Za’atar-Spiced Millet + Chickpeas with Baba Ghanoush

IMG_6959

 

In between eating roasted pumpkin and winter squash in everything possible because it’s already November, I finally used up all the garden’s eggplants. There were as many growing in my tiny space as were in the school garden and given their late start last spring, they took seriously forever to ripen.

The real question is why did I plant so many in the first place? Quite simply, I like eggplant. Most people don’t. Like a little girl, I could say I like it because the fruit is purple and a funky shape and that name, egg plant. But there’s more. I began my eggplant-eating-tendencies years ago after trying it for the first time at The Olive Garden. My group thought I was crazy for ordering, of all things, something vegetarian and with a slimy vegetable as the main show. I was just beginning to show the “let’s-eat-all-the-weird-to-rural-Eastern-Oregon-food” side of my personality, and everyone else’s strong opinions made me like the vegetable even more.

All these years later, I still love eggplant because it’s often unloved and misunderstood–and because it can be seriously good. It pairs especially well in Middle Eastern food, and according to Ottolenghi, in Jerusulem it is often featured in every meal.

 

IMG_6964

 

I whipped roasted eggplant into baba ghanoush a few weeks back and then, needing something for lunch on a busy day, threw all these ingredients in a dish before running out the door. I suspected something magical was in the works, and though leftovers for lunch is not always exciting, this combination of baba ghanoush, millet, chickpeas, za’atar, and kale goes together super well. It was so good that a decent amount of all that eggplant made its way into baba ghanoush for the sole purpose of making this.

If you’re at all like me and tend to have beans and grains and random spreads and spice mixtures like baba ghanoush and za’atar hanging out, this will go together super quick. If not, it will take a bit more time, though it’s definitely worth it!

 

IMG_6975

 
 
Za’atar-Spiced Millet + Chickpeas with Baba Ghanoush, serves 1
1 cup cooked millet
1/2-2/3 cup cooked chickpeas
2-3 Tbs. Baba Ghanoush, or more to taste
a big pile of chopped kale leaves
1-2 tsp. za’atar, to taste
chopped cilantro, optional
 
Toss all the above together. Eat warm or at room temperature.
 
 
Baba Ghanoush, adapted from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food
1 lb. eggplant (about one large)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
salt, to taste
2 Tbs. tahini
Juice of one lemon
1/3 tsp. cumin
 
Split the eggplant in half length-wise and roast, cut side down at 425 degrees F, until very soft inside (about 30 minutes). Let it cool slightly and then peel the skin off and discard. In a small dish, mash it all up with a fork and then stir in the remaining ingredients until they come together. Adjust seasonings to taste. 
 
 
Za’atar
You can buy this spice mixture, but it’s easy to make yourself. Combine 1 part ground dried thyme, 1 part lightly toasted sesame seeds, 1/4 part sumac, and salt to taste.
 
 

Apricot Orange Tahini Porridge

IMG_5324

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.

IMG_5289

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?

IMG_5320

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!