Eggplant Dip Topped with Fattoush Salad

fattoush-eggplant-dip2

Not to harp on eggplants or anything, I realize I profess my love for them frequently, but this eggplant dip topped with a variation on fattoush salad is everything I dream about when I dream about food (the vast majority of my waking hours). If you’ve read this recipe for Ridiculously Simple and Creamy Eggplant Dip and tried it out for yourself, whether you left it true to form or tried any of the other suggested additions, then you’ll know the value of roasting a whole eggplant until it looks like a shrivelled up witch’s foot. This isn’t a true fattoush salad as I’ve added a few extra ingredients but it’s definitely reminiscent of the original; I admit that when I have a jar of pickled peperoncini peppers in the fridge I feel compelled to add them to just about everything. This has become a beloved party dip over the span of a month and I’ve eaten it solo in my pyjamas for dinner at least 5 times (I don’t bother with anything to use as a dipping vessel, a fork does just fine thank you very much). As long as you make sure to drain the cut up tomatoes and cucumber on some paper towel before adding them to the eggplant base you can have leftovers the next day, just be warned that raw garlic seems to become exponentially stronger after a night sitting in the fridge – approach with caution.

Brown shallow earthenware bowl filled with eggplant dip and with a topping of fattoush salad

eggplant dip topped with fattoush salad:

for the eggplant dip:

1 eggplant, scored several times and roasted whole at 425 degrees for 1 hour or until black and shrivelled on the outside

2 Tbsp. olive oil

2 Tbsp. plain yogurt

1-3 cloves of garlic, finely minced

1 tsp. Ras El Hanout

Juice of 1/2 to 1 lemon

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

Scoop out the custardy eggplant insides and combine in a large bowl with the rest of the ingredients. Use a large fork to whip the mixture into a frenzy until it becomes a creamy and relatively smooth dip. Set aside while you make the fattoush salad.

for the fattoush salad:

About 1/2 cup cucumber chopped into smallish pieces, laid out and drained on a piece of paper towel for 20 minutes

About 1/2 cup tomato cut into small chunks, laid out and drained on a piece of paper towel for 20 minutes

3 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal

5 pickled peperoncini peppers, roughly chopped

1/2 cup of parsley, torn into very small pieces

Juice of 1 lemon

2 Tbsp. olive oil

2 tsp. sumac

Generous pinch of dried chili flakes

Kosher salt

In a salad bowl gently toss together the cucumber, tomato, scallions, and peperoncini peppers. Drizzle with the lemon juice and olive oil and top with the sumac and chili flakes, adding a pinch of kosher salt to round out the flavours.

Transfer the eggplant dip to a shallow bowl and spoon the fattoush salad over top, adding another drizzle of olive oil for presentation and extra flavour. Serve with pita bread or crispy baguette slices, or with a fork and nothing else.

I was reading today that this October Vancouver has had 28 days of rain, which actually is fine by me because I love rainy weather (I can’t claim to speak for everyone with this preference). Walking in the rain for long periods of time makes me feel more alive than a stroll on a sunny day. The ocean is best when it’s entirely greyscale, and listening to the combined sound of water lapping on the shore and rain falling on wet leaves is like a being wrapped in the most comforting blanket imaginable. But I’ve realized it’s also been a month of depressing music, lots of downtempo, minimal everything, and more Nick Drake than you can shake a stick at. I’ve been making the attempt for a full single day now, and although it’s been tempting to listen to the new Casino Versus Japan album nonstop I’ve been filling my ears with Teeel’s gloriously synthy good times. And you know what? I had a bit more bounce in my step tonight when I walked to the beach in the pouring rain.

Teeel – Temple of the Sun

Cucumber, Tomato, and Avocado Salad with Lemon, Feta, and Chilies

An orange plate full of cucumber, tomato, and avocado salad on a bright pink and blue tablecloth. The salad is garnished with chilies, feta cheese, and scallions.

Even just a cursory glance at my blog will expose my adoration for pretty little salads. My need for introverted activities that I can conduct as a mindfulness exercises are very real, and I find the exercise of composing carefully cut up fruits and vegetables an essential part of refocusing and staying present during my week. A long day, a tedious bus ride, and the fact that it was a rainy Thursday led me to this evening’s salad. You can use more or less of any ingredient, or omit one of them if you don’t have it immediately available. Use less or no chilies if you’re not as keen on the heat, my love for it knows no bounds so I like to use a whole chili pepper per recipe, which conveniently is exactly enough for one person.

cucumber, tomato, and avocado salad with lemon, feta, and chilies:

(makes one lovely salad for one lucky person)

1/2 English cucumber, partially peeled and sliced into thick half moons

2 small tomatoes, cut into wedges

1/2 an avocado, thinly sliced

1 red chili pepper, thinly sliced

1 oz. feta cheese of your choice, crumbled

1 scallion, thinly sliced

Half a lemon, zest and juice

1 Tbsp. olive oil

Freshly cracked pepper

Pinch of kosher salt to taste

Arrange the cucumber, tomatoes, and avocado on a plate or shallow bowl. Scatter the chili pepper, feta cheese, and scallion over the salad. Drizzle over lemon juice and olive oil, top with lemon zest, freshly cracked pepper, and salt to taste. Admire your work and then enjoy immediately.

It’s the first day of September, which means I can now start playing all my favourite fall music (even though officially I should still be sticking with summer playlists).  Fall and winter music is the best music, in my opinion, and Mazzy Star is the best way I can think of to usher in the first hints of fall (Hope Sandoval’s solo work is more summery, come to think of it). I was so happy with Mazzy Star’s newest album, it’s just as broody as their older work and just as eerily melancholy.  More than anything, I want to switch from my rotating stock of sundresses into one of the many velvet versions I secretly favour.

Mazzy Star -Seasons of Your Day

Rotini with Broccoli and Chillies

Bowl of rotini pasta with broccoli, chillies, and parmesan.

I couldn’t tell you why exactly, but I always seem to have a head of broccoli lying around in my fridge. Strong ties to my mom, I suppose, as she always has a head of cabbage in hers. What else do I always have? Dried chillies, garlic, dried pasta, and a big hunk of grating cheese in my crisper. Happily, these are the foundations for making one of my favourite one-pot meals; the only other ingredient needed is vegetable stock (or chicken) and it need only be bouillon cubes or concentrate. I use rotini because it’s got some chewy heft, but really any kind of pasta will work well (including whole wheat or other grain alternative). You can play with the ratio of pasta to broccoli, I personally like having more broccoli than pasta or at least a fairly close approximation. The broccoli is cooked right in with the pasta and then the garlic is quickly sautéed in olive oil while the pasta and broccoli drains in a colander. Make sure that you reserve about a cup of the pasta stock to ensure your finished meal isn’t too dry, this is good practice in general but this recipe definitely suffers without it. If you want to add protein I would highly suggest a can of good quality oil packed tuna, just break it up into larger pieces when combining everything before eating.

rotini with broccoli and chillies:

1 cup of uncooked rotini

2 cups of broccoli, cut into small florets

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 generous Tbsp. olive oil

Lots of freshly cracked pepper

Kosher salt

Vegetable stock

Dried red chillies

Parmigiano-Reggiano OR Grana Padano OR Pecorino Pepato

  1. Fill a large pot with stock and cook the rotini according to package directions. In the last 3 minutes of cooking time add the broccoli. Reserve 1 cup of cooking liquid and drain the pasta and broccoli.
  2. Lower the heat to medium and in the same pot sauté the minced garlic until it’s just beginning to brown and smell super fragrant.
  3. Add the cooked pasta and broccoli, reserved cooking stock, black pepper and kosher salt to taste. Toss to combine and then serve with a generous sprinkling of dried red chillies, extra black pepper, and a heaping amount of Reggiano.

Nothing says me time like a little Tori Amos, soundtrack to the antics of teenager Ashley, twenties Ashley, and now thirties Ashley. Mostly her earlier albums, but what can I say? These are the ones that are perfect to me.

Tori Amos – Winter