oh holy eggplant: aida mollenkamp's keys to the kitchen

Is it just me, or is there some sort of hiatus in Hollywood? Like, no blockbuster run-away hit movies to dream about going to (in all my spare time), not even a lousy romantic comedy to overpay for on hulu. No matter, because if you ask me, this is the year of the cookbook. They just keep landing on the shelves, one stunner after another. Ever since my own came out, I'm guilty of pre-ordering every hot-new release on Amazon, so they literally land on my front steps on release day. I know, indulgent.  I celebrate every one by putting it aside on the couch and waiting until everyone is sleeping before nestling in with it on the couch. And like a good movie, my kind of cookbook can really take you somewhere. Somewhere you've never been, but dream of. Or somewhere you have been, but want to return to again. An exotic destination, a feel-good moment. A ridiculously good meal at your very own table. 

This new book, this splendid book, Aida Mollenkamp's Keys to the Kitchen, did that for me. 

Full disclosure, Aida and I go way back to a funny day in the Food Network Kitchens when we found ourselves on camera together for a fleeting moment. That moment led to her Food Network and later Cooking Channel shows Ask Aida, and my favorite FoodCrafters. But if you ask me, this book is where Aida really shines. I thought I knew Aida's food--fun, flavorful, a touch of the exotic. Delicious, mostly healthful, sometimes indulgent. A bit of LA and San Fran and enough style to spare. But in this book, Aida shares even more of herself, the parts even some of her friends (who, sadly on the other coast, don't have a chance to sit down at her table too often) don't know. This girl, and her food, have soul. Soul that seems to come from all over the world. Peanut Butter-Banana Bread? Buttermilk Biscuits with Black Pepper Brown Butter? Sage-Maple Skillet Corn Bread? (oops, did I just get stuck in the Breads and Doughs chapter? Oh yes I did.) Charred Chile, Corn and Zucchini Tacos? Pistachio Carrot Cake with Brown Sugar-Cream Cheese Frosting? Yep, that's food to make a soul feel downright giddy.

Some of our food pals and I are celebrating Aida's book launch today, and every day this week, with a little online party to which you're invited. I must say, I had a hard time picking just one recipe to cook and share with you all, but this one struck me dead on with one glance. It's from a whole chapter of recipes I'm going to love on in the coming weeks called Meatless Mains. Aida, thanks for that. You all probably know by know how this household thinks that's the goods. With recipes like Smoked Mozzarella, Zucchini and Arugula Lasagna, Triple-Mushroom Stroganoff and this one, Eggplant Casserole with Pine Nut-Yogurt Sauce, I think we'll be set for a while.  

Since Aida's one of the most generous people I know, truly, she's sharing this recipe and, thanks to Chronicle Books, one copy of her brand-new book with you on my site today. Leave a comment to win {official rules below} and help me wish Aida a happy launch day. I know nothing that would make her happier than hearing that you all are heading to your own kitchens to cook tonight. 


Eggplant Casserole with Pine Nut—Yogurt Sauce
From Keys to the Kitchen
Reprinted with permission from Aida Mollenkamp and Chronicle Books

Poor eggplant, it always seems to be typecast in the kitchen, being constantly fried or breaded. In this healthy yet hearty Mediterranean-flavored casserole, it combines with tangy yogurt, earthy pine nuts, nutty bulgur, and a sweet tomato sauce for a new starring role.

Recipe With in a Recipe: Use the red pepper tomato sauce in place of normal tomato sauce.
Goes Well With: Serve with a simple green salad and some crusty bread.

6 servings
(4 cups/1 L sauce)
Total time
1 hour, 15 minutes
Hands-on time
40 minutes

¾ cup/180 ml water
½ tsp kosher salt
¾ cup/150 g cracked bulgur wheat

Red Pepper Tomato Sauce
2 tbsp olive oil
½ yellow onion, finely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 roasted red peppers, minced
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
One 28-oz/800-g can pureed tomatoes
¾ cup/30 g thinly sliced fresh basil or chopped Italian parsley, plus more for garnish
1⁄3 cup/45 g dried currants
Sugar (optional)

Eggplant Casserole
2 lb/910 g eggplant, cut into ½-in/12-mm slices
2 tbsp olive oil
Kosher salt
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup/240 ml plain, whole-milk, Greek-style yogurt
½ cup/47 g slivered almonds or pine nuts

For the bulgur
Combine the water and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the bulgur, stir to combine, and remove from the heat. Cover and let sit until the bulgur is tender and swelled up, 20 to 30 minutes. Meanwhile, make the sauce.

For the sauce
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When it shimmers, add the onion, season well with salt and black pepper, and cook until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add the roasted peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, until they just begin to color, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and tomato puree and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat to a simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is slightly thickened and flavors are melded, 15 to 20 minutes. When the sauce is ready, stir in the basil and currants. Taste and, if necessary, season with sugar, salt, or pepper. Remove from the heat and set aside. Meanwhile, cook the eggplant.

For the casserole
Heat the broiler and arrange a rack in the top of the oven. Brush the eggplant with oil and season with salt. Arrange the slices on a rimmed baking sheet and broil until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside. Decrease the oven temperature to 375°F/190°C/gas 5.

To assemble the casserole, spoon one-fourth of the sauce (about 1 cup/240 ml on the bottom of a 9-in/23-cm square baking dish. Lay one-third of the eggplant slices over the sauce. Spread all the bulgur over the eggplant. Repeat layering sauce and eggplant, ending with the sauce (you’ll have 4 layers of sauce and 3 of eggplant, with a layer of bulgur in the middle).

Place the garlic on a cutting board and sprinkle a pinch of salt on top. Chop the mixture until it is a rough paste. Stir the garlic into the yogurt. Spread over the sauce in an even layer on top of the casserole. Scatter the nuts over the yogurt. Bake until cooked through but not bubbling, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest 5 minutes.

Serve hot or at room temperature.

Riff : Replace the bulgur with 1½ cups/360 ml cooked ground meat.

Cracked bulgur is cracked wheat that is the same size as cornmeal and is used to make tabbouleh. If you can’t find it, you can use quinoa (cook according to package directions) or leave it out.

Dried currants are a seedless grape that has been dried. It is not the same as the fruit that's related to the gooseberry.

Greek yogurt is a strained yogurt that is thicker and tangier than regular yogurt. It has become more and more widely available, but if you can’t find it, regular plain yogurt will work too.

The bulgur can be made up to 2 days ahead. Store refrigerated until ready to use.

The sauce can be made up to 2 days ahead. Store refrigerated until ready to use.

The casserole can be assembled up to 2 days before baking and can be baked up to 2 days ahead. Bring to room temperature before serving.

And if that recipe's not enough to knock you into blissful hibernation in your kitchen for the next few hours, watch Aida's darling cookbook trailer here and get inspired:

// Amazon // Anthropologie // Barnes & Noble // Chronicle Books //

Okay friends, here's how the giveaway works: 

Giveaway Details


To help you get , Chronicle Books is providing one (1) lucky reader with a copy of just-released, Keys to the Kitchen by Aida Mollenkamp.


This giveaway is open to USA visitors and will be open until Wednesday, October 31, 11:59pm PST.

Who Can Enter:

Open only to residents of the USA 18 years old and older.

How to Enter:

Leave a comment below — one entry per email address only please. For a second chance to enter, pin {to Pinterest} or tweet a link to this post with the has tag #keystothekitchen and let me know via comments. 

How Winner Will Be Chosen:

The winner will be chosen at Random.org and will be notified via email, so please make sure the email address you list in the comment section is correct. You will have 48 hours to respond, or a new winner will be chosen.

Fine Print: I am hosting this giveaway so you can experience this book for yourself. I am in no way being compensated for this giveaway and Chronicle Books has generously provided the prize copy of the book.

Photos are by Alex Farnum and styling by Lillian Kang and are copyrighted material.
And, New Yorker's, don't miss your chance to meet Aida at Anthropologie next month. Details here:

Keys To The Kitchen NYC Book Signing
Saturday, November 10, 2012 11AM to 1PM
75 9th Avenue, NY, NY 10011


Unknown said...

Thanks, Sarah, for all your kind words. It's the feedback from my friends and family that really has me giddy.

Lola said...

Sarah, you had me at Peanut Butter Banana Bread! I love baking banana bread but never though about adding peanut butter. It is funny that I tried peanut butter and banana sandwich this morning, for the first time. It was delicious!

jacquie said...

I can't wait to see Aida's book! After talking with the both of you at IACP and working with you, I can only imagine how beautiful the book is. You women are unstoppable and inspiring :)

Meghan Splawn said...

I'm always a little nervous about eggplant, but Aida's recipe give me hope! So happy to have found your space via the virtual dinner party!

Amy said...

Wow, this recipe is just simply amazing. I'm finding new ways to prepare eggplant, and this sounds heavenly!

Andrea Weiler said...

Sounds absolutely delicious! Such simple comfort food!

Andrea Weiler said...

Such simple, delicious comfort food! Congrats Aida!

pandapotamus said...

would love a copy of Aida's cookbook!

hungry girl said...

Looks fantastic! Aida's book would make a great addition to my cookbook collection!!

Loretta E. said...

I'd love to have a copy! I've been hearing nothing but wonderful things about this book...

Sheila said...

Both this dish and the cookbook look amazing!

Jenni said...

I like almost every food. But I have never found a way to like eggplant. This recipe, however, makes me want to give it another chance!
The book is beautiful - a real work of art! Would love to win it :)

Samantha Angela said...

I would love to win. I keep hearing such great things about the book.

Sarah Copeland said...

Hi everyone--and so sorry for the delay! We are under a blanket of white--the second of two serious storms in a week. Anyway, I'm so glad you all found your way here, and thanks for your comments and for supporting Aida's beautiful book. I'm happy that so many of you may find new love for Eggplant from this post--and doubly happy to announce the winner of the book giveaway. Amy, you won! I don't see an email for you, so please drop me a note at inquiries@edibleliving.com in the next 24 hours and I'll pop your book in the post.

P.S. I have made this delicious meal THREE times since I posted this, to rave reviews. Eggplant skeptics, be warned!

Sarah Copeland said...

Ladies! Sadly, I never heard from Amy so the new Random winner is Jenni! Jenni, please let me know your email and best address to send the book by Wednesday and it's yours! All the best, you will LOVE this beautiful book!


My photo
New York City, United States
Sarah Copeland is a food and lifestyle expert, and the author of Feast: Generous Vegetarian Meals for Any Eater and Every Appetite, and The Newlywed Cookbook. She is the Food Director at Real Simple magazine, and has appeared in numerous national publications including Saveur, Health, Fitness, Shape, Martha Stewart Living and Food & Wine magazines. As a passionate gardener, Sarah's Edible Living philosophy aims to inspire good living through growing, cooking and enjoying delicious, irresistible whole foods. She thrives on homegrown veggies, stinky cheese and chocolate cake. Sarah lives in New York with her husband and their young daughter.