Last week I wrote about a long-time favorite recipe of mind: The Vegetarian Epicure’s Eggplant Soufflé. It caught member Suzy Dannette Brown’s attention. The owner of The Brown Bag Nutrition & Chef Services loves eggplant and decided to add more Middle Eastern flavors–and make it for herself. That same day the eggplant was in the oven roasting and her creative juices flowing. Suzy added caramelized red onions, Mediterranean oregano, substituted grated parmesan for fresh sheep feta (love this idea), cow’s milk for almond milk, and oats for wheat flour.

I asked her why she made the changes.

“Well, I love roasted eggplant to the point of almost burnt,” she explained. “This is why I roast it till it is collapsing. I find it is easier if you cut it in half versus leaving it whole. I prefer this method. The end product is to my personal liking. I know roasting it whole until very very soft other people like better. That is, I think a personal choice. 

“I love red onions so deeply caramelized (just before burning) with brandy. Sometimes you may need more fat in the pan so they do not burn. I use a small red onion. I think red onions caramelize better than their yellow and white siblings. I also prefer the flavor. 

“Putting the two together is amazing.”

Suzy also added the garlic to the roux to permeate the roux with the garlic flavor. Adding in the chopped caramelized onions, she said, darkens the roux. “It’s a quick way to turn it from blond to brown,” she said.

Because eggplant to her is so Mediterranean, Suzy used the oregano and feta. In fact, she suggests using a zaatar spice mix to really hike those flavors.

Finally, she doesn’t drink cow’s milk and so chose almond milk and prefers oat flour to all-purpose wheat flour.

Suzy’s next step is to work with aquafaba (chickpea water found in canned chickpeas), whipping the aquafaba to replace whipped egg whites.

“I love taking traditional recipes and see how I can make them vegan,” she said.

Eggplant Soufflé for 2
Suzy Dannette Brown, The Brown Bag Nutrition & Chef Services

Ingredients
1 cup roasted eggplant, pat dry and chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon butter
1/2 teaspoon avocado oil
1/4 cup sliced red onion
1/2 teaspoon Mediterranean oregano
1 tablespoon brandy (optional)
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon oat flour
1 medium clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup almond milk
1 ounce fresh sheep feta, crumbled
2 large eggs, separated
Middle Eastern chili sauce (optional)

2 10.5-ounce ramekins, buttered and sprinkled with salt and pepper

Directions
Preheat oven to 400°.

Slice 1 small eggplant in half lengthwise. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on a lined sheet pan flesh side down. Bake for about 45 minutes or until the pulp is soft and caramelized. Cool to room temperature. Scrape out all the pulp and discard the skin. Place the pulp on a paper towel to drain a bit and chop it. Season it with salt and pepper, as needed. This can be done a day in advance.

In a small skillet heat a ½ teaspoon of butter and ½ teaspoon of avocado oil. Add red onion. Season with salt and pepper. Sauté onions on low until they begin to caramelize and turn golden brown. I like to add a splash of brandy to give the onions a bit more depth of flavor.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a small saucepan. Stir in the oat flour and let the roux cook for a few minutes. Add minced garlic and caramelized onions to combine well into the roux.

Slowly whisk the almond milk into the roux. When the sauce thickens, remove it from the heat and stir in the oregano, feta and the eggplant pulp. Season with salt and pepper. Add the egg yolks and fold in until everything is well combined.

Whisk the egg whites until they are quite stiff but not yet dry. Stir about a third of the egg whites into the eggplant mixture thoroughly. Gently fold in the remaining whites.

Pile the prepared soufflé ramekins. Place ramekins on a rimed baking sheet, place in oven and fill with some warm water (just enough to bing up ¼ inch of the ramekins). Place in a preheated, 400-degree oven. Bake the soufflé about 10 to 12 minutes. The soufflés should be firm to touch but not dry. Serve at once.

I like to top them with a Middle Eastern chili sauce

Are you a chef who likes to turn traditional recipes upside down? What have been your successes? What didn’t work out quite the way you wanted?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

Crabby salad2

We’ve written about Suzy Brown of The Brown Bag Nutrition & Chef Services. Suzy is a longtime APPCA member and recently started using essential oils. We’ve long been curious about these oils–what they are and how they’re used in the kitchen so we asked Suzy to give us a primer. If you, too, have been wondering about them, you’ll want to ready Suzy’s post below and enjoy the recipe she’s included that incorporates two essential oils:

I went into my local nutrition store and picked a couple, black pepper and lemon, then started learning more about the healing properties of EOs. What I found out is that while they are rising in popularity today, using plants for healing dates back thousands of years. Many of today’s pharmaceuticals have their origins in plants. And it’s not uncommon today to use lavender oil for calmness or ginger to treat nausea. Using essential oils in cooking, however, requires research because some EOs are only meant to be used topically, as cleaners, or sprays, not ingested, while others that are edible are very strong and could cause problems if they aren’t used correctly. Look for a supplemental facts area on the bottles, which notes the oils are safe to ingest.

Once I felt I understand how essential oils worked, I started teaching a monthly class on their healing properties and how to cook with them.

Here are answers to some of the most basic questions I get about EOs:

What is an essential oil (EO)? EOs are fragrant, dynamic compounds that are extracted through the distillation process from flowers, shrubs, leaves, trees, roots, skins and/or seeds. Funnily enough, EOs do not contain lipids like their fatty vegetable oil siblings, and as a result their distinctive chemistry enables them to permeate every cell and administer healing properties in the body. This structural complexity, created through volatile organic compounds (VOC), enables an EO to perform various functions with a few drops.

What purpose do they serve? EOs can provide a myriad of benefits to the body, mind, spirit…and wallet! EOs are used to treat everything from anxiety to yeast infections. All EOs are adaptogens, a natural substance that promotes a balancing reaction in the body.

EOs work by targeting the cause of the problem rather than simply addressing a symptom(s). In some cases you are likely to experience rapid relief and steady improvement. Many EOs are analgesics, acting directly with the nervous system to subdue pain; anti-inflammatory; antiseptics; promote relaxation and stress relief.

Let me give you two examples of how the two favorites I mentioned above work:

Black Pepper: Spleen strengthening, digestive issues, stress reducer, natural painkiller, stimulates the circulatory system, added to hot water or tea, savory dishes.

Lemon: Antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, fights (colds, flu, fever, headaches). Add to water, warm or cold for a natural detox. Flavor Enhancer for savory, sweet, cocktails.

How are EOs made? EOs are, as previously touched on, steam distilled from plants. However, there are different types of extractions, including water vapor distillation, pressure extraction, expression, enlfeurage, solvent extraction, CO2 extraction, and synthetic imitation. For example, citrus EOs are cold pressed. One pound of essential oil requires at least 50 pounds of plant material. So, for instance, one pound of rosemary EO requires 66 pounds of fresh rosemary.

Are EOs safe to digestWhile contemporary society has accepted that the use of EOs is dangerous, civilizations have been using them for centuries. Today, industries that produce products like toothpaste, skin care, and sodas use them. So, before you run away from fear, keep in mind that these frequently used items have proven safe to ingest.

When you buy essential oils, look for organic, therapeutic-grade EOs. Purchased products should have bottle and company labels that include the following: 100 percent natural, an English plant name, a botanical name, the utilized part of the plant, the production method, the country of origin, and any hazard or allergy notations. And they should state they are safe to ingest.

What is the toxicity of EOs? Certain EOs have irritation potential and can be toxic when ingested in large doses. A little goes a long way. It only takes a few drops of an EO to make an impact. Regardless, if one were to ingest larges doses of an EO, they may experience these possible, short-term complications: burning of the mucus membrane of the oral cavity, throat, and esophagus, the occurrence of reflux by irritating the digestive tract, some symptoms of nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea, interference of certain medications rending the EO useless, possible interference with anesthesia, and elevation of live enzymes. In that same line, if you are allergic to a food then you will be allergic to its EO. The FDA’s Generally Recognized as Safe, or GRAS, list has been tested with contemporary technology. Note, per the FDA, there are oils that are NOT recommended for ingestion, and oils that are not recommended for use by folks with particular medical conditions, or who are pregnant or nursing.

How do you cook with EOs? First, look back to Q3 and note that for internal use only use organic, therapeutic-grade oils (these oils are 100 percent pure). Also, keep in mind brand reputation. Choose products from reputable companies and suppliers to ensure you make smart, healthy purchases. From there, lead with this golden rule: 1 to 4 drops of EO per recipe.

Some of my favorite EOs you’ll find in my kitchen include black pepper, cilantro, grapefruit, lemon, all varieties of citrus, and peppermint. Below is my recipe for “Crabby Salad,” which features black pepper and lemon essential oils.

Crabby salad2

“Crabby” Salad Featuring Black Pepper & Lemon Essential Oils
Recipe by The Brown bag; Nutrition & Chef Services

Ingredients:

  • 1, 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1, 15-ounce can whole hearts of palm, drained and rinsed
  • 5 cups fresh celery, minced (baby leaves too)
  • 1/4 cup shallot, minced
  • 1 poblano pepper, seeded and minced
  • 1 bunch chives, minced
  • 1/4 cup parsley, minced
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise, vegan or homemade preferred
  • Old Bay Seasoning, to taste
  • Large pinch Himalayan Salt
  • 4 drops black pepper essential oil
  • 2 to 4 drops lemon essential oil

In a large mixing bowl add in the chickpeas. Dice the hearts of palm into small pieces, about the size of the garbanzo bean. Mince all the remaining vegetables and add them into the mixing bowl. Toss with the mayo, spices and essential oils. Adjust seasonings as needed.

Serving suggestions:

  • Lettuce cups
  • Avocado half
  • With crackers
  • If you mash the garbanzo beans a bit you can even put this salad into a sandwich

Essential Oil Chefs Notes:

  • Start with 1 drop of oil then taste.
  • Adjust as needed.
  • Remember you can always add… you can not remove.

Are you using essential oils for cooking? What are your favorites?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!