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


Roasted Russet and Sweet Potato Peelins’

Potato and sweet potato peelings typically get composted or tossed. Here the peels are salvaged and re-purposed into, quite possibly, the Holy Grail of scrappy snacks. Fiber rich skins are tasty and filling, they will definitely answer the call for salty, crispy cravings. Nutrition, great flavor, costs essentially nothing in money or time, and guilt free – have you ever known a potato chip able to make that claim? And if that’s not enough here’s one more thing; they can be made in that toaster oven over there in the break room. Just sayin’….

Roasted Sweet Potato Skins

Inspiration for this recipe came from roasted Russet skins. It combines the sweetness of sweet potato with the earthiness of smoked paprika and ground cumin to mimic flavors reminiscent of barbeque potato chips.

Peelings from 2 medium sweet potatoes, about 1½-2 loose cups

2 teaspoons olive oil

½ teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon smoked paprika

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Peel the sweet potatoes so that a tiny amount of flesh remains with the skin. Place the peelings in a bowl and add the oil, spices, and salt. Use your hands to mix and evenly coat the cut surfaces. Transfer the skins to a lined baking sheet and mostly spread them out. It’s ok if some of them are touching. Roast for 9-10 minutes, until crispy but not turning too dark; start checking them at about 7 minutes and every minute afterward to make sure they don’t burn. Remove from oven and let stand a few minutes to cool.

Catherine McConkie 2016, all rights reserved

Roasted Russet Potato Skins

These are straight up delicious; they taste like a mash up of a chip and French Fry. There’s a hundred different ways one could go with flavorings but I kept them classic and simply seasoned with sea salt and a little pepper.

Peelings from 2 medium Russet potatoes, about 1½-2 loose cups

2 teaspoons olive oil

¼ teaspoon sea salt

few grinds of black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel the potatoes so that a tiny amount of flesh remains with the skin. Place the peelings in a bowl and add the oil, salt, and pepper. Use your hands to mix and evenly coat the cut surfaces. Transfer the skins to a lined baking sheet and mostly spread them out. It’s ok if some of them are touching. Roast for 9-10 minutes until crispy but not turning too dark. Remove from the oven and let stand a few minutes until cool.

Catherine McConkie 2016, all rights reserved

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.


Broccoli with Edamame and Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Recent conversation came up around Eating the Rainbow so I thought it would be fun to develop a series of recipes based on color. This one represents one of my interpretations of green; a yummy one pan, veg-centric, dish that comes together in under 15 minutes.

2 Tablespoons pumpkin seeds, toasted

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1 Tablespoon minced garlic [about 3 large cloves]

¼ teaspoon red chili flakes

8 ounces, about 1½ cups, frozen edamame beans, thawed

1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs blend

1 pound broccoli

½ teaspoon sea salt

4 Tablespoons water

2 scallions, sliced

2 teaspoons lemon juice

Place pumpkin seeds in a large skillet set over medium low heat. Toast, shaking the pan often, for about a minute, until seeds are puffy and lightly browned. Be careful to not let them burn. Remove seeds to a plate and set aside.

Increase heat to medium and add oil to the skillet. When the oil shimmers, add the garlic and red chili flakes, cooking and stirring until fragrant, 30-40 seconds.

Add the edamame beans, a pinch of salt, and dried Italian herbs, stirring to coat the beans. Saute for 1-2 minutes then add the broccoli and salt.

Cook, stirring often, until broccoli turns bright green and becomes just tender crisp, about 6 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of water at a time to the pan if it becomes dry before broccoli is done. [Note: The steam created also assists the cooking process]

Remove from heat and stir in scallions. Add the lemon juice, stirring to combine and top with toasted pumpkin seeds.

Catherine McConkie 2016, all rights reserved

Chef C’s Cooking tips:

  • Take color green to the extreme by combining leftovers with baby spinach or arugula and diced avocado for a fantastic lunchtime salad.
  • Substitute kale for broccoli
  • If you prefer fresh herbs, substitute 1 Tablespoon fresh for the dried and add when you add the scallions. Basil, parsley, thyme, a bit of oregano would all work.

Veggie and Cauliflower Fried “Rice”

Classic fried rice gets a refined carb makeover by swapping white rice for finely chopped cauliflower. Almost any seasonal vegetable add-in will do…simply toss in whichever veggies are on hand and in minutes you’ll have a colorful and nutritious, filling, one pan dish that’s perfect for any time of day…breakfast, lunch or dinner.

1 head cauliflower, about 2 pounds

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided

2 Tablespoons minced ginger

3 cloves garlic, minced

¼ teaspoon red chili pepper flakes, optional

1 generous pinch sea salt

3 eggs, lightly beaten

1 small red onion, sliced

3 stalks celery, sliced

2 cups broccoli florets, snap peas, or snow peas

1 red pepper, sliced

2 Tablespoons low sodium soy sauce

1 teaspoon rice vinegar or fresh lime juice

4 scallions, thinly sliced

Using a knife or food processor, chop cauliflower into very fine pieces, about the size of a lentil, and set aside.

Heat a wide skillet over medium heat and add 2T of oil. When oil shimmers, add the ginger, garlic and optional red chili flakes. Sauté for about 30 seconds, until fragrant, then add cauliflower and a generous pinch of salt, stirring until well coated. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until cauliflower is tender, about 8 minutes. If pan becomes dry before cauliflower is cooked, add water, 1 tablespoon at a time and continue cooking. When just tender spoon cauliflower into a bowl and set aside.

Reduce heat to medium low and pour eggs into the skillet. Let them sit undisturbed for 30-40 seconds until they begin to set, then finish scrambling until they are cooked through. Remove eggs to the bowl with the cauliflower.

Return skillet to medium heat and add remaining tablespoon of oil. Add onions, celery, broccoli, red pepper and soy sauce. Sauté for 3-4 minutes until the vegetables are just tender, but still crunchy. Add the cauliflower and eggs back to the pan and mix everything together. Season with rice vinegar or fresh lime juice and top with scallions. 

Catherine McConkie 2015, all rights reserved    

Chef C’s Cooking Tips:

  • For an even heartier version try adding ground turkey. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil and cook the meat with the ginger, garlic, and chili flakes. Remove to a bowl and proceed
  • Another possibility is to omit the scrambled egg step and, when ready to eat, top the fried “rice” with a poached egg
  • Many veggies can be chopped in advance and stored in containers in the fridge.
  • Not enough time to chop? Simply toss in a bag of prepared stir fry vegetables








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