Saturday, May 3, 2014

In The Trenches Plated Review: Za'atar Bread with Babaghanoush and Labneh

I was excited to see Babaghanoush on the Plated menu for this week.  Not only would I learn how to cook Babaghanoush but I would also learn how to spell Babaghanoush.  Plated continues to have really good vegetarian options that I can't resist and this was high on my list to cook.  It was my first meal I choose to make from this week's shipment.

Here's everything that came with the meal for 2 plates:

 This is what $30 worth of curated food looks like.

I am not sure why they always use just one garlic clove.  Nothing good ever comes from just one garlic clove.  If I had any garlic on hand (but I don't because I am a Plated customer who hates going to the supermarket) I would have thrown it in this recipe.

I went against the recipe order and strained the labneh first because the recipe recommending doing this at least 20 minutes up to overnight.  What is labneh?  Well, apparently it's just strained yogurt.  Per Wikipedia, the yogurt is strained "to remove its whey, resulting in a relatively thick consistency (between that of conventional yogurt and cheese) -- all while preserving yogurt's distinctive, sour taste."

So this is me straining it over my plastic coriander:

The recipe recommended using a fine mesh strainer but I'm a food novice who gets their ingredients shipped to them in a box so I clearly don't have those kind of tools.

Then I cut my eggplant up, seasoned it and threw it in the oven for roasting:

Annoying part #1 of this recipe was having to use half of the smoked paprika for this part of the recipe and the other half later.  I don't know who can quantitatively distribute spices from a tinyass plastic bag, but it wasn't me.  If they want us to use half of something later, they really need to put it in a different package.

One thing that is super-novice about my cooking abilities is my knife skills.  Plated gives you all your ingredients whole so there is a fair amount of chopping in some recipes.  The chopping and other prep work for this recipe was minimal and took way less time than the 25 minutes it took to roast the eggplant.

 I had 15 minutes of extra time that I could use declutter and dust my unused dining room table and also tidy up some of the mess I made in the kitchen so far.  I also was able to move forward to cutting up my naan bread.  Annoying part #2 of this recipe was that Plated only sent 2 pieces, which definitely wasn't going to be enough with the volume of babaghanoush (I was able to spell it without looking it up!).  They also sent me a thrashed piece that was paper thin in one quadrant so that didn't help either.

After my eggplant came out, I was able to throw my naan bread in the oven with the Za'atar.  What is Za'atar?  Well, it's "a condiment made from the dried herb(s), mixed with sesame seeds, dried sumac, and often salt, as well as other spices. Used in Arab cuisine, both the herb and spice mixture are popular throughout the Middle East" (thanks Wikipedia for filling in my vast culinary knowledge gaps).

The eggplant turned out pretty good but it was way too hot to handle for a little while. That added a little bit more to my total time.

The naan bread did not cook properly.  I think maybe it was not supposed to be cooked at the same temperature as the eggplant so I was able to get an even brown to the bread and it also overcooked a little.

I moved onto making my babaghanoush.  Annoying part #3 of this recipe is that as I was squeezing my lemons, I really wished they had provided me with those mesh shower caps for lemons that you get at restaurants so I didn't have to pick out every seed that fell out.  

Now, what the heck, Plated recipe editor - you recommend finely chopping the eggplant on the first page of the recipe in the general description, but do not put this recommendation in the actual steps of the recipe!  I didn't glance back to this until I had already thrown the ingredients all together in my bowl so I ended up with super stringy babaghanoush.

Still it didn't turn out so bad.  We had half of the babaghanoush left over after the bread was gone but it went well with some leftover tortilla chips we had in the pantry.  The labneh paired really well with the mild spice of the babaghanoush.

Final Results:
My Cook Time: 1 hour 10 minutes vs Plated Cook Time: 40-50 minutes
Flavor: 5/5
       All the spices worked really well together and they were ones I wouldn't have thought to use.
Skill Level Required: 2/5
        Pretty easy recipe to make.
Portion Size: 3/5
        Not enough naan bread.
Mess Level: 2/5
        All my cooking dishes fit in one dishwasher load, which can be rare for a Plated Recipe.
Likely to Cook Again?: Yes.
        I would use flavored naan bread that my supermarket has instead.  I also would cook something else with it to make it seem more like a full meal instead of appetizer.

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