Baba Ghanoush

A few weeks ago, Jess Goldman from Sodium Girl wrote and asked if I would participate in the “Love Your Heart” recipe rally she was organizing. If you ever met the wonderfully warm and exuberant Jess, you would never know that eight years ago this young woman was facing kidney failure as a result of an initial Lupus flare up (more on her story here). But with great medical care, and the love and support of her family and friends, Jess has made a full recovery. But in order to keep her health in check, she has also made significant changes in her diet, most notably, removing non-natural sodium. And I am so happy to be supporting her by making this baba ghanoush!

For salt lovers like our Anderson clan, the idea of living without the salt box (with three kinds of salt in it!) next to the stove is almost unthinkable. Whenever there is something not quite right with a dish, our answer is almost always to add more salt. But when I read some information that Jess sent through to help us with the recipe rally, it really did make me think.

The USDA recommends that Americans consume less than 2,300 mg of sodium a day (that is equal to a teaspoon of salt. A teaspoon!). We all know that salt is very important in food and in our bodies, but it’s surprising how quickly we can reach the recommended limit without ever picking up the salt shaker. For example, there is 70mg of sodium in an egg. Chicken legs have over 90mg of sodium per ¼ pound. And there is over 80mg of sodium in a medium turnip. Artichokes? 120mg per artichoke. Kale? 30mg per cup! Woah, okay.

I’ve learned from my Mom (who jokingly says she’d like to write the book, “Salt and Acid”) that if salt levels aren’t the problem, the dish probably needs more acid. A few weeks ago, as I was winging it in the kitchen with a batch of Baba Ghanoush, I added a lot of lemon and thought to myself, “This really doesn’t need salt.” And I had a revelation: often I’m just adding a generous shake of salt because I think I should. But between the roasted eggplant, cumin, smoked paprika, tahini, and lemon juice, this Baba Ghanoush has so much flavor it doesn’t really need salt.

We don’t all need to cut out salt completely, but we could all stand to cut back on the salt. So, here’s the recipe. See what you think. Here’s to our healthy, happy hearts!

Baba Ganoush with Smoked Paprika

Makes a scant quart

 Serve with warm pita or pita chips. If salt is not an issue, season dip to taste.

2 medium eggplants, pricked with a fork
1/2 cup packed parsley leaves
2 garlic cloves
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon smoked paprika, plus a little extra for sprinkling
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 cup each: tahini and olive oil, plus a little extra olive oil for drizzling

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Place eggplants on a rimmed baking sheet and roast until fork tender, 30 to 40 minutes. When they’re cool enough to handle, peel eggplants, using a spoon to scrape any flesh that sticks to the skin.

Mince parsley and garlic in a food processor. Add eggplant and remaining ingredients and process until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and sprinkle with a little smoked paprika and drizzle with a little olive oil and serve.