As my graduation from my masters program looms nearer and nearer, I realize that I need to think quickly about “what I want to be when I grow up.” While I feel like I know my purpose, and I’m aligned with it on a daily, surrounded by like minded people, it can be hard to place yourself or think about “applying” for a job that the world is in desperate need for but doesn’t even know exists yet. I’ve come to the realization and subsequent acceptance of it that I’m going to have to invent what I want to do.
What’s weird is that as wonky or fickle as that sounds, I know deep down it isn’t. I know that everything will come together for me because I feel the pull of above said purpose everyday. It lets me know I belong where I am, and I listen to that. For the two-plus years I resided in what I like to refer to as cubiculandia, although totally stable and monetarily secure for what would have probably been the rest of my life, I felt an invisible lasso strangling and choking me in the opposite direction. From the moment I’d hurl my arm into the snooze button every Monday morning until I was practically knocked over with Friday’s tsunami of relief, I had known I was destined for more. For a better life. For a life I knew I was destined to live, utilizing myself to do the most meaningful work imaginable.
It might not be secure, but I feel secure where I am right now at this moment. And I know that everything I do and have done in the past year and a half has led me one step closer to where I’m meant to be. Which is surrounded by food, and connecting with people. One of the first careers I perused at the beginning of this program, though, was that of a food stylist. I love LOVE making food look beautiful, especially when it tastes delicious at the same time. Not a fan of plastic ice cream or torches or whatever else real food stylists use. I like to make real edible delicious food look absolutely gorgeous.
And not to toot my own horn, but I think this eggplant dish is easy on the eyes. Making beautiful dishes don’t always start out that way, but they let you know that where you are in that moment is on the right track to perfection. You go along, through the process, happy at each moment, ending up in a land of beauty.
Roasted eggplant with saffron yogurt
Adapted from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook
Notes: Ottolenghi originally used pine nuts here but I opted for pistachios. Use whatever nut you have around. I also added some golden raisins and that was also a great addition.
Saffron is definitely expensive, but I love having it around. If you don’t have it, you could leave it out and the yogurt sauce would still be delicious.
For a heartier dish (as seen right above), consider dicing the roasted eggplant and serving over rice, then drizzling the yogurt and toppings over right on top.
For the eggplant
3 medium or 2 large eggplant, cut into slices about one inch thick
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons pistachios
Seeds from 1/2 pomegranate
One bunch basil leaves
For the yogurt sauce
Small pinch of saffron threads
3 tablespoons hot water
3/4 cup greek yogurt
1 garlic clove, minced
Juice from 1 lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
Set the oven at 400 degrees.
Make the yogurt sauce
Infuse the saffron with the boiling water in a small bowl for 5 minutes. Pour the infusion into bowl and add the Greek yogurt, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, and a little salt. Whisk well to get a smooth, golden sauce. Taste and adjust the salt, if necessary, then chill. This sauce can keep in the fridge for about 3 days.
Roast the eggplant
Place the eggplant slices on a baking sheet, and brush with the olive oil on both sides. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 20-35 minutes, until the slices take on a light brown color. Let them cool a little.
To serve, arrange the eggplant slices on a large plate, slightly overlapping. Drizzle the saffron yogurt over them, sprinkle with the pistachios and pomegranate seeds and lay the basil over the top.