Easy Hummous and Baba Ghannouj

Probably not the world's most authentic, but quick and tasty. Thanks to my pal Sean Burke for the recipe -- he got it from a Dr. Baccash, who is Lebanese/Egyptian.

Drain one of the cans of garbanzos, discarding the juice. Drain the other, and keep the juice.

Peel the garbanzo beans. This will take time. It's supposedly optional, but generally worth the effort.

Now, in a blender, combine everything in the list above, starting at the top and up to and including the cumin. Add one-third of the can's-worth of juice that you reserved. Blend.

Start adding the beans a little by little, and keep blending, at increasing speeds, until very smooth. If you need to make the mix less viscous, add more of the reserved juice.

Cover with the chopped parsley, and sprinkle with olive oil. (The parsley is more or less optional, but the olive oil is quite necessary; without being covered with olive oil, the hommos will discolor quickly.)

To make Baba Ghannouj, the recipe is identical, save that instead of garbanzo beans, you bake four large eggplants for maybe an hour at 400° F.

Peel the eggplants; it needn't be neat, and you should probably also coarsely chop the eggplants, but the only real point is to be sure to get rid of all of the hard black skin.

The eggplants are now very moist, and you should somehow try to get all the juice you can out of them; if you add them as it, the baba ghannouj will be rather runny. Try squishing some of the eggplant at a time in your fist over a bowl. If this doesn't get it drained enough (although I suspect that with effort it will work), you may have to resort to odd arrangements involving colanders or cheesecloth.

In any case, throw the eggplants in the blender after all the blended spices above, and blend until smooth.

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Chuck Taggart (e-mail chuck)