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

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

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)

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.

Leek & chive flan… & searching for life’s poetry

A few years ago, I read Eat,
pray, love,
and was struck by a Balinese story/tradition she describes in
the book (and I am paraphrasing from memory here): that each one of us is born
with four invisible “brothers” to help us and guide us throughout our life and
whom we need in order to be happy. In any difficult situation, you can call
upon any of these four brothers for help. They are intelligence, friendship,
strength and poetry.

Children are taught this from an early age, and it’s such an
immense gift, these four essential and amazing resources to get through life’s trials. A toolbox for the soul. 

So, I must admit I have a favorite brother… I have a real
soft spot in my heart for poetry. How
does one practice, or experience, poetry in one’s life? It’s not about reading
Baudelaire cover to cover (as lovely as that may be). It goes further than that. 

I know when I find
something, a moment, a blog, an image, a smell even, poetic, but it’s quite difficult
to describe or define why.  I guess it’s
something I find beauty in, but a grounded, real sort of beauty, with a touch
of lightheartedness. Poetry is soft to me, it’s gentle. It’s warm, like one of
Pablo’s hugs or a kiss in the neck. It’s light, like a child running after a
feather. It’s moving, like a grandfather and grandson holding hands. It’s
embedded in the preciousness of the present moment. It’s the kind of joy you
experience with your eyes closed and a smile on your face.

A giant breath of poetry came into my life when I had my
son. And another nice warm breeze of it, when I started this blog. I wanted to open up my mind’s eye to the poetry around me, so I could share it with my son and here. It felt like I
started practicing and experiencing poetry on a daily basis. Because
children and food are poetic to me. I realize that’s what I’ve been writing
about here – or trying to. In our busy lives, the kitchen and the table are places where we
can find, and share, poetry. The body feeds on food, the soul feeds on poetry, and cooking,
savoring, enjoying good food can provide both.

When I discovered the world of food blogs less than a year
ago, I fell in love with the blog Cannelle et Vanille. The crisp beautiful
images, the gentle, evocative writing, the very nature of her posts struck me as
so poetic. So enriching. I was just
in awe (and still am) of the beauty Aran Goyoaga creates and shares there.

And her
recipes are not only my favorite kind of recipes (especially the savory ones),
but they have been flawless so far, and I’ve tried many of them and have
learned a lot thanks to her blog. So I was very thrilled to receive her book, Small Plates & Sweet Treats, as a Christmas
gift, and have found so much inspiration there. Today, I’d like to share my
very simple rendition of her amazing leek and chive flan recipe. 

I blogged about a chive and parsley custard, and an artichoke custard, and have been a big fan of vegetable custards recently. They are so
light and delicious. They are awesome for entertaining and never fail to
impress. And they are just great for children. For moms out there trying to
introduce new vegetables or herbs, this is an awesome way to do it. Pablo
always enjoys having his own little cup.
I have to say this particular flan/custard is my favorite so far. The
combination of flavors is just perfect. We served it as our vegetable first course along with watermelon radish, which we eat French-style, sliced with butter, salt & pepper on it.

Do you find poetry to be essential in your life? Where are
you able to find it?

Leek & chive flan

Taken pretty much word for word from Small Plate & Sweet Treats by Aran Goyoaga

Serves 4-5, depending on size of ramekins

Prep time: 20 mn

Cook time: 25 mn

Age for babies: 10-12 months because of the eggs.

2 tbsp olive oil

2 medium leeks, white and light green part only

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup chicken stock

1 cup unsweetened coconut milk

2 oz fresh goat cheese

3 eggs

2 tbsp of chopped chives

Preheat the oven at 325°F.

Cut off the dark green ends of the leeks. With a knife, make a lengthwise incision and wash leeks well under running water. Then chop.

In a medium sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the leeks and 1/4 tsp of salt. Cook over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes, until the leeks are soft but not brown. Add the chicken stock and cook another 5 minutes.

Transfer the leeks/broth to a blender. Add the coconut milk and goat cheese and puree.

Strain the mixture through a sieve into a mixing bowl, using a rubber spatula (this is really necessary as leeks tend to be stringy).

Whisk the eggs together and pour into the leek mixture, add the chives, 1/4 tsp salt and whisk together.

Pour the custard base into ramekins or oven-safe cups.

(Note: I used cups with different heights, which affected how long they needed to cook. I would stick to fairly low ramekins so the cooking is even. If you use deeper cups, make sure to test doneness all the way to the bottom, as the top may be set but not the middle… Guess how I found this out ;-))

Place the ramekins in a baking dish and pour about 1 inch of hot water in the baking dish (for us, that was about 1/3 the way up the ramekins).

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until it’s set. (Check with a knife or toothpick, it should come out clean.)

Let cool, and serve lukewarm or room temperature. Aran suggests serving it with smoked salmon and a Greek yogurt garnish (will have to try that next time.) We served it accompanied by watermelon radish.