Thyme-Roasted Eggplant with Basmati Rice, Sumac + Preserved-Lemon

Perhaps because I formally named my blog/this website and subsequent business after it, or because I have a particular affection for the vegetable that seems to be a mystery for most people, I get a lot of questions and recipe requests involving eggplant.

Eggplant is much loved and at home in food cultures of the Middle East region. And after this summer, the second hottest locally on record, I can see why. Eggplant thrives in hot weather. Our usual couple plants and a few nice eggplants for the year has turned into more than I can keep up with lately.

And we’ve been eating it a lot.

For me, eggplant’s meaty, Portobello mushroom-like texture is best prepared by roasting (or grilling). And it doesn’t need the gobs of oil that you often find in eggplant-based recipes.

Eggplant does act as a sponge for oil, but also for moisture in general. A nice tip to keep an eggplant-based meal balanced in terms of oil amount is to add a fair bit of water to the roasting pan. Since most oils are actually best used away from heat, that’s the method here, with a nice quality olive oil being added once all the components are out of the oven and off the stovetop, so the oil isn’t oxidized and damaged by the oven and cooking temperatures.

The other thing to highlight is that all the main components of this dish are made warm or cooked. This is because cooking will make the whole dish easier to digest. Even the dark leafy greens are “heated/gently cooked” in the way I add the fresh out of the oven eggplant over the top, as well as the warm rice and onion, and allow it to steam cook for a minute before gently stirring. The easy to digest factor is also why I’ve chosen to use a (white) basmati rice as the grain component. You can choose another whole grain if you have no digestive problems.

Hope you enjoy. This is definitely a keeper of an eggplant-based recipe!

Thyme-Roasted Eggplant with Basmati Rice, Sumac + Lemon

The mung beans are added as a side-dish to make this a complete meal. Mung beans, either cooked from whole green mung, or split mung dal, are the simplest bean to digest. If you’d rather serve another protein, simply leave out and skip that step in the cooking process.

Prep:  6 hours, unattended  | Cook: 1 hour  | Serves: 4

Roasted Eggplant:
1 kg chopped eggplant
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
½ teaspoon sumac
½ tsp. mineral salt
water to partially cover

For Mung Beans:
¾ cup dry mung beans, soaked for at least 6 hours
½ tsp. mineral salt
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 ½ tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. chopped dried curry leaf
water to cover

Basmati Rice:
⅛ tsp. mineral salt
½ a red onion, sliced thin
1 cup basmati rice, rinsed and drained
2 cups water

To Finish:
1/2 preserved lemon, finely chopped
Up to 2 Tbs. lemon juice, to taste
2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1 handful dark leafy greens, chopped
1 Tbs. toasted sesame seeds OR 1 Tbs. za’atar seasoning
Large handful of cilantro or basil, minced

  • Preheat the oven to 350F. Dice the eggplant into medium pieces and place in a baking tray, lined with parchment.Sprinkle with thyme leaves and sumac, salt, and then add water to cover about ⅓ up the sides of the veg. Roast for about an hour, or until completely soft, stirring once or twice throughout.
  • Then start the mung beans. Add drained/soaked mung beans and spices to a medium saucepan. Bring to a medium-high heat and simmer until the spices become fragrant. Add water to cover by a couple inches, then bring to a boil. Once the pot is boiling, turn it down to a simmer and partially cover. Cook for 25-35 minutes, until soft. Set aside.
  • Add 2 cups water to a medium saucepan along with  ⅛ tsp. salt, sliced onion, and the basmati rice. Give it all a good stir, and bring to a boil. Once it’s boiling, turn down to a simmer, cover and cook for 25 minutes. When the rice has finished, take the lid off and allow the steam to escape for a few minutes. 
  • In a large serving bowl, add the diced preserved lemon, chopped leafy greens, and cooked eggplant. Then stir in the steamed rice and onion, along with the lemon juice and olive oil. Before serving, stir in the minced herbs and toasted sesame seeds or za’atar seasoning. 
  • Serve along with the mung beans on the side.

Notes:
– Finely grated lemon zest can be used in place of preserved lemon, if preferred.
– If you only have access to sumac OR za’atar seasoning, choose whichever you have, since za’atar contains the sumac berry as one of it’s components.
Recipe inspired by Emma Galloway of My Darling Lemon Thyme.

Red Lentil Falafel with Millet, Lemon Ginger Dressing + Quick-Pickled Onions

Red Lentil Falafel with Millet, Lemon Ginger Dressing + Quick-Pickled Onions

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I’m reading this novel right now, Sweetbitter. It is a coming-of-age about a young  girl who lands her first post-college job as a back waiter in a prestigious New York City restaurant. Broken up by seasons in her first year, I’ve just reached the point of early spring and the first thing she does is mention the Hungry Gap, the short phase in the year when even the hyper-local restaurants scramble for produce and need to source from afar, the season where we’re sick of winter but warmer days are fickle and food is just sort of ho-hum.

I’ve definitely been feeling the hungry gap season and have reached the point, which inevitably happens every year, where the only meal that sounds good is plain, steamed vegetables (mostly cabbage), a plain grain and protein, and if I’m feeling particularly adventurous, a leftover dressing or some random seeds sprinkled on top. William is extra lucky he’s working long days because of tax season and his office often feeds him. Mutiny would come quickly if he had to endure more than one or two nights of my “plain steamed veg” for meals.

Thanks in part to The Recipe Redux for the march theme of making due with what’s on hand, i.e. spring cleaning the cupboards, I decided to use my creativity an extra bit and make the first day of our new season include more than steamed carrots, turnips, and cabbage.

So here we have red lentil falafel, an extra delicious lemon ginger cashew-based dressing, and pickled onions. This just might be the meal that gets me back into eating a little more adventurously. And maybe you too?

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Red Lentil Falafel with Millet + Lemon Ginger Dressing, serves 4
I love falafel, especially baked falafel with lots of accompaniments like pickled onions, but the lemon ginger dressing is the real star of this dish, in my opinion. After enjoying a lemon ginger dressing at a super hipster Portland restaurant a while back, I’ve been trying to get a homemade rendition right all winter. It may have taken all season, but this version might just be better than its inspiration. Make sure to be liberal with both lemon zest and ginger!

Red Lentil Falafel:
1 cup red lentils, soaked
3 garlic cloves, peeled + roughly chopped
1 bunch green onions, chopped
2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
3/4 tsp. sea salt + more to taste
freshly ground black pepper pepper
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup cooked millet

  • In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the soaked lentils and 2 cups water to a boil. Turn down, and simmer for 20 minutes. They do not have to be completely soft all the way through. Drain and turn into a food processor.
  • Then, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment.
  • In the food processor with the red lentils, combine the garlic, spring onions, spices, apple cider vinegar and baking soda. Pulse the mixture until it comes to a chunky paste but is not completely a puree. It should be fairly wet so add a little liquid if it’s not. Then turn it into a large mixing bowl along with the one cup of cooked millet. Combine the grain and lentil mixture well.
  • Next form about 20 falafels with your hands or with a medium cookie scoop and place them on the parchment lined baking pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until they are lightly browned and a little firm to the touch.
  • Serve the falafels with extra millet or flatbread, the sauce, lettuce, and pickled onions if desired.

Lemon Ginger Dressing, makes about 1 cup
1/2 cup cashews, soaked + drained
zest of one lemon
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup water + more if needed
2 Tbs. freshly grated ginger root
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1  tsp. maple syrup (optional)
1 Tbs. light miso

  • In a food processor or blender, combine the soaked and drained cashews, lemon zest, and remaining ingredients and blend until it comes to a consistency that is spoon-able but not runny. Add more water as necessary to reach this consistency.

To Serve:
Quick-Pickled Onions
lettuce
additional cooked millet or flat bread, if desired

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Sprouting Broccoli, Za’atar, Tempeh, + Harissa Yogurt

Sprouting Broccoli, Za’atar, Tempeh, + Harissa Yogurt

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Recently, I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, and the question came up, What are you totally obsessed with right now? I love that question, and in lieu of sharing links and things, here are a couple of life updates/current obsessions:

 

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  • The microbiome and its potential role in virtually all aspects of health and disease. I listened in to most of the Microbiome Medicine Summit last month, and all the new information only cemented this interest.
  • Herbal remedies for stress, sleep, and anxiety: I’ve been taking an introductory class on Herbal Medicine this term and at the beginning of January, we picked one herb to study in depth. I’ve been studying American Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) and I picked it for its nervine (nerve-supporting), anti-anxiety and anti-spasmodic properties. It’s been fascinating to learn about not only skullcap, but the whole host of other herbs that support sleep, stress, and anxiety, particularly because this is an area I’ve been struggling with. I’ve been carting around a review article titled Nutrients and Botanicals for Treatment of Stress: Adrenal Fatigue, Neurotransmitter Imbalance, Anxiety, and Restless Sleep and instead of reading feel good books, I’ve been re-reading it in my free time (see, obsession!). Also, I’ve been taking a series of herbal formulas which include valerian, lemon balm, chamomile, and passionflower, among others. Like skullcap, these are all sleep and stress-supporting herbs. I’ve been seeing positive results.
  • Positive self-talk and self-care: I’m almost done with my first term in nutrition grad school! It’s been an interesting few weeks, as I began with A LOT of class work, and then gradually dropped off the load and finished classes throughout the term. I have one week left of one class and then a couple weeks break. I’m already excited for next term and in particular, a foundation health and wellness class that focuses on self-care and behavior change. I consider myself somewhat good at self-care, but I’ve been obsessed lately with positive self-talk. As I work on it, I’ve noticed the negative self-talk is gradually improving. I’ve also noticed that I’m usually self-deprecating when I receive compliments, and though I’ve always thought it was just part of being humble, I’ve realized I do not have to make an excuse every time I receive a compliment. I can simply say, thank you, and leave it at that. There are huge things to be gained from building oneself (and others!) up, instead of tearing down.
  • Broccoli. I have eaten so much broccoli these last couple months in the form of broccoli raab, purple sprouting broccoli, romanesco, and just plain, straight-up broccoli. Every time I think I’m ready for a broccoli-break, it ends up in the fridge and I gobble it up. William likes broccoli too, (he’s the one that started this whole broccoli bandwagon), but tax season has him eating away from home so much that I’ve eaten the major share of our broccoli purchases. I’ve also been really into broccoli with tempeh. For forever, I avoided soy products, but something about the fermenty flavor and texture is just so delicious right now. I’ve been adding it in to meals every other week or so, and alongside roasted broccoli and harissa, it’s simply delicious. Also: if the amount of broccoli I’ve eaten parallels how many times I’ve written broccoli in this paragraph, it may be time for a mini-break!

 

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Sprouting Broccoli, Za’atar, Tempeh + Harissa Yogurt, serves 2

This is the kind of comforting bowl-food that I enjoy eating, always. Harissa, a north African hot sauce, is spicy and contributes a lot of the flavor. Add as much or as little as you prefer but keep in mind the yogurt balances the heat, as do the other ingredients. This is the sort of recipe that can easily be switched up depending. William is not so big a fan of tempeh, and I can imagine this would be just as good with any number of other protein types. Likewise, the harissa would be equally good mixed into a little thinned cashew cream for a different sort of sauce, sans yogurt. 

1-2 bunches sprouting broccoli, sliced into 2-inch pieces

coconut oil

6 oz. tempeh, cubed

1 Tbs. za’atar or more as needed

½ cup coconut yogurt

1-3 Tbs. harissa, to taste (I used Ottolenghi’s recipe, but you can also purchase)

steamed millet, to serve

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and toss together broccoli pieces, tempeh, za’atar and a little coconut oil. Roast for 20-25 minutes, stirring once or twice throughout.
  • While the broccoli is roasting, stir together the yogurt and harissa. Start with a small amount of harissa and adjust according to taste.
  • Once the broccoli is done, serve with steamed millet or another grain, and top with harissa yogurt.

 

Reference:

Head, K.A. and Kelly, G.S. (2009). Nutrients and Botanicals for Treatment of Stress: Adrenal Fatigue, Neurotransmitter Imbalance, Anxiety, and Restless Sleep. Alternative Medicine Review, 14 (2), 114-133.