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French people often drink apéritifs before dinner, but rarely cocktails. Americans who come to Paris are often perplexed when the waiter asks them: “Vous desirez un apéritif?” and a few minutes later, they’re handed a glass of red Martini & Rossi instead of the straight-up, dry martini that they thought they had ordered.

And another heads-up: tourists are equally perplexed when the check arrives and they find that that dinky demi-flute of kir Royale costs more than their main course.

Few French people that I know order an apéritif in a restaurants, unless it’s a special occasion. Sometimes visitors assume they’re supposed to order one, thinking that the waiter will think they’re a skinflint if they don’t. But they’re mostly just asking to be polite, since they’re not on the “take”…er, I mean…the tip-system.

So it’s no skin off their derrière if you don’t order a pre-dinner drink. I doubt they order one when they go out either. Just like salesclerks in fancy clothing stores, who I’m never afraid of: the only reason they’re able to wear those clothes is because they work there. I don’t worry about what they think of me since they can’t afford them either.

pita chips

Parisians often take their pre-dinner drink at a café, where they can sit outside and it’s decidedly more pleasant. Oh yeah, and of course, where you can still smoke. At dinner parties, though, apéritifs are served because it allows for stragglers and late-comers, an especially big problem for the hosts and hostesses of Paris.

During that time, there’s always something to nibble on. Sometimes I’ll make something like Baba Ganoush, which is often called caviar d’aubergines, a tasty spread which is easy to make, and even improves if made a day or two in advance. I’ll serve it with toasted bread or pita triangles. Sometimes I’ll tone down the garlic for les Parisiennes, and in the spite of their penchant for cigarettes, I tame the smoky-flavor, too, depending on who’s on the guest list.

eggplants roasted

One dinner party habit this American hasn’t acclimated to is the Parisian habit of sitting down to eat at 10pm—and not leaving until 3am, or later. I’m a lightweight compared to them, and begin nodding off just after midnight. When the métro stopped at 1am, it was the perfect excuse to break up the party so I could catch my beauty sleep, as everyone made a mad dash for the underground. But now, with the extended hours and the free bikes scattered around Paris, you need a crowbar to get folks to leave. No wonder my looks are fading.

I’m still working on getting folks to leave and I haven’t figured out that one out, yet. Maybe garlic ice cream should be next on my docket, so I can get some sleep around here.

Baba Ganoush

I like my Baba Ganoush super-smoky, and leave the eggplants on the stovetop for a good ten minutes, but for most people, that’s probably too much. Five or so minutes, until the skin gets a bit charred, is probably right for most “normal” folks. If you have smoked salt, you can use that to give it another hit of smoked flavor, too. Sometimes I add a pinch of ground cumin. If you do, please just add just a bit. Baba Ganoush shouldn’t taste predominantly of cumin, which can quickly overwhelm.
  • 3 medium-sized eggplants
  • 1/2 cup (130g) tahini, (sesame paste)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 3 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1/8 teaspoon chile powder
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • a half bunch picked flat-leaf parsley or cilantro leaves
  • Preheat the oven to 375F (190C).
  • Prick each eggplant a few times, then char the outside of the eggplants by placing them directly on the flame of a gas burner and as the skin chars, turn them until the eggplants are uniformly-charred on the outside. (If you don’t have a gas stove, you can char them under the broiler. If not, skip to the next step.)
  • Place the eggplants on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until they’re completely soft; you should be able to easily poke a paring knife into them and meet no resistance.
  • Remove from oven and let cool.
  • Split the eggplant and scrape out the pulp. Puree the pulp in a blender or food processor with the other ingredients until smooth.
  • Taste, and season with additional salt and lemon juice, if necessary. Serve drizzle with olive oil, perhaps some herbs and with crackers, sliced baguette, or toasted pita chips for dipping.


Storage: Baba Ganoush can be made and refrigerated for up to five days prior to serving.

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    • Jurie

    Hey, that post made me chuckle twice. Well done! I will try out the recipe one of these days.

    • Mona

    Yum! My grandma makes it as well, but in Romania it’s called “salată de vinete”.

    Love your site and writing and recipes! :-)

    • Laurie

    Looks yummy! I love hummus, but I can’t make it very often because the grocery stores in this po-dunk hick town I live in doesn’t carry tahini, which really pisses me off sometimes! The next time I go to Shreveport, I’ll pick some up and I will remember your recipe for the Baba Ganoush, I know I would really like it.

    • Andy

    I have to disagree with your peanut butter statement. When I went over to visit my friends in France, the only thing they wanted us to bring was peanut butter. When they came here two months ago to visit us, we went to a food store and they bought 5 jars to bring back! They just can’t get enough!

    • David

    Andy: Some of the younger crowd do like peanut butter, but most French folks I know make a face and won’t touch it. (I was going to quote what one of them said the taste reminded him of, but it was kinda disgusting, so I won’t repeat it. )

    I asked chocolatier Michel Chaudun, who makes a peanut-filled chocolate, why French people have an aversion to peanut butter and he said, “It’s because it’s associated with the salted nuts they serve in bars and cafés.” That particular chocolate is not a big seller here in France, he said, but he sells a lot of them in Japan.

    • Sylvie, Rappahannock Cook & Kitchen Gardener

    Such a good idea to “smoke” the eggplant first – on the stove: it must bring a nice depth of flavors. I take you have no smoke detector, David? I would probably try it on the grill outside (my stove is electric anyway…)

    Another very nice appetizer I like to serve with aperitif besides humus and tapenade, is the classic Provencal pissaladiere. Even people who say they don’t like anchovies are converted! Also easy to make and since it can be served at room temperature, it can be made in advance.

    And re: The French & Peanut Butter.
    In the corner of oversea France where I grew up, peanut butter (home-made or sold under the brand name of “Dakatine”) was almost a staple: we used it mostly in side savory dishes (spicy hot) served with rice and curry and on baguette tartines with apricot jam for an after school snack. It was almost impossible to find in in mainland France 25 years ago – except in fancy food shops like Fauchon. Imagine my delight that it (and peanuts) was even more of a staple here in the States, and was used in all kind of dishes unknown to me before: cookies, ice-cream, soup etc.

    • De in D.C.

    Sounds delicious, though I’ll have to take issue with your ground cumin comment. Anything with black beans as a predominate flavor is gross, unless copious amounts of cumin are added. Then the dish transforms into something magical.

    • cheryl

    By coincidence, I made Baba Ganoush just the other day. It was deeelicious!
    I had some left over falafel sauce in the fridge from making “the” most amazing falafels this side of Heaven and, home made pita. ( Might as well go all the way and make everything from scratch)
    Anyway, I used the sauce I made for the falafels in the Baba Ganoush.
    Man oh man, was that yummy!!!!

    *I always look forward to your postings

    • Paul.

    Mmm, I like my Baba Ganoush super-smokey, too, but it’s a bit too much for most people.

    I didn’t know about the extended hours; when I lived in Paris, I’d relied on le dernier mètro to clear my dinner guests from the table at a “decent” hour. Hmmmm, maybe a cinnamon-flavored dessert might work instead. (I remember a cultural aversion to cinnamon among my French friends.)

    • cindym

    i am so in love with baba ganoush that i recently strong-armed a friend into letting me stick some eggplants into her stovetop smoker. i’m forever in search of the perfect balance of smoky flavor and creamy eggplant. mmmmm.

    • darlene

    The late hours thing threw me off when I lived in DK. During the summer the sun doesn’t even go down until 10:30 at night, and no one would dream of going out before the sun went down. They’d do the same thing in the winter though, when the sun would go down at 3:30 in the afternoon. My first New Year’s Party there was long. It started with the Queen’s speech at 6PM and ended the next morning at 7AM. Did I mention I was the host?

    I never did learn the polite way to get people to leave.

    • Heidi

    Weren’t we the idiot Americans when we queued up for dinner at 6pm in Florence. We were very tired from sight-seeing and wanted to have an early dinner and bedtime. Not to be! We had to go see some more sights just to wait around for the place to open.

    • Sara

    I just recently made the Iranian version of Baba Ganoush, called Bademjan
    on my blog. The flavor is quite different, more fried and onion-y, but still way delicious. Also served with pita chips. Take a look, if you’re interested in trying something new!

    • Ivana

    A friend of mine excused herself to say that she wanted to change to something more comfortable and came out in her pjs! They sure got the hint real fast!

    • David

    Sylvie: Yes, you can get peanut butter here in ethnic markets, and some of the supermarkets carry it too (although the American-brands are a bit pricey.) I bring mine back from the US, since I insist on extra-chunky and preferably, organic.

    Darlene: I’ve read that in Paris, if you want dinner guests to leave, serve them orange juice. I assume that’s a polite way of giving someone the hint. But no one’s ever offered me oj and I always think it’s rude for me to leave when they keep pouring me wine.

    Cindym: My dream is a stovetop smoker! I brought a bunch of smoked salt back from Texas in May and I love it.

    • Matt

    Life in Paris would thrill me, but I’d never thrive socially. I’m fading fast at 11:00 and am the living dead by midnight. As always, your writing and photography have, what I like to call, casual elegance. Beautiful!

    • Kim

    Well, first off you are a good sport staying awake till midnight, which is way past my bedtime. I think I would have to limit my guests to lunch to get them out early enough. My daughter is visiting me for the week and her favorite is Baba Ganoush-so I will make a batch for her.

    • Lucy

    This is excellent! Though, when I made baba ganouj, I had problems keeping the pulp free of charred skin, bleh… I only used 1 tbsp. of home-made tahini (I reduced the recipe to two eggplants), and lots of garlic ( 6 cloves)! I also threw in some plain yogurt … sure, that tempers with the authenticity, but it’s so delicious!

    • Sarah

    Gorgeous photo, it looks delicious!

    • jean

    I love the idea of serving garlic ice cream. Fantastic.

    • David

    Jean: Well, the idea is probably more interesting than the reality!

    : 0

    • tom

    My take on the ubiquity of those salty aperitif snacks is that all of that salt cuts the sweetness of the aperitifs that the French customarily have drunk, such as Martini and Ross, Lillet, kir, etc. Would work too with the sugary Coke or Fanta that those not imbibing would take.

    Of course, why this held on when more and more French would take “un peu de whisky” as an aperitif, I haven’t the foggiest!

    • Maaike

    I also read ‘More of my party-time recipes’ and I was wondering about something in the Cosmopolitan recipe. I wasn’t able to post a comment there, so I post it here if that’s ok.

    You write about using Triple Sec instead of Grand Marnier or Cointreau. But G M and Cointreau are Triple Sec or I’m a mistaking something?

    I really love a good Cosmopolitan so I’m very curious for the best recipe.

    • absinthe

    David–Smoked salt sounds wonderful. Where in TX did you find it (I’m in Houston and would like to find some–Central Market maybe?).

    • andrea

    Did you ever try vacuuming? Yes, I know it is rude, but we tend to be late eaters and have been at several restaurants (all over) where we know it is time to go when they bring out the vacuum. I guess the worst that could happen is that you have a clean floor!

    • David

    Andrea: When I worked in the restaurant business, even if all the other customers left, the kitchen had closed and turned off the lights, and the chairs surrounding them were put up on tables, we’d have people that would linger on and on and on and…zzzzz…I guess because in France, you can really stay as long as you like and no one will say anything, people don’t feel the need to leave dinner parties with any urgency.

    Either that, or maybe my guests are hoping I bring out more desserts?

    Maaike: Triple Sec, I think, is slightly-sweeter, and although I’m not a fan of sugary drinks, in Cosmos it seems to play off better with the lime juice than the stronger liqueurs you mentioned.

    Absinthe: Yes, I got my smoked salts at Central Market. My luggage reeked of smoke, by the way, and I had to quadruple-wrap it because I was afraid that airport security might think it was something else!

    • Dana

    Once, out of desperation, we put on Time To Say Goodbye and turned it up pretty loud. The only reaction we got was: “Oh, don’t you just love Andrea Bocelli? Got any more of his CD’s?” Never considered oj or garlic ice cream, hm…….

    • Danielle

    First of all, David, thanks for the amusing post! It’s great to have an unexpected chuckle. I have to chime in on the peanut butter conversation. When I shared PB and J sandwiches with French friends during a semester abroad, some were repulsed by the idea, some tried out of curiosity; but no one really enjoyed the combination!

    Thanks also for giving me a reason to pick up some eggplant. Apart from ratatouille, I don’t think about it at all.

    • stacy t

    oh my – my dad has fresh eggplant in his garden (in Maine), i think i’m going to go raid his garden (hehe). thanks for the recipe D!

    • Angela

    AH HA! That explains it. My 4 year-old son is actually a Parisienne at heart. The mere smell of peanut butter makes him gag. Kindergarten lunches will be a challenge. Maybe I will make him baba ganoush sandwiches.

    I really do have a question here and it involves another nut butter. Do you find that your tahini is somewhat bitter? Is it supposed to be that way?

    • Gills n Thrills

    I need to make this! I’ve been overwhelmed by all of the eggplant lately. Its hard to use up.

    • Sylvie, Rappahannock Cook & Kitchen Gardener

    David here is what you do. You just ask them to leave, politely of course, as if you have a problem and they can help you – by leaving. They don’t want to leave because they don’t want to suggest that they are not having fun and that they are bored at your place. So you have to ask them. That’s what I would do.

    So you say: “Mes chers amis, c’est toujours un grand plaisir de vous avoir ici chez moi. Mais j’ai un petit probleme. En fait, je suis une petite nature. Nous les Americains il nous faut notre sommeil pour pouvoir fonctionner normalement. Alors moi, je vous mets a la porte. Sinon, je ne pourrai jamais tenir le coup et je me ruinerai la sante. Je vous aime bien, tous, mais maintenant c’est bye bye”

    You’ll have to supplement the accents, though. I can’t seem to be able to them in the comment box.

    Worth the paper it’s written on!

    Good luck you social butterfly you.

    • Kevin

    That Baba Ganoush looks good! It sounds nice and simple and tasty.

    • class factotum

    I had the same late-night problem when I lived in Chile. For an 8:00 party, the Americans would arrive at 8:15 or 8:30 and leave by midnight or 1:00. The Chileans would arrive at 11:00 and stay until 4:00. I finally got to the point where I would just tell my guests that I had to go to bed and to please lock the door behind them when they left.

    • cristina

    I made it but I think it taste better if you add a couple tablespoons of yogurt. By the way very nice pictures :)

    • Dimah

    I’m from Syria
    In Syria the name “Baba Ghanoush” is not given to this recipe, but we have “Mutabal” And ” Baba Ghanoush”

    Eggplants placing them directly on the flame of a gas burner, so that the pulp is soft and has a smoky taste.
    Olive oil

    “Baba Ghanoush”:
    Eggplant placing them directly on the flame of a gas burner, so that the pulp is soft and has a smoky taste
    Finely diced Tomato, Parsley, Mint, Green pepper, Garlic and Onion
    Pomegranate molasses (in Syria we made Pomegranate molasses by boiling pomegranate juice with salt, like 2 tablespoon salt for each 1 liter of juice, and boil it for 5 – 6 hours until become dark brown)
    Decorate with Pomegranate arils, and olive oil


    • David McQualter

    Thx for the recipe, I roast my aubergines outdoors on a coleman stove. Here Down Under one can bbq as an act of patriotism, so (unsolicited advice warning!) I roast the garlic as well. The bellicose garlic is sweetened and broadened in its taste, and is less prone to give offense. Also dry-roasting cumin and coriander seed, then grinding with rock salt, gives another facet to them, perhaps also kinder for yourself.

    • kate

    Thanks for this beautiful recipe!! I’ve been a hummus addict for years and finally tried baba ganoush. Delicious! I just did a version of this on my blog.

    Thanks so much for your stunning work and the continuing inspiration!!

    • lale

    I agree with Dimah. This recipe is not Baba Ghanoush. I’m from Turkey, we call it Babahannuş.Dimah’s recipe is the correct one.
    But your recipe is very delicious too :)

    • David

    Dimah & Lale: Thanks for your thoughts. American’s call this dish Baba Ganoush (spelled in various ways), although you’re right that it’s actually “Mutabal.” Like a lot of foods that cross oceans, different cultures adapt and use their own terms, like the French call Mutabal caviar d’aubergine, when it isn’t really caviar at all.

    I’m not sure of the origin of the word ‘caviar’ but a quick online caviar search yielded: “It is related to the Persian word Khag-avar which means ‘the roe-generator’, and which is used to refer both to the sturgeon and to the roe itself.” So it’s nice to know American’s aren’t the only only guilty of changing the etymology of recipe titles.

    Even though I’m 25% Persian, unfortunately I don’t speak the language so don’t know if that’s true. Glad you like the recipe, though! : )

    • Sandra

    I have a recipe that calls for red peppers to be broiled in the broiler to give it that smoky flavor and they look like the eggplant in your picture. When it comes time to mix the ingrediants, do you want to mix in the juices from the eggplant that is on the plate? The juices have the smoky flavor however, you don’t want the mixture to be too runny.

    • David

    Sandra: I didn’t add the liquid, but it could be reserved from the broiled eggplants then added later, if you think the mixture is too thick. Of course, taste it to make sure it tastes fine, and not bitter, before adding it back.

    • choccycake

    Mmmmm, this looks fantastic, I can taste it by just looking at your fantastic photos!

    • Judy Wendt

    I just spent quite a bit of change at Whole Foods for some smoked sea salt from the Artisan Salt Co. to make the Baba Ganoush. I don’t want to squander this salt, since it is so dear. Can you offer me some general suggestions as to when it would be most appropriate to use?
    Many thanks.

    • david

    Judy: That’s interesting because I bought a whole bunch of smoked salt at Central Market in Texas and it was very cheap. It’s terrific on scrambled eggs, sprinkled over white chocolate ice cream, and steamed green beans!

    • jenny

    I was searching for a baba ganoush recipe online and stumbled across this one. I’ve made this “dip” twice in the past week with our CSA eggplants and my husband can’t get enough – and either can I! We love the spiciness of the fresh garlic but I made a double batch for tomorrow and look forward to the mellowed flavors. I didn’t char the eggplant very much so I intend to do that longer to get more of the smokey flavor. Delicious!

    • Steve

    Wow. I just made this and it is delicious. I left the eggplants over the gas for about 10 minutes. Perfect.

    • Dianne

    LOVED the baba ganouch. I searched many websites to get a recipe that gave that authentic taste. Yours does. Many thanks. Dianne (from Downunder)

    • DGrub

    Your photos are amazing… Adding parsley or cilantro seems like a great idea…if you are interested, here’s my recipe of baba ganoush . I will like to hear some of your comments on my version of the baba ganoush…

    • Hillary

    I just made this tonight, and it’s so good, tears of joy spring into my eyes with every bite. Or maybe that’s from the extra garlic I added. (I belong to the school of thought that says if three cloves of garlic are good, six will be even better.)

    It’s Tuesday night now — do you think this will keep until I have guests over on Saturday? Or am I duty-bound to eat it all myself?

    • Justin Lee

    Love baba ganoush, though I’ve only made home versions a couple of times. I performed this recipe last night with the ripening eggplants I had leftover from a recent bulk buy. It generally turned out well, but did come out with a noticeable bitter aftertaste. I ended up using a small amount of honey to mitigate, which actually worked well. I know bitterness is common with eggplants; however, I was wondering if you knew of any other tips to help with this? For example, when roasting in the oven, is it important for the eggplants not to be even remotely undercooked? Or can overcooking them increase the bitter profile?

    I probably already answered my own question, I know. But just looking to reach out.


    • David
    David Lebovitz

    Hi Justin: Eggplant chunks can be salted and left to drain for about 30 minutes prior to cooking; this extracts some of the juices which can be bitter. However it makes it not easy to stove-roast the eggplant.

    I always get smaller-sized eggplants whenever possible and buy them from farmer’s markets, because it seems to me those large commercial eggplants tend to be more bitter.

    • Frances

    I was looking for a recipe for baba ganosh, and came across this one on the internet. It was fabulous! I’m used to roasting green peppers on the gas flame for a dish we often make here in north Africa, but this was my first time with aubergine, which are cheap and plentiful pretty much all year long. I look forward to amazing my friends with this one!
    Is smoked salt available in the French supermarchés? Or in Spain? I’m able to get there more often than the U.S. Thanks!

    • David
    David Lebovitz

    Even though I’ve seen French smoked salt in America, I’ve not seen it anywhere in Paris…which is somewhat odd. You can find Maldon (from the UK) smoked salt here, in certain stores although I generally buy it when I go to England.

    • Srini

    Hey David,

    I was searching online for a babaganoush recipe and yours was almost on top of the search. I’ll use this recipe this evening!

    • Daniel

    Garlic ice cream? Have you read “Cooking with Fernet Branca”? It didn’t work for Gerald.

    • mochi

    I made this and tasted great, thanks a lot! I put a pick in my website to thank :)


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