Imperfect Babaganoush

IMG_2490One of the most lovable qualities about my partner Ben is his genuine interest in people. He possesses an extraordinary talent for striking up a conversation with anyone, anywhere. That’s how we ended up with a membership to Imperfect Produce.

We found Imperfect Produce a few weeks ago at the Santa Clara Yoga Expo where I was helping to assemble the Team Dharma booth for Samyama Yoga Center. Imperfect delivers a box of produce to your doorstep that otherwise would have been thrown away – potatoes, apples and avocados that are too small, carrots that are misshapen, peppers with blemishes, watermelon…well…I actually can’t figure out what made the watermelon imperfect.

According to Imperfect’s website, at least 20% of produce is passed on by groceries each year. Where does that produce end up? Not on our tables, that’s for certain. And probably not at homeless shelters or soup kitchens. Produce that is nutritional sound but not pretty enough for your local Whole Foods is thrown away.

Until now.

Imperfect Produce asks us to consider where our food comes from. To think about the fertile earth, the working land, the men and woman who plow the soil, plant the seeds and collect the harvest. It asks us to participate by honoring the labor that goes into putting that apple in our hand.

That doesn’t mean I wasn’t skeptical at first. I was certain our produce boxes would be filled with ugly and obscure food past its prime. Food that I didn’t know how to cook or wouldn’t want to cook. I was certain Ben and I would be doing the very thing we were trying to avoid – wasting food.

I was wrong.

The produce is beautiful. Our last box was filled with peppers and pluots, plums and carrots, and the round and wonderful watermelon that I devoured. Oh. And an eggplant.

The humble aubergine eggplant.

Our eggplant was flawless. And it was destined to become babaganoush.

IMG_2486I don’t really like babaganoush. It’s too oily and sometimes too smoky. But it was calling me (something else I love about Imperfect Produce – I have to think…ahem…outside the box and create dishes I rarely consider). So I pulled out my Zahav cookbook and found a recipe for roasted eggplant salad.

I began by washing and halving the eggplant then heating it on my non-stick griddle. I didn’t have to add oil, which was great. I set the griddle to 275 and came back periodically to check on its progress. To avoid an overly smoky flavor, I let the skin turn black but didn’t let it char. Once it cooled, I spooned the IMG_2489flesh – which at this point was like pudding – into a bowl. For one cup of cooked eggplant flesh I added one clove of garlic, a large pinch of salt and a quick glug of olive oil – I’m guessing about two teaspoons. Of course it’s not babaganoush without tahini. I stirred in just under a tablespoon.

It went into the fridge to chill and to give time for the flavors to get to know one another.

That night it was served with a tomato salad.

Ben has another quality that never fails to put a smile on my face. Aside from an unfortunate run in with a plate of brussels sprouts two years ago he’s loved every dish I’ve brought to our table. Even not-so-smoky babaganoush.

ps…by the way, Imperfect has the option of delivering a box of produce to a family in need for $12. We like these people. We like them alot.

Goji Berry Sun Tea

IMG_2465Stacy and I were best friends and co-workers at Watercourse Way over twenty years ago. We were the kind of friends who could cry together and then laugh ourselves silly. On Thursday nights one of us would phone the other and we’d watch Seinfeld together. To this day the thought of Jerry at the beach staring at a naked woman and mumbling “boutros boutros golly” makes me think of Stacy and giggle.  When I left for Ireland Stacy was the one who sat with me at the gate until it was time to board the plane.  It was 1994 – long before we had to say goodbye at security.

I’ve not seen Stacy in almost ten years, not since I first returned from Ireland. She flew in from the mid-west yesterday and tonight she and her daughter are coming to visit.

It’s going to be a simple salad night but I want to have something cold and refreshing to drink. So today I’m making my version of Julie Morris’s goji tea from her book Superfood Kitchen. Goji berries are high in antioxidants and good sources of vitamins A and C, iron and fiber. It’s believed these pretty red berries boost the immune system and reduce our risk of heart disease and cancer. Whether they do or not is moot. I think they’re yummy.



To make Goji Berry Sun Tea I’ve put slightly less than a quarter cup of berries into a clean glass container with eight cups of filtered water. I’ve also added a small handful of coarsely chopped mint from my container garden. That’s it. My work is done. Now it’s up to the sun. By the time Stacy and her daughter arrive I’ll have a slow brewed berry tea that is light and fruity. I’ll serve it over ice with a squeeze of lemon and a mint garnish.

As for those plump, rehydrated goji’s? I’ll be using them in my next smoothie.

The Vegan Ploughman

IMG_2458There’s nothing I love more than a simple summer supper. My favorite is a vegan version of a Ploughman’s Lunch that I make from whatever I can find in the fridge. Sunday’s included heirloom tomatoes picked fresh from the vines on our deck sprinkled with the basil I dried last week, a bit of sea salt, ground black pepper and drizzled with balsamic reduction. I added the last few yellow cherry tomatoes we’ll have this year, sliced raw pepperoncini and the refrigerator pickles I made with pepperoncini from the same plant a few weeks ago. But it wouldn’t be a Ploughman’s Lunch without cheese. If I don’t have the time to make my own cheesy vegan spread with cashews, nutritional yeast and garlic I’ll settle for Chao Pepper Jack. Instead of crusty bread I topped off the plate with a baby garnet yam (a baked a half dozen of them yesterday morning to have them on hand) and a spoonful of sauerkraut. This supper is, of course, served best with a frothy IPA poured into a chilled mug. Perfect.