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I used to intern at a restaurant where they would marinate giant containers of beautiful, ripe olives in extra virgin olive oil, anise seeds, orange zest and black peppercorns. They were usually served with some hummus, fava spread, baba ghanoush etc, a heavy pour of olive oil and some pillowy, homemade bread. They were such delicious olives though. I was always reaching into the service container throughout the dinner rush for a little flavourful and salty bite.

I’ve always loved little bites of pickled or briny things before or as part of dinner. It feels a bit more social, all of the hands reaching into one plate, maybe a bit discreetly spitting out olive pits, messy fingers etc. It really engages you with the meal and the conversation I think. Lucky for me, my boyfriend shares the same penchant for little dinner time nibbles. Bonus: usually when we eat out and there’s one tempting, little sun-dried olive left on the mezze/appy plate, he happily offers it up to me. Good man indeed.

Recently he got me this amazing book by Niki Segnit. I had mentioned a while ago that I was seeking it out and voila! He shows up to our little weekday hangout with the British edition in tow (where the ‘u’ is included in ‘flavour’ most importantly). I am a huge fan of the Flavor Bible. I strongly believe that it replaces the need for most cookbooks. This quirky and beautifully designed volume goes even further with specific ingredient combinations and why they work. I started perusing it and noticed her entry on orange and olive together. It seemed a bit odd at first, but then I remembered my bite-sized snack of choice during service at the restaurant and how perfect it was. So, here it is in salad form with shaved fennel in place of the anise seeds. I love treating fennel this way because the flavour changes entirely. Not as licorice-y and so, so fresh and crunchy.

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fennel & carrot slaw with orange, olives and dill
serves: 4
special equipment: a mandoline or some premium knife skills
notes: The dill really amps up the freshness, but other herbs could work too. Basil has a bit of a licorice note that would be nice or parsley’s peppery quality would fit in too.

1 medium fennel bulb, tops and tough outer layers removed
2 medium carrots, peeled
1/3 cup ripe olives, pitted and sliced
3 sprigs of dill, leaves finely chopped (should end up with about 1/4 cup)
juice of 1 orange (might be different for you, I had a dry-ish orange)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp agave nectar
salt and pepper

Core the fennel: cut the trimmed bulb in half lengthwise. Using a paring knife, make triangular-shaped  cuts around the firm core at the base and remove it. Slice the fennel on the mandoline. I try to go pretty paper-thin, but still retaining structure. Place shaved fennel into a large bowl.

With your peeler, make strips of carrot and place into the bowl with the fennel. Add the chopped dill and olives.

Add the orange juice, olive oil, agave nectar, salt and pepper to the fennel mixture and toss with your hands to combine. Mound on a serving plate and garnish with some reserved dill sprigs if you like.

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  • Ali Seiter21/10/2011 - 9:11 pm

    Ooh, does this look yummy! I usually don’t enjoy olives in composed dishes, preferring them as antipasto snacks, but they sure do appeal to me in this salad. What a perfect homage to fall produce.

  • sweetie24/10/2011 - 3:15 pm

    hello there, i recently made a recipe from your blog with great results. many thanks! your directions were very clearly written. loved the ease.

    i’ve republished the recipe here with changes to the directions. i did give you credit for the delicious inspiration:

  • Jill @ A Cook's Nook26/10/2011 - 10:33 am

    that restaurant sounds like it was all kinds of awesome! I really love fennel and olives, so this is going on my “must try” list. Thanks for the post (as always) :)ReplyCancel

  • Steph@TheChickpeaChickadee16/11/2011 - 12:48 am

    Looks fabulous!! I just discovered your blog. Can’t wait to try out some of the recipes you’ve posted.ReplyCancel

  • […] Anywho, if you’d like to read my first veggie feature on the ever-intriguing and always delightful fennel in the June 22-23 Harmony Valley newsletter, please visit this link! Special thanks to Laura at The First Mess, from whom I adapted two recipes for the feature—her Grilled Fennel and Quinoa Salad as well as her Fennel and Carrot Slaw with Orange, Olives, and Dill. […]ReplyCancel

  • […] Fennel and Carrot Slaw with Orange, Olives and Dill at The First Mess […]ReplyCancel

  • Joanne05/08/2014 - 4:07 pm

    Hello – I love shaved veggie salads like this one and want to start making them at home. What is the best mandoline to have at home for this sort of thing that can handle beets, radish, carrots, fennel, onions, cabbage etc? thank youReplyCancel

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I used to hate mushrooms and tofu. Together, separately, with sauce, without sauce, deep fried, grilled, whatever the method; it didn’t matter. I just didn’t think they were for me because every time I tried them, the texture was off. It felt like I was endlessly chewing tofu or desperately trying to swallow some mushroom as quickly as possible to avoid actually feeling it in my mouth. For the life of me, I couldn’t understand why these were commonly available vegetarian main course options at restaurants. They just didn’t seem appealing. What gives!

So now that I’m all grown up, I’ve realized that a) my taste buds/senses for texture have matured just a tad and b) some of the cooking/handling methods used by restaurants with these foods was… not to my taste. I tend to like both of these ingredients in two very precise ways. One: with a crispy exterior and a juicy, yielding interior ie lightly fried with some kind of coating. Um, who doesn’t like that? Two: completely and utterly juicy, velvety smooth, mushy but with a shred of structure and bite. Almost unctuous. Meaty even. This dish falls into that dreamy second category.

This cooking method is one of my favourites. So elegant and fun. And easy too. Once you get some kind of folding and sealing technique down, you’re off to the races. You could try this method with all kinds of veggies and herbs, spices, acidic components, juices, stocks. Lots of possibility. I love the slightly reduced and sweet balsamic vinegar with the pungent and salty miso though. The end-product is super moist and tastes so undeniably true to all of the ingredients. None of the flavour evaporates; into the air and gone forever. You get to take in every little ounce of taste bundled up in that package. And that first bit of steam that rises when you dramatically snip them open? Oh man. Too good.

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mushrooms and tofu en papillote with miso and rosemary
serves: 4-5
special equipment: 2-5 sheets of parchment paper
notes: Be careful when you snip the little packages open! Those pouches are super steamy. You could make this whole recipe easily in two parchment pockets, but feel free to make it in five smaller ones for presentation value.

12 ounces mushrooms, sliced (I used cremini and shiitake)
4 ounces organic firm tofu, diced into small cubes
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 sprig of rosemary, leaves finely chopped
1 tsp miso
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
2 sprigs of thyme (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut the parchment paper: Take one sheet of parchment (about the size of a full sheet tray), fold it in half and cut out the shape of half a heart so that when you unfold the paper, the cut out is heart-shaped (ooooh romantic!). Repeat with the other piece(s).

Combine the sliced mushrooms, tofu, garlic, rosemary, miso, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl and toss until mushrooms and tofu are evenly coated in the vinegar and oil.

Place one side of the heart-shaped paper on a baking sheet. Place half of the mushroom and tofu mixture onto the paper, towards the crease and trying to keep it as compact as possible. Place a thyme sprig on top if using. Fold the edge of the paper toward you tightly, starting at the top curve of the heart. After the first fold, take the next inch or so and fold it towards you again, overlapping the previous fold a little bit. Continue this process until you’ve sealed up the whole pocket. Awesome visual instructions found here.

Repeat the sealing process with remaining pockets/mushroom and tofu mixture. Place pockets on a baking sheet and put into the oven for 20 minutes. The packets should be quite puffed up. Snip them open with scissors carefully and serve.

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Have you ever tried muhammara? Smoky red peppers, toasty walnuts, some garlic and lemon all blended up until creamy and delicious. It’s certainly one of my favourite dips for sure. I have a lovely little recipe for it over at One Green Planet today. Maybe you’ll take a peek?

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  • Jill @ A Cook's Nook16/10/2011 - 6:34 pm

    Roasted peppers and walnuts- yes please!ReplyCancel

  • The Hungry Birdie24/10/2011 - 4:37 pm

    Mmmm, what a delicious-looking alternative to hummus! I must try this soon :DReplyCancel

  • Cookie and Kate24/10/2011 - 10:03 pm

    Gorgeous recipe! I’ve seen muhammara spreads here and there and I think it’s high time to make some myself. I’m crazy for red peppers so I know I’ll love it!ReplyCancel

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This recipe kind of came to be out of spite. I originally intended to offer up a seasonal and sweet little pumpkin doughnut recipe with cranberry filling and fun-shine happy fall times. I was trying way too hard. To say that it didn’t work out as I imagined would be an understatement. Like the hugest understatement. Next course of action: I went out and bought myself a proper doughnut and ate it only slightly begrudgingly. I was feeling more like myself, things were good. Then I thought about making an off-the-cuff kind of pizza, abandoning any idea of making doughnuts altogether. Whoa, all of a sudden I was feeling a lot better.

I’m not sure you could even technically call this a pizza. I used roasted butternut squash and garlic mash as the “sauce” and this genius recipe as inspiration for the dough that doesn’t even require rising time. It takes literally 10 minutes to make. Then I grilled the whole thing and essentially put a lemony and fresh salad on top. Maybe you could call it a grilled flatbread with very balanced stuff on it? I like to get technical, but I’m still inclined to call this pizza. It’s such a feel-good word.

I put some basil and swiss chard pesto into the mix too. I love squash and traditional pesto together so I thought it would be even better here. I never make pesto from a recipe really, just kind of throw some toasted nuts/seeds in the food processor with the leaves of my choosing, olive oil, a bit of salt and pepper and blitz it around and scrape down the sides until it seems like the right texture and it tastes good. It’s a total intuition thing and it always works out just right. Wait that’s like, 98 percent of cooking right?

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grilled butternut squash pizza with lemony radicchio slaw
dough recipe adapted from The Faux Martha
serves: 4-6
notes:  You could use arugula, endive or whatever greens you like in place of the radicchio. If you don’t have a barbecue, preheat your oven to 450 degrees F and put everything on the pizza except the radicchio mixture and bake for 15-20 minutes. Also, advice on grilling pizza: have absolutely everything at the ready when you’re making it. Time is of the essence!

1 small butternut squash, cut in half and seeds removed
4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 sprigs sage (optional)
salt and pepper
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

pesto (there will be some leftover!):
3/4-1 cup basil and swiss chard leaves (or all basil, all chard etc)
1/4 cup walnuts, toasted
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
3 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

1 cup warm water (not too hot!)
1 tbsp agave nectar
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 packet (2 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
1 3/4 cup white spelt flour
1 cup whole spelt flour
1 tsp fine sea salt

1 head radicchio, outer leaves removed, cored and sliced
4 sprigs flat leaf parsley, leaves finely sliced
juice of half a lemon
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

2 tbsp oil of your choosing
1 shallot, peeled, halved and finely sliced
small handful of pine nuts, toasted

Roast the squash: preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Season and place the squash halves face down on a parchment-lined baking sheet. In the little cavity where the seeds were, sneak the garlic cloves underneath. If using the sage, place the whole sprig under the flesh of the squash (see picture above). Roast until very tender, about 35-40 minutes. Once cool enough to handle, scrape out flesh into a bowl. Squeeze garlic cloves out of their peels into the bowl as well. Add oil, salt, pepper and a splash of water. Stir and mash with a spatula until smooth. Set aside.

Make the pesto: place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until everything is broken up a bit. Scrape down sides of the bowl with a spatula. Put the processor on high until a paste starts to form. Scrape down the sides again. Let it rip one more time until it’s super smooth. Season to taste. Scrape into a bowl and put a dab of oil on top to prevent discolouration. Set aside.

Make the dough: pour the water into a large bowl. Add the yeast, agave and oil. Whisk to combine. Let the yeast proof for about five minutes or until you see bubbles forming on the surface. Add the flours and salt. Stir with a wooden spoon until combine. Knead with your hands until you have a smooth lump of dough.

Make the slaw: combine all of the ingredients radicchio, parsley, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper as close to serving time as possible. Store in the fridge until ready to serve.

Make the pizza!: Get your barbecue going to a medium-medium high flame. Roll dough out to about 1/4 inch thickness on a floured cutting board, pizza peel or anything flat that you can bring out to the barbecue. Brush one side with oil completely. Either flip or gently guide the oiled side onto the grates (you can oil the grates as an extra non-stick insurance policy). Brush the top, now-exposed side of the dough with oil and put the lid down. Wait about 3-5 minutes.

The dough should be browning and getting grill marks on one side and bubbling through on the surface. Flip it over. Spread the butternut squash and garlic mixture evenly onto the browned side of crust. Dollop the pesto on top and sprinkle the shallots on. Put the lid down and wait another 5-6 minutes before removing the pizza.

Place pizza on serving plate/large cutting board and top with the radicchio slaw. Sprinkle with pine nuts, cut into slices and serve.

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  • Melissa // thefauxmartha12/10/2011 - 9:57 pm

    This looks sooo yummy! Love that you grilled it. You are the

  • Cassie l Bake Your Day12/10/2011 - 10:10 pm

    This is amazing pizza…love it grilled. I tried this pizza crust a couple weeks ago and it’s amazing, we loved it. Your blog is lovely!ReplyCancel

    • Laura13/10/2011 - 6:53 am

      It’s life-changing (life-affirming even?) crust eh? Love it. And thank you :)ReplyCancel

  • amy12/10/2011 - 10:36 pm

    i looove smooth squash as a sauce situation! so good. its kinda pizza blasphemy but i’m down with and totally support the use of PIZZA here. sometimes you need a pizza that isn’t a pizza but FEELS like a pizza.

    (what do you shoot with? yr pics are purdy)ReplyCancel

    • Laura13/10/2011 - 6:56 am

      Amy! It feels wrong, but in the rightest of ways. I use a Canon Rebel T1i and my main lens is a 50 mm/1.4 USM. The lens is the real deal for sure. Small, light, surprisingly cheap and awesome for food pictures.ReplyCancel

  • Shelley12/10/2011 - 11:41 pm

    this looks amazing Laura! Seriously, I bought a butternut squash at the farmers market this weekend and now I think I know how I will use it! Great post. Lovely pics, as always!ReplyCancel

  • Michelle13/10/2011 - 12:15 am

    Omonomonom! Gorgeous and drool-inducing, as always.

    Can you make pesto in a blender, say, if you’re kitchen-supply lacking and don’t have a food processor:) ?ReplyCancel

    • Laura13/10/2011 - 6:59 am

      Michelle yes! Just maybe make sure the oil is right at the base of the blender so that it has some liquid to get going faster. You might have to stop it a couple times to push the foliage down. I would try to chop up the leaves and nuts a bit first to make the whole thing easier.ReplyCancel

  • […] See the article here: | grilled butternut and radicchio pizza + trials […]ReplyCancel

  • Twin Tastes13/10/2011 - 8:16 am

    This looks delicious! What a creative way to use squash and radicchio. . and on a pizza?!? Even betterReplyCancel

  • amy13/10/2011 - 9:15 am

    amazing! that is one covetable lense… i use a pentax and for a lense with such a nice wide aperture we’re talkin’ $900ish. i envy youu!ReplyCancel

    • amy13/10/2011 - 9:18 am

      er, right after i wrote that i decided to look somewhere other than the pentax site and they’re a leeeetle less used all over. ha. your pictures are beauts.ReplyCancel

  • Fresh and Foodie13/10/2011 - 1:21 pm

    This looks absolutely fantastic. Beautiful photos, too. I look forward to trying this.ReplyCancel

  • Peggy13/10/2011 - 1:40 pm

    Well, whatever you call it, this. looks. amazing. For real! I can’t wait to cut open my butternut for this =)ReplyCancel

  • Jill @ A Cook's Nook13/10/2011 - 3:00 pm

    The colors are so vibrant- your photography is fantastic! I love unique pizza recipes and this one looks very flavorful. I can’t wait to try itReplyCancel

  • Richa@HobbyandMore13/10/2011 - 4:20 pm

    so pretty colors!! i love everything about this pizza! the spices, nuts and grains! and the fantastic pictures!!ReplyCancel

  • Isobelle13/10/2011 - 6:42 pm

    This is such a beautiful pizza. I would love to try making this some time.ReplyCancel

  • Anna14/10/2011 - 3:01 am

    I am not an expert in the vegan-world. I am just actually starting to love the world of vegan-inspired dishes. I am not familiar with radicchio. Is it the one in the picture that looks like cabbage? Or is it a cabbage variety? It looks so crunchy, so I am sure they taste great. Thanks for answering my queries.ReplyCancel

    • Laura14/10/2011 - 7:30 am

      Yes it’s the one that looks like a cabbage in the picture! But the taste is closer to the endive family, a little bitter. It’s more crisp with a higher water content as well.ReplyCancel

  • gina17/10/2011 - 2:35 pm

    WOW! this looks amazingly delish! I want to make this. But, do you think it’s ok to use pre-cut butternut squash from Trader Joe’s instead?
    I bought a package of that this weekend and was looking for a new creative recipe…this is it for sure!ReplyCancel

    • Laura17/10/2011 - 3:11 pm

      I think it should be fine. Just toss the cubes in oil and maybe chop the sage to combine with it. Maybe don’t roast it until it’s browned and crispy, but just soft. It might be a bit drier so just add a bigger splash of water when you’re pureeing it. Hope it works out :)ReplyCancel

      • gina18/10/2011 - 10:56 am

        it worked out perfectly! best butternut squash recipe hands down!ReplyCancel

  • Michelle @ DailyWaffle28/10/2011 - 1:13 pm

    We used this as inspiration for dinner last night, subbing in kale pesto. We love-love-loved the radicchio slaw – I’m now a convert to the “salad pizza.” Thanks!ReplyCancel

  • […] first the red — the radicchio. I re-discovered how wonderful radicchio is thanks to this grilled butternut and radicchio pizza over at the First Mess. This pizza is, in two words, ridiculously delicious. Seriously. And the […]ReplyCancel

  • […] 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 shallot 1/4 cup extra […]ReplyCancel

  • […] || Two || Three || Four || […]ReplyCancel

  • Marlene @ Jade and Fern31/05/2013 - 11:48 am

    I can’t wait to make this! Just shared it in a roundup on my blog:

  • […] || Two || Three || Four || […]ReplyCancel

  • […] BUTTERNUT & RADICCHIO PIZZA. I love a pizza that brings its own salad.  This version from the First Mess tops the pie with a radicchio and Italian parsley slaw whose bitterness complements the sweetness […]ReplyCancel

  • […] help it, serve your chosen soup alongside this brilliant recipe from The First Mess for Grilled Butternut Squash Pizza with Lemony Radicchio Slaw. Now you’ve got a Meatless Monday meal you just might bust out again next week… for many […]ReplyCancel

  • […] || Two || Three || Four || […]ReplyCancel

  • […] This recipe is a perfect spring comfort, brought to you by Laura of The Hot Mess. […]ReplyCancel

  • Josianne16/01/2015 - 1:11 am

    That pizza is the ultimate indulgence.
    I love love love this recipe – it’s been awhile since I last made it and am considering making it all over again!
    If I remember well, I think I made my dough using half buckwheat and oat, grounded chia seeds, salt, water and coconut oil- I didn’t use any yeast.

    I love your blog and the fact that you use so many local winter vegetables in an original way! :)ReplyCancel

  • Marry23/01/2015 - 1:27 am

    Thanks for the inspiration. My boyfriend doesn’t eat cheese so I’m always on the lookout for new pizza ideas. Made this with caramelized onions and avocado and cherry tomatoes in the salad. Delicious, thanks.ReplyCancel

  • 50 Awesome Vegan Pizzas |26/06/2015 - 12:01 pm


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I was kind of hoping that the heaps and piles of tomatoes, eggplant and basil in the garden would just like… go away on their own or something. But there they are, hanging on the vines, getting cold and even a bit sad-looking. I’m the only eggplant enthusiast in the house so I’m feeling even more guilt about the whole not-using-them-up-thing because they were clearly intended for my consumption. But there’s a whole 10 plants-worth of abundant japanese eggplant out there! Guh. Anyway.

So I came up with this little puree soup. I love super garlicky baba ghanoush. It’s so flavourful and easy to make at home. This soup is no different. You kind of just roast everything off, combine the veg with some liquid and let it rip in the blender/food processor. I made some tomato water and a little non-dairy buttermilk concoction for the liquid portion. The tomato water isn’t necessary (you could use vegetable stock or water), but it tastes so awesome. If you plan ahead and have cheesecloth, it’s a breeze. Just grind the tomatoes up with the implement of your choosing, pour it into some layered cheesecloth and hang overnight in the fridge over a pitcher. Pretty lax preparation for something so magnificent and pure tasting. Plus if someone asks you what that red stuff in the cheesecloth bundle is in the fridge, you can say “Oh nothing. Just some tomato water.” Very gangster.

So the end result is like a steamy bowl of summer ripeness: it’s tangy, robust, warming and a touch sweet. The basil on top makes it fresh, its lively green colour nodding to the end of summer days. Some chopped olives on top would be nice too. I had some garlicky cashew cream made up for a batch of kale chips so I dabbed a little bit on top to make it pretty. A little pita for dipping would totally drive the theme home.

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tangy baba ghanoush soup
serves: makes 2 quarts
special equipment: a blender or food processor
notes: As mentioned above, you can use vegetable stock or water instead of the tomato water. You could also grill the vegetables if you have access to a barbecue. They might be a get drier though, so more liquid would be necessary.

8-10 japanese eggplants (or 3-4 regular)
1 large cooking onion, large dice
1 tbsp grape seed oil
1 tsp ground cumin
4 cloves of garlic, peel on
4 cups tomato water (I followed this technique)
3/4 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk
1 tsp white wine vinegar
3 tbsp tahini
juice from half a lemon
salt and pepper
1 sprig of basil, rough chop + extra for garnish

Roast the eggplant and onions: cut eggplants down the centre lengthwise. Make crosshatching cuts into the flesh and sprinkle with salt. Lay out on a large parchment lined sheet for 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. After 20 minutes, squeeze out excess water from eggplant. Place them cut side down on the sheet. Put into the oven and roast until soft and collapsed looking, about 30 minutes.

For onions: toss with oil and cumin and place on parchment lined sheet with garlic cloves. Roast until onions are soft and browned and garlic is mushy, about 20 minutes.

Combine nondairy milk with white wine vinegar and allow to curdle for at least 10 minutes.

Scrape flesh out of eggplants into a bowl and set aside. Remove papery skins from garlic and discard.

Blend eggplant flesh, onions and garlic with the tomato water (or stock), buttermilk, lemon juice, tahini, basil, salt and pepper. You may have to do this in a couple of batches.

Pour blended soup into a pot and bring to a boil. Serve hot with small basil leaves as garnish.

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  • victoria08/10/2011 - 11:18 am

    oh boy.
    you have made my favorite dip into my favorite food vehicle.

    i might weep.ReplyCancel

    • MeShell09/10/2011 - 9:50 pm

      That’s such a wonderful idea for a soup (and excess eggplant!)
      It looks beautiful.ReplyCancel