One 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.
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.
I 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 flesh – 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.