When Food Bites Back

Eggplant, my dear, you are one cruel mistress. I’ve professed my love to you time and again, but nothing will tame your harsh bite; the most delicate preparations or careful peeling does little to lessen the fire. I’ve come to realize that it’s honestly not you, eggplant darling, but me. The burning sensation that inflames my whole mouth, throat, and stomach, comparable to an intense and wide-spread heartburn, is the sign of an intolerance. It also reminds me of those who suffer from reflux conditions like GERD or LPR, where stomach acids cause discomfort in the esophagus.

Given the prevalence of food allergies, and allergies in general, I’ve been incredibly lucky. I can eat my gluten with gusto, and relish my peanut butter-smeared apple slices, unlike many Americans these days. Complaining about something so mild as a slight discomfort when eating eggplant feels incredibly petty in comparison. It’s nothing life-threatening, does no permanent damage, but only removes a beloved vegetable from my diet. Admitting that though still stings a bit, too. Sometimes the pain will be worth it, and I’ll dive into that plate of spicy, garlicky, and meltingly tender Chinese eggplant anyway, but now that I’ve given it a name and told the internet about it, I may not be able to do so as easily anymore.

Not one to shy away from a challenge, once the brief mourning period passed I set to work devising ways to work around that purple nightshade. Closely linked in my mind, for their mild flesh and similar squash lineage, zucchini has now started vying for the title of “most popular vegetable” in my fridge these days.

Dishes provided by Steelite

Baba ganoush was my first introduction to eggplant, before I even knew what was in the mellow, smoky dip, and is still a top pick. Given that the squash would be mostly ground up, it seemed like a good test to see how my new zucchini friends would fare, replacing that original love. Anticipating from the get-go that nothing would ever replace those eggplant, or even come close, I was startled at my first taste. The simple addition of smoked salt helped to pick up the deeper, woodsier notes that the delicate flesh couldn’t replicate alone, and it made all the difference. With a flavor far closer that I could have hoped to come to the original inspiration, this mild but wonderfully savory, lightly roasted taste sensation gives me hope for life without eggplants.

I’ll admit to secretly holding out hope that the intolerance is just a passing phase, but until there’s actual evidence of that, I think I’ll get along just fine with my glorious, green zucchinis instead.

Yield: Makes 1 1/2 – 2 Cups

Zuke-anoush (Zucchini Baba Ganoush)

Zuke-anoush (Zucchini Baba Ganoush)

For anyone avoiding nightshades, this eggplant-free take on baba ganoush is for you. Lightly roasted zucchini is blended with smoked salt and tahini for an incredibly accurate take on the original inspiration.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes


  • 1 1/2 Pounds Zucchini (About 2 Large or 3 Medium)
  • 6 – 8 Garlic Cloves, Separated From the Head but Not Peeled
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil, Plus Additional to Garnish
  • Pinch [Table] Salt and Black Pepper
  • 3 Tablespoons Sesame Tahini
  • 2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cumin
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Fine Grain Smoked Salt


  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees, and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. Slice the zucchini into 1/4-inch thick rounds, and toss them in the oil, salt and pepper until evenly coated. Lay them out in one even layer, with no pieces overlapping, on your prepared baking sheet. Place the whole cloves of garlic grouped in the center of the sheet so that they don’t burn. Roast for 30 minutes, until the zucchini are nicely browned. Let cool.
  3. Once the vegetables have come to room temperature, peel the garlic cloves, and toss them into your food processor along with the roasted zucchini. Add in the tahini, lemon juice, cumin, and smoked salt. Pulse to combine, until you create a rough and chunky sort of paste. You don’t want it to be smooth, so err on the side of less processed if you’re not certain. It should only take about 5 – 10 one-second pulses, depending on your machine.
  4. Transfer the finished dip into an air-tight container, and ideally let it cure in the fridge for at least 8 hours or overnight before serving. It’s delicious eaten immediately, but the flavors do meld and improve with a bit of time. Serve with an additional drizzle of olive oil over the top, if desired.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 37Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 13mgCarbohydrates: 6gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 1g

56 thoughts on “When Food Bites Back

  1. I’m thinking of making mine with some mellow miso for that lovely salty, smoky flavor. When I make my baba ganoush, I cut the eggplant up, toss it with some olive oil and cumin, then grill it first before processing it. I also prefer to eat it warm. Will definitely try your Z-version. It sounds and looks terrific!

  2. I must confess I have never had any liking to eggplant. Nope, none. I have enjoyed an eggplant parmesan or two in my life, but it was the exquisite sauce and cheese that elevated this sub-par vegetable to a great dish, not the eggplant. Tough skin, bitter, mushy, well, I am okay to give up my foodie status if requires liking it.

    Zuke-anoush (Zucchini Baba Ganoush) — I’m in!

  3. This sounds divine! I’m with you on the petty-feeling food allergies…I have similar symptoms if I eat red cabbage or commercial chocolate. I’ve had better luck with super-dark, nearly sugar-free chocolate lately, so I’m more and more convinced that it’s some additive in regular milk chocolate that causes my reactions rather than the cocoa. I can’t say that I miss cheap chocolate at all, but in my rare moments of self-pity I remind myself of my cousin, who is so allergic to most nuts and seeds that she can’t even eat fast food for fear of sesame seeds on the buns. No cookie is safe for fear of nuts or peanut butter, nor Chinese food because of the sesame oil. My own mother has been similarly deathly allergic to tree nuts all her life. I’ve substituted cashews and soy nuts in our recipes for years to get around her allergies; I’m glad we at least live in a world where substitutions can be made for most things, and can sometimes be an improvement to the dish (try making baklava with cashews sometime…I like it better than pistachios!).

    1. I do have a penchant for cashews, and my dad goes crazy for baklava… I think I may just have to try that! What a smart idea, regardless of allergies and necessary substitutions. :)

  4. Thats an allergy Ive never heard of before, and considering im a nurse ive heard many. If I would have to pick my least favourite vegetable, unfortunately it would be eggplant! I think it may be related to the texture, slightly meaty maybe.
    Im allergic to peanuts mildly, I get a itchy strange feeling throat and my lips swell a little. But apparently peanut allergies can worsten if you eat peanuts, not sure if its the same with eggplant?
    I do like the sound of the zucchini dip :)


  5. You know……..I hate baking eggplant. Actually, I don’t like eggplant most of the time, in large pieces. But….ground up is great! This, on the other hand, looks delicious and I’ll have to try it. Thanks for the recipe :)

    1. I had never heard of oral allergy syndrome before, but I looked it up- Scary! I had no clue it might be a sign of something bigger. Fortunately, I don’t get hayfever or spring allergies, so hopefully it’s unrelated. Thanks for the warning though!

  6. Cute name! I’m not a huge eggplant fan, but can definitely appreciate it every once in a while, prepared well. This dip sounds like a delicious replacement, and reminds me that I need to get my hands on some smoked salt.

  7. Thank you so much for posting this recipe, my husband is allergic to eggplant (cuts off his breathing) and he really really misses baba ganoush, I’m so making this!!!

  8. Something similar happens to both my roommate and one of my cousins when they eat eggplant…so I don’t think it’s that uncommon! I love the stuff, but with all of these zucchini around, I think this is a great baba ganoush alternative!

  9. From personal experience with a food allergy, I have found it never gets better but much worse. I would avoid eggplant until you can talk to an allergist who specializes in food allergies. Keep notes of how you feel when eating it. I know that my strawberry allergy is life threatening and avoid any possible cross contamination. And it went from a mild reaction to a moderate reaction in no time.

    I will have to get some zucchini once the weather cools down and I can get some fresh local ones that aren’t huge. I want to try this recipe.

  10. What a great way to make Baba Ganoush.
    I was listening to NPR today and a gal was being interviewed who impressed me so much by her communication skills. She was talking about food allergies. Very, very interesting. Not sure if you can listen to the show “Diane Ream Show” 8/4/11. The gal has a book, published in July called “Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl…” It’s how she grew up with very severe food allergies. So severe she could not be touched nor kissed by anyone who had been around milk/dairy/soy…etc.
    Interesting ready if you suffer from intolerances or allergies.

  11. It was the worst when my eggplant allergy developed and I pushed by luck until I had to go to the hospital. Grilled eggplant and baba-ganoush were my favorite summer foods, so good choice in not pressing your luck. I am really looking forward to making this recipe soon, perhaps even over the weekend.

  12. I can’t wait to try this out. I actually felt guilty when the sound of a new e-mail beeped on my cell phone to alert me of this recipe. I felt guilty because I had just walked into my house with a container of baba ghanoush in hand. This is a true story.

    I’ve no allergies to eggplant (I would praise Eggplant as a god, if it wouldn’t involve my being committed to an institution), but I would absolutely love to try this. Thank you for sharing, and for your innovative, creative mind :-)

  13. You know, I get a similar reaction with eggplant though I suspect not as severe as yours…just kind of an itchy feeling in mouth for a couple of hours. Same with raw tomatoes. (I know they are both nightshade veggies…connection maybe?) I still eat both with gusto! But I am so happy to see your recipe using zucchini, as I have the hardest time working with eggplant. I love it when other people prepare it well, but sadly I am not so talented.

  14. I don’t know what I love more, the fact that you used zucchini instead or that this calls for smoked salt. Genius. That sounds like an awful sensitivity/allergy to eggplant. I’ve never heard of that and am sorry to hear of it.

  15. Oh, I know how you feel, Hannah! I keep trying to ignore the fact that almost every time I eat an apple, the top of my mouth ends up strangely shredded, but I think I need to accept that I’m a little bit intolerant/allergic (like I am to oranges). Hmmm, perhaps you could make me a zucchini and rhubarb crumble alternative? ;)

  16. Hi Hannah – funnily enough, I avoided mushrooms for the longest time (I was a little squeamish on the “fungus factor” :) I have successfully substituted eggplant for many dishes calling for portobello mushroom. Perhaps you could try to substitute mushroom for eggplant? They have a similar texture and earthy flavor. Might be worth a try!

  17. this is the recipe i was looking for!. I am not necessarily allergic to eggplant, but sometimes i get weird feeling on my tongue lik minute cuts or something esp with the large eggplant.. so i stick to baby and indian eggplant preparations!
    Thanks for this zucc-anoush!

  18. Sorry to hear about you and eggplant! I’m a fan too but I know the slight intolerance feeling. What an amazing way to recreate baba ganoush, though. I guess it makes sense as an alternative, though, since raw hummus can be made with zucchini too. I’ve got to try this soon – I’m a big fan of baba ganoush but also just bought a huuuugge zucchini. I love the name too!

  19. Oh no, sorry about your allergy to eggplant! It’s one of my favs but sometimes its bitterness gets to me a bit too (a slight tingling in my mouth), but I find that if I use baby eggplants and salt them before cooking it’s not quite as bad. Love your use of zucchini in this dish, it looks every bit as delicious as the version made with eggplant!

  20. Very creative recipe.:) Will definitely try this when I have some zucchini. I am not very fond of eggplants but they do make certain dishes divine.

  21. Sorry to hear about your eggplant intolerance. I’m on the bubble for a bunch of stuff myself – tested positive but not quite allergic. I just try to eat a wide variety of things and not too much of the same thing in a short time period. The zuke-anoush looks amazing, it totally looks like baba ganoush! :-)

  22. Oh, sweetie, I’m so sorry to welcome you to the world of food allergies. Your fantastic vegan desserts have been such a treat for those of us dealing with milk and egg allergies in our families, so I hope you’ll excuse me for “momming” you a little bit.

    Please consider going to visit an allergist, who can determine if your reaction is anaphylactic, (a true allergy) or if it is an intolerance like you suspect. You might want to pay attention to how you feel after consuming other nightshades, since sometimes food allergies are cross-reactive. Peanut and soy allergies are often linked, for example, since they are both legumes.

    In the meantime, you might want to keep some of the Benadryl Fast Melts with you, in case you feel yourself starting to have a reaction.

    I hope you keep us out here in blogland updated. Take care.

  23. This is a good alternative to the grand American past time of dropping zucchini on your neighbors doorstep, ringing the doorbell, and then running.

    Yes, this year, like all other years, I have planted too much zucchini.

  24. This sounds amazing! I’m not intolerant to eggplant, but zuccihini is one of my favorite vegetables, so I will definently be making this!

  25. Share this recipe with everyone I know, especially during the summer when you have more zucchini in your garden than you know what to do with. Love this dip!

  26. I got the same thing, cant eat eggplant because it causes me to sit on the toilet for the rest of the evening and the following day.. maybe thats why your guests have trouble leaving ;) Recently found out what is wrong with us and Eggplant. There we go:
    Solanine occurs naturally in many species of the genus Solanum, including the potato (Solanum tuberosum), tomato (Solanum lycopersicum), eggplant (Solanum melongena), and bittersweet nightshade (Solanum dulcamara). Solanine poisoning is primarily displayed by gastrointestinal and neurological disorders. Symptoms include nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach cramps, burning of the throat, cardiac dysrhythmia, nightmare, headache and dizziness. In more severe cases, hallucinations, loss of sensation, paralysis, fever, jaundice, dilated pupils, hypothermia and death have been reported.

    There you go, its called Solanine and its a toxin in nightshade veggies.

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