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Ask An Orange County Chef: Healthy Thanksgiving Recipes

Thanksgiving is a time of year when you are wearing your elastic waist pants or unbuckling the belt a couple of notches to feast upon a family meal where a giant turkey is the centerpiece. That turkey also comes with endless side dishes. And then there is dessert, traditional pumpkin pie and depending on your cultural background even more. Chef Joe Youkhan is sharing three recipes that you can use to lessen your calorie count at your Thanksgiving feast without sacrificing flavor.
Chef Joe Youkhan
Chef Joe Youkhan's Tasting Spoon
P.O. Box 832
Trabuco Canyon, CA 92678
(949) 357-7020

Chef Joe Youkhan is a culinary genius when it comes to putting flavors together. He has always had a passion for food: growing up with home-cooked family meals from his Nana, cooking with his father who was also a chef in New York, and then moving to California where he worked his way up the culinary ladder and became Executive Chef of Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel's Special Events / Catering Division. In 2010, he decided to start up his own catering business and food truck, Chef Joe Youkhan's Tasting Spoon, providing Italian street food via the food truck and catering services from home intimate dining experiences to weddings and large corporate events. On January 21, 2014, he began the new year as one of Food Network's Chopped Champions.

In recent months, Chef Joe received his Black Belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Along with his training and weight loss, he has been eating healthier. His Assyrian background has roots with the Mediterranean diet which has many health benefits and he wanted to share some recipes you can use to lighten your Thanksgiving spread this year.

Charred Eggplant Baba Ganoush


  • 1 large eggplant
  • ¼ cup tahini
  • 5 black garlic cloves, pureed
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 pinch ground cumin
  • 1 pinch coriander
  • Sea salt to taste
  • 3 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 tablespoon Kalamata olives, minced
    • Directions:

      • Prepare a medium-hot fire on a grill.
      • Pierce the eggplant with a fork in several places and place on the grill.
      • Grill, turning frequently, until the skin blackens, blisters, and the flesh just begins to feel soft, 10 to 15 minutes.
      • Transfer the eggplant to a baking sheet and bake until very soft, 15 to 20 minutes.
      • Remove from the oven, let cool slightly, and peel off and discard skin.
      • Place the eggplant flesh in a food processor with the rest of ingredients and puree until smooth.
        Adjust seasoning with salt and lemon juice.
      • Place in a shallow bowl and drizzle more olive oil to taste on top.
      • Serve with Grilled Sumac Butter Flatbread (recipe to follow).

      Related: Best Places To Get Your Pumpkin Fix In Orange County

Grilled Sumac Butter Flatbread


  • 1 – 16 ounce pizza dough ball
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • v8 ounces unsalted butter, softened

  • 3 garlic cloves, pureed
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoon sumac
  • 1 tablespoon scallions, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • Sea salt and black pepper to taste


  • Prepare a medium-hot fire on a grill.
  • Roll out pizza dough with olive oil, cut into 4 wedges, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and place on a hot grill.
  • Turn over after golden brown on one side and crisp other side.
  • Place butter and rest of ingredients in food processor and puree until smooth.
  • Spoon butter on top of warm flatbread and spread evenly.
Veggie Fonduta


  • 4 large eggplant, medium dice
  • 4 large green zucchini, medium dice
  • 4 large yellow squash, medium dice
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups roasted red bell pepper, medium diced
  • 1 cup Kalamata olives, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup capers, minced
  • 3 tablespoon kosher salt (or to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 2 lemons, juice and finely grated zest
  • 1½ cups extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cup crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, microplaned
  • 1 bunch Italian parsley, minced


  • Preheat oven to 400 F.
  • Toss all ingredient together except for the garlic and parsley.
  • Lay on a full sheet pan in an even layer and roast in oven for 50 minutes.
  • Stir half way through roasting process.
  • Add garlic and cook 10 more minutes for a total of 1 hour or until very tender.
  • Remove from oven and cool.
  • Add parsley and check seasoning. Add salt if needed.
  • Cover tightly and store in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Related: Ask An OC Chef: Top Tasty Pumpkin Dishes

By Chelsea Madren
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