Eggplant leek pizza recipe

What a hard week this was, and as I finally sit down to
write these words, I do it with a deep sigh
of relief and contentment. Of
finally being back in this space, with you, and share what’s been on my mind (and at our table).

A few weeks ago, I was chatting with a mom friend, and
somehow I mentioned that Pablo loved radishes. She was slightly surprised, and
told me that even though she loved radishes, it had never occurred to her to
give them to her toddler.

The other day, at a barbecue, another mom told me she felt
absolutely certain her daughter would never try eggplant.

Recently, there was an article in the New York Times’Motherlode column where a mom vowed for one whole week to forgo processed
foods and home cook. As journalist Maryn McKenna pointed out, is home cooking
really the Mount Everest of parenthood?
Some time ago, I found a blog who had kindly linked back to
my blog, and found a thread of comments where some moms, while marveling at
Pablo’s menus, seemed to find them simply unachievable. A week without
pasta? Six kinds of vegetables in one meal? Unthinkable, apparently.
You see the common theme here. Eating mostly real foods, home
cooking, eating as a family on a daily basis, exposing infants and young
children to a wide variety of foods… appears to be far from mainstream.
And I’m always slightly puzzled by the surprise reaction I often get (“Pablo
really eats all this stuff? You really cook every day?”), because I was
fortunate enough to grow up in an environment and a culture where there’s
nothing extraordinary about feeding young children radishes, Brussels sprouts,
eggplant, duck or aged goat cheese, about cooking meals with real food (is
there any other kind?) and eating in courses on a daily basis. In many places
and for millions of families around the world, this is completely normal and
feeding oneself any other way would be considered very strange.

Sure, there are financial factors and the lack of time, but
mostly, I noticed the barrier is in the mind. And that’s one of my goals with
this blog, to show it can be done. Not effortlessly (what is?), but reasonably
easily.

As I was watching Pablo happily macking asparagus (sans vinaigrette no less!) today at lunch, it struck me again how very normal this is to him. And scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed, it is obvious there’s a whole community,

 a movement out there (Michael Pollan
being one of its most famous proponents), and more and more resources and
education, working to normalize real
food and home-cooking. 

And I’ve never been much of a “movement” gal, but I am happy, and proud, to be a tiny part of this one. It seems like a tall order to change mentalities of a whole generation. What we
can do though, is normalize flavorful, real food for our children (from the
very first foods they eat), have them grow up in an environment where good,
real food, variety and enjoyable family meals are just the norm. And they will
come to expect, and seek, these things as they grow up. These foods will become the comfort foods of their childhood.

I realize I might just be preaching to the choir here, as
most of you reading this blog are probably reading it because you’re already
sold on this idea. I guess my point is that by practicing this in your home
with your family, by giving thought to mindful eating, making it a parenting
priority to give your children a lifelong love of a good meal, by embracing the
process of cooking as something that ultimately, and in many different ways,
makes our lives and that of our families better, by not giving up in the face
of societal pressures, you are part of this movement as well. Your children might just
consider any other way to nourish oneself an abnormality. 

Speaking of abnormal, for this new installment of the Summer Goat Cheese series in collaboration with Vermont Creamery and the Kids &Kids Campaign, I am sharing this “pizza”, of sorts. See, I have a confession to
make: I actually do not like pizza. It does nothing for me. Call me a French
snob, but I would have to be pretty desperate to eat a Domino’s pizza or the
like. I don’t get the excitement around it, I don’t get why it is pitched to
kids as the best food ever, I don’t get why a kid’s birthday party without it
seems unthinkable to so many people. Perhaps a trip to Naples, Italy to the birth place of pizza would change my mind, and that’s definitely on my
bucket list, but for the time being, I remain a pizza skeptic.

I suppose I could have called this a flatbread rather than a
pizza (though it’s not very flat, as I prefer pizza dough to be thick and a bit
chewy), since it doesn’t really have any of the traditional pizza ingredients.
But no matter what you call it, it has turned out to be one delectable
experiment. 

It all started with the eggplant caviar I made for the
Fourth of July. Slightly sweet and tangy. A delicious dip, which my mom
couldn’t get enough of with some savory thyme crackers.

We had a lot leftover, so after spotting the fresh pizza
dough sold at Trader Joe’s, it gave me an idea. And when I imagined VermontCreamery’s beautiful goat cheese crottins
melting over the top, I was sold. I hope you will be too. 

The tangy sweetness of the eggplant caviar is so nicely complemented by the burst of salty in the goat cheese and the subtle savory flavor of the leeks.

Think of it. As you and your family might enjoy a bite of this eggplant, leek, artisan goat cheese pizza, in a small way, you will help create a new normal for generations to come. Talk about two birds with one stone 😉

Eggplant caviar, leeks & goat cheese pizza

For the eggplant caviar (yields about 2 cups)


Age for babies: 6-8 months, this is a great baby puree which you can freeze too.

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes


3 tbsp coconut oil (or olive oil)
1 medium eggplant
1 green apple
Juice of one lemon
3 medium tomatoes
4-5 sprigs of thyme (stems removed)
Just under 1/2 cup of apple juice
Sprinkle of piment d’Espelette (optional)
Salt 

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Meanwhile, start peeling and dicing the eggplant. Place in a large bowl and sprinkle with half the lemon juice. Then core, peel and dice the apple, add to the same bowl and sprinkle with the rest of the lemon juice.

When the water boils, place the 3 tomatoes in it for 2 minutes.

Run the tomatoes under cold water to stop the cooking, and peel them. Cut them in half, and gently squeeze the seeds out. Then dice them and set aside.

In a nonstick pan or Dutch oven, melt the coconut oil and add the eggplant and apple. Sauté over medium heat for about 3 minutes.

Then add the thyme, tomatoes and apple juice, sprinkle with salt and piment d’Espelette and cook until all soft and mushy, about 25 minutes.

Process in a food processor or blender until very smooth.

Can be kept in the fridge with a layer of olive oil on top for up to a week.

For the pizza: 


Age for babies: 10-12 months, cut up small as finger food.

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 22 minutes


1 pizza dough (I used Trader Joe’s plain pizza dough, but will make this one, or this one next time)
1 cup of the eggplant caviar
3 goat crottins, either the aged Bijou, or fresh crottin (or mix and match!)
A few sprigs of thyme (stems removed)
3 leeks
2 tbsp olive oil or coconut oil

Preheat the oven at 450°F.

Prepare the pizza dough depending on the one you’re using, roll it flat and as thin or thick as you like it.

Wash the leeks by making a lengthwise incision and running water through. Then slice in 1/2 inch pieces.

Melt the oil in a frying pan, and gently cook the leeks over medium low, stirring every so often, until they are soft, about 10 minutes.

Half the crottins transversely.

Spread the eggplant caviar all over the pizza dough. Add the leeks on top, the crottin halves and sprinkle with thyme leaves.

Bake for about 10-12 minutes, until dough is cooked and cheese is beginning to melt and color.

Sardine & eggplant brandade… why the heck not?

“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.”

I love this quote by Julia Child. It’s just another way of saying: “Embrace the process”. And embracing the process has been my challenge and my light these past few months. With parenting. And cooking. And blogging. All things that make me patient somehow. And not so worried about what comes next. Just enjoying the present and its inescapable reality.

So one week night, I am feeding Pablo sardines, and sauteed eggplant. He has a bite, I have a bite. And wow, what a great combination. Let’s follow that lead and make a new kind of “brandade” then… I guess this is a nice lesson to teach. As Pablo is watching me photograph sardine “mush” from every angle, hopefully he’s learning. That sardine mush is hard to photograph. And that when you sense a speck of inventiveness or creativity, no matter how silly or minute, grab hold and don’t let go, follow that thread, even if it doesn’t lead anywhere. Success in life lies in that thread. It certainly is a lesson it took me a while to learn, and I have been too often guilty in my life of letting go of the thread and watching the speck burn out.

Let me be honest though… As much as I enjoy the process of cooking, I’m just so darn happy when a dish turns out delicious and Pablo gobbles it up licking his fingers and signing for more! Process is all fine and dandy, but a little result is pretty nice too… 😉 I guess, once again, it’s all about balance.

Sardine & eggplant brandade

Age: 8-10 months. I gave Pablo sardines around 6-7 months, but since this recipe mixes a few ingredients, better wait til 8-10 months. This is a nice easy family dish everyone can enjoy.

Health benefits: Sardines are very nutritious, high in protein, vitamin B12, omega-3 fatty acids and calcium, with very low levels of toxins (see their many health benefits here.) Eggplant and cilantro both contain a host of vitamins and nutrients. Eggplant is a good source of fiber, vitamins B1, B6 and potassium. Cilantro is very rich in vitamins A & K, among many others.

Makes 2 servings

1 can of sardines in olive oil (you can use some of the oil)
1 medium eggplant, peeled and cut-up
Some olive oil
1/2 bunch of cilantro
2 tsp lemon juice
Some grated Pecorino cheese (Parmesan or Swiss are also an option)
1 tbsp of bread crumbs
A dab of butter

Preheat the broiler at 450/500°.

Sauté the eggplant over medium heat in olive oil (you can use some of the olive oil from the can of sardines) until golden brown and soft, about 10 minutes. It absorbs a lot of olive oil, so add some if the pan gets too dry.

Place the sardine filets, the cooked eggplant and the cilantro (pre-cut with scissors) in the food processor, drizzle with lemon juice, and pulse a few times (you can make it a fine puree or a more grossly chopped mixture).

Pour the mixture into two oven-safe ramekins, sprinkle some bread crumbs, then the grated Pecorino, and two or three pea-sized pieces of butter on top.

Place in the broiler for 4-5 minutes, until golden brown on top.

Eggplant quiche recipe

A friend came and visited while I was in Italy and she kept asking me for the recipe of an eggplant pie my mom made for her. Finally, I oblige and let her have the famous recipe. Hopefully she won’t be disappointed.

Ingredients

  • 2 eggplants
  • 2 zucchini
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 spring onion
  • pecorino
  • basil
  • puff pastry or pie dough

Directions

  1. Slice 2 eggplants, oil them and roast them in a non stick pan (or you can place the eggplants under the grill in the oven). Sautee a thinly sliced red pepper and a spring onion in a pan with little oil. Grate 2 zucchini. Now in an oven dish start layering the ingredients. First, of course, the puff pastry (if you cannot find puff pastry make some pasta brisee, you can follow my recipe in the pies posts), then the eggplants, then the zucchini and then peppers, cover with some grated pecorino cheese and basil leaves and repeat: eggplants, zucchini, peppers, pecorino, basil until you run out of ingredients. Fold in the sides of the puff pastry, so that you have a nice little frame for your cake and put in the oven preheated at 400F for about half an hour. Enjoy!
  2. The ingredients here are key, meaning vegetables should be ripe and full of flavor, which rarely happens in the Midwest, so I suggest to salt the eggplants and let them loose some of their water for about half an hour before cooking it. Basically after slicing the eggplants, put it in a colander and pour quite a bit of salt on those slices. Let them rest for about half an hour and then rinse the salt out, pat the slices dry and cook as above. Usually it greatly improves the taste of a not so flavorful eggplant….

Eggplant and meat skewers

The other day I bought some middle eastern meatballs: basically seasoned ground beef and I decided to do some eggplants and meatballs skewers. I just finished eating them and they were gooooooooooood!!

This is how I proceeded.

Eggplant and meat skewers

Ingredients

  • 4 eggplants
  • 3/4 pound of seasoned ground beef

Directions

  1. I washed 4 chinese eggplants and cut them in 5 pieces. I took 4 skewers and mounted them by alternating eggplant and a small meatball about the size of a big walnut. On each skewer I had 5 pieces of eggplant and 4 meatballs. Then I placed the skewers in a oven dish and added olive oil, salt and pepper. Turned the skewers around to make sure they were evenly coated in oil, salt and pepper. I cooked the skewers for about 45 minutes in a 400F oven.
  2. Not sure what were the seasonings in the meatballs were, but they worked really well with the eggplants. The eggplants were super soft and the meatballs well cooked and juicy. I would have eaten 20 skewers!

Baked eggplant, figs & goat cheese… & the meaning of sharing

I’ve made this analogy here before, but I often think of parenting as blindly planting wild seeds in a garden, and waiting to see how and when they will grow into something. I don’t think we teach our children so much as we are their model. The seeds contain all the complexity of our behavior,demeanor, focus and interests as parents. We can’t just will the fruit into being. We must plant, nurture and patiently wait. 

When it comes, the fruit is all the sweeter. 

And such a precious fruit is ripening within Pablo right now.

Pablo has started to share food. I mean that at every meal or picnic, he makes a point of taking some of the food in the main serving platter, and makes sure that everyone is served. He wants to give a piece of the  pie gratin, or salad, or cheese, as the case may be, to each person at the table. He does this as a task of importance and seriousness.

I am really of the mind that there’s no such thing as teaching sharing, and that making children share (especially infants and toddlers) teaches them absolutely nothing (except that sharing is an annoying but apparently necessary part of life). Sharing is sharing only if it’s completely spontaneous and voluntary, if it comes from the heart. The art of sharing is truly one of those fruits that grow unexpectedly, when you model it and let it happen naturally.

Unexpectedly indeed, for I hadn’t realized, that each time we sat down together at the table to share a meal, every time we shared the same dish we all ate, every time I offered Pablo to taste something from my plate at a restaurant, every time we cooked for the whole family, we were unconsciously modeling sharing. And Pablo assimilated it in this intrinsic way, so that it seems completely natural to him that everyone at the table should get their share so we can all eat together. 

I guess my point is this: a child will learn so much more about the real meaning of sharing by having a home cooked family meal, than by being forced to share his most prized possession. 

And with or without children, sharing a home-cooked meal with loved ones is such a deeply communal and connective experience. It is an active act of sharing and togetherness (no wonder Michael Pollan says “the family meal is the nursery of democracy”.)

I keep talking about life lessons at the table and in the kitchen. And wow, these lessons just keep appearing before my eyes, yielding my amazement and gratitude.

This is one of those very seasonal, extremely easy, delicious melt-in-your-mouth recipes with all the flavors of late summer. I hope you will enjoy sharing it with people you cherish.

Oh, and since we’re in a sharing kind of mood here :-), below the recipe is our weekly menu. Hope it can spark some ideas for your family.

Baked eggplant, with figs, cherry tomatoes & goat cheese

Serves 2-3

Prep time: 10 min

Cook time: 35-40 min

Age for babies: 10-12 months (though simple roasted eggplant with some goat cheese could be given from about 8 months)

1 eggplant

Olive oil

1/2 cup cherry tomatoes

8 small figs

Pepper

Preheat the oven at 400°F.

Wash the eggplant, cut off the top, and slice lengthwise.

Make incisions through the flesh but not the skin with a knife (three in each direction). Brush with olive oil.

Place in baking pan on parchment paper, flesh side down (skin up).

Bake for about 20-25 min. The skin will start to shrivel a little.

In the meantime, wash and half the figs and tomatoes.

Take the eggplant out of the oven, and set your oven to broiler.

Turn the eggplant halves over, place the figs and tomatoes on top. Place pieces of the goat cheese on top. 

Sprinkle with fresh ground pepper.

Place in the broiler for about 10-12 min, until the cheese is melted and golden.

Serve while hot! Bon appétit!

On to the week’s menu:

Cheeses of the week: Following French tradition, I always offer a little bit of cheese at the end of every meal, between the main course and dessert. Rotation this week: Danish blue cheese, Port Salut (cow cheese), goat brie and Petit Basque (sheep).

DessertsAt lunch, I offer a fruit yogurt (or plain yogurt with fresh fruit), but at night, I prefer sticking to plain yogurt (regular homemade* whole milk, sheep’s milk, goat’s milk and Greek yogurt for extra protein) to avoid too much sugar before bedtime.

If you would like a particular recipe on the menu, feel free to contact me! (I marked with a * the recipes that will be the topic of upcoming posts).


MONDAY

Lunch – Picnic at the park
Cucumber, hearts of palm, cherry tomatoes, cold chicken, avocado, goat cheese, grapes and cherries

Goûter (4pm snack) – Mango

Dinner
Appetizer / Finger Foods: Baked eggplant with figs and goat cheese (above!)
Main course: Oven roasted pork tenderloin in mustard sauce, with blue potatoes

TUESDAY

Lunch – Picnic at the park again
Green beans, cauliflower, blue potato salad + roast beef + Babybel cheese, plums & cherries

Goûter – Peach

Dinner
Appetizer / Finger Foods: Authentic Greek salad
Main course: Duck breasts with braised radishes and cherries*

WEDNESDAY

Lunch at the park 
Cold pea & herb salad, cherry tomatoes, ham, goat gouda, nectarine

Goûter – Nectarine

Dinner
Appetizer / Finger Foods: French radishes with salt & butter
Main course: Quails eggs en cocotte with smoked salmon, leek and zucchini from La Tartine Gourmande (this was so spectacular I can’t wait to make it again!)

THURSDAY

Lunch
Appetizer / Finger Foods: Grated carrots with orange juice dressing
Main course: Mushroom caps stuffed with cream of sardines

Goûter – Passion fruit

Dinner
Appetizer / Finger Foods: Golden beet warm goat cheese salad
Main course: Pan-fried creamy turkey breasts with summer vegetables in parchment from Just One Cookbook

FRIDAY

Lunch
Appetizer / Finger Foods: Green asparagus with vinaigrette
Main course: Sauteed shrimp with lime and coconut quinoa

Goûter – Peach

Dinner 
Appetizer / Finger Foods: Cucumber salad with creamy yogurt tarragon dressing
Main course: Trying this tomato cobbler from Food Loves Writing, soft boiled egg

SATURDAY

Lunch
Appetizer / Finger Foods: Tomato, basil & onion salad
Main course: Steak tartare, butter lettuce with fresh herbs

Goûter – Plum

Dinner
Appetizer / Finger Foods: Artichoke custard
Main course: Clams in fennel shallot broth from Cannelle & Vanille

SUNDAY

Lunch OUT


Goûter – Cherries

Dinner
Appetizer / Finger Foods: Corn coconut chowder
Main course: Caramelized fennel, goat cheese, kale clafoutis (crustless quiche)