With Middle Eastern flavours and lots of vegetables, this bowls highlights the ancient grain freekeh, a roasted green wheat.
ORDER OF OPERATIONS
1. Brine the eggplant
2. Make the sauce
3. Bake the eggplant
4. Cook the freekeh
5. Prep the meatballs
6. Make the salad
7. Cook the meatballs
8. Assemble the bowls
4 cups [960 ml] water
1 Tbsp salt
1 globe eggplant, trimmed and sliced crosswise
white garlic sauce
1 head garlic
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1 cup [240 ml] canola oil
1 cup [180 g] freekeh
2 cups [480 ml] chicken or vegetable broth
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
11⁄2 lb [680 g] ground meat (lamb is lovely here, but beef or turkey will work, too)
1 small onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
1⁄2 cup [15 g] fresh mint leaves, minced
2 Tbsp mild paprika
2 tsp ground cumin
3⁄4 tsp salt
1⁄4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
1 to 2 Tbsp canola or vegetable oil
chopped cucumber salad
1 large English or other slicing cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, and chopped
1 tsp minced fresh mint
1 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp ground sumac
1 cup [150 g] grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
TO BRINE THE EGGPLANT: Pour the water into a bowl large enough to accommodate the eggplant slices. Add the salt and stir to dissolve. Put the eggplant slices in the salted water and top the eggplant with a plate slightly smaller than the diameter of the bowl to keep them submerged. Let sit for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400°F [200°C]. Spray a baking sheet with olive oil cooking spray.
FOR THE SAUCE: Separate the head of garlic into cloves and peel the cloves. If you want to tame the sharp garlic flavor of this sauce, bring a small saucepan filled with water to a boil over high heat, add the garlic cloves, blanch for 1 minute, drain, and proceed with the recipe. If you prefer to keep the flavor intense, skip this step and use raw garlic (I do!). In a blender, combine the garlic, lemon juice, and salt and whirl until more or less smooth. With the blender running on medium speed, add the canola oil in a very slow, steady stream. The oil will blend with the garlic mixture, resulting in an almost-fluffy and brilliantly white sauce. Cover and set aside. Garlic lovers will want to dollop this sauce on at will, but they need to make sure that anyone they kiss later has eaten it, too.
TO BAKE THE EGGPLANT: Drain the egg¬plant slices and pat them thoroughly dry. Set the eggplant slices on the prepared pan in a single layer and spray the tops with cooking spray. Bake the slices, turning them once after 15 minutes, until browned on both sides and tender, about 30 minutes total. If the slices fail to brown but are tender, turn on the broiler, position the oven rack about 3 in [7.5 cm] from the heating element, and broil the slices on both sides until browned. Remove from the oven, let cool, and cut into narrow strips. Set aside.
FOR THE FREEKEH: Heat a medium, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add the freekeh and cook, stirring or shaking the pan often, until the freekeh is toasted and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Cover, turn the heat to low, and cook, undisturbed, until the liquid is absorbed and the freekeh is tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the heat, uncover, fluff with a fork, and stir in the lemon juice and zest. Re-cover and let sit until serving, then fluff again just before serving.
TO PREP THE MEATBALLS: In a large bowl, break up the ground meat into small pieces. Using the large holes of a box grater, grate the onion onto the meat. Sprinkle the garlic, mint, paprika, cumin, salt, and cayenne (if using) over the meat and onion, then, using your fingers, gently mix everything together.
Divide the mixture into twelve equal portions. Roll each portion into a ball between your palms and place on a platter or baking sheet. (Dampening your hands with water will help keep the meat from sticking to them.) Set aside while you make the salad.
FOR THE SALAD: In a medium bowl, combine the cucumber, mint, vinegar, and olive oil and toss to mix well. Season with salt and mix again.
TO COOK THE MEATBALLS: Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 Tbsp of the oil to the pan and swirl the pan to coat the bottom evenly. Add the meatballs and cook, turning them as needed and adding a little more oil if necessary to prevent sticking, until browned all over and cooked through, about 8 minutes total.
TO ASSEMBLE: Divide the freekeh among four bowls. Arrange three meatballs on the center of the freekeh in each bowl. Put the cucumber salad and the eggplant on either side of the meatballs. Sprinkle the sumac over everything, finish with the tomatoes, and serve. Pass the garlic sauce at the table.
BOWLS! Reprinted from Bowls! Recipes and Inspirations for Healthful One-Dish Meals by Molly Watson (Chronicle Books). Photographs by Nicole Franzen.
This original article first appeared in the Summer 2017 issue of City Style and Living Magazine.