Monday, October 29, 2012

Burnt Eggplant With Garlic, Lemon & Pomegranate Seeds

It took me years to become Yotam Ottolenghi's champion, for the mere reason that both he and Sami Tamimi make what I consider a very familiar to me food.  When I eventually got Plenty from Amazon and then recently Jerusalem: A Cookbook review copy from their publisher, I recognized the brilliance of the subtle twist on simplicity.
I was ogling the upcoming Jerusalem: A Cookbook for months. I am not accustomed to pre-ordering, but I've been following the press coverage and occasional recipes that showed up in the media, so I was tempted to add Jerusalem to my queue. When I opened the package that was sitting on our front stoop, I let out a shriek. My obsession, fed and sated.
As Jonathan is particularly crazed about anything aubergine, I decided on this recipe to inaugurate cooking through the book. At a first glance the recipe seems similar to many Middle Eastern baba ganoush recipes, only for the zest of lemon that elevates it as reinvented. To think that I almost didn't add the lemon zest seems now sacrilege. Read this Huffington Post Taste rave review I couldn't have put it better.
Burnt Eggplant with Garlic, Lemon and Pomegranate Seeds
adapted from Jerusalem: A Cookbook

Ingredients:
2 large eggplants (2lbs)
2 gloves garlic, minced
Grated zest of 1/2 large lemon
3 tablespoons lemon
3 tablespoon olive oil
4 tablespoons parsley
2 tablespoons mint leaves, chopped
Seeds of 1/2 pomegranate
Salt to taste
Black pepper to taste

Char eggplants on a stove top, grill or on a broil mode in the oven. Turn around so it is charred all around. When broiling, I removed the stem and forked the eggplant all over the surface of the skin.

Let eggplant cool once charred all around. Peel and with a fork separate into strands. Add 2 tablespoons of lemon, mix and let strain in a fine mesh strainer for up to an hour. Cook's note: I add the lemon immediately so the eggplant won't oxidize too much. I let it strain for 20 minutes only.

Add the rest of the ingredients including 1 tablespoon of leftover lemon juice , mix, adjust for salt and refrigerate until serving. We loved it today as we were having it for lunch with olive bread during Hurricane Sandy. You all out there in Sandy's path,  stay safe! We had some tree damage and our driveway is now blocked but we are safe.

The proportions in this recipe are different from the book as well as the directions.

Related eggplant recipes:

Related Pomegranate Recipe:

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Potatoes, Cauliflower & Celeriac Soup With Crispy Shallots

I don't recall ever enjoying Autumn days the way I enjoy it this season. I find myself constantly drawn to the outdoors, not wishing to stay confined within four walls. All I saw in the past was a world painted in brush strokes of rust, but slowly I started seeing the yellows and the reds popping through, weaving a cozy blanket of beautiful, warm autumn hues. The crisp, humidity free, cooler weather. The walks Wizzy, our indiscriminate food loving pooch, forces on me, all healthy, though I do begrudge him for interrupting me.

A couple of weeks back, on such a Fall morning, I attempted antiquing in the countryside. My efforts proved to be futile. Potential food photography props I was seeing in the charming antique shops brought about images of vintage laundry wash boards and chamber pots. My imagination was running amok, especially when my GPS was dumbfounded and the road I was on was not showing up on Siri's radar. Panicked, I scurried back home. My antique wanderings of sorts were an utter failure.

I like to know my destinations. Jonathan likes to get purposely lost and experience the unexpected adventure. Once, on such an Autumn day, I imagine, though it might have been a different season altogether, we wandered off. Just off the Susquehanna River, by the pristine long bridge, in Maryland, and came by a deserted army base. It was surreal in the eeriest sense of ways. In a nuclear holocaust of epic proportions end of the world circumstances of ways. Jonathan's eyes, on the other hand, were sparked with curiosity and excitement. His mannerism relaxed as if we were on a beach vacation. I, worry what's lurking behind the veil of the unknown. If I do wander off on my own, chances are I'll stumble into something odd. It is proven!

While my imagination is running ahead of me, I savor the everyday, little things that sweep me with the purest of pleasures. The strands of grass trying to reach for the sun through the blanket of reds, golden yellows, and yes, RUST. The Joy of Autumn.

In celebration of Autumn I let the seasonal vegetables in this soup shine. While I like the purity of flavors in this soup, you could most certainly use it as a canvas. Drizzle chili oil just before serving, swirl in a puree of sautéed peas and onions, or swirl in just a touch of basil pesto.  A nice change from the gourds for Thanksgiving.

Potatoes, Cauliflower and Celeriac Soup with Crispy Shallots

Ingredients:
2-4 tablespoons canola or any vegetable oil
1 large onion, diced
1 small celeriac, peeled and diced
1small head of cauliflower, cut into small florets
4 large or 6 small/medium garlic cloves
2 large Russet potatoes
5 cups water
1/4 teaspoon white pepper according to taste
Salt to taste

In a large pot on a low/medium heated oil sauté onions, celeriac, cauliflower and garlic, while occasionally mixing, for a few minutes until the onions soften. Add the potatoes and continue sautéing for a few minutes longer. Add water, white pepper and salt and bring to a boil. Turn down heat and let simmer on a low bubble, while occasionally stirring, for about an hour, while the lid is covering the pot but slightly ajar. Taste and adjust for salt. Let it cool a tad and puree with an immersion blender. If using a blender or a food processor, I would let the soup cool almost completely before pureeing. If making ahead, keep in mind the soup will thicken quite a bit because of the starch. Can be made ahead and frozen. The recipe can be doubled easily.

2 shallots, sliced into rings and separates
2-4 tablespoons canola or other vegetable oil

Heat up oil in a frying pan on medium/high heat. Add the shallots and crisp until brown. Scoop with a slotted spatula into a paper towel lined plate. Make sure the crispy shallots are separate laying flat. Crisp the shallots just before serving.

Related celeriac posts:
Celeriac Mashed Potatoes - No Traditional Recipe, Just a Thanksgiving Recount
Meatball and Rice Dumplings Soup, A Romanian Style Chorba (Ciorba)

P.S. I might do another photo shoot but couldn't wait to get this out to you!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Indian Dumplings - Silent Sunday Of Sorts, A Work In Progress

This Laru (ladu), an Indian dumpling filled with sweetened coconut and blanched, peeled and slivered raw pistachios and almonds, has been an undertaking and a work in progress. I have a cultural story that goes along with it that I've been in labor pains over, but it will be born when it is well seasoned and ready.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Fig Chutney

The fig tree, Ficus Carica, is a deciduous, tree or large shrub, with three or five lobed leaves, native to the Middle East. Later cultivated from Afghanistan to Portugal, in the 15th century was introduced and grown in Northern Europe and The New World. Figs are one of the first plants cultivated by humans for edible consumption. Fossils dating as far back as 9400-9200BC were found in the Jordan Valley just 13km north of Jericho. Middle Eastern countries to this day are the largest fig producers.
The flower of the fig is invisible as it is grown inside and each fig variety has a certain type of fig wasp which pollinates it. Read about the fertilized female wasp entering the fig and about the entire pollination process under ecology here.

Mission figs are one of the highest plant sources of calcium and fiber. In a dried form, figs are rich in fiber, copper, magnesium, potassium and vitamin K. Figs are rich in antioxidants and have laxative effects.
Figs are significant in many cultures and widely depicted in art. One of the more well known passages from Genesis is when Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden fruit "and the eyes of them both were opened and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig-leaves together, and made themselves girdles." Another quote is from the book of Kings I "Each man under his own vine and fig tree" which often describes times of peace and prosperity.

Buddha achieved enlightenment under a sacred fig tree (ficus Religiosa or Pipal). The Indian fig tree, Ficus Benghalensis, or Banyan tree, is India's national tree. Many idioms based on the figs anatomy and characteristics are commonplace in India.

The fig is also mentioned in The New Testament and The Qur'an, was important in Roman diet and appears in Greek mythology. The fig symbolizing femininity widely appears in many writings and art throughout the centuries.
I am co-hosting October #figlove bloghop. Please check out all the fantastic fig recipes in this series linked below and feel free to add your October fig recipes to the link throughout this month. Special thanks goes to T.R. @ No One Likes Crumbley Cookies | @TRCrumbley.

Fig Chutney

Ingredients:
2 tbls canola or vegetable oil

2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1 inch fresh ginger, grated
1 Jamaican Hot Chocolate pepper or habanero pepper, finely diced
1 medium red onion, diced

1lb figs, stemmed and diced
1/2 cup Sugar in the Raw
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2-4 thyme sprigs, leaves only (depending on taste)

Sauté onions, garlic, ginger and pepper on low/medium heat while occasionally stirring until onions are soft but not caramelized. Add the figs and continue sautéing for a few minutes longer. Add the sugar, vinegars, salt, lemon and thyme and cook on low/medium, on a low bubble, while occasionally stirring, for approximately 20-30 minutes or until mixture is slightly thickened.

Your #figlove co-hosts:
Angela @ Spinach Tiger | @spinachtiger
Valerie @ Bon a Croquer | @Valouth
Deanna @ Teaspoon of Spice | @tspbasil
Shulie @ Food Wanderings | @foodwanderings
Evelyne @ Cheap Ethic Eatz |  @cethniceatz
Sheila @ Pippi’s In the Kitchen Again | @shlylais
T.R. @ No One Likes Crumbley Cookies | @TRCrumbley
EA @ The Spicy RD | @thespicyrd
Becky @ Baking and Cooking: The Tale of Two Loves
Susan @ Wimpy Vegetarian | @wimpyvegetarian

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