Posts tagged ‘eggplant’

June 27, 2012

Good on Everything | Ajvar

This is something I will be making repeatedly throughout the summer.

Roasted red bell peppers and eggplant, finely chopped, along with copious amounts of garlic and a bit of olive oil and salt.  I was quite astonished to find the depth of flavor in something that truly only had four ingredients.  Roasting is certainly what certainly makes it so good.  And the thing is, with a gas stove (or this summer the grill, which is in near constant use) roasting takes almost no time.  Five to seven minutes or so straight on the burner over the heat, turning every so often to completely blacken the outsides.  Put in a covered container to steam and cool for 10 minutes, the skins on the peppers slide off like a silk dress.

This is sexy stuff.

I want it on steaks, on fish.  On these balkan burgers.  On regular burgers.  In my eggs.

In this recipe, I included a bit of roasted eggplant (at which Balkan traditionalists would have been shocked and horrified) but I found it gave a gorgeous texture.

For some background: ajvar is typically made in Serbia in the fall, where in small towns its process requires just about everybody who lives there to pitch in and help.  The peppers are roasted, peeled and deseeded.  Everything is pureed and put up in jars for the winter.  Only here, I can’t wait that long: I ate spoons of it out of the dish while we were waiting for company to arrive.  They were lucky they got here when they did.  I would have eaten it all.

Lovely stuff.

Make some.

Ajvar

2 red bell peppers, blackened over a grill or stove, skin, stem and seeds removed, chopped

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September 27, 2010

Brick Lane, Meet Persephone: A Seasonal, Weeknight Curry

Awww! Cherub is such a big help with chopping tomatoes. With a butter knife.

 

Indian food is something I’ve developed a taste for.  To the point that I crave it regularly.  I didn’t always.  I didn’t understand it; it was a little too exotic.  Now?  Let’s be honest here: I love it.  It has become a point of pride that I’ve tried to learn what I can about a world cuisine that 1.1 billion (with a B) eat every day.  

On Sunday, Hades, Cherub and I made a stop at the Sawmill Patel Brothers, the Indian supermarket, and worked up the ingredients for a lovely English-inspired vegetarian curry (it’s the heavy cream that makes it smack of something that Richard Hammond might enjoy after a few shouts at his local).  Cherub even helped pick out the 10 pound bag of Basmati rice that we ended up taking home.  Add in some seasonal baby eggplants and cauliflower, plus the last (I keep saying this) of the tomatoes from our garden.  Then a lovely melange of Indian spices from Patel to make it delicious.  

These two dishes require a bit of prep, but it’s totally worth the minor, and I do stress minor, effort. 

Lemon Basmati with Curried Eggplant and Cauliflower 

For the Lemon Basmati 

1 c. Basmati rice, soaked briefly in water 

2 c. water 

Salt 

While you’re doing prep for the rest of dinner, soak the rice in cold water.  When it’s time to get cooking, bring two cups of water to a boil and add in a generous sprinkling of salt.  Then tip in the drained rice, bring back to a boil and then reduce to the lowest setting to simmer slowly for about 15 minutes.  Turn off when done.  You will finish this in a frying pan just before the curry is ready. 

For the Curried Eggplant and Cauliflower 

The cauliflower breaks down significantly in the 30 minutes it cooks. Leave it initially in large chunks, so that you'll have some variety in size when it comes time to serve the dish.

 

1 bay leaf 

1 small red spicy pepper, whole 

1 black cardamom pod 

3 or 4 green cardamom pods 

1 t. cumin seed 

1 t. mustard seed 

1 red onion, chopped 

1 shallot, chopped 

1 garlic clove, minced 

1/2 inch fresh ginger root, finely grated 

5 or 6 baby eggplants, halved 

1 Japanese eggplant, sliced into rounds 

2 red skinned potatoes, cubed 

1 tomato, chopped 

1 heaping t. of curry 

1/2 t. garam masala 

2 c. water 

1/2 c. heavy cream 

Vegetable oil, salt, pepper (optional) 

In a pan heat a tablespoon or two of vegetable oil over medium high heat.  Add in bay through mustard seed and cook for one to two minutes, until browned.  Careful, the mustard seeds really pop.  If you have a screen to put over the pan, by all means, do it.  Then add in the onion and shallot.  Continue to cook over medium high heat for another two minutes, or until just beginning to brown.  Add in the garlic and the grated ginger.  Cook for 30 seconds.  Tip in eggplant through garam masala, cook for two minutes.  Add in the water.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium and cook for 30 minutes.  Just before serving, reduce heat to low, add in the heavy cream and stir to incorporate. 

To finish the Basmati 

1/2 t. mustard seeds 

1/2 t. fenugreek seeds 

1/2 cumin seeds 

6 curry leaves 

2 green onions, sliced 

1/2 c chopped almonds 

1/2 lemon, zest and juice 

1/2 inch grated fresh turmeric root (1/2 t. dried turmeric will work just as well) 

1 generous pinch fresh coriander leaves, chopped for garnish 

In a large frying pan, heat 1 to 2 T. vegetable oil over medium high heat.  Add in the mustard, fenugreek and cumin seeds and the curry leaves.  Cook for one to two minutes, until browned.  Careful of the popping mustard seeds, cover with a lid or splatter screen.  Add in the green onions and almonds, cook for two minutes.  Mix the lemon zest, juice and fresh turmeric and pour in quickly and cook for 20 seconds.  Add in the cooked rice and stir to incorporate the seasonings.  Fry for two or three minutes to reheat. 

To serve, place generous servings of rice and curry in shallow plates, top with chopped coriander. 

Playlist included M.I.A’s Paper Planes.

September 12, 2010

Gameday in the Underworld | Lamb Tagine

I knew it was game day, I just didn’t make the traditional food for it.  This is a novel spread for fall football entertaining because (well, it features lamb, but also!) each of these can be served either hot or room temperature.  If it’s not your thing, give these dishes a try on a fall weekend when your favorite team has a bye.

First, tagine of lamb (we used lovely little lamb chops).  This is a simplified version of a Claudia Roden recipe from Arabesque.  I prefer to have my lamb a bit more on the well-done side, so braises suit me well.  To braise, I first seared the chops with a garlic clove and a couple of shallots in a tagine, then added some of the lamb stock we made last weekend and then a handful of almonds (roughly chopped) and a handful of dates.  Let it cook for about an hour and a half to two hours over really low heat.  This method gave it a really lovely sauce and the chops were surprisingly tender for such a short braise.

Side dishes included roasted eggplant, tomato and bell peppers (just used a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper and a 400˚ oven for about 25 to 30 minutes).  Afterwards, give it a mix with a few dashes of cumin and some ground sumac if you’ve got it.

Make a quick sauce by caramelizing a whole onion, sliced in thin rings, in a bit of vegetable oil.  Once the onions are caramelized, add a drop or two of honey, some salt and pepper and use either an immersion blender or a food processor.  Puree until smooth.  This thick sauce is great with the lamb, but it could be nice with any number of other meats, some sage-y roasted pork perhaps.

Then I made couscous.  I think it’s kind of funny how much I enjoy making this.  It’s like how your mom has a potato salad recipe memorized and the only way you can learn is by watching her. “Oh honey, I don’t know, keep adding the mayonaise until it looks right.”  Great, thanks, Mom.  (Don’t take that personally, Demeter.)  Here’s an attempt to get a recipe down for this fast side that can be served warm, room temperature or cold.

Warm or Cold Couscous

3 cups couscous (not the Israeli, we used Rice Select tricolor)

3 cups liquid (water is fine, chicken stock is nicer)

½ c olive oil

1 orange (zest and juice)

3 T cumin

1/8 t of rose water, if you have it

¾ c currants or raisins (golden or plain jane)

4 green onions, thinly sliced

1 c. grape or cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered or larger tomato cubed

½ c. pine nuts( toasted is nice, but not 100% necessary)

Handful of fresh parsley and mint, finely chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Bring the three cups of liquid to a boil, then whisk in the couscous.  Remove from heat and cover.

In a deep bowl, whisk together olive oil through rose water, a generous couple of pinches of salt and 20 twists of fresh ground pepper.  Add in the raisins through mint and parsley and whisk again.  After ten minutes or so, remove the lid from the couscous and using a fork, fluff the couscous and then add into the deep bowl with the dressing.  Mix well.

At this point you may need to add a bit more olive oil or cumin or salt or pepper.  PK tip:  This is where taste, remember, season, taste again comes into practice (I think I originally read this in Ruhlman’s Soul of a Chef).  You’ll do this a lot as you begin to cook more without a net, so to speak.

Serve with a 2004 Grenache from Orvene Winery.  It’s a stunning, affordable pairing available from our friends at Vino 100 down in the Short North.

An unusual menu for a game calls for an unusual playlist.  Today’s included old Cocteau Twins and Bjork’s Hyperballad.

PK thanks Cronus for today’s photography.

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