leaves, loosely packed
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp whole grain mustard (Dijon works too)
  • 2 oz grated sharp cheese (Gruyere or Pecorino Romano are great picks)
  • freshly ground black pepper, for garnish

Instructions
 

  • Add dry ingredients and butter to a food processor and pulse until the mixture has formed a coarse crumb. Add water and egg and pulse until dough just comes together. Using two sheets of wax or parchment paper, form the dough into a disc and roll it out between the two sheets using a rolling pin or wine bottle until it will fit into a tart pan or pie dish. Transfer the sheet of dough onto a plate or cookie sheet and place in the freezer for 10 minutes.
  • While the dough is chilling, slice the tomatoes into 1/2" wedges and lay out on a rimmed baking sheet. Season generously with salt and allow to sit at room temperature while you work on the tart shell.
  • Remove the sheet of shortcrust from the freezer and work the dough into the pie dish or tart pan. Trim the edges as necessary and save any remaining dough for patching any tears that may have occurred. Prick the bottom and sides of the tart shell with a fork and place back in the freezer for another 20 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  • While the tart is chilling for the second time, prepare the herb puree. Rinse out your food processor and add herbs, salt, and garlic and pulse until the herbs are finely cut. Add olive oil and pulse again until the mixture forms a paste. Set aside.
  • Pull the chilled tart shell out of the freezer. Line with parchment paper and add dried beans, rice, or pie weights until they climb up at least half the height of your tart shell walls. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until crust has begun to solidify. Remove pie weights and parchment, and bake another 5-10 minutes, or until the bottom of the tart is no longer shiny. Allow the tart shell to cool to room temperature.
  • Blot the tomatoes with paper towels to remove excess moisture. Spread mustard in the bottom of the ambient temperature tart shell. Sprinkle grated cheese over the mustard. Add an even layer of herb puree over the cheese, then arrange the tomato slices on top of that. Keep in mind they will shrink in the oven, so be generous and really load the tart with tomatoes. Crack pepper over the top layer of the tart.
  • Bake for 50 minutes to an hour, or until the tomatoes are nicely roasted. Allow the tart to cool slightly. Best served warm. Keeps in the fridge up to 4 days.
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What to Serve With Tomato Tart

I definitely ate generous slices of this as my dinner, but this tart works great as a side dish as well. Natural choices are a protein-rich salad, hearty sausages, or a balsamic-glazed flank steak. Don’t forget to eat this tart in the sunshine!

This tart keeps in the fridge up to 4 days. It doesn’t do great in the freezer due to the tomatoes’ high water content (water expands in the freezer, cell walls rupture, and you end up with tomato mush). This tart is for sharing, so eat it up quick!