Archives for posts with tag: Yotam Ottolenghi

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You know when it’s hot and muggy and you can’t decide if you want cold food or hot food or no food at all? Real food or just, like, watermelon for dinner? It wasn’t even that hot last night here in NYC but I had dark chocolate sorbet for dinner (the kind from Ciao Bella Gelato—it’s dairy free and has this weird chalky texture I like).

But the thing I like about this dish—adapted from Plenty/Yotam Ottolenghi—is it’s excellent cold, warm, or room temperature. It’s the perfect dish to pack up for lunch, bring on a picnic, or eat in front of your computer (where, let’s be honest, I eat more of my meals than on a picnic blanket). Now, it does require a little bit of heat because you broil the eggplants in your oven or char them on your gas burner. Of course, if you have a real grill (but I live in an apartment in Brooklyn with no such luxury) you could probably put the eggplants right in the coals to do this. Whether you grill over your burner or broil in your oven remember to prick the eggplant multiple times with a knife to prevent the flesh from popping through the skin when it gets hot.

In addition to the lentils and the eggplant you can toss in any number of vegetables you may have, adapting to what’s in season. I picked up some beautiful radishes at the farmer’s market on Saturday that would be great in this, or any combination of fresh herbs.

Lentils with Broiled Eggplant
adapted from Plenty

2 thin, long eggplants
2 tbsp lemon juice
salt and black pepper
1 cup small dark lentils (small green or Puy), rinsed
3 small carrots, peeled
2 celery stalks
1 bay leaf
3 thyme sprigs (or 1 tsp dried thyme)
1 small onion, white or yellow
3 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to finish
2/3 c cherry tomatoes, halved (about 12-15)
1/3 tsp brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped herbs (such as parsley, chervil, chives, cilantro, dill)
1 cup chopped salad greens or spinach (optional)
2 tbsp yogurt or crème fraîche

Cook the eggplants: the best way to really char the eggplants is to grill over the open flame on your burner, rotating with metal tongs and taking care to ensure they don’t catch on fire. I put the vent on high to trap any smoke that’s produced. You may want to first line the area around two burners of your stove with aluminum foil to protect them from splatters. Now it’s key that you buy thin eggplants as opposed to the more common fatter eggplants you see in American grocery stores. These wider ones (I learned the hard way) don’t cook through all the way. So if you have the thin kind they should blacken on your stove in 12 to 15 minutes. If you only have the standard wide ones, like I did, grill over the burner for 12–15 minutes and then transfer to your oven on a baking sheet or in a casserole dish, set the broiler on high, and cook for additional 10–15 minutes to cook all the way through. Alternatively you can broil them like this in your oven for the entire time, approximately 1 hour for wide ones, turning them a few times. The eggplants should deflate completely and the skin should burn and break.

Remove the eggplants from the heat. If you used your oven change the setting from broil to 275F. Cut the eggplants in half and let the steam escape. When cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh (avoiding the blackened skin) into a colander and let any liquid drain off for about 15 minutes. Then season with salt and pepper and 1 tbsp of fresh lemon juice.

While the eggplants are broiling, place the lentils in a medium saucepan. Cut one carrot, one celery stalk, and the onion each in half and toss in the saucepan. Cover with plenty of cold water, and add the bay leaf and thyme, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the lentils are cooked but not mushy. Drain the lentils and discard the onion, carrot, celery, and herbs. Transfer the lentils to a mixing bowl and add the remaining lemon juice, 2 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper.

Cut the remaining carrot and celery into small pieces and mix with the halved tomatoes, remaining oil, sugar, and some salt. Spread in an ovenproof dish and cook for about 20 minutes, until the carrot is tender but firm. Add the cooked vegetables to the lentils, followed by the herbs and greens (if using). Taste and adjust for seasoning (I had to use quite a bit of salt to get it just right). Spoon the lentils into your serving dish, followed by a spoonful of eggplant, then the yogurt or crème fraîche, and a drizzle of olive oil.

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Happy 2013 folks!

I have that U2 song “Lemon” stuck in my head, from the band’s 1993 album Zooropa. Well, I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but that was twenty years ago. We’re old. And we misspent our youth.

Ok so much updating is in order. It’s been six weeks since my last post—the longest dry spell since I started this blog almost two years ago. What happened? December holiday madness. Office parties. Book deadlines. Dating. Etc. And then, on December 22nd, I suffered a concussion after fainting in the Whitney Museum, crashing hard on Marcel Breuer’s concrete floor, my head breaking my fall. I was at the Wade Guyton show on the third floor, which you should go see if you’re in New York, it comes down on Sunday. Go for the Guyton, stay for the Artschwager.

I’ve been largely out of commission for the past two and a half weeks. Not cooking, not biking, not yoga’ing, not working. For Christmas I received two copies of Yotam Ottolenghi’s new cookbook Jerusalem. One from my sister Hope, the other from the b.f. Melony. I’m exchanging one of them for Plenty, since I miss having Mark’s copy around.

So while I haven’t been at the stove, I’ve been curled up in bed with the beautiful book designed by Sarah Pulver (cover for U.S. edition) and Here Design (interior and cover for UK edition), dreaming of shakshuka, mejadra, and eggplant everything. But I thought I’d take it slow and begin my re-entry with something not too labor intensive but with big results: preserved lemons. On the few occasions I’ve had the store-bought kind in a jar I’ve enjoyed the fragrant sweet-sour tastes with couscous, bulgur, fish, lentils, meat. But never having made my own, it seemed about time to dive in.

This is also strategic: I plan to cook my way through this book over the coming months and having these luscious preserved lemons on hand four weeks from now will come in handy for multiple recipes.

Now, a head’s up: you make these lemons in stages. So first you stuff with salt and keep them sealed in a mason jar for a week. Then at that point you open the jar and stuff them with rosemary, chile, lemon juice, and olive oil, then let sit again for at least four weeks. I just began step one, but couldn’t wait to post about it. So I haven’t even added the rosemary, etc. yet. I’ll update here when that happens in about a week’s time.

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Preserved Lemons

6 organic, unwaxed lemons
6 tbsp coarse sea salt
2 rosemary sprigs
1 large red chile
juice of 6 lemons
olive oil

Make sure you have a Ball or Mason jar large enough to accommodate your lemons. Sterilize it by filling with boiling water, leaving for a minute, then emptying. Let it air dry.

Wash the lemons and cut a deep X or cross down through the lemon, leaving about 3/4 in. from the bottom. Stuff each lemon with 1 tbsp of the salt and place in the jar. Push the lemons in tightly, seal the jar, and leave in a cool place for at least one week. If you don’t know how to seal a jar properly, here is one of many links that explains how to do this.

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After this initial period, remove the lid and press the lemons as hard as you can to squeeze out as much of the juice as possible. Add the rosemary, chile, and lemon juice, and coat the lemons with a thin layer of olive oil. Seal the jar again and leave in a cool place for at least 4 weeks. The longer you leave them the better the flavor.

Enjoy these as a condiment to many meat, fish, and vegetable dishes. I’m planning to use mine in the recipe for Chermoula eggplant with bulgur and yogurt, from the same book.

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Last time there was a threatening storm in this region I threw a paella party with my friend Amy. This time, I was in Boston as part of a small team of cooks catering my dear friend Melony’s dinner party in Jamaica Plain (the Brooklyn of Boston). Paella for Irene. Middle Eastern Vegan for Sandy. I made it back to NYC yesterday just before the subways shut down.

I decided a while back that, for the party, I’d make hummus and ful served with dukkha and the tomatoes I canned in September. Ful is broad beans, or dried fava beans, mashed into a kind of paste with garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil. I turned to Yotam Ottolenghi for both the hummus and ful recipes and sort of winged it for the dukkha. Dukkha, by the way, is a staple of Egyptian street food—a finely (or coarsely, depending on preference) ground mixture of spices, nuts, and sesame seeds, traditionally served with pita that’s been dipped in olive oil before coated in the spice mixture. I’ve never heard of it served with hummus or ful but I couldn’t imagine this being a bad thing. I love Ottolenghi’s hummus and ful recipes — you cook both beans, separately, until they’re a disintegrated mush that makes for the creamiest spreads you’ve had. It requires lots of hand-squeezed lemon juice.

Here is the very non-New York kitchen I got to cook in this weekend, in JP…

I needed pita. I had enough to tend to in the thirty-six hours I was in Boston that making pita from scratch didn’t make the list. I asked Melony where we might get the freshest, tastiest pita and a friend steered us toward Sofra, a Middle Eastern bakery and cafe in the Mt. Auburn section of western Cambridge. I lived in Cambridge for a hot minute some years ago but had never heard of the place. Although I was somewhat familiar with its sister restaurant, Oleana, and Siena Farms, where they grow produce for both locations. It was a twenty-five minute car ride from JP to Sofra Saturday afternoon and all I can say is: dukkha donuts. That, and: go. Run. Get thee to Sofra! One thing—you can’t take the T there. Which, if you’re a local, is probably a bonus—helps keep the masses (and tourists) at bay.

I was enthralled with this place. I considered buying their own dukkah mixture but had brought all the spices and nuts with me from Brooklyn to make my own. So I walked around flustered for ten minutes unable to decide what to order. I settled on the aforementioned dukkha donut (last bite below), and split a rolled flatbread with spinach falafel and beet tzatziki with Melony. But a highlight might have been the espresso-sized shot of tahini hot chocolate: Sofra’s signature drink. And the pita, made to order, did not disappoint (also below).

The party was a grand success. It felt like a wedding—there were speeches, toasts, a lot of love in the room, and an impressive spread of both savory eats and sweet treats. I won’t bother to retype Ottolenghi’s recipe for hummus and ful, which you can find here. I barely tweaked it—other than multiplying proportions by four, in order to serve thirty people—you can’t go wrong following this recipe to a t. But I do want to share my recipe for dukkha, below. And a shout out to my step-mother for giving me the initial inspiration after tasting a batch she had made a couple months ago.

And last, but not least, I made what has become my party staple: Union Square Cafe bar nuts. Warm, salty toasted nuts tossed with rosemary, cayenne, salt, and a hint of brown sugar. These are best served warm to guests right as they’re arriving, a little hungry, with a fresh drink in hand.

Dukkha

1 c assorted, unsalted, raw mixed nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, walnuts, peanuts)
1/2 c sesame seeds
1/4 c cumin seeds
1/4 c coriander seeds
2 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp black peppercorns
1 tbsp fenugreek
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp paprika

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Toast the nuts on a baking sheet for 10 to 15 minutes until fragrant and lightly browned. Remove from baking sheet and let cool. Place the sesame, cumin, coriander, cumin, and fennel seeds on the baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 5 minutes. Let cool. Then combine all the ingredients—nuts, seeds, spices, salt—in a food processor and blend to desired consistency.

Union Square Cafe Bar Nuts

1 1/4 lb mixed, unsalted nuts
2 tbsp coarsely chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp cayenne
2 tsp dark brown sugar
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the nuts onto a baking sheet and toast in the oven until light golden brown, about 10 minutes. In a large bowl combine the rosemary, cayenne, brown sugar, salt, and melted butter. Toss the toasted nuts with the spiced butter and serve warm.

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