Ya Ya’s Euro Bistro is a restaurant here in KC that has an extensive menu garnishing traditional meals with a European spin. We hadn’t been there in many years but for our anniversary Joe took me to Ya Ya’s for a night out. Before the meal was served they brought out a Baba Ganoush appetizer with soft french bread for dipping that was so tasty. It had a hint of lemon and tasted different than anything we had ever had. We both loved it and asked the waiter what it consisted of. He was happy to share and told us that it was made with roasted eggplant, Greek yogurt, garlic, an herbed olive oil and sprinkled with a spice called Zatar. Most recipes use tahini in their Baba Ganoush which is why this dish tastes so different. I found a recipe online from St. Louis Today for Ya Ya’s famous Baba Ganoush that had the exact ingredients our waiter had listed. I made a run to Tasteful Olive for an olive oil that would give this dish the taste we had experienced at Ya Ya’s. When I explained to them what I was making they suggested Milanese Gremolata, a flavored olive oil consisting of fresh lemon zest, minced garlic, Italian flat leaf parsley and a hint of mint. With the olive oil in hand I walked a couple doors down to Penzey’s where I found Zatar, a spice that is a popular Middle Eastern blend consisting of sumac, thyme, sesame seeds and salt. Roasting the eggplant was a bit time consuming but I have to say my homemade Baba Ganoush came together with the consistency and flavors that we enjoyed at Ya Ya’s. It couldn’t have turned out better!
Some folks poke holes in the eggplant before roasting in the oven, however I tried the method used by “Serious Eats”. They recommended leaving the skin intact without holes finding that the eggplant steamed inside it’s skin (kind of like roasting green chile) leaving the meat inside moist and meaty, not dried out. Broil on the highest setting with the eggplant about 6 inches below the broiler element at least 1 hour. Turn the eggplant every 15 minutes. The eggplant should be very tender. Test at each end and they should be extremely soft, collapsing at the slightest touch. If not, roast them some more. Serious Eats rule of thumb is cook them until you think they’re burnt beyond saving, and that’s when you’re good to go.
This is the other method “Serious Eats” uses. To extract the excess juice/liquid from the eggplant, they suggested running it through a salad spinner. Run through at least 3 times to spin out as much liquid as possible.
To serve, scoop a big dollop of Baba Ganoush onto a bread plate. Drizzle with the herb olive oil and around the outer edges of the plate. Garnish with dried parsley. Sprinkle Zatar seasoning over top.
2 large Eggplant, approx 2 pounds
1 1/4 cups Greek Yogurt
2 cloves Garlic, grated on a microplane grater
1/2 – 3/4 cup Canola Oil
Salt and White Pepper to taste
Herb Olive Oil (I used Tasteful Olive’s Milanese Gremolata)
Zatar, (I used Penzeys spice blend of Sumac, Thyme, White Sesame Seeds and Salt)
Parsley to garnish
Soft French Bread for dipping
Heat oven broiler at the highest setting. Arrange eggplant on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Roast eggplant turning every 15 minutes or so to char all sides. Roast at least 1 hour then test to see if the eggplant is deflated and soft to the touch at both ends. If not roast until the eggplant is extremely tender. Remove from oven, wrap the aluminum foil around the eggplant to steam some more and let cool completely. Remove the skin and as much of the seeds as possible. Run eggplant through a salad spinner to remove as much excess liquid as possible.
Place the eggplant in a food processor. Add Greek yogurt and garlic, puree until smooth. With the processor running, add the canola oil and process until very smooth and creamy. Season with salt and white pepper. Refrigerate an hour or so for the flavors to meld.
To serve, scoop and dollop baba ganoush onto a small plate. Drizzle with the herb olive oil and around the outer edges of the plate. Garnish with dried parsley. Sprinkle Zatar seasoning over top and serve with soft french bread.
Serves 8 – 10