Do you want to know the quickest way to clear a kitchen at the firehouse? Say the word ‘vegetarian’. As many of you may or may not know, most fire service personnel are card-carrying carnivores and have an unconscious, near violent reaction when even the whisper of a protein-void meal is suggested. But as many are hungrily (pun intended) seeking vegetarian, gluten free meals, we in the fire service (though some reluctantly) are starting to take notice.
For myself, as I’ve expanded my culinary studies to cuisines less traveled, I find more and more that most cuisines have a revere the vegetable and therefore, go to great lengths to extract all of it’s flavors; which leads me to my latest offering and challenge, the enigmatic eggplant. That which many decry as tasteless, bitter and beyond all hope (unless breaded and fried), I, perhaps foolishly, have decided to bring a special rendition to my firehouse table embellished with heavy spice, layered quinoa, and a complex yogurt sauce.
Served with an aggressive side salad or grilled fruit, this meal will surely satisfy even the most ardent carnivore and leave them with an open mind to whatever vegetable the future lies before them.
A few after the fire critiques: To ramp up the spiciness, toast whole spices then grind them with a spice grinder. If you can’t find the pomegranate molasses [I found mine (and the preserved lemons) at an international food market for cheap], you can substitute balsamic vinegar (reduced), honey and/or agave with a squeeze of lemon. Regular lemon peel can be used en lieu of the preserved lemons in a pinch. This recipe was based on one I obtained from two of my culinary mentors, Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.
Quinoa (1 Cup)
Chicken Stock (1½ Cup)
Almonds (½ Cup toasted)
Golden Raisins (⅓ Cup)
Green Onions (3 sliced)
Preserved Lemon Peel (1-2 Tbs.)
Garlic (2 cloves minced)
Greek Yogurt (½ Cup)
Cilantro (1 Bunch chopped)
Coriander Powder (2 tsp.)
Cumin Powder (2 tsp.)
Sweet Paprika (1 tsp.)
Crushed Red Pepper Flakes (1 tsp.)
EVOO (1 Cup)
Lemon Juice (½ lemon or 2 Tbs.)
Pomegranate Molasses (1-2 Tbs.)
|Cows eat veggies too|
Medium Pot (2, one with a cover)
Small Sauté Pan
Pre-heat oven to 400°F. Place ½ cup of EVOO, *coriander, *cumin, sweet paprika red pepper flakes and salt then mix to combine. Slice the eggplants in half then, ensuring not to pierce the skin, deeply score the eggplant in a crisscross pattern. Using a spoon and/or a brush, apply the Chermoula lavishly on the exposed flesh making sure to allow it to penetrate the crevices. Place on baking sheet and roast for 40 minutes or until completely cooked through.
Boil a cup of water then place in over the raisins to cover. Allow it to sit for 10 minutes, strain keeping the water and reserve. Place 1-2 Tbs. a pot over medium-high heat. For 30 seconds. Add the quinoa and toast, stirring frequently for 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock, a pinch of salt (or more) and then bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and cook for 15-18 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat, place folded kitchen towel on top, replace lid and let it sit for 10 minutes. Add the olives, raisins, almonds, half of the cilantro, lemon juice, salt to taste and mix to combine. In a small bowl, add the yogurt, pomegranate molasses and enough raisin water together until it almost reaches a heavy cream like consistency.
To assemble, slice the eggplant in half, cover with enough quinoa so that it falls from one side to the other, stream on the yogurt, sprinkle with cilantro, a splash of EVOO and some finishing salt. Indulge!
* Toast in small sauté pan over medium heat until fragrant. Place in spice grinder and grind coarsely.