Here’s the real scoop on what no one is going to tell you before you start your PhD.

Picture yourself a first year grad student, all starry eyed and naive and thinking that you’re going to do experiments! And they’re going to work!! And you’re totally going to find a cure for {cancer/diabetes/Alzheimer’s/lupus}!!! And it’s going to be SO.AWESOME.!!!!

Then you start this seemingly endless task of doing experiments that don’t work or trying to repeat other people’s work (only to realize that no one in science actually does good science and so those experiments don’t work either), all with the hope that someday, this elusive someday, everything will come together and you’ll actually contribute something to the field that you can point to and say, “Yeah, I did that” and then brush your shoulders off. Just a little.  Jay Z-style. No biggie.

And about one and a half years in, someone will come to you and say, “Hey! You need to take a qualifying exam to see if we’ll give you the privilege of doing this to yourself for the next 3-5 years.”

Uhhhh, what now?

And of course, somewhere inside that hardened, jaded shell of yours, is still that naive first year who hopes that she’s going to change the world.  And so, against all odds and rational thought, you say YES. Of course I’ll spend a whole week making a powerpoint presentation and worrying endlessly and will just speak to myself for 48 hours straight about Rab proteins and GLUT4 translocation and the insulin signaling pathway even though my voice is already sore from {still} trying to hack up a lung every hour.”  And then, as a last minute resort, you may or may not stay up until midnight baking brown butter snickerdoodles to bribe sweet-talk thank your committee with.

Yup, that’s where I’m at right now.  It’s not pretty.


But, this pomegranate-glazed eggplant with tempeh and butternut squash and ricotta salata is!

It was seriously the one bright spot in my otherwise masochistic Sunday.  The tart-sweet glaze is just perfect atop the caramelized awesomeness that are the roasted eggplant, squash and tempeh.  And then there’s ricotta salata on top which is totally the icing on the cake. I’m newly obsessed with it.  But if you can’t find it…feta or goat cheese would be awesome here also. Just saying.

I would serve it atop some kind of grain or with a piece of naan (which is what I did)…or you could just eat half the batch in one sitting. I won’t judge.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go talk to myself some more.  And hope that by 5pm today I’ll still {officially} be a PhD candidate. Fingers/eyes/toes crossed!!

This is the ELEVENTH week of our 12 Weeks of Winter Squash, which I’m cohosting with the lovely Heather of Girlichef!  If you happen to have to cooked up anything with winter squash in the past or coming week, then definitely feel free to link up!!


Pomegranate-Glazed Eggplant with Tempeh, Butternut Squash and Ricotta Salata
Serves 4, adapted from Super Natural Every Day

Ingredients asdf
1 small eggplant (8 oz), cut into 1-inch chunks
8 oz tempeh cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 winter squash, peeled and diced
Grated zest of 1 small lemon
1 tsp fine-grain sea salt
3 medium cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/3 cup pomegranate molasses
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup crumbled ricotta salata (or feta)

Instructions asdf
Preheat the oven to 350 with a rack in the middle of the oven.
Mound the eggplant, tempah, squash and lemon zest on a rimmed baking sheet.
Start making the glaze by sprinkling the salt over the garlic. Chop and smash the garlic into a paste using both the flat side and blade of your knife. Combine the garlic paste in a bowl with the red pepper flakes and pomegranate molasses. Whisk in the olive oil. Drizzle three-quarters of the glaze mixture over the ingredients on the baking sheet. Toss well and arrange in a single layer.
Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, tossing everything at the 35-minute mark, until the eggplant and squash are soft and starting to caramelize.
Drizzle with the remaining pomegranate glaze, sprinkle with the cilantro and ricotta salata, and serve.


You are reading this post on Eats Well With Others at Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and or owner of Eats Well With Others. All rights reserved by Joanne Bruno.
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70 Responses to Pomegranate-Glazed Eggplant with Tempeh, Butternut Squash, and Ricotta Salata

  1. Good luck today, Joanne! I am sure you will be awesome! Awesome just like this dish. 🙂

  2. Good luck today! This dish looks amazing… so full of veggies and different flavors. Love it!

  3. Foodycat says:

    Good luck! Fabulous meal to prepare yourself with.

  4. Danielle says:

    This looks like the excuse I need to buy pomegranate molasses!

    I’ve been a PhD Candidate for close to a year now. I’m giving myself a post-holiday pep talk. It isn’t pretty. I have to remember that somewhere, somehow, I am actually glad I came to grad school. I’ve learned SO MUCH and I get to graduate someday soon. It is worth it.

  5. Danielle says:

    Good Luck Joanne! Im sure you will do amazing!

  6. The best of luck…I’m sure you will do great. And talk about great, this dish certainly sounds like it was.

  7. Amy says:

    “To be the best of the best means you make mistakes and then you go on.” OMG. Yes, I did just quote Top Gun circa 1986. You’ll rock that exam!

  8. I have been separated too long from pom molasses. I like how this has tempeh.. Definitely on my to-try list now, Joanne. 🙂

  9. good luck today!! i’m sure you’ll kick butt and then be off to save the world tomorrow 😉 especially fueled by this salad… and browned butter cookies! YUM.

  10. Good luck today Joanne! You can do this! Super delish recipe… Love all the ingredients in your warm salad.

  11. Bah…pHD’s sound wild. The boy is still in his first year of his and he’s also a bit cookoo!! lol Good luck with everything!! xx

  12. SallyBR says:

    Good luck, from the bottom of my heart…. What can I say? I know what you are going through, I’ve made this incredibly tough choice of doing research for a living. It is frustrating, it is very hard, but every once in a while you get that thrill, like in golf. that perfect shot, that keeps you going back to the golf course.

    I could write pages and pages in this comment section, but then you would REALLY ban me from your site.

    Good luck, and pay attention to what you really really really want. Then go get it. Simple, right? 😉

  13. london bakes says:

    Good luck Joanne, I know you’re going to be totally brilliant and amazing.

    PS this salad looks incredibly delicious.

  14. kelsey says:

    OMG put this in my mouth right now.

  15. we need to get you to do a cookbook!
    365 ways to use butternut squash.
    for real
    and people would buy this!

  16. Good luck! you are going to nail it! Come home, pour a glass of wine and eat some leftovers! this looks freaking fantastic! sending good vibes your way!

  17. Kalyn Denny says:

    That looks so delish! I have only used ricotta salata a couple of times but loved it.

  18. Dining Alone says:

    That looks delicious, oh and Good luck!!!

  19. Ricotta Salata is one of my favorite cheeses. I love to use it in pasta salad! Good Luck Joanne!!!!!!

  20. That’s when I’d say see ya later. I am an awful test taker and would crumble then and there. Just like Ricotta Salata. Just don’t get squashed. (too many puns). This seems so GOOD! I am on a squash kick right now!

  21. Alex says:

    This looks absolutely amazing. I start my first semester of grad school on the 20th (ah! so many emotions)so very soon, I will be joining you on this crazy ride. Good luck today and I am sure you’re going to kick that exam’s butt!

  22. I’m sure you’ll do fine. The anticipation is always worse than the actual event.

  23. Pom, eggplant, butternut – all on one plate. I need to have you make all my savory meals all week long! Another winner!

  24. Guru Uru says:

    What an awesome combo of flavours my friend, I’m SO in 🙂

    Choc Chip Uru

  25. I can almost taste that beautiful glaze combined with the squash – yum! Fingers and toes crossed for you!

  26. Beth says:

    Keep the healthy recipes coming, Joanne. I also made brown butter snickerdoodles yesterday. Sigh.

  27. Gosh, Joanne, this is killing me! I don’t think I have ever seen such an awesome looking tempeh recipe. You rock, lady!

  28. Seriously when can you move in with me and start cooking for me?!?! I pay in cookies.

  29. C says:

    I’m in the same boat and going through the same things, though my qualifying exams are in 6 months. Good luck!!! Hopefully you’ll be one step closer to earning your PhD!

  30. Best of luck! I’m totally digging this dish! I need to get Heidi’s book out right now to see what the inspiration was. Looks awesome!

  31. Debbie says:

    Good luck Joanne. I know you’ll do fine. What I don’t know is how you manage to do all you do….blog, run, med school…whew!!!!

  32. oh girl- you are awesome- you need no fingers crossed (although I’ll do it just in case for ya). This looks like a winner. Idea- just make them some food and they’ll have to keep you around! LOL!

  33. Good luck, you will be fine.
    Big gap between theory/academia and practice:( And some also spend countless hours and energy in searching/applying for grant…this goes on and on and eventually some academics start doing projects etc in a way that helps secure grant, rather than what is most practical/applicable…and I should stop here

  34. Hotly Spiced says:

    Oh dear. What a huge undertaking. Good luck with that power point presentation – I would be so nervous I’d be physically sick. Lovely looking squash meal xx

  35. Eileen says:

    You can do it, dude! Yes, research is a constant slog, but yes, you DO have the actual opportunity to make a real difference too. It just takes forever. 🙂 This squash looks like perfect fuel for plenty of brainwork, too!

  36. Lynn says:

    It’s after 5 – I’m sure you are in! Yummy looking food there.

  37. Jessie says:

    “Only to realize that no one in science actually does good science” <-- Yep. After several years in the research world, I had to give it up because it wasn't for me. There are tons of fantastic people doing research (like you, dear!), but I definitely wasn't one of them! Good luck today! I’ve got everything crossed – enjoy your fantastic pom-glazed eggplant after!!

  38. Donna says:

    Brown butter Snickerdoodles would definitely work with me. Or this eggplant. Either one.

  39. I have faith in you! I bet you will change the world!!! Your Pomegranate-Glazed Eggplant with Tempeh, Butternut Squash and Ricotta Salata looks amazing! I love pomegranates and as a glaze, is so perfect! Have a good week!!

  40. Candace says:

    Good luck to you, Joanne! I know you are going to do great! This dish is beautiful and I’m quite sure it tasted amazing.

  41. Juliana says:

    I cannot imagine how you find time for everything that you do…and I must tell you that you will do just fine.
    This looks delicious eggplant and winter squash…yum!
    Happy 2013 and have a great week ahead Joanne 🙂

  42. I’m in my fifth year of my PhD now so that first year feeling is LONG gone for me haha .. I never had to do something like a qualifying exam though – sounds scary but I’m sure you aced it! And this dish would be fantastic over some warm grains – yum!

  43. Katie says:

    Yeah! Good luck! I’ve got my fingers crossed for you. I hope this salad gave you some of the fuel you needed. YUM!

  44. I hope today went well! Looks like you had some good fuel, at least 🙂

  45. i can commiserate on the grad school thing…blah. good luck! i love this glaze idea. yum 🙂

  46. Hannah says:

    Oh, the things you do, Joanne… You’re my hero, and not only because you make freaking amazing things with winter squash. Hope you killed it on the exam!

  47. Cara says:

    This salad is just insane (in the best way, of course.) I love that the chunks of cheese are almost bigger than pieces of squash. Oh, and they’d be insane (in the bad way!) not to keep you!) GL hun!

  48. That Girl says:

    PhDs are soul sucking in so many ways (from what I’ve heard). But you’re going to be a fantastic Dr.Dr.

  49. Oh wow…That’s not pretty indeed. Hang in there. Besides, food like solves everything…almost everything.

  50. Kari says:

    You know, you could just end the PhD and create recipes like this all day 😉 I’d buy your cookbook!

    More seriously, I hope today went well. I am so grateful I didn’t have a similar experience when doing my PhD…it may have been the end of me! Lots of luck and this is an amazing dish to improve what sounds like an otherwise awful weekend.

  51. Cathleen says:

    Yaow. That sounds tough. Well good luck, we are rooting for you!
    And this looks delicious by the way. Very pretty.

  52. Oh My Yum!!!This is on tomorrow’s menu, without a doubt. My lunch has started to feel too routine, which leaves me extra appreciative of your inspiration! I’ve been playing around with Tempeh and Butternut Squash quite a bit too, lately, so this is perfect. Thank you, (Dr)Joanne.Phd.Here she comes.

  53. As soon as I saw this recipe I immediately pressed print! I LOVE pomegranate molasses! Mixed with squash,eggplant, ricotta…oh lord I can’t wait to try this!

  54. Tandy says:

    Good luck Joanne, I hope it all works out for you. This meal looks delicious 🙂

  55. I’m sure you were fab! I have never eaten ricotta salata but just Wiki’d it lol. Sounds deeeelish!

  56. Reeni Pisano says:

    I hope all went well! In my heart of hearts I know you rocked it. I would of been stress eating the snickerdoodles! And bowls upon bowls of this tasty eggplant creation! I’m a fan of ricotta salata too.

  57. P says:

    Knowing that you’re getting through this gives me hope when I look to my future as a grad student. It seems like people always like to point out the bad (living off a meager stipend, back-breaking work, etc.) but I think that in the end, when you have that PhD in your hand, it just comes full circle and (hopefully) it will feel like the work paid off.

  58. Sounds stressful! I’m sure you did great! I used the last of my pomegranate to make cookies…and you have some uber healthy vegetable masterpiece. I need to rethink my priorities here.

  59. Deborah says:

    I, for one, admire anyone who goes into the medical field. I get tired just hearing about it!! But I wouldn’t get tired of this – sounds wonderful!

  60. Hope everything went well today (although I’m sure it did!)

  61. Saguna says:

    That sounds insanely stressful- I hope it all went well… Those snickerdoodles totally can’t hurt either. 🙂

    This is perfect for the leftover hunk of ricotta I’ve got in the fridge as well, so I’m going to make a batch of these veggies tonight.

  62. Nina says:

    Hope all went good for ya:). I love ricotta…this sounds delishhhhh:)

  63. Johanna GGG says:

    if only I was your examining panel I would of course pass you just on the strength of this dish – it looks so vibrant and delicious – good luck with your presentation

  64. Ashley says:

    Yes!! I recently tried tempeh for the first time, but I haven’t cooked with it myself yet. This looks like an awesome way to enjoy it.

  65. Kelsey says:

    This looks outstanding! So glad you’ve got cooking to relax you. I can’t even imagine the stress you’re under, but I know you’ll rock every step of the process. It’s what you do!

  66. You’ll be so great, Joanne! And those brown butter snickerdoodles – well you can just give those to me. Along with a serving of this dish! 🙂

  67. hugin says:

    This is so, so delicious. 😀 I made it and even though I forgot the lemon zest completely, it was sooooo good (also had to use feta because my ricotta salata had gone sub-par). Thank you for sharing it with us!

  68. […] year ago…Pomegranate-Glazed Eggplant with Tempeh, Butternut Squash and Ricotta Salata, Sweet Potatoes with Bourbon and […]

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