Baba ghanouj is a Middle Eastern eggplant spread whose recipe usually calls for olive oil and tahini (ground sesame seed paste).

Both ingredients make it creamy and are rich in “healthful” fats, says Dana Jacobi, author of the 12 Best Foods Cookbook and a contributor to the American Institute for Cancer Research’s New American Plate Cookbook: Recipes for a Healthy Weight and a Healthy Life. But “using them liberally increases the calories,” she says, “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,” she continues. “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.”

The following low-fat recipe offers a simple solution: Bake the eggplant, and use fresh ingredients from your natural and organic food store to impart intense flavors.

Baba Ghanouj

Makes about 2½ cups

1 medium eggplant (about 1 lb.)
1 small onion, cut into quarters
1 to 2 large cloves garlic (or to taste), finely minced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

  1. Heat the oven to 400°F.
  2. With a fork, pierce eggplant in 3 or 4 places. Place on a rack set in a baking sheet. Bake about 40 minutes or until soft. Set aside to cool. Peel eggplant and cut into cubes.
  3. Place eggplant, onion, garlic, lemon juice, oil, salt and pepper in a food processor or blender. Cover and purée until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides of container, if necessary. Check seasoning and add more salt to taste, if desired. Drain excess liquid and spoon mixture into a bowl.
  4. Garnish with parsley.
  5. Serve with whole-grain pita bread wedges. 

Per 1/4 cup serving: 27 calories, 1 g total fat (less than 1 g saturated fat), 4 g carbohydrate, 1 g protein, 1 g dietary fiber, 2 mg sodium)
 
Recipe courtesy of the American Institute for Cancer Research