eggplant fesenjan

it's becoming increasingly difficult for me to turn off my brain. it keeps swirling with thoughts of all kinds. david left before the sun rose this morning for a short climbing trip to cananda. he asked me what my plans were for the weekend. my response was simply to "be active." because when i allow my body to stop moving, this is when the thoughts swirl aggressively. there's a sanskrit word for this state of mind in the yoga practice: "vrittis." yoga is one way to calm this whirlpool in the mind - it is a moving meditation. for me, cycling, climbing and even sometimes cooking are other ways to calm my mind … between all of my daily activities, i find myself almost constantly in a state of moving meditation.

so this morning i visited a friend's yoga class. (doing exactly what i told david i would do. be active.) her words challenged my perception of this constant state of movement. she questioned whether movement was sometimes used as a distraction from the bigger picture. it struck a cord with me. why am i stuck in this whirpool when my body finds stillness? i have much to reflect on and need to create more time to simply sit, reflect, journal or discuss. in stillness.

on an entirely different note, i have an incredible recipe to share. it's my vegetarian take on a dish my father often made for us when i was growing up. the recipe for fesenjan originally came from a iranian family friend. it is a rich & tangy persian stew made with chicken, walnuts and pomegranate. these flavors came to mind the other day, but i wanted to create a meal to feature beauitful eggplants i had picked up fresh from the farmers market. and here you have it. eggplant fesenjan. 

eggplant fesenjan ~ serves 4
for the sauce 
1 onion, finely chopped 
2 cups raw walnuts
2 tablespoon olive oil or ghee
1/4 cup tomato sauce
3 tablespoons pomegranate syrup or 1 cup unsweetened pomegranate juice
1 cup water
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon sumac
1/2 teaspoon aleppo chili flakes
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
1 pinch saffron

for the eggplant
6 small japanese or chinese eggplant
1 tablespoons sumac
1/2 teaspoon aleppo chili flakes
1 teaspoon onion powder
3/4 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
2-3 tablespoons olive oil

saffron rice
2 cups jasmine rice
3 cups water
1 pinch saffron
chopped parsley for garnish

starting with the sauce, finely chop walnuts by hand or in a food processor until just a bit courser than a nut flour. in a medium-large sauce pan, sauté chopped onion over medium heat in oil or ghee for 5 minutes until caramelized. add tomato sauce and sauté for another 2 minutes. add remaining ingredients and simmer for 30-40 minutes. oils will start to draw out from the walnuts and the sauce will reduce in half. once the sauce starts to simmer, start cooking rice and then roast the eggplants. 

for the rice, i divided the rice into two pots and cooked one with saffron and the other without. this is how my dad used to cook the rice for a beautiful contrast in color and presentation. or sometimes he would just top white rice with a smaller scoop of deeply saffron-colored rice. alternatively, you can cook all rice together with a pinch of saffron for a lightly-colored rice. 

for the eggplant, preheat oven to 400 degrees. cut eggplants in half and use a sharp knife to score the flesh in an 'x' pattern. be careful not to cut through the skin of the eggplant, but cut fairly deep. mix remaining ingredients in a small bowl and poor evenly over the fleshy part of each eggplant. use your hands to rub the spiced oil mixture into the flesh, and lightly on the skin of the eggplants. place onto a parchment lined baking sheet skin-side down. depending on the size of the eggplants, roast for 20-30 minutes until skin is lightly crisped and flesh is fork tender. i'd suggest waiting to roast the eggplants until you have the sauce simmering and rice steaming.

to serve, toss saffron rice with white rice and top with baked eggplant and a small cup of stew or douse it directly on top!