Appetizers & Sides

Homemade Tahini-Based Dips

Tahini, or sesame paste, is a staple ingredient of Middle Eastern cuisine. It’s sold in most supermarkets, or you can make your own at home.

I got introduced to tahini years ago, after having a delectable dip called baba ganoush at my brother-in-law’s mother’s house. Researching the ingredients, I discovered that it’s made of mashed eggplant and tahini, and that it’s very simple to make.

Grillng the eggplants gives the baba ganoush a smokey flavour, making it an ideal summer appetizer. But when I get a hankering for it in the cold months, I simply grill the eggplants right over the hot stove coils. It makes a mess, but it works.

BABA GANOUSH

2 large Japanese eggplants (I use this variety, as opposed to the fatter Italian eggplants, because they are faster to grill and are more flavourful)
6-8 tablespoons tahini
1 large clove garlic, peeled and mashed to smooth pulp with a sprinkling of coarse salt (easily done with a mortar and pestle, or on your cutting board with the edge of your knife)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil

Grill the eggplants until soft and blackened all over. Pop them into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to steam for a few minutes. Cut off the stems and peel off the blackened skins.

Place in a food processor along with the rest of the ingredients. Pulse a few times for a rough consistency, or puree until smooth.

HUMMUS

Growing up in the Philippines, I was not a big fan of chickpeas. They were what some cooks used as a filler in stews, but I was able to muster about as much enthusiasm for their presence in my callos as for an unwanted guest at a party. Luckily, you can shove chickpeas off to the side of your plate and ignore them without too much guilt.

I’m still not a fan of whole chickpeas, but hummus is another story. I love creamy, garlicky hummus with just a hint of lemon. It’s delicious; it’s nutritious; and it’s super-easy to make.

This recipe uses the same basic ingredients as baba ganoush, replacing the eggplants with 2 cups chickpeas (I use canned chickpeas and leave some of the liquid in for a creamier consistency).

Serve these two dips with pita or bagel chips, or fresh veggies, and olives, roasted red peppers, and cubes of feta cheese.

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