Moroccan Eggplant Mini Galettes with Chickpeas + Harissa

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There’s a platter loaded with all the things I’ve been holding on to so tightly. I’ve got it in my outstretched arms, hoping the precariously balanced load won’t topple over before I can let it go. My fingers have been clenched so tightly around each item, grasping for control.

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As if brought in by the winds of seasonal change, this last month has come with significant doubt, mental upheaval, physical pain. It’s brought back past issues I thought were well behind me. All month, I have been holding fast to each day, fingers still entrenched in the managing, yet knowing there is something within trying to break free.

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Perfectly situated in this storm are the conversations I’ve been having. They are purely surface conversations and so ingrained are my answers that I toss them out before I think of how I truly want to respond. I’ve spent the better part of 27 years dishing out as little about myself as possible and I purposely avoid asking the tough questions of others because questioning too, might reveal too much. The conversations that haven’t been happening are more honest and they’re haunting me day and night, telling me I’ve got to start being more real.

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I had a moment in adoration a couple weeks ago, bulldozed by a message that broke me completely open, empty, crying, hanging on to a vision and His firm truth. That same message has been bouncing off the cavern walls in my mind ever since and each time doubt comes, the message is there, lurking in the background, telling me to trust the process.

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As I look at the platter, it’s contents are overwhelming. I hold out my arms as far as I can, shoving it further away. All it takes to let go is deciding. I don’t need to be in control anymore. Hand it over. Trust. The lesson is in the unknowing.

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Interspersed with all this internal struggle is the art of everyday living, and in that we’ve been eating these mini galettes. They are extra-spicy, sweet, and comfortable all in one. Our garden’s eggplants finally got ripe and the makings of this recipe have been in the back of my brain for months waiting oh-so-patiently for those plants to yield. The first batch had cayenne and a healthy dose of black pepper, and only jalepeños in the harissa, and it was a touch spicy without enough sweet balance. We threw in raisins because raisins-go-in-everything-round-these-parts, and ditched the cayenne and black pepper. Will complained they lost too much oompf, so the black pepper is back. Seriously, no, we don’t really need to eat black pepper, jalepeño, spicier-harissa and cayenne-infused pie. So we’ll just stick with the first three and it’s perfect. If you’re not such a spice-fan, ditch the jalepeño all-together, cut back on the black pepper, and if you’re purchasing harissa, taste it before adding the entire amount! Do make these though–or request an invite to dinner–because the time has come, both for eating rustic little Moroccan-inspired pastries and getting comfortable in the unknowing.

 
 
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Moroccan Eggplant Mini-Galettes with Chickpeas and Harissa, makes 8
1 Tbs. olive oil
2 small eggplants, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 2 1/4 cups)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 jalepeño, diced
2 cups cooked chickpeas
1/4 cup raisins 
1/2 cup dried apricots, diced
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. coriander
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup harissa
1 recipe Quinoa and Olive Oil Pastry
 
Quinoa and Olive Oil Pastry, adapted from “Small Plates and Sweet Treats”
1 cup brown rice flour, plus more for dusting
1 cup quinoa flour
2/3 cups almond flour
1/2 cup garbanzo-fava flour
2 tsp salt
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup water
 
For the pastry:
 
1. Combine the first six ingredients in a food processor. Pulse a couple of times to aerate the ingredients.  Add the olive oil and 1 cup cold water. Pulse until the dough comes together.
 
2. Transfer the dough to a work surface, knead it a couple of times and press it into a disk. Wrap in parchment paper, and refrigerate it for 30 minutes.
 

Make the filling:

1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook eggplant, garlic, jalepeño, and onion, stirring occasionally, until tender and slightly golden, about 8 minutes. Stir in the beans, raisins, apricots, and spices, and harissa. Taste to adjust seasoning, if necessary.

2. Divide the pastry dough into 8 equal pieces. Dust a work surface with brown rice flour and roll each piece into roughly an 8-inch circle. Spoon 3/4-1 cup filling into the center and pile the edges up around it, pinching it as you go. Transfer the galette to a baking pan, and follow the same process with the remaining 7 pieces.

3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Bake for about 10 minutes, and then turn the oven down to 350 degrees F. Cover the galettes as necessary with foil to prevent excessive browning and bake until done, about 20 more minutes. Let the galettes cool slightly before eating.
 
Harissa, adapted from “Jerusalem”
1 red sweet pepper
1/2 tsp. coriander
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. caraway seeds, toasted and ground in a spice grinder
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, coarsley chopped
3 serrano chiles, coarsley chopped
1 1/2 tsp. tomato paste
2 Tbs. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. salt
 
For the harissa:
 
1. Place the pepper, on foil, under the broiler in the oven, turning it occasionally for about 10 minutes, until it is blackened on the outside and completely soft. Transfer to a cutting board and allow to cool. Peel the pepper and discard the skin and seeds.
 
2. Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat, and fry the onion, garlic, and chiles for 10-12 minutes until they start to become caramelized.
 
3. Now turn the sweet pepper, onion/hot pepper mixture, and remaining ingredients into a food processor. Blitz everything together until it becomes a smooth paste.
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Apricot-Carrot Muffins

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During the summer of 2009, I ventured off to northeastern Washington, to spend a week at an educational cooking school at Quillisascut farm. It was a Slow Food Youth experience, and the week is ingrained in my memory. Myself and a dozen or so other 20-somethings came together from all over the country to spend a few days harvesting fresh produce, making delicious meals from scratch, baking bread in a wood-fired oven, milking goats, making cheese, and learning about the domestic arts in general. For me, it was paradise and the kind of experience that in an ideal world I’d like to recreate for other people on my own farm someday.

During this time of the summer when local apricots are in season and soon-to-be-gone for another year, I remember those few days at Quillisascut. That week, in addition to all of the above, I ate a lot of apricots.

The farm is located in a remote region of Washington state, hours from any major metropolis, and the experience was all about living off what the local region produces. Aside from the foraged huckleberries for breakfast, the only fruit to be had that week was apricots–and there were A LOT of them! I am a snacker by nature and in addition to apricots in our meals, I probably downed between 15 and 20 a day just in passing, because they were uber ripe and in need of being used–and I like to eat!

 

Prior to that experience, I had never had much of a thing for apricots. Sure, I like all fruit and I grew up with grandparents who would bring us boxes of whatever was in season from their nearby orchards. We definitely had gluts of apricots growing up, and my mom would make apricot upside down cake and jam. Yesterday, I called her and she was doing just that!

These days, since Quillisascut, I’m all into the apricot season. In the last couple weeks, I’ve had them in savory grain salads, in breakfast porridge, in these muffins, in a coming-soon vinegar concoction, and I’ve been downing them just as is–which is often the best way!

 

Apricot-Carrot Muffins, makes 6 large or 12 standard muffins
This recipe is an update of one I posted a few years back. It is now gluten and dairy-free. Use the ripest apricots and the sweetest carrots that you can find–you will taste the difference. Feel free to use the original recipe if you have no dietary restrictions. 
 
1 cup gluten-free flour 
3/4 cup oats
1/4 cup oat flour
3/4 tsp. xanthan gum
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1 cup diced fresh apricots
1 cup grated carrots
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbs. canola oil
3/4 cup almond milk
 
1. Make oat flour by grinding 1/4 cup oats in a food processor until fine.
2. Bring together the flours, oats, baking powder, xanthan gum, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and set aside.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, oil, and milk. Pour into flour mixture.  Give the bowl a couple of turns with a spoon and then stir in the carrots and apricots. Only stir until mixture is just incorporated.
4. Spoon evenly into muffin tins.
5. Bake in a preheated oven at 400 degrees F for approximately 20 minutes or until the tops are golden and the insides are set.

Apricot Orange Tahini Porridge

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There is a certain peace in morning rituals, in knowing every day is going to begin relatively the same. The same comforting breaking of a night’s fast, the same checking in on what is happening in the world. In the space of a week, there is the cyclic rush of getting out the door on those first five days and then settling in on weekends.

Shower, breakfast, listen to news, check email, out the door.
Run, breakfast, shower, listen to radio, out the door.
Strength train, breakfast, shower, listen to news, out the door.
Breakfast, browse internet, plan recipes, write or journal, settle in.

Merely variations of the same until the day has truly begun.

Listen to my breath. In. Out. Slow down. Each moment for a time. 
Morning rituals.

At work, when I’m not in a hurry, I drop my bags, stow my lunch, prepare the computer, put on the kettle for tea, and sit in relaxing silence with the steaming cup while catching up on early morning emails. I double check my day’s plan and lock my to-do list into a strategic hierarchy. This too, is a ritual. I’ve managed to keep it through more than a couple job changes.

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The smell of porridge oats wafting up is a thing of great comfort. I’ve been eating them since I can remember eating, and they are essential in this routine. There are, habitually, minute shifts in the details of the porridge which are largely driven by the weather, the season, or waking up in a daringly adventurous mood. There are only odd days that the meal veers off to become muffins, muesli, waffles, egg tacos, or toast. Rarely, though, is the deviation dramatic or for any length of time.

“There are surprisingly few of these patterns of events in any one 
person’s way of life, perhaps no more than a dozen. Look at your own
life and you will find the same. It is shocking at first, to see that 
there are so few patterns of events open to me. Not that I want more 
of them. But when I see how very few of them there are, I begin to 
understand what huge effect these few patterns have on my life, on my 
capacity to live...”
 -Christopher Alexander

Every once in a while, I have an exact list of ingredients that I will pour in, as in this rich and creamy bowl of comfort. I’ve become obsessed with adding tahini since the weather turned last September. Originally, pears were the accompanying fruit that opted in on a daily basis. Like clockwork, I turn more heavily to citrus this time of year, perhaps as a way of desperately clammering for more light. Oranges and tahini pair beautifully anyway, and the addition of a small bit of dried apricots somehow ties the two together. Eating this, I can imagine being in a warm and sunny place where oranges are ripening on a tree. I am reminded, too, of summers past when those apricots were whole and sweet, and how the apricot trees are even now clamoring out of their winter slumber to begin the cycle anew.

Listen to my breath. In. Out. Slow down. Each moment for a time.

These visualizations, the slow bites and drawing in of breath before the day begins, are also part of my morning ritual. What is yours?

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Apricot Orange Tahini Porridge, serves 1
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1 cup water
1 Tbs. tahini
3 dried unsulphured apricots, diced
1 orange, thinly sliced and then diced
orange zest
1/2 tsp. orange blossom water, optional
stevia drops or choice of sweetener, to taste
  • On the stovepot, put a small saucepan to boil with water.
  • Once it comes to a rolling boil, turn down to medium and stir in the oats and apricots. Let cook until it is soft and nearly all the water has been absorbed, about four minutes.
  • Turn off the heat and stir in the tahini, mashing it with your spoon until it is spread evenly throughout.
  • Take off the heat, and zest about 1/3  of an orange peel over the mixture. Stir in the orange blossom water and diced orange, including the juice from the cutting board.
  • Turn the whole mixture into a bowl and sweeten to taste. Enjoy!