The Midwest. A patchwork of big cities and small towns that in combination, are considered the broadest representation of American culture. The heartland. And the focus of a new cookbook, Vegetarian Heartland, by Shelly Westerhausen, which this recipe for Minted Baba Ghanoush comes from.
This place on the map…. it’s where I’ve been all 33 years of my life, having lived in Iowa, Wisconsin, and my home state of Minnesota. It’s where I feel my best at, where my rhythm flows freely. And I never plan on leaving, as so many things about it have captured my heart and soul.
The absolute, unspoiled solitude of the Minnesota northwoods.
The sublime swoops and swirls of the Northern Lights.
The definitive, changing seasons.
The stranger who helps dig you out of a snowdrift.
Big yards for kids to play in.
Family potlucks in the park, loaded with an assortment of hotdishes and Hamm’s beer.
State and county fairs: blue-ribbon winners, midway rides and food on a stick.
The Great Lakes.
Eating corn on the cob that you bought from a roadside stand.
Rhubarb’s sweet/tart combination in any form, from pie to crisp to muffin.
Picking apples at the orchard and eating cider donuts.
I could go on about my love for middle America, especially about the food, particularly why I’m absolutely loving Vegetarian Heartland. Besides this smoky, creamy, roasted eggplant dip, there are a multitude of recipes that sing the abundance of fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy that define the bounty of the Midwest. Something we are all so proud of!
Last summer, I had the opportunity to meet Shelly when she visited Minnesota for a retreat I hosted, and I could immediately tell she was an adventurer and creative, besides being warm hearted and kind. The book reflects all of those attributes, split into sections that are both seasonal and adventure driven. Think road trips, camping, hiking, cookouts, picnics, holiday hosting, snow days. All depicted with the most glowing photography, that truly lets your mind escape before you even leave the kitchen.
This roasted eggplant dip, a Minted Baba Ganoush, is very easy to make, blended in a food processor or blender with just a few ingredients. Think of it as hummus, but the eggplant stands in for the chickpeas. With tahini, lime juice, and a few spices, it has a mediterranean feel that goes lovely with pita bread, vegetables, crackers, and even as a sandwich spread. The mint on top only enhances it’s flavor, and I also added some crushed red pepper flakes for a bit of heat and color. One thing to note is that your eggplants will always be a little different in size, so you may have to slightly adjust the tahini, salt, and the acidic component (lime or lemon juice) each time you make it. Enjoy!