Friday Favs – Cara’s Cravings makes Massaged Kale “Cobb” Salad with Crispy Eggplant “Bacon”
This week’s Friday Favs is a special one. Special because Cara is the one blogger that I’ve known the longest. We met on theNest.com shortly before Hubby and I moved to Boston. This happened to be shortly after Cara started her blog, Cara’s Cravings and only a few months before I started mine. I think the first time we met was at the holiday party that Cara and some of her friends catered and hosted for the girls online. I remember telling Hubby that she was the one with the blog when I introduced them. Since that first meeting, Cara and I have eaten together, cooked together, learned about photography together, eaten eggs together, been faked into eating weird frozen meals together, and are now hosting a virtual bake sale together! Whenever I need a healthy, unique recipe, I head to her blog. She’s also the queen of pumpkin – I’ve enjoyed quite a few of her pumpkin recipes and you should definitely check her out.
Hello, Bakers! Oh wait, you’re not all bakers? When Jen asked me to be one of her Friday Faves
(and who could turn that down, it’s right up there with someone asking you to be their Valentine) I immediately thought, “What the heck do I have to offer on a baking blog?” In my mind, you’re all a bunch of sassy little bakers full of sugar and spice and everything nice. (And chocolate. How come that never got incorporated into the rhyme?) My mostly-original recipes on Cara’s Cravings involve lots of protein, good fat, and as many vegetables as I can eat. Not a ton of carbs. I think that food should be nutritious, lip-smackingly-delicious, and never, ever boring. It’s a little mission of mine to spread that theory far and wide.
But don’t be fooled. There was a voice deep down screaming, “YES! A reason to make something ridiculously full of sugar and chocolate and butter.” Because guess what? I DO eat those things. In fact, I have probably have the sweetest sweet tooth you’ll ever meet, and that’s precisely why I don’t do much baking. It would be just too dangerous. So I bake for special occasions, when I have a reason to share with others, and I don’t really add these things to blog because I find value in sticking to a niche*. Besides, I’m nowhere near as good as Jen and many of yourselves.
*There are a few exceptions. One of them just happens to be one of Jen’s favorite recipes, the infamous Pumpkin Cheesecake Swirled Brownies! If you haven’t tried these yet, do it. Now. But who eats pumpkin in April, you ask? Well, I do! Year round, in fact.
Then I remembered a good point that Jen made when she asked us to be her Friday Faves. We blog things she likes, and she likes us all for various reasons. In other words, she likes me for me. What a gal! So instead of pretending to be a top-notch baker and putting myself into a sugar coma, I’m sharing something right along the lines of what you’d typically see on my blog.
I often go on little foodie obsessions that play deeply into my meal choices and recipe development. With pumpkin, it’s a been a life-long phase. My most recent obsession has been vegetarian and vegan cuisine. I have no intention of ever becoming a vegetarian or vegan, I just like to cook and eat like one sometimes. It’s fun for me to experiment with different ingredients, and because I’m just about the least picky eater ever I love tasting these things just as much as I love a good hunk of meat (get your mind out of the gutter.) In fact, it might be easy to mistake my blog for a vegetarian one sometimes, since I’ll often go for long stretches without posting any meat dishes whatsoever. I’m proud of my vegetarian creations (and those free of eggs, dairy, gluten, etc as well) because it’s important to me be able to cook interesting and delicious meals for others, even if they cannot or do not eat certain things that I do.
A few weeks ago, I was flipping through some raw food cookbooks and I got a little obsession with taking my vegan fetish one step further. I was smitten with the gorgeous, colorful pictures and creative use of ingredients – many of them not resembling anything I’ve tried in my kitchen, and I consider myself a fairly creative cook. What intrigued me most was the idea of crispy eggplant “bacon”. Eggplant sliced super thin and marinated in a blend of sweet, spicy, and smoky ingredients; then dehydrated until crisp. I literally spent hours after that scouring the internet to see how others had prepared this snack and what kinds of dishes they put it in. I had my own ideas, of course. Crumbled over scrambled eggs? In a risotto with beets? On top of a pizza with asparagus? My taste buds begged for it and I was determined to make it myself. There was one little problem: I don’t own a dehydrator, and did not intend to buy one. I do, however, have a very low “warm” setting on my oven, so I frantically googled some more to see if I could use it for the same effect*. Sadly, there was no one to back me up here. What do, scrap it, or move forward? I think you know where this is going.
I didn’t let my lack of a dehydrator or the fact that no one else had “dehydrated” eggplant in an oven and written about it on the internet deter me. Instead I made a batch of crispy eggplant bacon, not once, but twice. Actually, three times, if you count the first batch which taught me the need for parchment paper on my baking sheets. All of the “bacon” – even the little shards scraped from the first batch, was thoroughly eaten. Indeed, one can make an addicting and healthy snack out of an eggplant and a warm oven. But before the full-on snacking commenced, I made sure to reserve some for a recipe. I was craving something lean, green, and mean (my body usually knows when I’ve eaten too much sugar); a salad was in order. But not just any salad. A massaged kale “cobb” salad with sweet tomatoes, creamy avocado, a poached egg and garlicky dressing. And of course, the crispy eggplant bacon. Consider this salad a deconstructed, whimsical deviation from its roots, if you will. Like most of my recipes, it is anything but traditional, yet still incredibly satisfying and delicious.
Massaged Kale “Cobb” Salad with Crispy Eggplant “Bacon” – serves 2
Crispy Eggplant “Bacon”
1 large eggplant
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
pinch black pepper
Slice the eggplant to about 1/8-1/4” thickness (for best results, a mandolin should be used.)
Whisk together remaining ingredients.
In a large baking dish, layer the eggplant slices, pouring some of the marinade over each layer, and tilting the dish so that all of the eggplant is soaked in the liquid. Let sit for 30 minutes.
Turn on oven to the lowest possible setting. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove eggplant slices from the marinade and arrange on the baking sheets. Place them in the oven, and “cook” for several hours, or overnight, until crispy. Actual time will vary according to oven temperature.
*Truly raw food requires not exceeding a certain cooking temperature; this is thought to maintain the nutritional integrity of the food. I don’t know exactly what the temperature is, nor do I know the temperature of the “warm” setting on my oven. It’s possible that a true raw foodie would not consider my eggplant “bacon” to be raw, but I was just concerned with getting the effect of dehydrated eggplant.
Massaged Kale “Cobb” Salad with Crispy Eggplant “Bacon”
1/2 of a ripe avocado
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Freshly ground black pepper
4 cups chopped kale
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 medium tomato, diced
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
1 oz crumbled blue cheese
a few slices of crispy eggplant “bacon”, broken into small pieces
2 eggs, poached
Puree the avocado, garlic, lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, and pepper.
In a large bowl, pour the olive oil over the kale and sprinkle with salt. With clean hands, massage the ingredients together for a few minutes, until the kale starts to wilt down. Add the pureed dressing mixture and continue massaging until evenly distributed.
Toss with the diced tomatoes, onion, blue cheese, and “bacon”. Divide the salad among two plates, and top each one with a poached egg.
Be sure to check out all of my favorite bloggers as they are featured on Friday Favs!