I still can't decide quite how I feel about it. Fall. The impending winter. The cold, piercing air that sneaks in through the window slits in my apartment.
In this moment, buried under two blankets and donning a thick J. Crew hooded sweatshirt with the hood up, I hate it. Just like I hate it when I wake up to a dark room at 6:00 a.m. and know that I have to peel myself from the warm sanctuary of my bed to go outside. And run.
Every morning my body rebels against the inevitable. I hit the snooze button and pull my pink comforter over my head to seal the heat in for just a few more precious minutes before I finally force myself to get up. I whimper as I yank a long sleeve shirt over my fists to keep Los Angeles' version of frigid air from numbing my fingers. As I take those first strides, I'm miserable, and nostalgically thinking back to summer when I could run outside in tank tops and skivvy-like shorts.
Then there are the other moments -- when snuggling under two blankets with a cup of hot tea feels comforting rather than distressing. When I get back from that run and take that first bite of cinnamon apple-scented oatmeal. When I'm belting out the lyrics to Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas." When I'm stomping on leaves in my tall brown Sechelles boots.
And when I turn the oven on to roast my dinner.
I love that part. Love the way my oven clangs to life like a furnace as soon as I spin the dial. Love that it instantly perfumes the air with warmth and hominess. Love that I can toss a myriad of seemingly incoherent ingredients together to create a completely coherent meal.
Purple eggplant, butternut squash, tempeh, pomegranate molasses, garlic, lemon... heaven.
The oven is the center of my universe during fall. During winter. During moments like this one where I can't fathom even slipping a toe outside of my blanket fortress. And it's recipes like this one that make me sort of love the cold, piercing air that sneaks in through the window slits in my apartment.
Pomegranate-Glazed Eggplant with Tempeh
Adapted from Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Every Day
Notes: I doubled the amount of eggplant and butternut squash, and added kale, lemon juice and brown sugar. I also increased the amount of cilantro, omitted the feta, and used less olive oil. Rather than smashing the raw garlic, I pre-roasted it so it would be easier to mash together with the other components of the sauce. As usual, I added an extra clove for good measure.
2 long, thin Asian eggplant, cut into small cubes
8 ounces tempeh, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 cups butternut squash, cut into small cubes
4 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Zest of 1 small lemon
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/3 cup pomegranate molasses
2 cups kale, sliced into slivers (optional)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place unpeeled garlic cloves in small oven-safe dish. Roast for approximately 10 minutes.
Remove garlic and smash with sea salt into a paste. Place in small bowl, add red pepper flakes, lemon juice, lemon zest, olive oil, brown sugar, and pomegranate molasses. Whisk together.
Arrange eggplant, tempeh and butternut squash cubes in a glass baking dish. Toss with pomegranate molasses mixture until well coated. Spread into an even layer. Roast, stirring once or twice, for 30-45 minutes, until the eggplant is soft and the squash is starting to caramelize. Toss in the kale, let roast 5 more minutes.
Remove from oven and stir in the cilantro. Serve with farro, barley or brown rice.