Babaganoush with Fresh Herbs and Pomegranate

Sadly, this fall brought massive and destructive wildfires to the Golden State, our skies here in Northern California were blanketed with heavy, thick, dense smoke for weeks. The air quality was terrible 24/7, for days on end, causing many folks to experience headaches and respiratory symptoms, myself included. I started to wonder about the impact of ongoing exposure to particulate matter, and the levels of oxidative stress being generated from inhaling smoke from burning natural and man made materials. More than ever it made sense to replenish the body with fat and water soluble anti-oxidants, plus other key nutrients needed to produce and re-cycle glutathione, our main intra-cellular antioxidant molecule. This recipe was born in tasty response …high ORAC pomegranate and herbs, methylation supportive B’s and folate from tahini and garlic, and the unique addition of the soothing, respiratory specific, herbs thyme and mint all joined hands to make this very delicious dip. True culinary medicine!

Babaganoush with Herbs and Fresh Pomegranate

Makes 2 cups

1 large eggplant roasted and peeled

3 Tablespoons tahini

2½ Tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses ** see note

1 clove fresh garlic, pressed

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon sea salt

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ cup tightly packed fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, roughly chopped

1 teaspoon lemon zest

Generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup fresh pomegranate seeds

1-2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds, optional

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Use a fork to poke the eggplant in several places and place it, uncovered, in a baking dish. Roast until tender and completely soft, about 30-35 minutes.

When eggplant is cool enough to handle, slice off the stem end and peel. Place the cooked eggplant into the bowl of a food processor and pulse it a few times so it breaks up.

Add the tahini, lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, garlic, cumin, salt, and cinnamon. Process until the mixture is smooth and well combined. Taste and see if a bit more lemon juice, salt, or pomegranate molasses is needed.

Add the chopped mint, thyme, and lemon zest and pulse until well combined. Stir in 3 Tablespoons of the pomegranate seeds the garnish the top with some olive oil, the rest of the pomegranate seeds, and optional sesame seeds.

Catherine McConkie 2018, all rights reserved

Chef C’s Cooking Tips:

  • Substitute ½ teaspoon maple syrup, date syrup, or raw honey if you don’t have pomegranate molasses
  • You can also roast the eggplant on a piece of foil to save yourself some cleanup
  • No food processor? No problem. Just make sure that eggplant it nice and soft and use a potato masher or fork instead.




Honeydew Cucumber Salad with Pumpkin Seeds, Feta, and Mint

This recipe came about by standing in front of my open fridge and wondering what I should bring to a lunch gathering. It was very hot outside and I was short on time, so I was envisioning a dish that was simple, quick, tasty, healthy, thirst quenching, and party worthy. I had been working on gazpacho recipes and when my eyes landed on the leftover honeydew melon, cucumbers, and mint an idea started to form. I already knew those ingredients tasted good together and that savory watermelon salads were popular, so I re-purposed the melon gazpacho ingredients, used the pumpkin seeds for crunch, and crumbled in some feta cheese for a refreshing salad that’s high in water, fiber, potassium, and Vitamin C.

½ honeydew melon, cubed

1 large cucumber with skin, organic and un-waxed if possible [see note below]

½ cup thinly sliced red onion

¼ cup roughly chopped mint, basil, parsley or cilantro

2-3 Tablespoons lime juice

1- 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

¼ teaspoon sea salt

2 Tablespoons toasted pumpkin seeds

2 Tablespoons crumbled feta cheese, optional

Prepare melon, cucumber, onion, and mint as described and place them in a large bowl. When ready to serve, drizzle salad with lime juice, olive oil, and salt. Toss to coat and top with pumpkin seeds and optional feta cheese.

Catherine McConkie 2017, all rights reserved

Chef C’s cooking tips:

  • This is one of those “make it how you like it” or “what you have on hand” salads. Mild mannered melon and cucumber go well with many other vegetables!
    • Orange or red cherry tomatoes
    • Celery
    • Green apple
  • For a Latin twist, substitute cilantro for the mint and add cubed Jicama and 1 large jalapeno pepper, chopped
  • Season, age at harvest, growing and storage conditions all impact sweetness, “juicy” factor and taste of fresh produce. Have confidence adjusting the the ratio of honeydew to cucumber to your liking and tinkering with the amounts of lime juice, olive oil, and fresh herbs needed in order to make your taste buds come alive.
  • Cucumber with it’s skin will add extra nutrients and fiber to any dish but they are consistently on EWG’s dirty dozen list for high pesticide residue. Lightly peel the cuke if organic and/or un-waxed product isn’t available


Kale Chimichurri

Zucchini Noodles with Kale Chimichurri and Toasted Walnuts

Serves 4

This week the hospital garden was flush with kale for the garden giveaway and I was feeling, truthfully, a bit ho-hum at the prospect of demo’ing another saute or raw salad. Suddenly chimichurri flew in to my head. Chimichurri is a fresh herb based, vinegary, spicy, Argentinian green sauce that is typically served with meat. In this version kale stands in for the herbs; and gets tossed with spiraled zucchini noodles and toasted walnuts. The class loved it! However don’t let the veggie forward use here dissuade you – this sauce is also delicious spooned over flank steak, burgers, chicken, roasted potatoes, and yes…eggs.

  • 1 medium bunch kale, ends trimmed then roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 6 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 zucchini, spiraled or shaved into ribbons
  • ¼ cup toasted walnuts

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add kale and blanch for about 1 minute. Drain over a strainer then rinse with cold water to cool. Using your hands squeeze the kale to remove as much water as possible. When it’s wrung dry, either chop kale very finely and put it in a bowl, or transfer it to the bowl of a food processor and process until finely chopped. Add the pressed garlic, vinegar, salt, black pepper, red chili flakes, and olive oil; tossing [or processing] until well combined. Set sauce aside to allow the flavors to mingle.

Prepare zucchini and walnuts as directed. Add the zucchini to the bowl with the chimichurri sauce and toss until well coated. Taste to see if vegetables could use another splash of vinegar or pinch of salt. Add the walnuts and toss again. Serve right away.

Catherine McConkie 2016, all rights reserved

Chef C’s cooking tips:

  • For delicious variations; add either ¼ cup finely chopped fresh parsley, cilantro, or mint or 2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano to the kale at the point when adding the garlic and remaining ingredients.
  • Wait until you are ready to serve before combining chimichuuri with zucchini. Otherwise the zucchini will begin to release its water and dim down the sauce’s assertiveness.
  • To bank flavor and nutrition for the future, don’t throw away the kale cooking water. It will keep in the fridge for 4-5 days or freezer for 6 months. Use it to make soups or for cooking grains.


Celery…. Really????

I mean who actually dives towards the crudité platter for sticks of celery? Plain and misunderstood, many people find it….ummm….boring bunny food. [Though celery sticks are useful transport vehicles for big scoops of dip or dressing, I suppose.]

Typically a background player, celery is a delicious flavoring for soups and a definite for stuffing the Thanksgiving bird, but hardly ever does it take center stage. It’s mostly humble and there when you need it, or else quietly going limp in the bottom of the veggie drawer.

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