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Cooking Matters Michigan

Empowering families with the skills, confidence and knowledge to prepare healthy and affordable meals

Volunteer Spotlight: Dave Zabihaylo

Rebecca Blauw

Dave Zabihaylo

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family.

I’m happily married to Katherine and have two rambunctious dogs. We live in Ferndale and are long-time area residents. Although my wife came from a restaurant family I’m the cook at home and we are both pretty happy about that arrangement.

What led you to Cooking Matters?

I love cooking and was looking for the most fulfilling way to spread my enthusiasm in the kitchen. Last year I focused heavily on eating healthier, as well, and was able to lose 50 lbs through changing my diet and focusing mostly on vegetables and simply-cooked meat. I really wanted a way to help others make healthier eating choices and Cooking Matters was a perfect fit.

What ingredients do you use most when you are cooking?

Vegetables! I love roasting whole chickens and lean red meat, but every meal starts around the vegetable we’ll be having. I really like cooking veggies in new ways like roasting broccoli, which brings out an amazing, nutty taste that you just don’t usually get steaming or boiling it.

Do you have any tips for saving money at the grocery store?

Think seasonally and plan ahead. Buying veggies and fruit that are in season are always the tastiest, but typically are the cheapest, too for fresh.

What is your favorite “sometimes” or “special occasion” food?

Ice cream…I stick to the very smallest portion I can buy, and even then I only buy one. If I kept a whole pint in the house it’d be really hard not to have the whole thing if I let myself.

Do you have a recipe that you would like to share?

I was really pleased to see a ratatouille in the coursework for Cooking Matters, but I’d like to think that mine is even better...


1 large eggplant

2 large zucchini (equal portion to the eggplant)

1 medium spanish/yellow onion

2 red or yellow bell peppers, whichever are fresher at the market

2 cans (28 oz total) diced tomato, drained (recommend San Marzano)

3 cloves fresh garlic

Extra virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Peel eggplant and zucchini and dice into 1/4" pieces. Dice onion and set aside. Core peppers and dice into slightly larger pieces than zucchini and eggplant.

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil into a non-stick skillet on medium-high until nearly smoking. Add eggplant and roast until brown. Turn only a few times to ensure good carmelization. The eggplant will absorb much of the oil, and slowly start to release as it cooks. Remove eggplant with slotted spoon or spatula and add to dutch oven or large, heavy-bottomed pot.

Roast zucchini in existing olive oil until caramelized. Add 1 tablespoon if necessary. Remove with slotted spoon to dutch oven or heavy pot.

Roast onion until just browned and remove to dutch oven or heavy pot.

Roast peppers- keep an eye on them, as they burn easily. Turn down heat if necessary to avoid burning. Remove peppers with slotted spoon to dutch oven or heavy pot.

Add drained tomatoes and raw garlic to dutch oven, season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Turn heat on to very low and let simmer for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. The bottom veggies will just start to caramelize.

Serve with brown rice, quinoa, toasted whole wheat bread, or alongside meat. Hearty enough to serve on its own but great as a side dish, as well.