My love of kimchi made me a new friend this week.
Doing my weekly grocery shopping this Monday, I happened to have a Korean woman at the checkout line. She noticed my jar of kimchi (for an Asian inspired eggplant burger, in case you were wondering) and asked me about it. I mentioned that my half-Korean stepmom introduced me to it, and since then, kimchi has become a favorite of mine. She said she found it funny that a food most Americans hate has become so popular with more people incorporating fermented foods in their diet. This, of course, launched into a conversation about nutrition which eventually led to me sharing my profession and this little blog. By the way, I feel I should mention there wasn’t anyone behind me in line. I promise, I’m not that girl!
A few days later when I went back to the store to pick up a forgotten item, my new friend was working again. She found my blog and subscribed (Hi Ashley!) and had even cooked my black bean tostadas that night. We chatted a bit longer and realized we live in the same neighborhood!
Who would have thought fermented cabbage can make friends?
If you were one of the seven people who read my very first post, then you might remember one of the tenants of my food philosophy is to celebrate other cultures through food. It’s not only so you try new and nutritious foods, it’s because food brings new connections and appreciation of other cultures and backgrounds. The pleasure of great food is something all people have in common.
In my last job, I led nutrition classes for groups that usually consisted of older men. I loved it when the topic of fried chicken, macaroni and cheese and cornbread came up. You might think that’s precisely the type of conversation a dietitian would want to avoid in a class about diabetes management, but I thought it was so cool to see the connections and friendships it made. Two 70-something men from the south, one white, one black, who frankly probably grew up not liking each other very much, laughing and agreeing on the perfect macaroni and cheese. Or a friendly, heated debate between a northerner and southerner on the great sugar in cornbread issue.
If there’s one book that gave me an appreciate for how food can bring people together, it’s the cookbook Jerusalem. By exploring the history of dishes famous to Jerusalem and the influences by Israelis, Palestinians and the many other cultures who have found a home in the city, in a way, it shows how much they all have in common.
I went cooking spree from the Jersusalem cookbook a few weeks ago, and made this dish, now my favorite in the book. Given everything going on in the world right now, it seemed a good time to share it. Now, I’m not so naive as to suggest falafel is the key to world peace. But isn’t it interesting to think would would happen if you could get opposite sides to sit down to a big, family style meal of great food?
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon chili flakes
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped preserved lemon peel (or substitute 1 tablespoon lemon zest)
- ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil plus 2 tablespoons
- 2 medium eggplants
- 1 cup fine bulgur
- ¾ cup boiling water
- ⅓ cup golden raisins
- ½ ounce parsley, chopped
- ½ cup mint, chopped
- ⅓ cup pitted green olives
- ⅓ cup chopped almonds, toasted
- 3 green onions, chopped
- Juice from half a lemon
- ½ cup plain or Greek yogurt (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- For the chermoula, whisk together the garlic, cumin, coriander, chili flakes, paprika, lemon, ⅓ cup olive oil and season with salt.
- Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise and score the flesh lengthwise and then with diagonal slices. Place on a baking sheet. Spoon the chermoula over the eggplant halves, spreading it evenly and letting some fall between the slices. Place in the oven and roast 40 minutes until completely softened.
- Meanwhile, bring a small pot of water to a boil. Place the bulgur in a large bowl. Measure out ¾ cup in a glass measuring cup, pour over the bulgur and cover with plastic wrap or a cookie sheet to keep the steam in. Let sit at least 10 minutes to cook and soak up the water.
- Meanwhile, pour a little more hot water (about ½ cup) over a bowl of the raisins and let soak to soften.
- After the bulgur has cooked, toss with the raisins, parsley, mint, olives, almonds, and green onions. Drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and squeeze the lemon juice over. Season with salt.
- Serve the bulgur salad over the eggplant, preferably at room temperature, and garnish with scoops of yogurt.