If you peeked inside my refrigerator any given day you'd likely find some kind of dip, spread, sauce, vinaigrette, or salsa hanging out. Last week I made a Mexican cashew cream (a cilantro and lime version of this sauce). Other favorites are a simple lemon vinaigrette (recipe coming soon), hummus, tahini sauce, and a pesto or green sauce. This week I have this roasted eggplant dip for all-week snacking.
You can find more saucy ideas in my recipe index. I've given sauces and spreads their own category because I believe they deserve as much attention during meal planning. (Remember my Meal Planning Strategies! Sauces fit into Strategy #3: High-flavor condiments.) They’re the savory equivalent of icing on the cake, bringing an extra dimension to mealtime, a boost of flavor, keeping the meal from tasting "dry" or "lacking", and tying together various food groups on the plate (especially in bowl meals like in this Black Bean Bowl). And if they're hearty or filled with greens and herbs, like the ones linked above, then they also serve a functional purpose of boosting protein, healthy fats, and the overall nutritional density of the meal.
Most of all, I find that taking 10-30 minutes on the weekend to whip up a good sauce or dip turns the weekday question of "What do I do about lunch, dinner, or a quick grab-and-go snack?" into a no-brainer. When I'm standing in front of the fridge on a Wednesday night trying to pull together lunch for work the next day I might find leftover lentils, quinoa or beans, some roasted vegetables. Maybe I'll add some olives, avocado, or a soft boiled egg. But guys, it's really all about the sauce. Adding it to the mix makes me go from feeling "just okay" about what I've pulled together to genuinely excited about my meal the next day.
But if you don't yet believe that sauces can make such a difference, then at least trust me and give it a go yourself! Add a sauce recipe to your weekly meal prep, even if you don't have a plan for it yet. I promise you, it will get used! Whether it's one of the sauces linked to above, in the index, or it's this smoky, creamy baba ganoush, I hope your sauce-making this week or next makes mealtime just a little bit easier, happier, and nourishing for you.
Baba Ganoush (aka Smoky Eggplant Dip)
Notes: Why do we need another Baba Ganoush recipe? Maybe collectively we don't, but I wanted to share my own method with you. It's unique in that I leave the eggplant skin on (this works if the skin is soft and you're using a sharp food processor blade) because I like the dark specks running through the dip. Plus I want to retain the purple-colored anti-inflammatory, cancer-fighting, and brain-boosting antioxidants and flavonoids that live in the skin. I also like adding roasted onion for sweetness and moisture. And finally, I call for fresh herbs to garnish but if I have enough I'll blend a handful of them into the sauce as well. Mint, cilantro or parsley are nice choices.
- 1 large eggplant
- 1 medium red onion
- scant 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
- 1 large clove of garlic, smashed
- Juice of almost 1 lemon
- 2 Tbsp. tahini
- 1 red chili or 1/2 tsp. cayenne/ground chili (optional)
- Chopped fresh mint to garnish (cilantro or parsley can be used instead)
- Preheat oven to 400 F/200 C
- Cut ends off eggplant and slice eggplant in half lengthwise. Place on lined baking sheet cut side up. With the tip of your knife score eggplant flesh, making 3 deep cuts in both directions. Quarter onion and place on baking dish alongside eggplant.
- Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until eggplant flesh is soft and browned on top (no oil is needed to bake). The onion will cook faster so remove it when soft, at about 15 minutes.
- Let eggplant cool slightly, then roughly chop. Leave the skin on! (Skin should soften as eggplant cools. If it's tough or dry for some reason, just scoop out the flesh instead.)
- Throw eggplant into a food processor with the remaining ingredients. (Do this in two batches if you're using a mini food processor.) Blend until smooth. Taste and adjust for salt, lemon, and spice. If it's a little dry, add some extra virgin olive oil and give it another blend. Garnish with mint for a pop of color and brightness and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.