Za'atar & Legumes

As you may have read in a few previous posts, the boy and I have recently signed up to receive weekly produce baskets from Lufa Farms. We've been delighted so far - fresh, organic seasonal vegetables produced on local rooftop farms, delivered each Wednesday to a pick up point that is close to home. We love customizing our basket each week, choosing from the many different heirloom varieties of tomatoes, the vast array of seasonal vegetables, and our favourite organic, locally produced pantry staples. Eating local has encouraged us to go outside of our ordinary vegetable realm and try new things. From jerusalem artichokes to fiddleheads, our plates have never been bursting with such a variety of flavour.

Last week, I had my first taste of "spring garlic," also known as garlic scape. It's this green shoot that looks just like a green onion, only the taste is 100% garlic! I started out by adding it into my sweet potato salad for a deliciously unexpected twist. This week, I paired the scape with a beautiful purple eggplant and roasted it into something superb. 

Now, let me tell you, I am NOT usually an eggplant fan. Neither is the boy for that matter. He actually asked me not to feed it to him. And I understand the sentiment. I usually find the texture gooey and the flavour null. However, I've seen so many recipes in my various middle eastern cookbooks that look absolutely mouth watering. 

When the boy saw the bright purple aubergine peeking it's head out of our basket, he looked at me confused and asked, "ugh... really? why?" I simply replied with a shoulder shrug and a "why not?" Later that evening, I harvested some herbs from my balcony garden and I made the most delicious za'atar laced chickpea dish that I've ever had. My proudest moment? When the boy devoured it. He exclaimed, "Wow! That stuff was great! What was in there?" to which I ever so coyly replied, "Eggplant." 

Homemade Za'atar Spice Mix
original recipe by allison sklar

Za'atar is a general term for a middle eastern spice mix that generally consists of thyme, sumac and sesame. My version features chopped fresh oregano, whose earthiness both compliments and mellows the tanginess of the sumac. Adjust quantities as desired to the amount that your recipe calls for. 
If using dried herbs, this will keep in the pantry for at least 6 months. 

Note: You can find sumac at specialty spice shops or, if you're in Canada, Loblaws/Provigo (PC brand) both sell it in their gourmet spice section.

what you'll need
2 tbsp ground sumac
2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
2 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
& one pinch salt

how to do it
Combine all ingredients. Store in airtight container up to a week with fresh herbs, 6 months with dried. 

Roasted Za'atar Eggplant (Aubergine) and Chickpeas with rice
an original recipe by allison sklar

what you'll need
1 medium sized eggplant
1/2 cup chopped garlic scape (or 3 crushed garlic cloves)
1 cup canned or cooked chickpeas
4 tbsp Za'atar spice blend
2 tbsp olive oil + more for drizzling
pinch salt

1 cup of your favourite rice, cooked according to package directions.
(Jasmine or basmati both work nicely!)
Note: time your rice accordingly - this recipe takes about an hour to cook, so if your rice only takes 20 minutes, start it at the same time as the chickpeas are going into the oven! If the rice only needs 10, start it when there are 10 minutes left on the timer, etc...

how to do it
Preheat oven to 400F. Cut eggplant in half and score (see photo). Place flesh side down on parchment lined baking sheet. drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast for 45 minutes, or until tender and slightly browned. Meanwhile, toss chickpeas with garlic, olive oil and za'atar. 

Remove eggplant from oven, break apart into smaller pieces. Reduce oven temp to 350F.

Pour chickpea mixture over top of eggplant. Return to oven and roast for another 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden and fragrant. 

Serve hot, over rice. 


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