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.

Garlic-Orange Tofu and Peanut Cucumbers with Rice

When I glance out the window this morning, it looks like it’s raining. But I look again and it’s still ash. We’ve been raining ash for the last couple days as the air quality went from clear blue skies over Labor Day weekend to a dramatic sweep of heavy smoke on Monday evening as several fast-moving forest fires have been burning in the cascade mountains and now closer near the edge of town to our east. Our hens have been out foraging as usual but I worry about their little lungs. Our teenage kitten, a truly needed and lovely new addition this summer, has been upset at the eery light the last couple of days.

I’ve been back to morning meditation lately first thing before I get out of bed or turn on the light, and this morning’s had me expressing gratitude for our air purifiers, those ‘noise machines’ that I have routinely tsk-tsked since William insisted on them in the last couple years. And also gratitude for a safe home. The alarm of LEVEL 3–GET OUT NOW evacuation alerts going off on my phone throughout yesterday afternoon for the northeast edge of the city, truly a ways off from us but too close for comfort, brought that gratitude home.

Today at least we got a sunrise, smoky as it was. Yesterday was just a dark red Apocalyptic haze, which is becoming the norm in Western Oregon in the last 36 hours.

We can still smell the smoke inside even with a couple good air purifiers so I’ve been adding turmeric to all my meals, taking or eating extra vitamin C and vitamin E-rich foods (hazelnuts, peanuts, sunflower seeds, leafy greens), and adding tulsi / holy basil, and licorice and marshmallow roots to my tea blend. The first three are taken with the idea of combatting the oxidative stress that comes with particularly toxic wildfire smoke particles. If I had a particularly vitamin-C rich food or herb on hand such as amla fruit powder, camu camu powder, or rose hips, I’d use that instead of just plain supplemental vitamin C. The last two roots of marshmallow and licorice are for soothing irritated internal tissues, such as the lungs and digestive lining. Even though I’m staying inside and out of the terrible air, this stuff is incredibly potent. Turmeric particularly helps my smoke headaches.

—–

While I’ve been meaning to share more about digestive health in this space over the next few days—since this is an area that my previous survey indicated is definitely a need. But first, I think we can all use a really good meal that’s refreshing, comforting, and enjoyable while summer is still here.

I know many individuals avoid tofu because they’re unsure of how to prepare it, or when they’ve tried to in the past the texture is all wrong. I was there for a long time (probably 10 years since I first attempted tofu until I was comfortable cooking / eating it). So I’ve outlined a little more detailed way to prepare it. This is my go-to method and yields the texture we prefer.

Then the tofu is paired with finely chopped cucumbers tossed and marinated in the same dressing as the tofu is marinated and cooked in, and enjoyed with simple brown rice. The result is a simple concept but the taste is truly rich and incredible. Hope you’re staying safe in whatever way where you are, and if you tend to avoid tofu because you’re unsure how to cook it, give this recipe a try.

Garlic-Orange Tofu and Cucumbers with Rice, serves 4
inspired by Anna Jones in the The Modern Cook’s Year

16 oz. / 453 grams firm tofu, drained

dressing:
3 cloves of garlic, minced
3 Tbs. reduced-sodium tamari
2 Tbs. brown rice vinegar or raw apple cider vinegar
1 Tbs. toasted sesame oil
1 Tbs. honey or maple syrup
a pinch of red pepper flakes
¼ tsp. ground black pepper
¼ tsp. ground coriander
the zest and juice of 1 unwaxed/organic orange

1 cup / 190 grams brown rice
2 cups / 470 ml water
1 ¼ lb. / 600 grams / ~4 cucumbers
a few pinches of salt
¼ cup /35 grams peanuts, toasted
a small handful of fresh basil, minced

  • Slice the block of tofu in half lengthwise, wrap in paper towels like a birthday gift, and then stack the wrapped tofu between two cutting boards. If you have something heavy in your kitchen, put it on top of your cutting board as a weight. (I use my giant Shakespeare textbook). Leave to press out the liquid for about 30 minutes.
  • While the tofu is pressing, whisk together the dressing ingredients.
  • When the 30 minutes is up, unwrap the tofu and slice it into equal size cubes (I get about 48), and combine it with 1/4 to 1/3 cup of the dressing in a container with a leak-proof lid. With the lid on, give it a few shakes to immerse in the dressing and then chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes and up to a day. More time will allow for more flavor to develop.
  • Once the tofu has marinated, turn it and its dressing onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees F for about 40 minutes, flipping it over halfway through.
  • After the tofu goes in the oven, cook the rice in a medium pot on the stovetop. Add 2 cups of water, 1 cup of brown rice (ideally pre-soaked but simply rinsed and drained if not), and bring the pot to a boil. Once it boils, turn down to a simmer, cover, and cook undisturbed for 40 minutes.
  • While the rice and tofu are cooking away, dice the cucumbers into small (~1-cm) pieces. Place the slices in a colander that’s over a sink or another bowl, and sprinkle and toss through a few pinches of salt. Set aside for 15 to 20 minutes to release some of their liquid.
  • Then take your (clean) hands or a clean kitchen towel and press the cucumbers to remove any extra liquid that may have been released. Put the cucumber in a bowl and add ¼ to 1/3 cup of the remaining dressing. Add more to taste. Scatter over and stir through the toasted peanuts.
  • Once the tofu and rice timers are done, remove them both from the heat and serve with the marinated cucumbers. Sprinkle atop some fresh minced basil leaves if desired.  

Cooling Kitchari + End of Summer Notes

Cooling Kitchari + End of Summer Notes

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After sharing about my experience with eating at the relay, I got a request to share the kitchari that I made and ate during the race. As I’ve told more than a few people, it is a variation on dozens of “beans and rice” meals that I regularly make and consume. One thing that is different, however, is that I’ve been paying a little more attention to the energetics of food these past few months, how certain things make me feel, physically and emotionally, and really asking myself, What do I need today? to feel my best. Part of this is perhaps just where I’m at in life, with my relationship to food and my body, and the other part is that I find when it comes to healing complex health concerns, which I’ve struggled with for a number of years, I believe we each individually have the internal knowledge of what is best for us, if only we tune in and acknowledge it.

I’ll share a little more about what I have adapted, and suggestions for how you can do the same in the recipe notes below, but first a few good articles, a video, and a podcast episode that I particularly enjoyed these past few weeks.

 

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Nutrition + Food:
Superfood or Super-Hype?: ‘My advice is to think twice before you succumb to the next cure-du-jour and run out to buy this week’s superfood. It might cure what ails you (though probably not). Better to take a thorough look at your lifestyle, habits, and diet. Choose from the widely available healthy foods and go for a long walk!’

The Antioxidant Effects of Acai versus Apples

A Vegan Dietitian Reviews “What the Health”: There has been A LOT of discussion and controversy over this new documentary, but I think Virginia Messina does the best job detailing the problematic nature with how the information was presented.

Microbiome: Increase Your Diversity: ‘However good your diet and gut health, it is not nearly as good as our ancestors’. Everyone should make the effort to improve their gut health by re-wilding their diet and lifestyle. Being more adventurous in your normal cuisine plus reconnecting with nature and its associated microbial life, may be what we all need.’

This Is Your Brain on Cheese: When I first learned I was reacting negatively to gluten and dairy and eliminated them from my diet, I found dairy was much more difficult to remove, and I went through weeks of anger and frustration at the sudden lack. After that ‘detox’ period was over, I have never craved cheese or other dairy again. Some of the evidence in this article explains why.

Are Endurance Athletes More Susceptible to Getting Diabetes? ‘If you’re eating like a Tour de France rider, just make sure you’re training like one too.’

A Cook’s Remedy: I absolutely loved Aran’s video showcasing her Spanish Roots and relationship to food and body, and her journey over the years. It is episode Three, parts one and two.

And Lastly, a podcast episode to really get you thinking about your relationship to food and buying in to diet culture–I know it certainly has been the start of a paradigm shift for me: Isabel Foxen Duke on Sanity around Food, Surrender, Diet Culture, Fat Phobia as a Social Justice Concept + So Much More

 

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Self-Care + Mindfulness:
The Mindfulness of Pure Experience

Turning Softly Towards Your Pain Rather Than Avoiding It: ‘I began to alter my relationship to negative selective memories and go towards them and soften them rather than avoid them. I would notice how they made me feel, where I felt them, breathing deeply, anchoring myself around the thought or memory in order to reduce the impact it had on me.’

The Tomorrow List: ‘Instead of listing what I was grateful for that day, which despite my inability to articulate was still aplenty, I made a list of what I would be grateful to have realised tomorrow. If all went according to my desire’s and the sake of my safety, how I would feel at the end of my day.’

I’ll shoot you straight: ‘If you are resentful and do nothing to change either your exterior or interior, you have not met yourself. If you go back to the same coping mechanisms over and over again with the same results over and over again, you have not met yourself. If you keep opening the same doors over and over and OVER again, there’s a whole untouched hallway ahead of you – and you have not met yourself.’ 

‘I sit here knowing my body will go through so many incarnations and I’m going to treat it like it’s royalty no matter what. I smile because I have not only a yoga practice on the mat but off the mat as well (life, yo) that strives to be authentic, layer-peeling, free of addiction and crutches and sameness, and I feel as if I am gliding down the hallway, door by door. And I realize I am free, I am whole, I am love. And I am not afraid.’

And to end on a slightly lighter note, I love Sophie’s suggestions on 12 Ways to Make Your Kitchen a Hippie Haven, combining both food, nutrition, and mindfulness topics.

 

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Cooling Kitchari
, serves 4
Adapted from What to Eat for How You Feel

Kitchari is a creamy porridge-like blend of beans and rice that has been a staple of Ayurvedic cuisine for many centuries. It is often consumed during times of healing or for detox, as simple frugal fare, and as a comfort meal. There are countless variations on it, and I adapted my own, choosing to cook the beans and rice separate for a less porridge-like texture in lieu of a more soupy curry served over brown rice. I’ve made it with both split yellow mung dal and red lentils. Both are lovely but the red lentils will break down more into that porridge consistency, and the split mung beans will retain a little more texture. The spices used here are more in favor of consuming this during the summer heatwave we are once again experiencing, with cooling and digestion-friendly fennel, and smaller amounts of the heating and pungent ginger and turmeric spices. Additionally, use whatever seasonal vegetables you have on hand. I chose to use more grounding vegetables from my garden like golden beets, yellow summer squash, carrots, and white ‘salad’ turnips and their greens. My garden is bursting with tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant too, and though I really do enjoy those foods, I’m noticing that they’re not leaving me feeling my best so I left them out. If you choose to make this, I invite you to adapt it as needed, adding in one or two minced chili peppers if you’re feeling a little stuck or sluggish, or taking out the black pepper if you’ve been overheated.

1 cup yellow split mung dal or red lentils
3 cups water or vegetable broth
2 cups diced seasonal vegetables
1-2 cups dark leafy greens
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, ground in a spice/coffee grinder
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, if desired
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 cup long grain or basmati brown rice
2 cups water or vegetable broth
1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro, basil, or parsley
lime wedges, to serve

  • Soak the mung dal or red lentils for at least 30 minutes, then drain, wash well, and and drain again. Do the same in a separate dish with the brown rice.
  • In a small saucepan, bring the rice and water to a boil, cover, turn down to a simmer, and cook for about 40 minutes or until all the liquid is completely absorbed and the rice is plump.
  • Combine the mung dal or red lentils and broth or water in a medium saucepan and bring it to a boil over high heat. Stir occassionally and skim off the froth that comes to the surface.
  • Add the vegetables and fennel, bay leaves, ginger and turmeric, leaving out the greens for now, and mix well. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 20-25 minutes, or until the beans are soft and fully cooked. Stir occasionally as needed so nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan.
  • Then stir in the greens, oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook just a little longer until the greens soften.
  • To serve, spoon the kitchari over a bowl of rice and top with minced cilantro or other cooling fresh herbs and a few squeezes of lime juice.