Nearly three weeks ago, I alerted you, dear readers, to my hiatus from the blogosphere (as well as to my Thanksgiving shenanigans in NYC), necessary to turn in quality final semester assignments on time. I’m thrilled to say that four essays, a group project, a book review, and a flight from New York to Wisconsin later, and I’m back to blogging business! Since experimenting in the kitchen comprises one of my favorite activities to which to devote time while home in Madison, and since I published my last official recipe—yikes!—over a month ago as part of the Virtual Vegan Potluck, what better way to rekindle my relationship with the ol’ blog than with a new recipe?
This Middle Eastern-inspired recipe grew out of two dishes that have long lived on my 41-page “Recipes to Try” Word document: this Cauliflower Puree with Roasted Chickpeas from Love and Lemons, and this Grilled Eggplant with Herbed Quinoa from The Sprouted Kitchen. Taking the puree from the former dish, I increased the chickpea-to-cauliflower ratio while substituting the rosemary for za’atar so as to match the flavoring of the eggplant in the latter dish, which I broiled instead of grilled (curse my lack of a grill pan). To the hybridized version of the two dishes I added a fresh, simple salad to brighten the dish. Colorful, succulent, smooth, crisp, and oh-so well seasoned, this dish harbors enough textural contrast and complementing flavors to inspire tingling on anyone’s palate.
One last note before I relieve you of recipe suspense: I have failed to find za’atar seasoning in any of my local grocery stores, including Whole Foods and my beloved Willy Street Co-op. Thus, I finally took matter into my own hands and mixed together my own. It took up all of three minutes of my time and probably saved me about $5.00. You can find the recipe I used at the bottom of this post.
Za’atar Eggplant Rounds on Chickpea-Cauliflower Puree—Soy Free, Nut Free, Low Sodium
1/2 small head of cauliflower (about 1 1/2 cups), broken into small florets
2 tbsp melted coconut oil, divided
1/2 small clove garlic, smashed
3/4 cup cooked chickpeas
1/2 tbsp za’tar (see end of post for homemade za’atar spice mix)
1/2 tbsp lemon juice
1 medium eggplant, sliced into rounds
Sea salt for sprinkling
Melted coconut oil for brushing
Large handful of arugula
1/4-1/3 cup cilantro, finely chopped
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
Za’atar for sprinkling
Preheat the oven to 450°F.
Place the eggplant rounds into a colander, sprinkle liberally with sea salt, and toss to coat. Allow the salt to wick away the eggplant’s bitterness while you prepare the rest of the recipe. (Don’t worry; you’re going to wash the salt off later so all of that sodium won’t make its way into the final product).
Place the cauliflower florets in a medium bowl and toss them with 1 tbsp of the melted coconut oil. Roast for 20-30 minutes or until soft and browned in a couple of places. Once the cauliflower has finished roasting, set the oven to broil and place one oven rack on the top rung.
Let the cauliflower cool for about 5 minutes, then transfer to the bowl of a food processor along with the remaining 1 tbsp of coconut oil, garlic, chickpeas, za’atar, and lemon juice. Process until smooth, scraping down the sides as necessary. Set aside.
Rinse the eggplant slices well to remove the salt. Using a pastry brush, lightly coat both sides of each eggplant slice with melted coconut oil, and place the slices on the same baking pan you used to roast the cauliflower. Broil the eggplant for 7-10 minutes on each side, or until golden-brown and very soft.
While you wait for the eggplant to broil, make the salad. Toss the arugula, cilantro, olive oil, and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Set aside.
To plate, smear a layer of the puree on the bottom of a plate. Place the salad on top, then arrange the eggplant on top of the salad. Finish with a generous sprinkling of za’atar. Serve.
Homemade Za’atar Spice Mix
Makes about 1/3 cup.
2 tsp sesame seeds
2 tsp oregano
2 tsp marjoram
2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp sumac or lemon zest
In a small pan, toast the sesame seeds over medium-high heat until golden-brown and fragrant. Careful—they burn very easily if you don’t watch them closely.
Combine the toasted sesame seeds with the rest of the spices in a small bowl and use as desired.
Leftover za’atar can be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Recipe submitted to Wellness Weekend.
Until next time, Ali.