I am often asked what my process is for creating a new recipe and I wish I could tell you it’s very linear and logical, but usually it’s exactly the opposite. I’ll spy a beautiful ingredient I’ve been longing to work with and that will get my creative juices flowing, typically in about fifteen different directions. I’ll read about someone’s perfect restaurant meal, or see their photo of a dish, and that will get me thinking about multiple variations on that theme. Sometimes I get handed things to work with and I have to do a little sleuthing to figure out what to do with them.
That was the case this week when I spied some succulent, leafy greens in my Farmers’ Feast challenge basket from the Ottawa Farmers’ Market. I discovered they were purslane, a nutritionally-rich member of the portulaca family. Purslane has a slightly tangy, salty taste and has been commonly eaten for centuries in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Mexico while in North America it was long considered a weed. I learned that it’s packed with vitamins A, B and C as well as magnesium, calcium, potassium and iron. After nibbling many tasty leaves on their own, I decided they would be delicious on a flatbread, accompanied by some garlicky grilled eggplant and fresh cream cheese from Fromagerie les Folies Bergères. I had fun making flatbread dough and grilling the ovals on the barbeque but you could easily make this recipe with purchased flatbreads too. It made for a fantastic lunch and would be a perfect appetizer too.
- 1 cup (250 mL) warm water
- 1 teaspoon (5 mL) yeast
- 1 teaspoon (5 mL) white sugar
- 1 ½ – 2 cups (375 – 500 mL) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) whole wheat flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons (7.5 mL) salt
- 1 tablespoon (15 mL) olive oil
- 3 – 4 small eggplants, sliced 1/4 inch (6 mm) thick
- 1/3 cup (90 mL) olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2/3 cup (180 mL) fresh cream cheese
- 2 cups (500 mL) fresh purslane leaves (or arugula)
- Put the warm water in a large bowl (use a stand mixer if you have one). Sprinkle yeast and sugar over top and let sit 3 minutes until frothy.
- Add 1 ½ cups (375 mL) all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, salt and olive oil to yeast mixture and stir to blend well until the dough comes together. Add more all-purpose flour, a tablespoon at a time, until the dough no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl.
- If using a stand mixer, knead for 4 – 5 minutes, adding flour as needed to keep from sticking. Otherwise, turn dough out on a floured surface and knead by hand, also adding flour as needed.
- Put the dough in a clean, oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise at room temperature for an hour, or put in the fridge if using later in the day. If refrigerated, remove from fridge ½ hour before shaping dough.
- When ready to prepare flatbreads, preheat barbeque to medium-high.
- Cut dough into six equal pieces and on a floured surface, shape each one into an oval, about 1/4 inch (6 mm) thick. Cover with a clean tea towel and let rest while you prepare the eggplant.
- Combine olive oil and garlic in a small bowl.
- Lay eggplant slices out on a baking sheet and brush both sides with garlic olive oil. Reserve 1 tablespoon (15 mL) of the oil mixture to brush on cooked flatbreads.
- Grill eggplant slices on barbeque about 3 minutes per side until they are softened and have nice grill marks. Remove from grill and place on the same baking tray.
- One eggplant is cooked, place ovals of flatbread dough on the barbeque. Grill the first side for 5 minutes, then flip and grill for 4 – 5 minutes longer.
- Remove flatbreads from grill and brush with reserved garlic oil. Top with cream cheese, grilled eggplant slices and purslane leaves.
- Finish with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper. Serve immediately.
Makes 6 flatbreads.