October 12, 2007 on 6:53 pm | By | In Food Musings | 2 Comments

I know I owe you a recipe for baba ghanouj and taboulleh, but first I must come clean: meat has once again touched our lips (and our gullets).

You see, my darling and I both faced a conundrum this week. While we certainly have no problem keeping a vegetarian diet at home, what happens when we’re out and we have no other options? Sure, we could say we’re vegetarians and politely decline, but we’re NOT vegetarians. We’re not doing this for health reasons; in fact, we’re both probably the healthiest we’ve ever been. (Even when meat is part of our diet we eat relatively little beef, lamb or pork, favoring poultry and seafood instead). We’re certainly not doing this for political reasons. (I feel SOME vegetarians/vegans get too militant, which is a complete turnoff. In fact, I was just listening to a vegan in Chicago — a teacher who was fired due to preaching veganism too strongly in the classroom — who attributes school shootings to eating meat (I swear I’m not making this up). A bit extreme, don’t you think?).

Anyhoo, I’m just glad it was my darling who fell off the wagon first. (And boy, did he do it with flourish!).

When he first told me about his photo shoot I had a sneaky suspicion this would happen. The assignment was for the Northwest Homes section of our local business paper and it featured a chef who hates his home kitchen (he and his wife live in a condo near his restaurant — the Steelhead Diner — and he finds it too tiny to be of any use). So he simply prepares their meals at the restaurant after hours. My darling was to shoot a few photos at the condo, then head to the restaurant to shoot the chef preparing dinner.

At about 9:30 I received his sheepish call. I knew immediately what had transpired; I just didn’t know the extent. Here’s the menu: 28-day aged steak, the Steelhead house salad with bacon, shrimp scampi and Uli’s sausage. (I’m sure if they had dessert they would have found a way to add meat to it). Thing is, I can’t fault him; I’d do the same if the tables were turned.

My transgression? The first one really can’t be considered cheating, especially since my darling had already given me the go-ahead. As a chef, I really need to taste the food I’m preparing (most of it, anyway). And since I’m not cooking for vegetarians, that inevitably means I must taste things with meat in them. On Monday, that meant the broth for the vegetable-beef soup and the sauce for the Greek meatballs (made with beef and lamb). I had to make sure both were seasoned properly.

The second transgression was probably a bit more avoidable, but given my darling’s lapse I didn’t feel bad. Wednesday night we held a chapter meeting for our local personal chef’s group at a Thai restaurant. We ate family style, and the chapter paid for it. Sure, I could have requested a separate vegetarian meal, but I thought that would just be silly (however, the chapter president did order a couple of vegetarian options, bless her heart). So along with the tofu pad thai and vegetarian spring rolls, I also sampled the dishes with beef, pork and chicken. (And boy, were they GOOD!)

So on to the baba ghanouj.

Baba ghanoujI have a love/hate relationship with eggplant. I basically need to cook it until there’s no semblance of the original vegetable left before I will eat it. Grilled eggplant? Too spongy and slimy for me. But cook it up in a tomato sauce or smoke it over a grill and whir it up in a food processor and I love it to death. Last week I had an eggplant left over from a cook date, so I decided to try my hand with baba ghanouj. Problem was, the key to a good dip is to infuse the eggplant with smokiness, best done over a grill. But one look outside and I knew I wouldn’t be in the mood (too dark and rainy).

I had heard about the stovetop method, but was skeptical it would produce the same smokiness as a grill. I was extremely pleased with the results. I laid the eggplant directly on the burner grate, set the flame to medium-high and kept turning the eggplant until it was completely charred. I then finished it off in a 500-degree oven for about 25 minutes (until a knife easily slides through). Once cooled I removed the charred skin and placed the pulp in the food processor. This eggplant had relatively few seeds, however, when I made it again with an organic globe eggplant from Whole Foods it contained about 3-4 seed pockets which had to be removed (a VERY messy job).

I made the baba ghanouj the same way I do hummus: with tahini, fresh lemon juice, garlic, cumin and extra virgin olive oil. I added some fresh mint to the second batch, which was a nice touch.

For the taboulleh, I soaked the bulger in warm water until it was absorbed (you may have a bit of water left in the bowl; simply drain it off). I then chopped up loads of parsley (since I had a bit of cilantro in the fridge, I added that as well) and added some diced cucumber, some baby cherry tomatoes, fresh lemon juice, Kalamata olives, feta and extra virgin olive oil. For the pitas I prefer the thick Greek ones (not the pocket pitas). I toasted them until warm, sliced them into wedges and dipped them into the hummus and baba ghanouj.

This actually is a meal we have quite often. However, since I typically have chicken tenders in the fridge left over from cook dates, I’ll broil them up and serve them in the pitas. But this is just as hearty and tasty without it!


  1. I did at least have the decency to admit my transgression!

    Why, oh why did I ever suggest this vegetarian-for-a-month bet?

    Comment by Matt (Trangressor #1) — October 15, 2007 #

  2. It’s an EXPERIMENT, sweetie — NOT a bet 🙂 (Although if it were a bet, you obviously would be the hands-down LOSER!!!

    Comment by ovens2betsy — October 15, 2007 #

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