fall veg + lentil bowl with goji ginger tahini cream // @thefirstmesspin it!goji ginger tahini cream // @thefirstmesspin it!fall veg + lentil bowl with goji ginger tahini cream // @thefirstmesspin it!fall goods // @thefirstmesspin it!
I love sauce (not to be confused with a love for hitting the sauce). I love the taste-as-you-go nature of making one, re-working classics, coming up with wild new versions, and smothering my food with it, always. Most importantly, I like that I can make a jar-full and have some on hand. I think we’ve been over this before, but I tend to make large runs of basic elements (quinoa, rice, lentils, chickpeas) for combining throughout the week with whatever greens we have, maybe a steamed or raw vegetable, and a healthy swipe of whatever sauce/dressing we’re going on at the moment. I think a lot of you might also eat this way, if Instagram is any indication. Those little anticipatory movements are ingrained at this point and our bodies seem grateful so far. Bowl life livin’ pals. Eating well is 95 percent preparation and just making an effort to buy only the good stuff when you’re at the store. Tasty whole foods in the house = a healthy life that comes naturally.

I’ve been trying to make a delicious and velvety goji berry-based sauce for a while now. The idea of that shocking colour on some cold weather veg was too tempting. One version I tried with vinegar soaked shallots was too tart, burying the sweetness of the dried fruit. Another version with dijon didn’t really mesh with the sweet-sour taste of goji berries at all. And yet another one that was carefully calculated with rosemary and blood orange tasted mostly like goji berries pureed with room temperature water and twigs. So frustrating! The other night it came to me out of nowhere–tahini, ginger and lemon. It would be creamy, a bit bitter, fresh and spicy–all good compliments to the slightly herbal finish of gojis (sauce-centered thoughts popping into my head around bedtime aren’t terribly unusual lately). I like using dried fruit in blended concoctions because they add their own sweetness, of course, but they also make for a creamy consistency surprisingly enough.

This goji cream is really well balanced and works for the hearty vegetables that are currently everywhere. I think it would be excellent on a kale salad though. I wanted to roast some of my celery root in the garden for this, but it was so muddy out. I knew it would be like quicksand once I reached for the shovel to dig one. I always have carrots around, but especially now because my dad grew some mighty fine ones this year, so I used those instead. So sweet and lovely! I can never resist a romanesco when I see one, but you know some cauliflower would be just the same. I used black lentils as the base because I had just enough left in my storage jar and thought it would look all contrast-y and good. The texture of the darker lentils tends to be more my pace because of the bite. There’s za’atar and sesames too.  Anyway! Not too much to say today, just some inspired, easy and healthy eats with hot orange saucy splashes. Eating all the colours never gets old for me :)

fall veg + lentil bowl with goji ginger tahini cream // @thefirstmesspin it!fall veg + lentil bowl with goji ginger tahini cream // @thefirstmesspin it!fall veg + lentil bowl with goji ginger tahini cream // @thefirstmesspin it!fall veg + lentil bowl with goji ginger tahini cream // @thefirstmesspin it!

fall veg + lentil bowl w/ goji ginger tahini cream
serves: 2
notes: I cook lentils sort of like how I cook pasta–tons of water and then I just drain when they’re done. Also, any fall vegetables you like would be fine here. After I finished these photos, I added a scoop of cooked quinoa to my bowl and it was extra nice. If you’re a dairy eater, I don’t think a handful of crumbled sheep feta would be out of bounds either :)

veg bowl ingredients:
3/4 cup french or black lentils, rinsed
salt and pepper
2 cups romanesco florets
6 small carrots, scrubbed + cut in half
1 tbsp olive oil
fat pinch of za’atar spice
1 leek, dark green part removed + hairy end trimmed
1 small beet, peeled + sliced paper thin
1 small apple, cored + sliced paper thin
1/2 ripe avocado
toasted sesame seeds
handful of flat parsley leaves

goji ginger tahini cream ingredients:
1/4 cup dried goji berries
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
juice of half a lemon
salt + pepper
1 tbsp tahini
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled + rough dice
1 tsp maple syrup
2-3 tbsp olive oil
big splash of filtered water (2-3 tablespoons)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add the lentils to the water and simmer until just tender, about 25-30 minutes. Drain the lentils and then scrape them into a bowl. Drizzle them with a bit of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss to mix and set aside.

Place romanesco florets, carrots, the tablespoon of olive oil, za’atar, salt + pepper on the lined baking sheet. Toss it all to coat and slide into the oven. Roast until you start to see brown edges on the romanesco, about 15 minutes. Slice the leek down the middle lengthwise and then slice the halves into half moons. Remove the tray of veg from the oven and carefully toss the leeks in the mix. Slide the tray back into the oven for 5 more minutes.

While the veg is cooking, make the goji cream. Place the goji berries in a medium bowl and cover them with boiling water. Let them sit a couple minutes to soften. Then, drain the gojis and toss them into a blender. To this, add the apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, salt + pepper, tahini, ginger, maple syrup, olive oil, and filtered water. Blend until you have a creamy mixture. Taste it and see if you need more sweetness, acidity or salt. Adjust and set aside.

Divide the lentils and roasted vegetables between two bowls. Place the thin slices of beet and apple on top. Cut the avocado into wedges or dices and place on top of both bowls. Drizzle the bowls with the goji ginger cream, and garnish with some toasted sesame seeds and parsley leaves. I like an extra wedge of lemon on the side of mine too.

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  • While reading your recipe I’ve been mentally checking off all the ingredients and I happen to have everything at home to make this tonight :) This is just the sort of thing I love for a healthy dinner that also takes care of my over-buying at the market haha. Also the sauce! I love topping my meals with something super flavourful too and I can’t wait to try this with gogis!ReplyCancel

  • Maria22/10/2014 - 8:22 am

    It’s like you’ve read my mind / pantry! I soaked puy lentils this morning and in the fridge we have carrots, beets, cauliflower and half an avo! Amazing recipe, thank you so much. Looking forward to dinner already :)ReplyCancel

  • Laurie22/10/2014 - 9:12 am

    Interesting idea re. the dried goji berries. I’ve been wanting to try a tahini dressing so may give this a try —thanks.ReplyCancel

  • Amy @ Parsley In My Teeth22/10/2014 - 9:15 am

    The color of the sauce is beautiful and the warmth of ginger with the tahini sounds splendid!ReplyCancel

  • Ashley22/10/2014 - 9:41 am

    The colors are truly beautiful!! Love love.ReplyCancel

  • Millie l Add A Little22/10/2014 - 10:07 am

    This looks amazing – SO delicious and comforting without weighing you down!ReplyCancel

  • Karishma22/10/2014 - 11:09 am

    One of my roommates is like the queen of healthy salads. I am definitely showing her this one! It looks so satisfying and fresh!ReplyCancel

  • Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar22/10/2014 - 11:57 am

    Loving all those colours! This is such a pretty bowl!ReplyCancel

  • SLauren @ Modern Granola22/10/2014 - 3:22 pm

    Wow! Gorgeous photography and styling!ReplyCancel

  • ALE22/10/2014 - 4:33 pm

    Amazing! Gonna try it!ReplyCancel

  • kristie {birch and wild}22/10/2014 - 9:23 pm

    I just posted a bowl recipe on my blog? Bowl life livin’, for sure
    :) And can I just say : goji sauce!? You constantly raise the bar for all of the health bloggers out there with your recipes that utilize healthy, creative ingredients. Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • Nik@ABrownTable23/10/2014 - 3:07 am

    You’ve given me a new and wonderful use for goji berries! When you shared the tahini cream picture on Instagram, I was eagerly waiting to see what you were up to. You always come up with the tastiest and most innovative dishes.ReplyCancel

  • […] This fall veg + lentil bowl with goji ginger tahini cream is just about the dreamiest thing I’ve seen all […]ReplyCancel

  • Caroline23/10/2014 - 9:25 pm

    I love this colorful and fresh bowl. I could eat this any time of the day…every day. Lovely.ReplyCancel

  • hannah24/10/2014 - 11:13 am

    Laura this looks phenomenal! I can’t wait to try it!
    Quick question – did you make this in the vitamix or do you have a mini-blender for these smaller quantity sauces?ReplyCancel

    • Laura Wright24/10/2014 - 2:17 pm

      Hey Hannah! I did mix this dressing up in the Vitamix. I find as long as I’m about one inch above the blade with liquid/ingredients, I can get the blade going.

  • Renee H.24/10/2014 - 2:09 pm

    I never would have thought to combine goji and tahini! Brilliant. You are right, I eat in a similar way. Make big batches of quinoa or beans and mix with veg through out the week. It really makes things so much easier.

    Your photos are beautiful- do you mostly use natural light?ReplyCancel

    • Laura Wright24/10/2014 - 2:18 pm

      Hi Renee! Thanks for your lovely comment and yes, I always photograph food right by a window or outside. I find it’s the most flattering way to showcase food :)

  • Katy24/10/2014 - 9:12 pm

    I was just looking for some salad inspiration! Thanks! I’m definitely going to be making this! :)ReplyCancel

  • […] veggie lentil bowl with ginger tahini cream. those […]ReplyCancel

  • […] to end, laura’s beautiful roasty fall vegetable + lentil bowl with goji ginger tahini cream. i love her ideas about sauce. and making big abundant meals out of a few simple, make-ahead parts. […]ReplyCancel

  • Kathryne25/10/2014 - 4:36 pm

    I’m a saucy girl myself but never, ever would have thought to make a goji sauce! You genius, you. I have always looked at romanesco with suspicion—looks like alien babies—but it’s probably about time to get over that, huh?ReplyCancel

  • Bec26/10/2014 - 5:16 am

    You’re so right – ensuring you have delicious healthy stuff on hand really makes the lunch time choice much easier. Here’s to eating the rainbow :)
    Bec x

  • Sini | My Blue&White Kitchen26/10/2014 - 7:13 am

    It’s like this dish is singing to me! Gorgeous and a downright genius way to include goji berries in our diet!ReplyCancel

  • ATasteOfMadness26/10/2014 - 1:04 pm

    This looks amazing! This looks like the perfect fall meal!ReplyCancel

  • Love CompassionateLee26/10/2014 - 2:23 pm

    A festival of colors! This dish looks vibrant and tasty. Enjoy a restful Sunday, Laura :)ReplyCancel

  • Carly26/10/2014 - 4:17 pm

    I’m making this right now, but in hopes of keeping it in the work fridge all week I’m also roasting the apples and beets. Fingers crossed!ReplyCancel

  • hannah26/10/2014 - 4:55 pm

    Thanks Laura! I might give it a go in there then with your reassurance I’m not gonna lose it all in the corners ;) although I do have a Tribest personal blender that I usually whip out for bits like this. Also are you a raw or roasted tahini kinda a girl?ReplyCancel

    • Laura Wright26/10/2014 - 8:35 pm

      Hey again Hannah, I’m an unhulled + raw tahini gal if I can get it. But mostly raw just so I can mute any strong sesame flavour if I need to :)

  • Emily28/10/2014 - 12:47 am

    This sounds like such a great recipe! So many healthy and beautiful ingredients.ReplyCancel

  • Musings #8 | bean + nash28/10/2014 - 4:51 pm

    […] Fall foods, aka brussel sprouts, carrots, apples, sweet potatoes, are some of my faves, and this vegetable and lentil bowl does a great job of mixing them all up and adding ginger and tahini to make it […]ReplyCancel

  • Kate29/10/2014 - 12:53 pm

    I made this for dinner last night, subbing butternut squash for the beet. Absolutely delicious — thank you for the recipe and inspiration!ReplyCancel

  • […] as in Vitamin A: What: BEETS (1 cup)  Why: Eat beets, run 3% faster. At least accordinging to an 11-person study. //about the study How: […]ReplyCancel

  • […] Fall veggie lentil bowl with goji ginger tahini cream: need I say more? […]ReplyCancel

  • […] bowls of deliciousness are one of my favorite meals to make and I’m obsessed with this Fall Veg + Lentil Bowl with Gogi Ginger Tahini Cream by The First […]ReplyCancel

  • Link Love #59 | Barr & Table04/11/2014 - 5:03 am

    […] Peas & Crayons Layered Peanut Butter Chocolate Banana Bread – Yeah…immaeatthat Fall Veg + Lentil Bowl with Goji Ginger Tahini Cream – The First Mess Curried Brussels Sprouts Salad – The […]ReplyCancel

  • sara05/11/2014 - 3:01 pm

    GORGEOUS!! This looks completely amazing. :)ReplyCancel

  • […] The colors of this Fall Veg and Lentil Bowl w/ Goji Berries is making me salivate. – The First […]ReplyCancel

  • […] my ‘I WANT ALL THIS FOOD’ list: one. two. three. four. […]ReplyCancel

  • Ella Imison13/11/2014 - 5:58 am

    Looks delish!
    Will definitely try this at home.ReplyCancel

  • […] Fall Veg + Lentil Bowl w/ Goji Ginger Tahini Cream […]ReplyCancel

  • Jenny18/11/2014 - 2:59 pm

    Your pictures are amazing! Do you use a macro lens? Also do you photoshop? You are an inspiration. I look forward to making this salad.

  • Mariela Alvarez03/12/2014 - 10:04 pm

    I have made this sauce three times, and each time it tastes better than the last. Laura, if you don’t start bottling this stuff, I might. ;) So efffffing delicious!!! I want to eat this every day.ReplyCancel

  • Alyx03/01/2015 - 2:37 pm

    Just made this for my family and it worked so well! They all loved it, so delicious!!ReplyCancel

  • 155 | Spices and Spatulas12/01/2015 - 11:02 am

    […] I can get. I make this dressing in bulk for salad days; I’ve made several adaptations of this meal at least tri-weekly (minus the goji berries because when I drop $39.95 at Whole Foods it’s […]ReplyCancel

  • […] Get the recipe for Veggie and Lentil Bowl with Goji-Ginger-Tahini Bowl here from http://www.thefirstmess.com/2014/10/22/fall-veg-lentil-bowl-w-goji-ginger-tahini-cream-recipe/ […]ReplyCancel

  • Ally @ Om Nom Ally14/01/2015 - 7:44 pm

    That sauce sounds divine! Gorgeous photos and delicious sounding bowl :D Thanks for sharingReplyCancel

  • […] Recipe adapted from The First Mess […]ReplyCancel

  • […] do have specific uses for some of these quote unquote functional foods (like this and this), but for the most part they seem to fit in just right with my fancy beverage routine. A […]ReplyCancel

  • Kristen @ The Endless Meal01/03/2015 - 12:43 pm

    I want to reach through my computer screen and eat this right now! I’ve been seriously crushing on za’atar lately and have been looking for any excuse to add it to my meals. I’ll be making this for sure. Pinned!ReplyCancel

  • Trish24/04/2015 - 3:59 pm

    This was the tastiest thing I’ve ever made!! The dressing is killer. So creamy and tasty. Great blend of flavors. I subbed a few things and it turned out great using Mediterranean seasoning on the veg, broccoli carrots and fennel roasted over quinoa with cilantro. the apple and beets add a nice crunch. I’m in love.ReplyCancel

crispy eggplant polenta fries with honey + lime // @thefirstmesspin it!crispy eggplant polenta fries with honey + lime // @thefirstmesspin it!Green Kitchen Travelspin it!
I have a big moleskine notebook where I messily jot down things I want to create in the kitchen: ideas I have for combining whole foods to get a certain effect, flavour combinations, sticky notes with ambiguous notation, restaurant dishes I want to have at home, simple techniques with big results that I want to share with you, and the like. Some of it is blog fuel in the form of (vegan, grain + legume-based faux) chicken scratch, but most of it I’ve filed away for future use. I’ve always, always had plans and strategies for an intentional career in food hidden away, and then I shy away from it all, thinking it’s too big, too much right now. What if I had to quit my job to really do it right? What if things don’t go according to plan? What if there are very real financial repercussions? What if my life changes course?

I think if something has you asking “What if?” with excited/nervous/scared shitless undertones, and with increased frequency as well, the timing may be just right. Another step towards focusing up and unlearning the fear that it can’t be done: the new cookbook from the Green Kitchen Stories crew arrived at my door about a month ago. Just looking at the cover of Green Kitchen Travels stirred up inspiration on the visceral level for me. There are beautiful photographs of food, yes, but also captures of the worldly places that inspired each dish. I always say that a good cookbook should take you somewhere, whether it’s a new frame of awareness with food, or the photographs and voice have the ability to transport you in as much as possible. This one accomplishes both handily. There’s nothing about it that I don’t love.

I was deciding what recipe I would share with you all here when I realized I had cleared out almost all of my vegetable garden, save for two slowly yellowing eggplant stalks and some greens. I flipped to the “Street Food & Snacks” section of the book and knew I had to have these crispy eggplant bites with honey and lime. Addictive is the only adjective you need to know, but here are some others: crunchy, salty, sweet, tender, and fresh. Everything I’ve ever wanted in a snack and they couldn’t have been simpler to throw together. I used some rather coarse polenta and the degree of crunch was so crazy satisfying. Drizzles of honey and fresh lime juice right out of the oven are just too good. They taste convincingly deep fried. ‘Nuff said.

Other things from the book I’m excited to try: vegetarian pho, halloumi veggie burgers, ribollita, lemongrass and coconut summer rolls, no-noodle pad thai, almond butter blueberry cookies, the green yoga smoothie, and the chermoula baked cauliflower. Lots of things to turn the wheels no matter what level you’re at with whole food + vegetarian adventures. You can buy it here (and you should seriously). One little quick note before I go too: I made some soft-baked style pumpkin cookies with tangy cream-cheesy glaze for BAKED this week. You can check that out by clicking here. Weeee!

the last bit of eggplant // @thefirstmesspin it!pre-trim // @thefirstmesspin it!crispy eggplant polenta fries with honey + lime // @thefirstmesspin it!
crispy eggplant polenta bites with honey + lime
from Green Kitchen Travels
serves: 2-4
notes: I think these would be equally good with a fat pinch of nutritional yeast stirred into the polenta mixture and a little warm marinara for dippin’, just an idea though! ;););)

1 large eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch batons/wedges
3-4 cups unsweetened plant-based milk
1-2 cups organic, non-GMO corn grits/polenta (I used this one)
a fat pinch of fine sea salt
olive oil
zest of 1 lime (once you have the zest, cut the lime into wedges)
flaky sea salt, such as Maldon
runny honey or agave nectar if you’d like to keep these vegan

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and smear a bit of olive oil on it. Set aside.

Place the eggplant pieces in a large bowl and sprinkle with a bit of salt. Cover the pieces with the plant-based milk. Let the eggplant sit for an hour so that the bitterness can draw out.

Pour the corn grits/polenta into a shallow dish. Stir a good pinch of salt into the polenta. Arrange the soaked eggplant, dish of polenta, and lined baking sheet beside each other. Shake off excess milk from eggplant pieces and roll/press them in the polenta. Transfer coated pieces to the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining eggplant. Drizzle the coated pieces with olive oil and slide the sheet into the oven.

Bake eggplant bites for 15-25 minutes, flipping them over once. Mine took the full 25 minutes, but I think this varies greatly on the actual eggplant and hotspots in your oven. Once done, remove from the oven and sprinkle bites with lemon zest, flaky sea salt, honey and lime juice. Serve hot!

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  • Katie @ Whole Nourishment16/10/2014 - 6:54 am

    I can’t wait to get my hands on this cookbook. These eggplant bites look like a winner!ReplyCancel

  • Hannes Woodlandhalo16/10/2014 - 7:11 am

    Got it a few weeks back, it really is extremely beautiful. Love the chocolate-chili they have.ReplyCancel

  • Abby @ The Frosted Vegan16/10/2014 - 7:28 am

    Oh goodness, so I don’t usually like eggplant, but these could be a game changer!ReplyCancel

  • Brian//A Thought For Food16/10/2014 - 7:44 am

    This was the second recipe I had tagged from the book. From your pics it looks like it was a HUGE success.

    I knew from chatting that we both had a mutual love for this beautifully crafted creation from GKS. It really is a gem.ReplyCancel

  • Laura (Blogging Over Thyme)16/10/2014 - 8:40 am

    Oh my goodness, these look incredible! Eggplant is one of my favorite foods, so it can do no wrong, but polenta coated?! Yes!!ReplyCancel

  • Nataliya M16/10/2014 - 8:47 am

    Wow, so simple and looks so tasty! Very unique idea, looking forward to trying this recipe. This cookbook is definitely on my to buy list.ReplyCancel

  • Sini | My Blue&White Kitchen16/10/2014 - 9:07 am

    Yes!! This was one of the first recipes I fell in love with, although, I still haven’t actually made it. I’m also thinking of substituting eggplant with squash, as there’s a fried pumpkin dish that I’ve once had in Beijing and that I’ve been craving lately. What a beautiful post to celebrate an inspiring cookbook!
    Also, I can only imagine all those thoughts that go along with taking that big leap and seriously getting into food business. You’ll make it, Laura. Believe me, you’re one of the most inspiring souls out there, although, I don’t even follow a vegan / vegetarian diet myself. You have the power to make people see food in new ways, to get them excited about cooking, and to encourage following a healthier lifestyle. Dream big, girl. Dream big.ReplyCancel

  • Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar16/10/2014 - 9:31 am

    Mmm these look fabulous. NEED that book!ReplyCancel

  • Ashley16/10/2014 - 9:35 am

    These sound so freaking good! And the eggplant photos? Luuurve. Must buy this book!ReplyCancel

  • valentina - sweet kabocha16/10/2014 - 9:39 am

    I’m waiting for Christmas to buy all the books I have in my wish list, and obviously Green Kitchen Travels is in there. And your eggplant bites seems so crunchy outside and soft inside *___*ReplyCancel

  • Amy @ Parsley In My Teeth16/10/2014 - 9:47 am

    Great choice to select from their cookbook now that we’re in football season — such a great (and healthier) finger food than regular fries to snack on!ReplyCancel

  • Sarah Mac16/10/2014 - 10:34 am

    These look heavenly, like pretty much everything from GKS. Thank you for sharing Laura :)

    They serve a similar dish of crispy aubergine fries at the wonderful Morito in London, but with whipped feta and pomegranate molasses. Similar sweet and sharp vibe to the honey/lime pairing I suppose, but ramped up a notch. I’ve been wanting to recreate it at home since forever, but have always been put off by deep fat frying – this baked version could be just the ticket! Would probably work just as well with tahini in place of feta, for those skipping dairy.ReplyCancel

    • Laura Wright16/10/2014 - 10:41 am

      Hey Sarah! I love the idea of smothering these in a salted tahini dressing/sauce situation. Sounds amazing. Thanks for sharing that :)))

  • Christine16/10/2014 - 12:04 pm

    I stopped at the photo of these in the book too – they sound delicious! I think the corn meal might be pretty difficult to sub out with something else though, and I have an intolerance. I might experiment ;) On your other thoughts – you’re such an inspiration and honestly, I think you’d find success. We’d be lucky if you were to start something new here in Niagara!ReplyCancel

  • jaime : the briny16/10/2014 - 12:38 pm

    this eggplant recipe looks stellar and is perfectly timed, for me — i just unloaded a few globe eggplants from my CSA bag this morning. i find recipes like this are so inspiring; simple flavors, and just a few of them, arranged in a brilliant, bold, unafraid manner. i love it. thanks so much for sharing.ReplyCancel

  • Kyla16/10/2014 - 12:48 pm

    Love your site. I read this entry particularly close – as I too feel a deep yearning to set aside my fears and follow my food passion full-time. (I read cookbooks with such a sense of longing!). What is fascinating – is that even though I write a food blog, and we (my hubby) runs a local restaurant- I somehow still don’t feel like I am really connected to our local food culture. Because I make my “bread and butter” from another industry (read: office job!), I feel that I am outside the industry looking in. I can’t seem to quiet that voice. Ahh, but the fear that can hold one back! Heading into the unknown. Trusting oneself. Believing it can happen. These are the emotions that can so easily flood over and cloud one’s dreams.

    There. I just put it out there. Hanging.

    Maybe, as you say, the timing may just be right.ReplyCancel

  • Kris16/10/2014 - 2:40 pm

    I just got 3 little eggplants in my CSA share this week. Eggplant polenta bites are on!ReplyCancel

  • Millie l Add A Little16/10/2014 - 3:00 pm

    Looks amazing girl! I love eggplant, I love polenta and your gorgeous photography is ridonkulous!ReplyCancel

  • Eileen16/10/2014 - 10:21 pm

    Those eggplant look so beautiful and fresh! And the polenta crust is such a great idea — sounds like the perfect contrast in textures.ReplyCancel

  • […] Have you seen these crispy eggplant polenta bites? […]ReplyCancel

  • Dina17/10/2014 - 3:52 am

    I first heard about eggplant and honey in Spain when I spent two moths there earlier this year. It was a treat. I just came back from Israel where they serve eggplant with date syrup they call Silan. Exquisite. Love your version.
    Thanks for sharing.ReplyCancel

  • Kate17/10/2014 - 4:43 am

    I’m completely obsessed with their recipes, both from this new Travel book and the original Greek Kitchen. Have you tried the baked bananas too? They taste seriously deep fried and delicious but are totally healthy too. Love the photos in this post too.ReplyCancel

  • […] Crispy Eggplant Polenta Bites with Honey and Lime from The First Mess […]ReplyCancel

  • […] Crispy Eggplant Polenta Bites with Honey and Lime from The First Mess […]ReplyCancel

  • kristie {birch and wild}17/10/2014 - 11:04 pm

    I am so excited to add Green Kitchen Stories to my carefully curated collection of cookbooks. I love everything they do.
    As usual, your photos beautifully capture the essence of the seasons and the spirit of whole food living.ReplyCancel

  • […] crispy eggplant polenta bites. ummmm […]ReplyCancel

  • Kasey20/10/2014 - 4:18 pm

    I’ve long been impressed with that couple’s creativity. I’m really excited to check out the book — and make these! Eggplant is one of my absolute favorite veggies.ReplyCancel

  • Laura, your kitchen is gorgeous! I keep noting that every time I read your posts. I would kill for such a great photography space like that! Did it come like that or did you create it? Would love to see a kitchen tour post.ReplyCancel

    • Laura Wright21/10/2014 - 8:40 am

      Hi Tessa! Thanks for your compliments. We actually gutted the kitchen completely when we got the house about a year ago. So everything you see in the photos is stuff we’ve done ourselves. It’s a smaller kitchen, but we definitely designed it to be a workhorse. I would like to share more kitchen photos of the space in the future, but there’s still just a little bit of work left to be done. Soon though! :)

  • […] Une autre façon de manger des aubergines – j’ai très envie d’essayer! […]ReplyCancel

  • […] honestly so beautiful so make sure to check them out: Vegetarian Pho by Kelsey from Happyolks. Crispy Eggplant Polenta Bites with Honey + Lime by Laura from The First Mess. No Noodle Pad Thai by Anya from Golubka. Lemongrass & Coconut […]ReplyCancel

  • […] Crispy Polenta Eggplant Bites with Honey + Lime by, The First Mess {{via Green Kitchen Travels}} […]ReplyCancel

  • Judie Keech29/10/2014 - 7:36 pm

    I love roasted veggies with a lemon Rosemary sauce drizzled over. That is my favorite fall meal. I believe I got the recipe here from you!ReplyCancel

  • Ellen30/01/2015 - 11:38 am

    Love crispy eggplant! Can this be made in advance and reheated the next day, or will it lose the crunch?ReplyCancel

    • Laura Wright31/01/2015 - 11:01 am

      Hi Ellen, I’m not sure on how well the pieces would fare the next day. I think if you reheat the pieces on a rack instead of directly on the baking sheet you might have a fighting chance at crispness. Or even if you coat the eggplant and get it all set up ahead of time, cover and refrigerate the pieces on a baking sheet, and then bake them the next day–I think that method might be a safer bet.

cauliflower, kale + chickpea curry pot // @thefirstmesspin it!cauliflower, kale + chickpea curry pot // @thefirstmesspin it!cauliflower, kale + chickpea curry pot // @thefirstmesspin it!kale // @thefirstmesspin it!
So I spent the last weekend at my first ever blogger conference-type thingy in Pennsylvania with some funny, passionate, smart, and encouraging people. Lots of hugs, smiles, introductions, inspirational messages, and totally delicious things to eat. I think it’s possible (and totally normal) to be an introverted extrovert, and being in that environment of brand new, but also strikingly familiar instances brought out that personal conundrum all the more for me. I like to be loud and make crude jokes with lots of swears. But I also like to step into my fortress of solitude and parse out some of the bigger messages when I’m in the thick of it. Or just wander off into nature a bit. I think we all have a little bit of that duality.

After the conference, my road trip partner and I took a drive to Philadelphia to meet and stay with a friend of ours. We had less than 24 hours, but that didn’t stop us from having three sit-down meals (most notably here), two drink outings, and one bangin’ almond milk latte before we left. It was the perfect, quietly familiar ending to a high-energy, ecstatically social weekend.  Some blog-related topics like sponsorship came up with the three of us, and before I even realized it, I was saying things like “Why not me?” + “I wish I could be doing stuff like that.” The comparison thing finds its way in sometimes, even when you’re hopelessly aloof on most days. And then my racing mind couldn’t sleep that night. I was a bit distracted on the long drive home, thinking about what I’ve been doing wrong.

The upshot of this inner back-and-forth is that I’m not doing anything wrong. The whole weekend was glaring proof of how mistaken I was, however briefly. The heart of the blogging adventure for me has always been connection and a slow refinement of my own skill set. I get to connect with so many interesting people every week here, and we talk about natural foods, new techniques, flavour combinations that excite us, intuitions and feelings we’ve all had, and some of the more trying bits in life.

When I got home and noticed that the hood of my ever-problematic car was smoking after a drive around the block, and that the only fresh food we had in the fridge was a sad-sack head of cauliflower, I stopped caring about the “Why not me?” question. I had dinner to make and real-life problems to solve. I know that all of you can relate to that on some level, which is a potent reminder of some of my business here. We get to connect over the abundantly good and the endlessly frustrating spaces of life. Sometimes it’s just a legitimate recipe and sometimes it’s a real-life revelation disguised as a list of ingredients and step-by-step instructions. Either way, that connection is at the heart.

And this one-pot number? This is what I made for dinner that night with the smoking car and the limp-y cauliflower. Deep-nourishing and relatively quick comfort. It’s a pantry-raid effort that I recreate in some form almost weekly. There’s lots of vegetables, spice, stew-y tomato richness, tender greens, and the heft of chickpeas to fill it out. I know I’ve featured a couple stews/soups similar to this in the past, but with the frequency that I make this on my mind, it just felt right to share. Stay cozy out there, all. xo

cauliflower, kale + chickpea curry pot // @thefirstmesspin it!adds the kale // @thefirstmesspin it!cauliflower, kale + chickpea curry pot // @thefirstmesspin it!cauliflower, kale + chickpea curry pot // @thefirstmesspin it!
cauliflower, kale + chickpea curry pot recipe
serves: 4-6
notes: The amount of vegetable stock depends on how thick/thinned out you want this. I went for something in between :)

1-2 tbsp unscented coconut oil
1 cooking onion, small dice
1 tbsp curry powder
2 fresh bay laves (or 1 dried)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp minced fresh ginger (optional!)
small jalapeno or cayenne pepper, seeded + minced
1 cup 1/2 inch diced waxy potatoes
2-3 cups small cauliflower florets
28 oz can crushed tomatoes (fire roasted is my fave)
1-2 cups vegetable stock, depending
1 cup cooked chickpeas
1 bunch lacinato/Tuscan kale, stems removed and chopped
salt + pepper
chopped leafy herbs to finish (parsley, cilantro etc)

Heat the coconut oil in a heavy + large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook slowly, lowering heat if necessary. Cook until very soft, translucent and almost breaking down, about 6-7 minutes. Add the curry powder and bay leaves, and cook, stirring often, for 3 more minutes. Add the garlic, ginger (if using), and jalapeno to the pot. Stir and cook until fragrant, constantly stirring to avoid burning the garlic.

Add the potatoes and cauliflower to the pot and stir. Season with lots of salt and pepper. Add the crushed tomatoes to the pot and stir once more. At this point, add 1 cup of vegetable stock (you may want to add more later). Stir the pot, place a lid on top, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat on the stove to a simmer and remove the lid. Cook until the potatoes are just-tender, about 40 minutes. Add the chickpeas and diced kale,, and simmer for 5 more minutes or until greens have wilted.

Check the curry pot for seasoning, adjust, and serve hot with bread, naan, cooked brown rice, quinoa, millet etc. Garnish with chopped leafy herbs.

Erin’s bali garden stew w/ toasty cashews + shallots

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moroccan-style vegetable + chickpea stew // the first mess

moroccan-style vegetable + chickpea stew

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roasted romanesco curry with lemongrass + marcona almonds

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  • Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar02/10/2014 - 5:58 am

    This is definitely my kind of “happy meal”. Love this!ReplyCancel

  • lynsey02/10/2014 - 6:20 am

    I am glad I am not alone in the introvert/extrovert battle. Never apologize for too many soups and stews. They are perfectly comforting and the world needs more of that. This looks amazing xoReplyCancel

  • valentina - sweet kabocha02/10/2014 - 6:29 am

    I tried a tuscan kale massaged salad but my boyfriend hated it. Damn. Kale is full of healthy properties! Maybe with this curry I’ll succeed in my aim :DReplyCancel

  • Brian02/10/2014 - 8:30 am

    It really was a special weekend. And I’m so glad we got to meet!

    Thrilled that you had a nice time on your slow trip back home. I really need to get to Philly. It’s been too long.

    This dish looks amazing! And it’s funny because I was just working on a kale, chickpea dish last night! Different. But funny how we crave these things this time of year.ReplyCancel

  • Elizabeth02/10/2014 - 8:30 am

    We’ve been eating nothing but stew lately; I think it’s that whole desire to embrace the season and the easy way all the fall ingredients work together. And the weekend? I had such a good time hanging out and came back feeling inspired. My return to normal life was also a bit frustrating and, as luck would have it, my own heap of a car is heading to the shop today. Womp womp.

    You know I feel this way, but you’re *absolutely* doing everything right –– real life, blog life, and all.ReplyCancel

  • Adrienne02/10/2014 - 8:54 am

    Wow, that soup looks amazing. I also LOVE the moody photos. Is it all natural or are you using lighting?

    Laura: Hi Adrienne, it’s natural light. Just right by a window on an overcast day :)ReplyCancel

  • Abby @ The Frosted Vegan02/10/2014 - 8:56 am

    I’m totally with you in this introvert/extrovert thing. I like people, but I just need quiet and alone sometimes! Also, thanks for broaching the ‘why not me?’ subject, as a blogger, I feel like it’s a tough one : )ReplyCancel

  • Joy Kurland02/10/2014 - 8:57 am

    Would love to “pin” this but don’t see a button.

    Laura: Hi Joy, there should be a small one when you hover over the photo with your cursor. Near the top left corner of each photo I think. I’ll look into this.ReplyCancel

  • Christine02/10/2014 - 9:19 am

    I love one-pot meals like this – so comforting and hearty, and packed with veggies. I have the same sort of experience with the intro/extrovert tendencies but I honestly think that speaks to the complexity of each person … it’s so hard to put a polarized label on an individual. I find the whole discussion of it really interesting. Have you heard of the book, “Quiet”? I heard the author speak a couple months ago. Good stuff :)ReplyCancel

  • Ashley02/10/2014 - 9:29 am

    I can definitely relate on the intro/extro thing. I also always say I’m half type A and half type B, haha. Hopefully the comfort from this soup helped you replant your feet in the ground. I think those moments of question are important, though. It makes us reflect on what we’re doing, question ourselves and our work, and then make a change or realize no change is needed. xoReplyCancel

  • Valentina @Hortus02/10/2014 - 9:33 am

    Omg I have all the ingredients to make this! This is probably dinner happening tonight. Wonderful!

    I never commented, but I love all of your blog so much :)ReplyCancel

  • Amy @ Parsley In My Teeth02/10/2014 - 9:50 am

    Great post – I think we can all find some of ourselves in there. And this is exactly the kind of thing I like to make now – curry with anything and everything. Now I know what to do with that head of cauliflower sitting in the back of my fridge!ReplyCancel

  • Lane | Green Spirit Adventures02/10/2014 - 10:09 am

    I’ve only ever tried curry once before and didn’t care for it all that much (I think it may have just been a gross brand a curry powder), but this has me so convinced to give it another go.
    I love the photos too, and your words; so refreshing and grounding to read. :)ReplyCancel

  • Emily02/10/2014 - 2:39 pm

    Just wanted to echo that you are so not doing the blogging thing wrong. I love your writing, recipes, and photography, and while I don’t mind occasional sponsored posts from other bloggers, I think your blog has a special authenticity to it. I really trust your taste, and that is why I cook from your blog more than other blogs. Thanks for all of the effort you put into this space!ReplyCancel

  • […] Cauliflower, Kale & Chickpea Curry Pot. […]ReplyCancel

  • Jilli Joffe02/10/2014 - 5:24 pm

    Mmm this looks delicious! Can’t wait to try! :)

    xo. Jilli


  • Eileen02/10/2014 - 7:14 pm

    This sounds super delicious! A huge pot of greens and veg and beans is exactly what I want when it’s chilly out. :)ReplyCancel

  • Paige02/10/2014 - 7:16 pm

    If you didn’t want to use chickpeas, what other beans might you use in this?ReplyCancel

  • Paige02/10/2014 - 7:18 pm

    One other thing: please keep doing what you’re doing. I really love your site and getting excited every time I see a post from you. As another writer pointed out, I too trust your food sense.ReplyCancel

  • Kale is hands-down my favorite green, and chickpeas are my favorite bean. LOVE this recipe.ReplyCancel

  • kristie @ birchandwild.com02/10/2014 - 10:07 pm

    This is the kind of fall meal I crave. Warm from the spice and full of end of season produce. I will make this tomorrow, as my kale is still quite prolific in the garden.ReplyCancel

  • Renee H.03/10/2014 - 12:00 am

    I love posts like this. It shows that behind all our beautiful blogs that there is a real person with a real life. I have never been to a conference like that one you attended. I would love to learn more about it! I’m new to the blogging world and really want to learn as much as I can and make new like-minded friends :)

    I also like seeing what foodies can come up with when they don’t have an entire kitchen stocked with beautiful, fresh, local yummies. Sometimes the best things come out of situations where we have to really get creative. Love your photos!ReplyCancel

  • Jess03/10/2014 - 5:04 am

    In a situation like that I’m pretty sure I would of just called in for take out. That looks absolutely delicious, well done on turning around what could of been a horrible night.ReplyCancel

  • […] for cool fall days: Cauliflower, Kale, and Chickpea Curry Pot from The First […]ReplyCancel

  • Sini | My Blue&White Kitchen03/10/2014 - 10:15 am

    I love your words and I love this curry recipe. So much comfort in one bowl. Also, I’m glad to hear your conference weekend went well!

    an intro/extroReplyCancel

  • Heather03/10/2014 - 11:55 am

    Sounds like a great weekend! I love the Philadelphia area. We live in Southern Chester County near the border with Delaware. This recipe looks amazing!!!ReplyCancel

  • […] my list of edifying reads for the second week in a row is the latest post from Laura which I won’t summarize because I think you should see it for yourself. […]ReplyCancel

  • Sara03/10/2014 - 4:33 pm

    I love finding new options for a meat-less stew. This looks so rustic and inviting.ReplyCancel

  • Evan McGinnis03/10/2014 - 5:12 pm

    My girlfriend introduced me to your blog and I’ve been loving it ever since. Made this last night and it was delicious!ReplyCancel

  • Sherrie03/10/2014 - 5:53 pm

    I love everything about this. You are one of the greats Miss Laura — I totally mean that. I have admired and been inspired by your photos, your recipes, your work for years. Super honored to have spent some time with you and to be able to call you a friend.

    You. are. the. best.
    xo sherrieReplyCancel

  • […] Cauliflower Kale Chickpea Curry Pot (The First Mess) […]ReplyCancel

  • Millie l Add A Little05/10/2014 - 3:11 am

    Looks amazing!! I love how easy it is too – make a big batch and freeze it for a cold winter evening!ReplyCancel

  • […] this is my soul food. also, i {heart} this blog so much…you’ve got to check it […]ReplyCancel

  • Kelley Green06/10/2014 - 7:10 pm

    This was a real winner at our house. Both kids gave it an enthusiastic thumbs up. Thanks so much!


  • Denise08/10/2014 - 11:07 am

    Dear Laura,

    You won’t believe how much this post means to me. It just came at exactly the right time. That ‘why not me’ question has been bugging me a lot lately, and somehow reading this from someone I highly admire (=you) helps. And puts things in perspective as well, because you’re so right. Those things are not what’s it’s all about. Not in blogging, not in work and definitely not in life.

    Thank you for always inspiring me. And this curry pot? Definitely gonna make it soon.ReplyCancel

  • agustina09/10/2014 - 2:41 am

    this is SO going on my meal plan for next week! thank you :)ReplyCancel

  • Borough 22 Brownies09/10/2014 - 8:48 am

    Pictures speak a thousand words and my eyes are the window to my belly. This looks amazing. And its getting cold in London so will be trying this out soon!!!ReplyCancel

  • Ani {@afotogirl}09/10/2014 - 12:08 pm

    Pinned! This is right up my alley. Yummy.ReplyCancel

  • Valentina Duracinsky - BLOG09/10/2014 - 6:12 pm

    craving chickpeas forever! need this soon!

    xx love


  • […] cauliflower, kale and chickpea curry. so […]ReplyCancel

  • ATasteOfMadness11/10/2014 - 9:32 pm

    This looks amazing! I love chickpeas. I need to make this!ReplyCancel

  • aimee @ small eats12/10/2014 - 7:47 pm

    The entire week after Big Harvest Potluck was filled with cooking from the pantry and whatever sad vegetables I had left too!

    And I totally feel you on getting stuck in the comparison game. We’ve just gotta keep cooking and doing our thing.ReplyCancel

  • Any curry recipe always gets the thumbs up from me. I really need to start experimenting with coconut oil. I always use olive oil at the moment (I guess my Italian genes are showing!) but would like a change every now and then.ReplyCancel

  • Kate14/10/2014 - 10:08 pm

    I just found your website and this recipe at the perfect time – I just started Eat to Live and was looking for recipes that fit the eating plan and your recipe will fit right in. Thank you! I know there are different types of curry, is there a particular kind you used for this recipe?

    And I understand the need for quiet and to decompress. It’s totally human and healthy, and I commend you for recognizing it’s something you need and is important for you to do. I think more people need to make the effort to unplug and detach and see how great it feels.ReplyCancel

    • Laura Wright15/10/2014 - 2:03 pm

      Hello Kate! Thank you for your kind comment. Lovely of you to take the time. And in terms of curry powder, by default I always go for a mild-natured, non-sweet version. Just whatever generic, no name brand they have at the store usually does nicely for me :)

  • erin {yummy supper}15/10/2014 - 12:39 pm

    Laura, I totally hear you about the introvert extrovert thing…. reading your post today felt like you were expressing so many of my own thoughts and conflicts at the moment.

    It’s super easy to do the comparison thing… Have you heard the quote “Comparison is the thief of joy?” Ain’t that the truth? Nothing calms my mind like cooking for my family, being in the garden, breathing and taking in nature. It’s easy to forget the power of those things in the midst of all the social noise out there, but I keep trying to remind myself.

    Keep doing the beautiful, delicious, soulful work you do. I’m grateful for it.


  • In The Pipeline - Chino House18/10/2014 - 7:05 pm

    […] this curry to my winter rotation this year for […]ReplyCancel

  • Ana21/10/2014 - 9:11 am

    This is my favorite recipe for a cozy autumn dinner. I simply love the kale photo!ReplyCancel

  • Lou22/10/2014 - 8:52 am

    This was AMAZING! I made it last night and I brought some today for lunch. What an amazing comfort food.ReplyCancel

  • Brande Plotnick30/10/2014 - 9:57 am

    I can’t wait to try this one! So much kale from the garden and I’m jonesing for SPICE. Thank you.ReplyCancel

  • Grace31/10/2014 - 7:18 pm

    I’m a newby to your site. I can’t even begin to tell you what a blessing it has been. This was the fourth thing I’ve made from your site and WOW!!! This soup is so flavorful. So hearty. So complete. My husband also loved it. This is my new fave.
    Thank you:)ReplyCancel

  • Reads and Recipes: November 101/11/2014 - 3:09 am

    […] Cauliflower, Kale + Chickpea Curry Pot from The First Mess         I would swap out the kale in favor of spinach. A big bowl of this looks so warm and cozy on a blustery fall day. […]ReplyCancel

  • […] temperatures hovering around 2 and 3 degrees makes me crave hearty home cooked meals. I came across this recipe on Pinterest and knew it would be perfect as soon as November hit. I’m really […]ReplyCancel

  • Audrey05/11/2014 - 4:05 pm

    This dish looks wonderful….would like to make it tonight !
    Just a question …. It says cooked chickpeas…. So I’m assuming dried and not canned. How did you cook the chickpeas??
    Or can I use canned?ReplyCancel

    • Laura Wright10/11/2014 - 8:39 am

      Hi Audrey,
      You could cook some dried chickpeas first, but canned ones are completely fine :)

  • johanna19/11/2014 - 11:02 am

    i made this last night, and it was AMAZING! I omitted the potatoes, realized too late I was out of chick peas, doubled the jalapenos (left in seeds and membrane – it gave it a little kick! perfect!) and put a half a lemon’s worth of juice in to kick up the flavors.

    it was a shame i was out of chickpeas, because i know it would have made it even heartier and more delicious. HOWEVER! it was still one of my favorite new recipes, and this is definitely going into my regular rotation.

    I am perusing some of your other recipes, and everything looks amazing. Thanks!!ReplyCancel

  • katie04/12/2014 - 1:36 pm

    I have a couple things in the fridge that will go bad soon and I knew I could come to your site for a hearty, healthy stew to put them to good use.

    Glad this is the recipe I clicked on, because I think I may have actually needed the words you wrote more than the recipe. Beautiful recipe, photos and words, as usual. Thank you.ReplyCancel

  • Lori04/01/2015 - 6:34 pm

    Just made this at it is amazing! I can’t wait to try some of your other recipesReplyCancel

  • Tesni05/01/2015 - 9:46 am

    Stumbled across this delightful recipe on my lengthy never ending search for the perfect vegetarian curry recipe… Well I think I’ve finally found the ! Absolutely delicious ! Will be checking this blog regularly from now on.

  • […] love one-pot meals, and coming across this blog and recipe, I was all for trying it out. Considering, I had all the ingredients, it was a no […]ReplyCancel

  • Thalia @ butter and brioche10/01/2015 - 12:57 am

    Love everything about this chickpea curry – think it would make such an awesome dinner for myself and my vegetarian family tonight. Thanks for the recipe!ReplyCancel

  • Katie04/03/2015 - 3:00 pm

    Girlfriend, you have got my dang number with this one. I have made this three times since you posted the recipe. I don’t often repeat recipes with that frequency, but I am in love with this meal. Twice I’ve made it for myself as my lunch for the week – at no point did I get sick of it. Once I doubled it and made a huge batch for a bunch of hungry friends after a day of skiing – they all loved it! Each time there have been slight variations, but it has been incredibly tasty nonetheless. I especially love that it’s a one pot meal! So little clean up! And so healthy! And SO delicious! Keep up the great work :)ReplyCancel

  • Sonya25/03/2015 - 8:13 pm

    Hooray for healthy one-pot meals! I made this tonight for the family and it was a hit! Even our 3 year old ate it:) It was so good, used ingredients we have on hand, and so simple. Love it, and thank you!ReplyCancel

  • Sonya25/03/2015 - 8:15 pm

    Hooray for healthy one-pot meals! I made this tonight for the whole family and it was a hit! It was so good, used ingredients we have on hand, and so simple. Love it, and thank you!ReplyCancel