Have any of you ever watched The Next Food Network Star? If not, this is what it’s all about – contestants compete to become the Next Food Network Star (funnily enough), which entails winning their own show on the network. It’s not as much “about” the food as say, Good Eats or Iron Chef America, but it’s wildly entertaining to see what it’s like behind the scenes of a major TV network. Anyways, something they all talk about on the show is the contestants’ “culinary point of view”, whether it be southern cooking or coastal cuisine or rustic Italian. Having a clearly defined culinary POV is really the crux of the show (besides being fabulous on camera, of course). And watching these contestants find themselves, culinarily, kind of made me think about my own POV.
I make vegan food, obviously. And I always will. But increasingly, I want my food to be less about the fact that it’s vegan, and more about the fact that it’s really really good food that just happens to be vegan. It’s a fine distinction, but one that is very important to me. Vegans can be gourmets too! And as the lovely Gena Hamshaw says in her book, Food52 Vegan, “At its heart, vegan food is just food.”
Coming back to my own culinary point of view, I still don’t think I’ve found the exact combination of words that really describes my food. Honestly, it’s probably because I try to have my recipes be a lot of things. They’re all plant-based, made with whole-food ingredients, rarely with refined sugar, mostly healthy, with the use of different spices, and with an occasional emphasis on global cuisine. Can you imagine that as a tagline? “Hi, I’m Sarah! And I cook plant-based, whole-food, all-natural, mostly-healthy, spice-driven, globally-inspired cuisine!!” Um, no.
But I think my current tagline, “Adventures in a plant-based kitchen”, encompasses those things fairly well. Being adventurous in the kitchen means exploring other cultures, trying new ingredients, and going outside of your comfort zone. However, it doesn’t really delve into the whole all-natural, healthy thing, which is very important to me as well. Eating is, after all, an act of nourishment for the body and the soul. And I’ve found that eating a diet of whole foods is the best way for me to feel healthy. So maybe I can keep my tagline, and you guys can just make a mental note like, “Well and Full = healthy”?? Sounds good? Okay awesome!!
Now to the recipe… this baba ganoush was inspired some words in a book I read a while back that takes place in Turkey. A certain passage really stood out to me:
Liv fished a banknote out of the petty cash envelope and exchanged it for a triangular piece of bread, studded with seeds, and a tub of baba ganoush. She scooped up the thick paste and shoveled it into her mouth. It was smoky and garlicky, a mixture of toasted sesame oil, roasted eggplant and cumin with some other spices dancing around in the background. It was the most delicious thing she had ever eaten.
I love authors that can evoke flavors and foods in their writing. I don’t know if this baba ganoush recipe will be the best thing you ever eat, but I CAN promise that it’s smoky and garlicky, with cumin and sesame and other lovely spices dancing around in the background.
- 2 Medium Eggplant
- 5 Cloves Garlic minced
- 1/4 Cup Tahini
- Juice from 1 Lemon + Some Zest
- 3/4 Tsp Smoked Paprika
- 1/2 Tsp Salt
- 3/4 Tsp Sumac
- 1/4 Tsp Cumin
- Pinch of Nutmeg
- Pinch of Cardamom
- Pinch of Cayenne optional
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil for Cooking
- Sesame Seeds for Garnish
- Fresh Parsley for Garnish optional
Preheat the oven to broil.
Cut the eggplants into rounds about 1/2 inch thick. Lay out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and sprinkle with a bit of sea salt. Let rest for about 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes, use a clean towel to dry off any excess liquid from the eggplant rounds.
Drizzle the eggplant with a little olive oil, and add another pinch of sea salt.
Place the baking sheet in the middle of the oven (this will slow-roast the eggplant). Roast the eggplant for about 5-10 minutes, or until the tops are browned and even a little bit blackened.
When the eggplant are done, remove from the oven and let cool.
While eggplant is cooling, bring a sauté pan to medium heat with a little olive oil. Add minced garlic and sauté until garlic is slightly browned. Remove pan from heat and let rest for a few minutes. Don't remove the garlic or the oil from the pan - we will use both of them in a few minutes.
While the pan is cooling, take the skins off of the eggplant rounds. You can do this with a knife (be careful!) but I think it's easier by hand.
Once all of the eggplant skins are removed, add eggplant, garlic (and the oil it was cooking in), tahini, lemon juice + zest, and spices to a food processor. Process until desired consistency is reached - some like their dips smooth and creamy, others like them thick and chunky. I like mine somewhere in between.
To serve, scoop baba ganoush into a bowl. Top with freshly minced parsley, sesame seeds, and a few sprinkles of smoked paprika. Best enjoyed with grilled pita, but also delicious with crackers or fresh veggies.
Song of the Day:
Turn It Around – Lucius