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Baba Ga-what?

Eat, drink and be fat and drunk. I heard that once.

If you are from the middle of no where like I am, Baba Ganoush (baba GAH noosh) is not something Ma made for dinner. Or a snack. It wasn’t even something on the table at  Christmas time. It does sound fancy though, doesn’t it? It actually isn’t.

So what is baba ganoush? Only the most delicious mediterranean side dish ever! Baba ganoush is a Levantine dish from the Middle East. Here is a history lesson for you, thanks Food History!

Baba ghanouj or baba ghanouj, or baba ghanoush, or baba ganouj is a dish of mashed potato eggplant and sesame seed paste that has an Arabic name that means spoiled father.

According to Middle Eastern food lore, it alludes to an elderly, toothless father – or baba – whose daughter had to mash his food because he wasn’t able to chew it.

This dish was famous in the Islamic golden times; the name came out of Syria and Lebanon later.

Baba ghanouj has been listed in restaurants in Western countries as ‘eggplant caviar’ and sometimes a thick dip or spread celled eggplant caviar is made with pureed, roasted eggplant, opinion, olive oil, and seasonings.

Eggplant originated in Southeast Asia more than 4000 years ago. Large fruited varieties came from India, and smaller fruited forms from China.

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Looks can be deceiving. This is baba ganoush and it’s finest.

It sure doesn’t look pretty. And, what is eggplant? It is that purple emoiji we often use to describe…oh, man, I am funny.

Anyway, never judge a book by it’s cover. Eggplant is kinda bland if eaten alone, but delicious when mixed with other things and there are many ways to eat it. I had never even had eggplant until I moved to Arizona. At my best friend’s restaurant, Stone and Vine, I always order the eggplant rollatini. Probably because it is eggplant stuffed with delicious ricotta cheese and topped with tomato sauce. My mouth is watering.

I had baba ganoush for the first time in Chandler, Arizona, of all places, at this small, family owned and operated restaurant called Pitta Souvli which is next to one of my many yoga studios (it really is a hidden gem). Paul and Lisa, I have to say hats off to the chef!

I have been a vegetarian for several months now, let’s say a solid four, and I have quickly come to find that finding healthy and meatless food (not eating meat is hard enough but it really is going great and I feel better, I almost have a six pack again, and meat now grosses me out – that is tough coming from someone who used to be obsessed with cheeseburgers), exploring for, and tasting/trying new food that fits this vegetarian lifestyle, is a challenge. I have turned to a Mediterranean diet because of the olive oil and healthy fats, and my love for feta cheese and tomatoes.

Their mission at Pitta Souvli is to consistently serve fresh, healthy and authentic Mediterranean cuisine that is reasonably priced and served in a casual and friendly, environment.

Mission accomplished. This is like the third time I have had it and the first time “to go”, and now I am blogging about it. It is that good.

This appetizer was $4.00. Yes, only $4.00! It came with plenty of pita bread for three people. Okay, two. Okay, one. I am a pig and I am not sharing. I used the cucumbers from my salad as a chip to dip, too.

After having this the second time, I thought I could make this! So I went to the grocery store and bought two eggplants and pita bread, cucumber and carrots. Came home and sliced them up, baked them with oil olive, peeled off the pretty purple skin (that was the hard part) and then blended it all up with sesame oil (like I am going to make tahini and what even is that? I saw sesame seed…and grabbed the sesame oil in the pantry and it worked just fine), minced garlic, lemon juice, and some seasonings in the food processor. Bada bing. It was delicious! Not as good as the baba ganoush from Pitta Souvli but I was proud of myself, it was simple to make and perfectly edible.

If there was an award for best baba ganoush in the Valley…it would go to Pitta Souvli Mediterranean Grill! Why? There is just enough lemon to taste. Puréed just enough so that you don’t feel like you are eating baby food. It scoops up perfectly on the pita bread and veggies because it’s just sticky enough. The olive oil separates slightly but not drastically like all it is – is olive oil (there is plenty of eggplant). The serving size is easily for two people. The price – you can’t beat it – what can you really get for $4.00!?

If you don’t have the patience to wait, just order it to go, and don’t forget to add a salad too so you can borrow the cucumbers (I ordered the garlic shrimp salad for the first time and give it a solid A, and the dressing was the bomb).

XOXO

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