No. 3: Babaganoush at Al Safa
Moistness is the key to great babaganoush.
Everybody loves baba, and not only vegetarians, either. Considered either a salad or a bread dip, the dish originated in the Middle East, probably in Palestine, where eggplants grow wild.
But how does one judge babaganoush? It should not be pureed so completely that it loses all texture, and should be both lemony and nutty tasting at the same time, with the nuttiness produced by sesame tahini. It should also be smoky, too, with that flavor produced by the method of cooking the eggplant before making the baba. The purple vegetable should be roasted over a smoky fire, or, in a pinch, over the flame of a gas stove. Roasting it in the oven can produce a similar -- though not as pungent -- smoky flavor. Either way, the skin should be blackened and removed before the eggplant is used in the recipe.
At Levantine restaurant Al Safa, the baba is some of the best in Brooklyn. It arrives with plenty of pitas for dipping, and comes laked in good olive oil, ramping up the lubrication index and improving the mouthfeel of the dip. The babaganoush there is so good, you may want to make it the focus of your meal.
8002 Fifth Avenue
Bay Ridge, Brooklyn