Simple, Spicy Baba Ganoush

The end of summer’s harvest approaches, welcoming in a new wave of bounty; this week, it means an abundance of dirt cheap, gorgeous graffiti eggplant for making baba ganoush. When I bought a handful of peppers, a bag full of scuppernongs, and a large basket of graffiti eggplant for only $5 from a local farm stand, I knew the creamy eggplant dish was in my future!

What Is Graffiti Eggplant?

graffiti eggplant

A smaller, white-and-purple-marbled version of traditional eggplant common at most grocery stores, this varietal is known to be less bitter than its solid purple cousin, which has thicker skin and is about twice the size. Some people even describe its flavor as fruitlike and suggest that steps like removing the skin or salting the eggplant before cooking are unnecessary given these sweet, tender characteristics. This sightly vegetable originates from the Mediterranean but grows well in most warm climates.

Health Benefits of Eggplant

Graffiti eggplant is rich in vitamins A and C, potassium, manganese, and folate. Additionallyy, in accordance with traditional Ayurvedic medicine, eggplant is prescribed as a means of fighting diabetes. (Eggplant contains high concentrations of polyphenols, which help the body process sugar.)

Eggplant is, on its own, a low-calorie food. Its high fiber content makes it a great addition to any diet!

Also, eggplant is high in antioxidants. This helps to prevent cancer and heart disease.

Ways To Cook Eggplant

If you, like me, find yourself with an abundance of eggplants, you may be looking for cooking inspiration! Happily, eggplant varietals are interchangeable in most recipes. When cooked, eggplant takes on a creamy texture. It absorbs neighboring flavors and seasonings very well. Here are some ways to use up your eggplant:

Clearly, there’s no shortage of ways you can use this amazing vegetable! If you want further eggplant inspiration, look up some Mediterranean, Indian, or Middle Eastern recipes. Eggplant has a rich history in the cuisines of these cultures.

What is Baba Ganoush and Where Is It From?

Simply put, baba ganoush is a creamy eggplant dish blended with garlic, olive oil, lemon, and tahini. Sometimes spelled “baba ganouj,” this Levantine appetizer pairs well with pita bread for dipping.

Primarily eaten as a spread, dip, or sauce, this delicious condiment hails from Lebanon. There are variants of baba ganoush in many other cuisines, including Ethiopian, Armenian, and Israeli.

How to Eat This Spicy Eggplant Dip

Think of baba ganoush as a cousin to hummus. Slather it into a veggie sandwich or drop it over your salad greens. Alternatively, dip rustic bread, pita wedges, crackers, cucumbers, peppers, broccoli, or other veggies into this silky smooth dip.

Additionally, baba ganoush makes a great ingredient on any charcuterie board!

Is Baba Ganoush Vegetarian?

Yes! Baba ganoush contains no animal products, so it’s even considered vegan!

Is Baba Ganoush Healthy?

Yes. Baba ganoush boasts a modest amount natural fats from olive oil. There is also a good amount of nutrient-rich sesame seeds from the tahini. These contribute anti-inflammatory properties as well as vitamins and minerals.

Of course, the real star of the show is eggplant. Since the eggplant roasts in the skin which is later removed, it absorbs a relatively low amount of oil in the cooking process. This means the eggplant is even healthier than cubed roasted eggplant. This is about as healthy as eggplant gets.

So, this fiber-rich, filling dish is incredibly satisfying and healthy! (And yes, baba ganoush is even keto-friendly!)

Simple Spicy Baba Ganoush

One great aspect of this recipe is its wonderful simplicity! Waiting for your eggplants to roast is the hardest part.

Pierce the skin of your eggplants with a fork like you would a baked potato. Drizzle with oil and roast.

unroasted graffiti eggplant

I roasted my eggplants for around an hour. They caramelized beautifully in the oven!

roasted eggplants

Allow to cool until you can handle the eggplant. Use a knife and spoon to separate the tender roasted flesh from the skin. Drain over a fine mesh sieve to remove any excess moisture.

draining roasted eggplant removes excess moisture

Simply add all your ingredients to a food processor and blitz until smooth and creamy!

baba ganoush ingredients

It’s as easy as that! I plated mine with some sumac, olive oil, and sheep’s milk feta. Yum!

finished baba ganoush

A perfect summer treat! 🙂

finished baba ganoush

Simple Spicy Baban Ganoush

Fresh serrano pepper gives this take on a traditional recipe a spicy flavor boost! Serve with pita, chips, crackers, or veggies!
Prep Time 25 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Total Time 1 hr 25 mins
Course Appetizer, healthy, Side Dish, Snack, vegan, Vegetarian
Cuisine Healthy, lebanese, middle eastern, persian, traditional, vegan, Vegetarian
Servings 4 people

Equipment

  • fine mesh sieve

Ingredients
  

  • 3.5-4 pounds eggplants (I used 7 small graffiti eggplants, but 2 standard eggplants will do)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1 small serrano pepper, stemmed and seeds removed
  • 2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil, for garnish optional
  • 1 oz feta cheese, for garnish optional
  • dash of sumac, for garnish optional

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 425°F and line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.
  • Wash and pat dry the eggplants. Pierce all over with a fork like you would a roasted potato. Drizzle with olive oil, and roll in oil to coat. Roast for an hour to an hour and half, or until eggplants are tender and collapsing.
  • Allow eggplant to cool to room temperature. Using a knife and spoon, cut the eggplants in half and scoop flesh out, discarding the skins. Place eggplant pulp in a fine mesh sieve over a medium-sized bowl and allow to drain for 15 minutes.
  • In the meantime, remove the seeds and stem from your serrano and set the pepper aside. Crush garlic with the flat side of a knife and discard the skin. Juice the lemon and set aside.
  • Place drained eggplant, garlic, serrano, lemon juice, and salt in a food processor or blender and blitz until smooth and creamy.
  • Plate with a drizzle of olive oil, a dash of sumac, and feta cheese crumbles. Serve immediately. Keeps up to 4 days in the fridge in an air tight container.
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Creamy Pumpkin Pasta (V)

Picture this: you’ve just found the most perfect recipe for homemade pumpkin pie. You’ve cleared you schedule, cleaned your kitchen, purchased the ingredients…and now all there is left to do is bake.

You begin adding ingredients to the mixing bowl with precision and care until you come to the pinnacle moment that gives your pie its very essence: the can of pumpkin puree. (Of course, if you take the time to process your own pumpkin every time you bake a pie, my hat is off to you. Sometimes we only have time for a two hour project, so a can of the sweet orange stuff will have to do!)

After adding the necessary puree to the bowl, your stomach falls to the floor. You realize, hands shaking, that you have an odd amount of leftover pumpkin in the can. You know logically that if you cover it with cling film and try to save it, it will kick around in the fridge for longer than you’d like until you find some use for it or at last throw it away. Even the dogs have started rolling their eyes at you when you continue to offer them spoonfuls…they’ve seen this all play out before.

Fear not, reader. There is an easy, delicious use for the odd amount of pumpkin puree that you’ve always wondered what to do with. The solution in this case, and in many other cases, is: pasta.

this recipe is so easy and cheap to make, and takes very little time to assemble. here’s to another simple weeknight dinner!

For those of you who are paying attention to how much dairy you consume, this recipe was created with the intention of making it vegan. (If you’d rather have your dairy, feel free to substitute heavy whipping cream for coconut cream and parmesan for capers.) With the holiday season upon us, I found myself craving something relatively healthy and light.

cooked pasta is introduced to pumpkin and coconut cream and blended

This recipe can all be made in one pot, for those of you who prefer to do less dishes. I have a feeling I am not alone in this…

Toast the walnuts while you are making your sauce. Chop them up to your desired coarseness when they are cool enough to touch. Add red pepper flakes, torn parsley, and capers.

…not a bad way to end the day !

Creamy Pumpkin Pasta (Vegan)

This healthy, one-pot dinner makes a great ending to a busy day.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Healthy, Intuitive, vegan
Servings 4 people

Ingredients
  

  • 8 oz pasta of your choice
  • 1/2 cup full fat coconut milk, with cream
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/3 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 2 Tbs capers
  • 4 Tbs fresh parsley, torn or chopped
  • 1/4 Tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • salt, to taste
  • freshly cracked pepper, to taste

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • In a large, heavy-bottomed sauce pot, bring 4 quarts of salted water to a boil.
  • Chop parsley and set aside. Measure out pumpkin and coconut and set aside.
  • Boil pasta until al dente, 7-12 minutes. Meanwhile, toast walnuts until fragrant and golden brown, about 5 minutes. When cool enough to touch, coarsley chop walnuts and set aside.
  • Drain pasta. Add oil to pot and turn heat to medium. Add red pepper flakes and "bloom" in the oil, cooking for several minutes until the color and flavor starts to bleed into the oil.
  • Turn heat to low, add pumpkin and coconut cream and stir. Turn heat off, and add drained pasta, parsley, walnuts, and capers, stirring to combine. Taste, adding salt and pepper as needed.
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Other Ways to Use Up Pumpkin Puree

Spicy Chai Pudding (V, GF)

Another week passed at the bakery, full of trials, tribulations, and “firsts,” including my first time successfully completing macarons. This has been a bucket list item for me since I first saw an array of colorful macarons about a decade ago, and I bought one of those teeny tiny prosecco bottles from the grocery store to celebrate. Now, to make the perfect olive or walnut levain…

…but one day at a time! For now, champagne out of a mason jar.

Assuredly you are aware, delightful reader, that it is pumpkin spice season. I mean, we are even working pumpkin spice into the patisserie. And I may or may not have started ordering pumpkin spice lattes as soon as they were available in my area. It’s a comforting taste, and we can all use a little comfort right now.

But, with great flavor comes great curiosity (or something like that) and I began to get a little more curious about chai spice.

I cobbled together a few recipes from various sources and created my own tip of the hat to this season: chai spice, vegan pudding (pumpkin not included).

I mean, if one can make spicy chocolate pudding, why not? What were rules made for, if not to break them??

Though I initially set out on this quest with sweet, sweet dairy in mind (I was envisioning an egg-yolky custard, rich and sweet, and so, so fattening–) I opened my fridge to behold two large containers of oat milk and a perilously full jar of coconut cream that I opened this week by mistake, thinking it was coconut milk. (This has proven to be a happy accident, however, as I have been adding a scoop of cream into my earl grey tea in the mornings.)

“So,” I thought, “can I apply myself here to use what I have and make a truly delicious vegan pudding?”

Reader, if you want a healthy fat, low-sugar, guilt-free seasonal dessert, you’ve come to the right place.

First, I gathered my ingredients.

while i did not have a vanilla bean at my disposal, i did have ample vanilla bean paste

I toasted the spices and orange peel in a medium saucepan before adding oat milk, coconut cream, vanilla bean paste, and slices of peeled ginger, simmering this gently for about six minutes. The beauty of this recipe is, you can take the spice as far as you like. The longer you simmer, the spicier your pudding is going to be. I like ginger, like, a lot, so I stretched that flavor out as far as was palatable to me. It’s so important to taste as you go!

l: spiced oat milk mixture with honey and salt; r: oat milk and cornstarch mixture

When the flavor tastes right to you, or just barely to the point of “omg, maybe this is too spicy,” drain the liquid into a medium sized bowl using a fine mesh sieve or cheese cloth draped inside a colander. (You are going to dilute the flavor a little bit with the second addition of liquid, so be bold with your flavor concentration!) Return liquid back into the pot, add cornstarch/oat milk solution, and whisk over medium heat, until mixture thickens.

Pour into ramekins or a medium bowl, cover in plastic wrap, and chill. And voila! Vegan, spicy, not-too-bad-for-you, on-theme dessert. Win.

Obviously, you can use whatever milk you like. And, the original recipe I riffed off of called for whole milk or half and half–so if you’d rather make your pudding with good, old-fashioned dairy: please, be my guest! Whether you prefer your dessert to be righteous or indulgent: chai spice is the great connector.

Spicy Chai Pudding (V, GF)

Serves 4

Note: This recipe could very easily be adapted to contain dairy by substituting whole milk or half and half for the oat milk and coconut cream. I also used honey to sweeten, but an equal trade of brown sugar would make this recipe fully vegan. Follow your gut!

Toasted Spices

  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 star anise
  • 6 cardamom pods
  • 7 whole black peppercorns
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1/8th tsp nutmeg, preferably freshly ground
  • 1 1/2” strip of orange zest, with little to no white pith

Pudding

  • 1 ¾ c oat milk 
  • 4 Tbs coconut cream
  • 1 whole vanilla bean, split lengthwise with seeds scraped, or 1 tsp vanilla paste
  • 1” peeled ginger (roughly 0.5 oz), cut into matchsticks
  • ½ c oat milk
  • 3 Tbs cornstarch
  • ½ c honey or brown sugar
  • ¼ tsp salt

In a large liquid measuring cup or in a small bowl, combine first measurement of oat milk, coconut cream, vanilla, and sliced ginger. 

In a medium sauce pot over medium heat, toast cinnamon, star anise, cardamom, peppercorns, and cloves, stirring or shaking the pan occasionally until spices have started releasing their odor and “dancing” around in the bottom of the pot, about 5 minutes. (Take care to turn your spices with a wooden spoon, smelling for anything burning, until cardamom pods appear toasted and cinnamon stick has darkened considerably.) After spices are sufficiently toasted, turn off the heat and add nutmeg followed by orange peel, stirring for 1 minute more. When orange peel has begun to sweat and shrivel, remove from the hot burner and let the pot cool for a few minutes.

While the pot is cooling, whisk together cornstarch and second measurement of oat milk in a small bowl until no lumps remain. 

When you can put your fingers on the pot without burning yourself, add oat milk, coconut cream, vanilla, and ginger mixture into the toasted spices, followed by honey and salt. Place back over the hot burner and cook over medium heat until mixture is just below a simmer. (It should be steaming but no significant bubbles emanating from the bottom of the pot.) Stir consistently so the liquid does not form a skin or burn on the bottom of the pot.

When spiced oat milk mixture is at a bare simmer, cook, stirring constantly, for 5-8 minutes. Taste as you go: the longer the mixture simmers, the spicier the pudding will be. When pudding has reached desired spiciness, drain the contents of the pot into a medium bowl using a fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth placed over a colander, discarding spices. Return the mixture back to the sauce pot over medium heat. When steaming, add the cornstarch and oat milk mixture, whisking constantly until pudding thickens and barely begins to boil, about 5 minutes. 

Reduce heat to the lowest setting and stir 3 minutes more, or until pudding is of a desirable consistency. 

Divide into ramekins or pour into a bowl, covering in plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until chilled. When ready to serve, garnish with 1 tsp coconut cream and a modest shake of ground allspice or cinnamon. Best eaten within 24 hours.

extra credit for decorating your pudding!
much fancy
coconut cream on everything!!

Edit: If it pains you to throw away whole spices and several dollars worth of ginger, after steeping your spice blend in the milk of your choosing, consider candying the ginger matchsticks for a garnish and drying your spices on a piece of parchment paper for another use, such as adding to a mug of tea or making a hot toddy.

Spicy Sesame Chard with Salty Tempeh Bites

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I really crave tempeh.

I am a sane enough person to realize that that can seem like an absurd statement, but hear me out.

Have you ever tried a plant-based diet? (Cool, thanks for trying! If not, why not? Would it kill you to try? 😉 ) Have you ever had baked tofu cubes with edges so crisp and caramelized and perfectly seasoned, you’d even prefer them to meat? If that doesn’t sound absurd to you (and maybe especially if it does), read on, bold omnivore!

I got home from my shift at the bakery the other morning fretting about my garden. The last of my tired chard plants have been dutifully toiling to produce several, perfect, tender leaves in their final push of the season. This is not to say they have not had a long and prolific career. My chard, gifted to me in the form of seeds by a lovely friend, has provided me with many, many leaves. We’ve had a good run this year, chard and I.

The first time I ate chard, I distinctly remembered thinking that it tasted even dirt-ier than dirt itself. I chewed without pleasure, thinking “Who would voluntarily eat this?”

Obviously many lifetimes have eclipsed since then, and I have to attribute any advancements in my palette to my foresighted mother. (Thanks, Mom.)

The point is, I’ve really come a long way with this vegetable. From obligation to enjoyment, there are many miles to span and many bridges to cross. I’ve given this leafy green a chance many times when I didn’t feel up to the challenge, and over time I found merit and reward in the trying. By now, I even crave the vegetable from time to time and its robust, earthy flavor.

So I knew this final harvest deserved a little special something. A final bow, if you will, before winter digs in and this fruitful little plant dies away. She deserved to be the star of the show, and I figured her cast ought to be entirely made up with vegetables.

First, I harvested and washed the tender baby chard.

Then, I gathered the necessary ingredients, chopped my tempeh and chard and sorted the chard pieces into piles of “mostly stems” and “mostly leaf,” assembled my marinade, and zipped the cut tempeh in a bag to rest for 30 minutes.

I roasted the tempeh with half of the marinade until the edges turned crispy in the pan, then sautéed the chard, stems first, in sesame oil and chili flakes. Simple and flavorful, this recipe could easily be adapted to serve two, with another handful of chard. If you are looking to flesh out the meal, consider serving your favorite grain or rice noodles alongside.

garnished with fresh cilantro, a squeeze of lime, and a dollop of coconut cream–do not miss out on the coconut cream!!!

Spicy Sesame Chard with Salty Tempeh Bites

Serves 2

The Sauce

  • 3 Tbs light sodium soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 Tbs rice wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbs sweet chili sauce or sriracha
  • 1 Tbs sesame oil
  • ½ tsp honey
  • ¼ lime, juiced
  • 1 medium garlic clove, pressed, minced, or grated with a microplane zester
  • 0.5 oz ginger (about 1” long), peeled with a spoon and minced or grated with a microplane zester

The Plate

  • 1 8oz package tempeh, cut into ½”-1” chunks
  • 10 oz rainbow chard, washed
  • 2 Tbs sesame oil
  • 1-2 Thai chilis, chopped, or 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 3 Tbs water
  • 1 3-fingered pinch of salt
  • ¼ c fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 2 Tbs coconut cream (garnish, 1 Tbs per dish)
  • Sesame seeds (garnish)
  • Squeeze of fresh lime (about 1/8th of a lime)

Cut tempeh into ½”-1” chunks. Using a small saucepan, steam for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, assemble the sauce. Mix all ingredients in a jar or liquid measuring cup, tasting for seasoning. Set aside.

Drain tempeh and let cool a few minutes. Place tempeh in a quart-sized zip top bag with sauce, and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes, flipping the bag over after 15 minutes have passed. When you flip the bag for the second 15 minutes, preheat the oven to 425°F.

Wash chard and cut into bite-sized pieces (about 1” long) and separate the stems from the leafy cuts. Set aside.

Assemble tempeh in an oven-safe baking dish, making sure none of the pieces are touching. Pour half of the marinade over the tempeh. Place in the oven and bake for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, add second measurement of sesame oil to a large skillet, set over high heat. Sprinkle in chopped Thai chili or red pepper flakes and “bloom” in the hot oil, about one minute. Add chard, stems first, lowering to the temperature to medium-low. Stir until the stems are coated in oil (about 30 seconds) then add 3 Tbs water and immediately cover. Steam undisturbed for 3 minutes, or until the stems begin to change color and turn tender. Add chopped leaves and toss with tongs until they are coated with the spiced oil, seasoning with salt as you do so. Cover again and steam for one minute. Remove lid and stir. Steam until the water has cooked out, and the leaves have reached desired “doneness.” Remove from heat and cover with a lid to keep warm.

After 10 minutes of baking, pull tempeh and flip the pieces over using tongs or a spatula. Return to the oven and bake another 10 minutes. You are looking for caramelization on the edges and acquisition of color on each tempeh cube. 

When tempeh has finished baking, pull from the oven and add the remaining marinade to the hot dish. You may have darkened bits of cooked sauce around the tempeh. Stir the tempeh around to coat with fresh marinade and let rest while you plate the chard.

Using tongs, pull chard from skillet, allowing any excess water or oil to wick off. Place onto two plates, adding tempeh chunks and any desired residual marinade. Plate with 1 Tbs coconut cream on each dish, fresh cilantro, sesame seeds, and a squeeze of lime.