Dow Chemical, everyone’s favorite multinational chemical corporation, has developed a plant-based cellulose that mimics the function of gluten in gluten-free baked goods. In this video, a Dow food scientist talks about the company’s commitment to helping people follow healthy lifestyles. I laughed my way through the video and its perversely campy title, When Great Ideas Rise. Dow’s particular brand of ‘solutionism’ is one that relies on extensive manipulation of odd ingredients to create compounds that are not food. It wasn’t too long ago that Michael Pollan made nutritionism – and its proponents – his scapegoats. Dow’s PR people should’ve done their research before landing on solutionism as the benevolent face of their food science division. Too late, Dow! Nutritionism = solutionism.
As I prepared dinner the other night for vegetarian, gluten-free, and dairy-free friends, I thought about the role extensively processed gluten-free products play in our diets. For me, that role is pretty much nonexistent. To extend the analogy, I’d say these food-like substances are extras on the movie set of my plate. Not even non-speaking walk-ons.
I’d made a cool and silky watermelon-tomato gazpacho, a big batch of fried padrón peppers with flaky sea salt, and a robust eggplant salad redolent of roasted garlic and toasted tahini. We weren’t hurting for food, but for a moment I felt like the texture of the eggplant salad and soup dictated a bread or cracker for dipping and scooping. I didn’t have time to buy or make anything, and the bread monster (aka fiancé) had done some serious damage to our carbohydrate stocks since my last grocery trip.
I rummaged around in the crisper drawer and emerged with a head of radicchio. I carefully peeled individual leaves from the head to form cups for holding eggplant salad. What a solution(ism)! The bitterness of the radicchio cut through the richness of the tahini and eggplant, and made the meal a little more interactive.
I guess I should say a few things about the eggplant salad, since this has been my meandering way of offering you its recipe. For this dish, I use a number of ingredients common to the eggplant spread baba ghanoush, add my own touches, and throw the standard proportions of eggplant to tahini out the window. I treat the salad as more of a main dish, and accordingly cut back on the tahini so the final product is not overly rich. The eggplant salad is great on its own, dipped into with crackers (made from real food, please!), or scooped into lettuce leaves.