Baba ghanouj is a spread or dip made with roasted eggplant and tahini, which is ground sesame seed paste. To make it creamy, this Middle Eastern appetizer usually contains generous amounts of tahini plus extra virgin olive oil. While both of them are rich in the "good" or healthful fats you want in your diet, using them liberally increases the calories and, no matter how good those fats may be, calories do count especially in our overweight society.

Traditional eggplant spread presents problems in the preparation as well. For example, exposing the eggplant to flame adds lovely smoky flavor that can help compensate for reducing the amount of oil used. But this method messes up the stove when a gas burner is used, and after grilling eggplant, getting the skin off can be a tedious task that takes time.

The time-pressed home cook will look for that smoky flavor in baba ghanouj when eating out and deploy other strategies to make a delicious spread.

Using ingredients associated with Mediterranean roots can compensate for reduced fat content and add flavor in the process. These include pureed beans, garlic and yogurt.

Chickpeas make a great hummus, and marrying pureed chickpeas with the eggplant used in baba ghanouj makes a perfect romance between these two popular East Mediterranean dishes.

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Roasted garlic has a rich creamy flavor and tastes far richer than raw garlic. And there is a simple, mess-free way to roast garlic in the oven.

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Olive oil is used not only for flavor, but to thin the spread. If you use just enough for flavor, the spread can then be thinned with something much lower in calories but still healthful yogurt. If you find the Greek-style, thicker yogurt sometimes found in supermarkets, all the better for authenticity as well as texture. Otherwise, use regular (plain) yogurt, or a reduced- or low-fat version, which is improved if you take time to drain it before adding to the spread.

Eggplant Hummus

Makes 1-1/3 cups or about 9 (2-tablespoon) servings.

  • 1 medium (1 lb.) eggplant
  • 4 large garlic cloves
  • Olive oil
  • 3/4 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 2 Tbsp. tahini
  • 2 Tbsp. plain non-fat yogurt
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1-2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and ground pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place the eggplant on a baking sheet. Place the garlic in a square of foil. Add 2-3 drops olive oil, rubbing to coat the garlic. Seal the packet and place on the baking sheet.
  3. Bake the eggplant and garlic until very soft, 40-50 minutes for the garlic, 60-75 minutes for the eggplant. Turn the eggplant 3 to 4 times so it cooks evenly. Place the eggplant in a bowl, slit it open, and set aside to cool and drain.
  4. Discarding the drained liquid and the skin, place the roasted eggplant in a food processor. Squeeze the garlic from its skin and add, along with the chickpeas, tahini, yogurt, cumin, and 1 Tbsp. of lemon juice. Whirl until the hummus is smooth and fluffy. Season the hummus to taste with salt, pepper, and additional lemon juice, if desired. For best flavor, refrigerate hummus 4 to 24 hours before serving. Serve accompanied by toasted whole-wheat pita bread and raw vegetables.

Per each serving of two tablespoons:
59 calories,
2 g. total fat (less than 1 g. saturated fat),
9 g. carbohydrate,
2 g. protein,
3 g. dietary fiber,
64 mg. sodium

Diabetic Exchanges: 1/2 Bread/Starch, 1/2 Fat