You’ll have to forgive me for paraphrasing on this one. I remember reading this passage when we were away, on the beach in the glorious sun, a few months ago. I can’t for the life of me remember where I first took those words in. I’ve flipped through all of the sand-filled books and print publications that I toted along and simply cannot spot it. Some serious googling or more page flipping wouldn’t be too hard, but my eyes have been watering up and un-focusing involuntarily with some frequency lately. It might be time to step away from any and all screens for the day and spend less time focusing on tiny things. The vibrance of this thrown-together dish (with some outstanding local + hydroponic eggplant), against a grey mid-March backdrop, had me thinking of that lost passage. So here we are.
There is a woman in the back of a cab, somewhere in India. From memory, she is most definitely North American. She is travelling through the country in a way that suggests leisure, waiting for inspiration while cultural immersion takes place and seeming “otherness” surrounds. She notices prayer flags of every hue and condition flying from pointed rooftops, hanging off of farm gates, tangled in the streets, strewn over doorways of run-down homes, whipping in the wind on the tops of mountains and trees. They’re everywhere. She asks her cab driver about the flags, why the everywhere-locales, why the variety in appearance. His response is calm and straightforward, without a trace of glorification or pomp: God loves colour.
crispy eggplant + harissa flatbread recipe
notes: I followed a harissa recipe from Food 52 pretty much to the letter (I left out the all spice + nutmeg) and was rather pleased with the results. I do use it sparingly since this Tunisian spice paste is quite fiery. If you make the whole recipe, there’s lots of other things you can do with it. Add a dab to a simple vinaigrette, use it as a marinade for proteins, mash it into some cooked sweet potatoes with a dollop of yogurt, drizzle it onto your avocado toast–many possibilities.
scant 1 lb whole grain pizza dough (I purchased a really great locally made one, but I have a recipe here too)
1/4 cup of harissa (I used this recipe from Food 52)
1 small eggplant
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 tbsp raw honey or agave nectar
4 cups baby arugula
big handful of mint leaves
big handful of flat parsley leaves
squeeze of lemon juice
salt + pepper
1 tbsp dukkah spice (optional)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Rip a piece of parchment big enough to fit the sheet pan you want to use. Lay it on the counter and begin rolling out your dough on top of it. Aim for a 10-11 inch circle, about 1/3 inch thick. Transfer the dough and parchment to your sheet pan. Apply the harissa to the dough evenly.
Trim the ends off of the eggplant and slice it into thin rounds. Arrange the rounds on the dough.
Peel and trim the shallot. Slice it as thin as you can. Scatter slices on top of the eggplant.
Drizzly the top with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Slide the sheet into the oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until the bottom seems brown and crisp and the eggplant has shrivelled up a bit.
While the flatbread is baking, place the arugula into a medium bowl. Roughly chop the mint and parsley and add to the bowl as well. Drizzle the remaining olive oil onto the greens, add the squeeze of lemon, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine.
Once the flatbread is removed, drizzle with the honey or agave nectar. Cut flatbread into slices. Scatter the greens and herbs on top of the slices and sprinkle dukkah spice all over the greens. Serve warm or at room temperature.
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