Hatzilim: A simple, fresh salad made from eggplant
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FoodSome call it 'baba ghanoush'

Hatzilim: A simple, fresh salad made from eggplant

With little effort, homemade hatzilim is richer and fresher than store-bought.

Hatzilim (Photo by Jessica Grann)
Hatzilim (Photo by Jessica Grann)

Known as baba ghanoush across the Levant, hatzilim is what Israelis call this simple roasted eggplant salad that only has a handful of ingredients. Like hummus, most people buy it from the store — but with little effort, you can make it at home and have something that tastes rich and extra fresh and is free of preservatives.

The most time-consuming part of making this dish is waiting for the eggplants to roast. Once those are peeled, you simply combine everything together in a food processor and mix it for a few minutes.
This is a simple, go-to recipe that everyone can feel comfortable making.

Hatzilim
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:
2 large eggplants
⅓ cup tahina paste
2 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons good quality olive oil, plus more for drizzling
Juice of one large lemon
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
¼ teaspoon Aleppo pepper or red pepper flakes
Lemon wedges, fresh parsley or cilantro to garnish

When choosing eggplants from the store, softer is better for this dish. If they are very firm, let them rest on your counter for a few days before using them in this recipe.

The old-school way to prepare the eggplants is to roast them over a direct flame or directly on hot coals, but that method can be intimidating to many home cooks. The easy way is to lightly spray or rub the eggplants with oil (I choose avocado for its high smoke point) and broil them on a tray or pan that can withstand high temperatures.

Using a sharp knife, slice 3 long slits down each eggplant vertically then lightly spray with oil. Choose the “high” broil option on your oven, which is usually 525 F, and place the oven rack toward the top.

Broil the eggplants for about 30 minutes, turning once or twice. The eggplant will collapse and the skin will blacken. They are ready when a knife is easily inserted into the flesh. When in doubt, let them cook for a few extra minutes.

Let the eggplants cool until you can comfortably touch them, then slice away the stem and peel the skin away from the flesh. If the skin does not peel away easily, cut them in half lengthwise and scoop them out with a spoon.

Combine the eggplant and garlic cloves in a food processor and mix for 1 minute.

Add the remaining ingredients and mix for 2-3 minutes more.

I like to serve this on a plate or a platter. Simply spread the hatzilim out with a spatula creating some shallow indentations and lightly drizzle with olive oil. You can sprinkle cilantro, parsley, and even a little more Aleppo pepper to add a bit of color. Serve with challah or fresh pita at a meal, or put out with pita chips at a party. Enjoy!

A quick note about tahina: Tahina is a raw paste that is used to create recipes. Tahini is the condiment made out of tahina. Some tahina is very thick, and others pour easily. The thick kind can give the hatzilim more of a whipped consistency. That is totally OK — it will taste wonderful, so don’t worry if yours comes out looking smoother or stiffer than the photo here. PJC

Jessica Grann is a home chef living in Pittsburgh.

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