Moutabel is a yummy dip made from roasted eggplant and tahini. Extra flavor is blended in with ingredients that can include garlic, lemon juice, hot peppers or pomegranate seeds. This dip was my unexpected gift to my husband.
I am a big proponent of food gifts, and this gift was made even more special because it would be a dish we would make fresh together. Foregoing the chocolate-covered cherries that I normally present to him on this big day, I instead gave him a mysterious bag. Inside the bag were two eggplants.
This is our 18th year together. I believe a traditional gift for the 18th anniversary year is porcelain, but I’m not aware of any porcelain pieces my husband is craving. (Well, actually I didn’t ask him. I suppose I should ask him.)
What he does want is to taste Moutabel again.
During his trip last November to Qatar, his formerly timid palate expanded by leaps and bounds. I shared the dishes that he experienced and spices he brought home for me in my post A Gift of Spices From Doha. Eggplant is one of those newly acquired tastes. He had this eggplant dip almost every morning in Doha, garnished with pomegranate seeds.
So my gift to him was eggplant, fresh mint, sesame seeds and a promise to make Moutabel together.
I have not thus far in my life been a fan of eggplant, so I was initially skeptical of this dip. To be fair though, I have only ever seen eggplant prepared in slices for dishes like Grilled Eggplant or Eggplant Parmigiano. These recipes did not appeal to me visually or texturally, and I did not venture any further into the eggplant world.
In Moutabel the eggplant is blended, a refreshing approach from my point of view. The eggplant is first roasted whole, ideally on a grill to get a deep, smoky taste. Since it was too cold for us to fire up anything outside we found that roasting the eggplant in the oven was just fine.
Once roasted the eggplant is then scooped out of the skins and blended with garlic and tahini. The recipe I found is a spicy version (for my spicy Valentine) and includes serrano pepper and basil. We won’t be garnishing this batch with pomegranate seeds, that’ll be for next time.
This was a simple and fun dish to prepare together, which made me realize that he and I should really cook together more often. We all gathered hungrily around the bowl, my husband eager to have us taste it. “Take a pita. Dig in!” It was quite good, and difficult to stop eating. The texture was smooth and the flavors melded. The fresh garlic was addictive, especially in combination with the olive oil and tahini. The olive oil is pooled in the middle of the dip and slowly pulled through the Moutabel with each swipe of a pita wedge. I like the chopped mint in this dip, and the cool, bright contrast it gives to the savory flavors.
Our boy gave it the thumbs up too, which I was not expecting. He followed his thumbs up with an order to “Make more Moutabel.” It seems that in the form of this Moutabel dip anyway, eggplant is now welcome in our house.
- 2 medium-sized eggplants
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 Serrano pepper, sliced half lengthwise, seeds removed
- 2 tablespoons tahini*
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 3-4 fresh mint leaves, chopped
- Pita bread wedges (to serve with the dip)
Preheat the oven to 400° F. Lightly oil a baking sheet.
Wash and dry the eggplants. Place the eggplants on the oiled baking sheet, and place in the oven. Roast the eggplant for 30 minutes so that they become very soft.
Meanwhile, place the garlic, basil and serrano pepper into the bowl of a food processor (use just one half of the pepper if you want a less spicy dip.) Blend the ingredients together, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
When the eggplant is done, remove it from the oven to a cutting board. Allow the eggplant to cool long enough so they are easy to handle (about 10 minutes.)
Cut the eggplants in half and scoop out the insides (for us this was a combination of scooping out the pulp and stripping the skin away from the pulp.) Add the eggplant pulp to the ingredients in the food processor. Blend to thoroughly combine the ingredients into a smooth and thick consistency.
Spoon the mixture from the food processor into a serving dish. Place the dish in the fridge to cool for 10 minutes.
Add the tahini, lemon juice and salt to the eggplant and use a fork to mix them in. Make a small well in the center of the dip and pour the olive oil into this well. Garnish the dip with the chopped mint. Serve the Moutabel with fresh pitas cut into quarters for dipping.
If you cannot find prepared tahini, or wish to make your own here is how we made tahini for this recipe:
Place 1/2 cup of toasted sesame seeds (we used a 1.62-ounce jar of McCormick Toasted Sesame Seed) into the bowl of a food processor. Process the seeds until they become a grainy paste. With the food processor running, slowly add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil through the feed tube. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as necessary. Continue blending and add up to 2 more tablespoons of vegetable oil until the tahini is smooth and liquidy.
This yielded 1/2 cup of tahini, which is a little more than needed for this recipe. The leftover tahini can be used in sauces, dressings or as a drizzle to some dishes.