Eggplant, Tomatoes, peppers, chickpeas.

I cook with these ingredients a lot.

Sometimes all together. Sometimes in different combinations with some other vegetables thrown in. But they’re pretty standard occupiers of my fridge.

We all go to the market and we all find ourselves coming back with the same things over and over again.

There’s not an infinite number of vegetables in the world. And there’s not an infinite number of foods to be tried.


There are infinite possibilities when it comes to flavors.

Recently I’ve been exploring an aisle in the store I usually shied away from. Instead of picking up the usual salt, pepper and dried basil, I’ve been venturing out with things like coriander and ground ginger.

Mixing spices lets you transform your vegetables. Spices can take eggplant from Italy to Morocco and to your dinner table.

And that’s what I did with this dish. I took my usual suspects of tomatoes, eggplant, peppers and chickpeas and tossed them with some new spices. The result? The smoky and complex flavors of the dishes I’ve had in Moroccan restaurants.

For this dish you will need

  • 1 eggplant, peeled and chopped
  • 2 green bell peppers, chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon coriander

Drizzle olive oil in a large pot and toss in the eggplant, seasoning with salt and pepper. Let the eggplant cook on its own for a few minutes until it starts to brown. Eggplant is like a sponge, so add more oil if it soak it all up.


Add the peppers and stir, letting them soften a bit.


Next add in the tomatoes. This is a one pot dinner that’s all about layering the flavors. The vegetables cook at different times, so by adding them in throughout the cooking process, each gets the chance to cook through without turning to mush.


Last, add in the chickpeas and the spices. Give the pot a big stir, cover and let simmer for about 10 minutes. This is a great dish if your significant other is going to be late because it can just hang on the stove over low heat until everyone is home.


Dish up heaping bowls and top with a scoop of tzatziki.


The noise of the city fades as the spices transport you to a far off village…

Salad Days – Persian Shirazi Salad

My salad days,
When I was green in judgment: cold in blood,
To say as I said then! But, come, away;
Get me ink and paper:
He shall have every day a several greeting,
Or I’ll unpeople Egypt.

So spake Cleoptara in Shakespeare’s Anthony and Cleopatra.

And there is the meaning of the phrase salad days. A period of time in one’s life that points to one’s youth, to blissful abandon, to idealism. I tend to associate Salad Days with Richard Hell and punk rock in general.

In the reviews of Richard Hell’s book I Dreamed I was a very Clean Tramp, the reviewers have noted that “In the end, the demiworld salad days came crashing down.”

There’s a novel about growing up in the 80s punk scene by Charles Romalotti by the name Salad Days.

In any event, salad days and punk rock are linked in my mind.

Which I suppose isn’t that far off from it’s true definition of idealism and youth…

But I digress.

The phrase kept coming to mind today when I was trying to think of what to make for dinner. It’s hazy, hot and humid here in the city, with hair frizzing uncontrollably, and a walk to the coffee shop inducing loads of sweat.

So when dinner came up, I thought, well today is surely a salad day.

I was flippin gthrough Bon Appetit Magazine and came across a colorful and exuberant spread on Persian dishes. Cool and crisp salads with fresh cucumbers, tomatoes and herbs; even cooler creamy yogurt dips for pita breads.

Persia is speaking my language.

Tonight is about combining ingredients we love in a different way. It’s about bright, refreshing flavors and even brighter colors. This is a super simple vegetarian option for Meatless Monday, a great make ahead for lunch for work or a great way to start a meal.

We are going to make beet yogurt dip and shirazi salad.

Shirazi salad is simply a salad of cucumbers, tomatoes and herbs. There is a “right” way to prepare the “traditional” salad, but I’m a firm believer in adjusting for your tastes. But here’s the recipe if you want it.

You want a mix of different tomatoes for contrast, cucumbers for crunch, one or two herbs, and then the dressing.

Here’s what you need for the dressing:

  • red wine vinegar
  • olive oil
  • juice of half a lime
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 shallot, minced

Whisk up the dressing in a large bowl. I went with 3 parts oil to one part vinegar, plus the lime juice. But again, adjust to your tastes.

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Now, get ready to start chopping. I used 2 English cucumbers, almost 2 pints of campari tomatoes and almost 1 pint of yellow grape tomatoes.

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I quartered the camparis and halved the yellows.

Peel and cube up the cucumbers.

Toss it all in the bowl and coat with the dressing.

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Tear in your herbs. I went with parsley and mint and a touch of scallions. The recipe calls for terragon and chives, but the groery store didn’t hae them. Salads should be thrown together with things you like and they shouldn’t be stressed about. It’s too hot to stress. So use the herbs you like and that will give some more freshness to the dish.


We added some crisp romaine to the mix as a bed for the tomato and cucumber mix.


I definitely suggest making this the night before or the morning of so it can sit in the fridge and, say it with me now, fester.

Truly, all jokes at dad’s expense aside, this is something that tastes better the next day.

To accompany the salad, you can easily do the crusty bread and butter route. You can also whip up some hummus and warm some pita bread. But, well, we just made hummus. And I don’t want you all to think I’m boring!

You know my obsession with Greek yogurt though. I put tzatziki on everything and dunk berries in the stuff for an afternoon snack.

But again, we’ve made tzatziki before.

But the beet yogurt recipe next to the shirazi salad. Now that caught my eye. A bright purple bowl of yogurt to dip bread into? Now that livens up a table!

I love beets. Beets are one of those things I am greateful is good for you. Loaded with nutrients and antioxidants and they have anti-inflammatory properties.

And did I mention the beautiful purply pinky color?

But back to the dip. You will need

Preheat the oven to 400.

The only cooking involved is roasting the beets. You are going to put them in the oven for an hour and then walk away. That’s it. I promise.

Trim the ends off the beets and wash them.

Lay out two sheets of aluminum foil, doubled, on the counter. You are going to wrap the beets up in a packet so make sure the foil is large enough to surround the beets.

Place the beets, skins on, in the center of the foil. Fold up the sides of the foil, leaving an opening at the top.

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Drizzle in some olive oil and some salt and pepper.

Close ’em up.

Into the oven for one hour.

Flip through a magazine. Vacuum the apartment. Paint your nails.

Remove the beets from the oven.

Pop them in the fridge to cool them off if you’re in a rush, otherwise let them sit on the counter until they are able to be handled.

Take a paper towel and use it to rub the skins off. You can peel them off before you roast (I used to) but this is way easier.

Discard the skins.

Grate the roasted beets into a bowl.

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Scoop in one small container of Greek yogurt (like the individual serving sizes).

Start mixing until the beets are well-incorporated with the yogurt and it takes on this beautiful purple color.

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Add salt and pepper to taste and a minced garlic clove. Tear in a few mint leaves and mix.

Warm the pita in the oven, serve up the salad  and slather the bread with the beet-infused yogurt.


Between the creamy yogurt and the bursting tomatoes, you will forget about the heat outside.