There is a new distraction in my life. As of the beginning of June, I am the proud owner of a Big Green Egg. For those of you who may not be acquainted with this outdoor cooking implement, it is the mother of all barbecues: a ceramic egg shaped cooking device on which you can both grill and smoke, and holds temperature for hours on end.
Consequently, entertaining levels have soared and our rare (i.e. barely bi-monthly) red meat consumption has dramatically increased to twice weekly. Many mouths have sampled Neil Rankin's smoked ribs, Fette Sau brisket and burnt ends, whole salmon wrapped in newspaper, tuna, numerous beer can chickens, and virtually every vegetable grilled while the protein rested.
While much of my "egg" cooking inspiration came from US barbecue kings, it has a heavy dose of Levant influence thanks to our recent 3 day escape to Tel Aviv. While we were there for a truly magnificent wedding, we managed to find the time to eat ourselves into oblivion.
While we consumed countless memorable dishes in Tel Aviv, on my return I could not stop thinking about the many aubergines I demolished with various tahinis. This combination found throughout Middle Eastern cuisine, and happens to be the perfect side or part of a mezze starter for any meal. And the perfect addition to a summer cook out.
Numerous aubergines have been roasted and many jars of tahini whisked for what I can now tell you is our favourite side to the "egg" feasts over the past few weeks: deconstructed baba ghanoush.
This is not technically a recipe, more of an assembly of ingredients on a plate that can be increased or decreased to suit. So, use this as a platform for expression in both design and flavour. Feel free to add different herbs, chopped tomatoes, a drizzle of pomegranate molasses, some toasted seeds or grated hard boiled egg. The choice is yours.
Deconstructed Baba Ganoush (without a recipe)
I make 3 aubergines for 8-10 people, but if you are going for a different look, you could split one in half and put each one on a small plate with the tahini and topping (like they do at North Abraxas in Tel Aviv).
Grill 3 aubergines until their skins are blackened all over and wrinkled, either on a bbq, in a very hot oven, or over the flames of a hob.
Once they are completely charred, slice them in half from the top to the bottom, leaving the top end attached for display. Place in a colander over a bowl and drain for about 20-30 minutes. Gently rub off the charred skin of the aubergine, keeping the top in tact.
In a flat serving dish with a lip, pour approximately 1 cup tahini sauce (whisk about 1 cup of tahini paste with a good punch of salt, juice of 1 or 1.5 lemons, depending on their size and how lemony you like it and slowly drizzle in 1/2 cup very cold water. Keep whisking until pale and the consistency of double cream).
Cover the tahini sauce with the split aubergines, spreading them out on the plate with the centres meeting in the middle of the dish. Sprinkle with a small handful of chopped parsley and mint (or corriander if you prefer), a smattering of pomegranate seeds and 1 tsp each of sumac and za'atar. (Or feel free to top with any of the suggestions above).