I know the year’s barely begun, but this dish from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem is well on its way to being my most memorable meal of 2015. Maybe even the past decade.
And this from a gal who says she doesn’t like eggplant.
If you don’t own Jerusalem, you must. Every recipe in it is a gem. The day after I was given it from my dear friends Karen and Steven, (OMG thank you!), my book club was over for dinner. They all gathered round and placed stickies on their favorite recipe in the book that I simply must make. The entire book is one giant sticky collection, but somehow this recipe escaped their stickies – my turn to give them a Jerusalem must-make!
My husband and I have already decided that this is what we’re serving the very next time we have company for dinner. It’s perfect for a dinner party because you can put it all together ahead of time, then let the eggplant roast for an hour and a half, giving you plenty of time to clean up the kitchen, set the table and make dessert or appetizers before your guests arrive. Not to mention, you can serve it warm or at room temp. It just doesn’t get any better.
I made one change to the recipe, which was to toast the pine nuts before using them. We toyed around the idea of adding some golden raisins to the meat mixture, but in the end did not. We also considered a breadcrumb topping, but again, left that be. It was pretty darned perfect just as it was.
This dish is Ottolenghi and Tamimi’s take on a dish served at Elran Shrefler’s restaurant Azura in the Machne Yehuda market in Jerusalem. I’ve Americanized the recipe instructions (we work in volume, not weight), and split the parts to make it a little more idiot-proof. (The original recipe gives total amounts of ingredients then splits them up depending on which part of the recipe you are making. That always throws me if I’m in a hurry.) Don’t let the amount of spices worry you – the flavors are sweet and smoky, but not biting. Don’t cut out anything.
4 medium eggplants (about 2.5 lbs each), halved lengthwise
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 tsp sea salt
Black pepper to taste
5 tsp spice mix (see above for spice mix recipe)
2/3 cup water
1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp tamarind paste
4 cinnamon sticks
1/2 tsp salt
Black pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 425 F. Place the eggplant halves, skin-side down, in a roasting pan (I used a La Crueset lasagna pan) large enough to accommodate them snugly. Brush the flesh with 4 tbsp olive oil and season with 1 tsp salt and plenty of black pepper. Roast for about 20 minutes, until the tops are golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
While the eggplant is cooking, make the spice mix and stuffing. Mix the cumin, paprika and ground cinnamon in a small bowl. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large frying pan. Add 5 tsp (1 2/3 tbsp) of the spice mixture to the pan along with the onions. Cook on a medium-high heat for about 8 minutes, stirring often, then add lamb, pine nuts, parsley, tomato purée, 1 tsp sugar, 1 tsp salt and some black pepper. Continue to cook and stir for another 8 minutes, until the meat is cooked.
Make the sauce. Place the remaining spice mix (5 tsp) in a bowl and add the water, lemon juice, tamarind, 2 tsp sugar, cinnamon sticks and half a teaspoon of salt; mix well.
Reduce the oven temperature to 375 F. Pour the sauce mix around the eggplant in the bottom of the roasting pan. Spoon the lamb mixture on top of each eggplant. Cover the pan tightly with foil, return to the oven and roast for 1 1/2 hours, until the eggplant are completely soft and the sauce thick; twice through the cooking, remove the foil and baste the eggplant with the sauce, adding some water if the sauce dries out. (Ours did not dry out)
We were having kale for dinner last night, but we bought a bit too much for just the two of us. So while Mr TBTAM sautéed some up with garlic using his now-famous recipe, I took the rest and made kale chips for snacking. It was all we could do not to eat them all before dinner.
Olive oil (1 tbsp per large bunch of kale -you barely need any oil)
1 large bunch of kale, rinsed and pat dry, leaves cut away from stalks and torn into large bite size pieces
Preheat oven to 425 degrees fahrenheit. Put about a tbsp of olive oil in a large bowl, then add kale and rub with the olive oil so that both sides are coated. Season with salt and pepper. Place kale on a baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes or until leaves just start to brown. Turn and bake another 3-5 mins. Be careful, they burn quickly. Remove from oven, let cool and eat. Or store in an airtight container for later snacking.
I take no credit for this amazing entree, prepared by Mr TBTAM tonight and based on Melissa Clark’s recipe in last week’s NY Times.
I do take credit for suggesting that we substitute lemon juice for the soy sauce, given my all day migraine. So Mr TBTAM made two versions – one with soy sauce for him and one with lemon juice for me. He also sautéed rather than roasted the tofu, but otherwise stayed true to Melissa’s original recipe.
I thought mine was delicious, and Mr TBTAM thought his was too.
We served it with sautéed curly kale tossed with some of the lemon flavored sauce (delish!) for a surprisingly satisfying meal.
Sorry for my absence and the sporadic downtimes on the blog this past few weeks. My website was crashing the server, requiring me to completely rebuild the blog using an upgraded version of my theme. Well, I didn’t exactly rebuilt it – Corey did. (thanks, Corey!), although I did do a little tweaking. I’m hoping it’s loading faster and more smoothly now, making for a better user experience.
Amazingly, I resisted the urge to re-design anything, which is sort of like having your apartment renovated, but buying all the same furniture and not changing the wall color or curtains. Which is testimony either to the fact that I have become less of a perfectionist, or that I don’t have time and energy for anything new right now, or maybe that I simply love my blog just the way it is.
I think I can pretty much say the same thing about these brussels sprouts.
I started out scouring the web and my recipe books to find something amazingly new to do with these lovely little babies that hasn’t been done or blogged about by someone else before. You know, something to rock the food blogging world and turn the heart of even the most vehement brussels sprouts hater. Something just crazy enough to be brilliant.
Along the way, I found this recipe using both bacon and brown butter (be still, my atherosclerotic heart!), which reminded me of my Dad, who used to eat bacon raw (It’s smoked, he’d say) and turned us on at a young age to bread soaked in browned butter, which we had for breakfast with hot cocoa, which reminded me that my arteries were probably already clogged by the time I was 15, so I’d better make something with olive oil, which reminded me that they just published a study this week showing that a Mediterranean Diet actually lowers the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
By then, it was 7 pm and we needed to get dinner on the table.
And I realized that if I stopped trying to change the world and just sauteed these lovely sprouts with a bit of onion in some olive oil, then deglazed the pan with a few tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and tossed in a few toasted pine nuts, I’d have pretty much a perfect preparation that I would completely adore.
So that is exactly what I did.
BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH PINE NUTS & BALSAMIC VINEGAR
2 tbsp pine nuts
1 pint brussels sprouts
1/2 sweet onion
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
Toast pine nuts in a small saute pan over low heat, tossing frequently till evenly toasted – about 4 minutes. Rinse the sprouts in cold water and drain. Slice off the little stem end and remove any yellow or browned leaves. Then quarter the sprouts lengthwise. Slice the onion into pieces about the same length as the sprouts. Heat olive oil over medium high heat in a large saute pan till hot, then saute the sprouts and onion till browned, about 5 minutes, stirring several times, but making sure they stay still long enough in the pan to get nicely browned. De-glaze the pan with balsamic vinegar, toss in the pine nuts, transfer to a serving bowl and serve.
Looking for a good way to prepare two gorgeous yellow squash we picked up at the 79th St Greenmarket on Sunday, I came across a recipe for quick zucchini and almond saute on Deb Perelman’s blog Smitten Kitchen. And then the same recipe on Adam Robert’s blog The Amateur Gourmet. And then on Confessions of a Picky Eater. And then on about another million and a half other food and mommy blog sites, all inspired by Deb’s recipe.
Deb herself was inspired by Jimmy Bradley, the chef at The Red Cat – a restaurant I’d passed by on Tenth Ave in Chelsea, but have never thought to try. Of course now that I’ve made this recipe, the Red Cat is at the top of my list of must-eat places. Jimmy has been sharing his recipe for Quick Sauté of Zucchini with Toasted Almonds and Pecorino all over the internet, TV and radio since The Red Cat Cookbook came out in 2006. So if you google Jim’s name and zucchini, you’ll see a whole ‘nother spate of food bloggers who’ve made this dish.
Now, this recipe had mutated a bit from its source. While Bradley makes his preparation with 1/4 cup of oil and two separate fry pans, Deb uses only 2 tbsp of oil and makes it all in one pan, mentioning Bradley’s tent of pecorino as more of an afterthought. Hmm…easier to make and lower calories and fat. I knew which version I was making.
But wait – Mine would have yellow summer squash instead of zucchini. Another mutation!
Let’s see how far this one spreads….
How to Julienne a zucchini – great video comparing a knife to mandoline. Wish I’d found it before I cut up my squash!
This is a new favorite quick evening meal in our household, straight from the pages of Cooking Light Magazine. All we added were a few grape tomatoes.
I love having eggs for dinner – there is something so homey about it. I also like that this meal uses ingredients we usually have in stock – all we need to pick up at the store on the way home is fresh cilantro and maybe a lime – though if we have a lemon at home I’d use it instead. If you don’t keep Panko around the house (we usually have a bag in the freezer), use some old bread to make your own breadcrumbs instead.
It’s a question I found myself asking after reading that a diet rich in the natural plant compound phenethyl isothiocyanate (PEITC) has been shown to prevent the development of mammary tumors in mice. PEITC is a compound found in watercress and in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower.
The researchers found that administering PEITC for 29 weeks was linked with a 56.3% reduction in mammary carcinoma lesions greater than 2mm. “Although PEITC administration does not confer complete protection against mammary carcinogenesis, mice placed on the PEITC-supplemented diet, compared with mice placed on the control diet, clearly exhibited suppression of carcinoma progression,” the authors write. PEITC was also well-tolerated.
Although studies on PEITC in mice are quite promising, proving that PEITC works in humans is not so easy. Dietary studies in humans are exceedingly difficult to perform, and studies of PEITC-rich foods and cancer rates have had mixed results to date. Still, we do know that people who eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables have lower rates of certain cancers, as well as less heart disease, hypertension and diabetes.
Those are enough reasons to feel good about eating your broccoli. Here’s my new favorite recipe for eating mine.
Although there are many wonderful roast broccoli recipes out there (see links below), the simplicity of this preparation makes this it a versatile accompaniment to almost any meal.
– 1 head broccoli
– Extra virgin olive oil
– Sea salt & fresh ground pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut the broccoli into large florets. Cut off the end of the stalk and discard, then slice the remaining center stalk into 1/8 inch thick rounds. Spread the broccoli out in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast 15 mins or so, till just tender and the edges are nicely browned, stopping halfway through to turn the broccoli and re-brush as needed with olive oil.
___________________________________________________________________ NCI info on cruciferous vegetables and Cancer
I know. You’re wondering what a courgette is. I’ll give you a hint. It’s long, green, has seeds and can grow to enormous sizes. And no, it’s not a male frog’s body part, get your mind out of the gutter, will you?
Courgette is the French word for zucchini.
Speaking of words, although this dish, which hails from the Sephardic Jewish Jews of Turkey and Persia, is called a kugel, it is actually almost identical to the Persian egg-vegetable dish called a Kuku.
Remarkably similar words, similar ingredients, but, it seems, completely different etymology. According to the Jewish Encyclopedia, the word “Kugel” is derived from the German/Yiddish for Kugeltopf – a ball shaped ceramic jar in which puddings were cooked on the stove – while the word “Kuku” is believed to stem from the Farsi word for fowl, which either makes a noise like the word or lays the eggs from which the dish is derived.
LEEK, SPINACH & COURGETTE KUGEL
Another recipe from Martha Spieler’s Jewish Cooking. This is one of the healthiest, most delicious ways to use the spring harvest, and is chock full of veggies, with the egg serving as more of a binder for the veggies than a main player. Yet another reminder of what makes the Mediterranean cuisine so good for you.
6 tbsp olive oil
2 large leeks, cleaned and thinly sliced
1 1/2 pounds spinach, washed
1 courgette (zucchini), coarsely grated
1 baking potato, coarsely grated
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 scallions, thinly sliced
2 pinches ground turmeric
3 tbsp matzo meal
2 tbsp chopped fresh dill
3 eggs, lightly beaten
salt and ground black pepper to taste
Lemon wedges to serve
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Heat half the oil in a large saute pan. Add leeks and saute till just tender. Remove leeks to a large bowl and set aside.
Add the spinach to the pan with just the water that clings to it after washing. Place the cover on (it will seem like a lot of spinach, but don’t worry – it cooks way down) and saute over med high heat till just softened, using tongs to distribute and toss the spinach as it cooks down. (This step only takes a few minutes) Drain really well (use technique below if needed) , and when cool, chop roughly.
Meanwhile, grate the courgette and the potato, then drain and either squeeze in your hands to remove the excess liquid, or wrap in a clear dish towel and wring to accomplish the same.
Add zucchini, potato and spinach to leeks, along with scallions, garlic, turmeric and salt and pepper to taste. Add the matzo meal. Stir the dill into the eggs and add to the vegetable mixture.
Pour the remaining 3 tbsp olive oil into a lasagna-type baking pan and heat in the oven for about 5 minutes. Carefully and quickly remove the pan to the top of the stove, and spoon the vegetable mixture evenly into the pan, allowing the hot oil to bubble up over the ides and onto the top of the veggie mixture.
Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees F and bake another 15-20 minutes till firm to the touch, golden brown and fluffy.
Sprinkle with chopped dill for garnish ad serve warm with lemon wedges to squeeze over the kugel.
ADDENDUM 6/24/12 – IRENE’S VERSION
My mother-in-law Irene, the Best Home Cook in the World, modified the recipe as follows –
One leek instead of two. 1/2 chopped red pepper in with the leek. One 10 oz. bag spinach instead of 1-1/2 lbs. 2 tbsps. matzo meal instead of 3. 2 scallions instead of 3. I stirred in about 1/4 cup of crumbled feta cheese to the finished mixture before baking it. Had some home-made spicy tomato sauce in the fridge and smeared about 1/4 cup on top, halfway thru the baking. Thanks, a great recipe and will be wonderful at Passover.
Just tasted her version and it is even better than the one I made. She made hers in a 7 by 12 by 2.5 inch oval ceramic pan, which gave hers more height.
Marlena Spieler’s marvelous cookbook Jewish Cooking covers the breadth of traditional Jewish cuisine across Europe, the United States, Africa and the Middle East. Accompanied by gorgeous illustrations, a fascinating historical introduction on the Jewish Diaspora and a very informative (for this Catholic-raised girl at least) chapter on Jewish dietary laws and foodstuffs, the book has become one of my favorite go-to sources for new and foolproof recipes. After all, these are the dishes that have withstood generations of cooks, with adjustments and tweaks along the way. At this point in their evolution, they’re pretty much perfect.
MOROCCAN CARROT SALAD My only modifications on the original recipe were to lightly saute the garlic in olive oil (I don’t like garlic too raw), eliminate the vinegar (it gives me migraines), and increase the lemon juice accordingly. ff you like vinegar, use just 1/2 lemon and add 2 tbsp of red wine vinegar.
4 carrots, thinly sliced
Pinch of sugar
3 garlic cloves
1/8 tsp ground cumin (you can use up to 1/4 tsp if you prefer a stronger flavor)
Juice of 1 lemon
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander, parsley or a mix of both
salt and ground black pepper to taste
Cook carrots in boiling salted water till just tender but not soft. Drain and let dry a bit, then put into a bowl. Saute the garlic in 1 tbsp olive oil till soft but not browned. Add sugar, herbs, garlic w/ oil, cumin, lemon juice and the remaining 2 tbsp of olive oil and toss. Season with salt and pepper. Serve at room temp or chilled.
A quick post and pic for a quick and delicious asparagus recipe from yesterday’s New York Times. Perfect for using the chives that have had their annual rebirth in my terrace garden. We added some sliced avocado, otherwise made it as written. The gorgeous thin spring asparagus are from Fairway. We had enough vinaigrette leftover to use tomorrow in something else – I’m thinking of trying it with chopped eggs as an enlightened egg salad.
Sauteed Kale with Garlic, one of Mr TBTAM’s signature dishes, has become the winter vegetable of choice in our household. We never tire of it. It goes well with almost anything – pasta, chicken, sausages, soups. We’ve served it at several dinners with friends, and always are asked for the recipe. Our friends Noel and Amy liked it so much they’ve started making it on a regular basis as well, and Noel served it back to us last week, individually plated and garnished with sautéed mushrooms.
That’s the hallmark of a great recipe – it’s infectious.
Mr TBTAM’s Sauteed Kale with Garlic
You can use chicken or veggie stock, and as little or as much garlic as you like. We use chicken stock and tons of garlic. And hot pepper flakes.
Yield – 4 servings
1 large bunch of kale
2-3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup chicken or veggie stock
1-6 cloves garlic to taste, diced
Salt and pepper to taste
Hot pepper flakes to taste (Optional)
Wash kale and shake dry. Cut out center stem and then tear leaves into several pieces. Heat oil till hot in a large saute pan. Add garlic and saute over medium high heat till soft but not brown (be careful!). Add kale and chicken stock, cover and lower heat to medium. Cook till kale is wilted (but not too soft) and still bright green, about 5 minutes or so. Remove the lid, toss around while the excess stock cooks off, another minute or so. Season with salt and pepper. Serve piping hot.
Noel’s Sauteed Kale with Less Garlic and a Mushroom Garnish
1-2 tbsp olive oil
Button or crimini mushrooms, washed, dried and quartered
Salt and pepper
Mr TBTAM’s sauteed kale with made with veggie stock and 1 clove garlic
Heat olive oil over high heat in a small saute pan. Add mushrooms and saute till browned nicely – don’t stir too much, you want them to brown. Season and remove from the pan to set aside while cooking the kale and garlic. Plate kale individually and with a scattering of mushrooms atop.
This traditional Catalan flatbread is based on yet another recipe from Williams Sonoma Barcelona cookbook. Coca recapte are savory pastries made with meat or fish and vegetables, the combination of which depends, apparently, on what is in the larder. Or, as Catalan food blogger Anna at the Good Food Room describes it :
Recapte” is Catalan for “Alright, after a hard work’s day, let’s see what we have left and how we can turn it into a meal”…
Well, this coca recapte was made after a hard day’s play following an early evening swim and a day spent antiquing, playing scrabble, biking and hanging on the front porch. In true Barcelonan style, we did not eat till well after 9 pm. Not quite the same as a visit to Spain, but just as nice.
Flatbread with Eggplant, Peppers & olives (Coca de Recapte)
I love the technique for cooking eggplant in this recipe – roasted the same way you roast peppers. This coca recipe uses baking powder, but other coca recipes I’ve seen used yeast. In the future, I think I’ll make this using Mark Bittman’s pizza dough recipe.
For the dough
1 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 egg yolk
3/4 cup water
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
1 medium eggplant
1 large sweet onion, very thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced fine
12 black olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
salt and pepper to taste
2 large ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 tbsp butter
5 tbsp olive oil, plus a tad more to grease the pan
Preheat oven to 450 degrees fahrenheit. Place peppers and eggplant on baking sheet and roast, turning them so they char evenly on all 4 sides, about 45 minutes.
While veggies are roasting, slice and caramelize the onions. In a cast iron skillet, melt 1 tbsp butter in 1 tbsp olive oil over moderately high heat. Add sliced onions, turn down the heat to medium and saute, stirring frequently, until onions are caramelized, about 10-15 minutes. Cool.
Remove roasted vegetables to a brown paper bag to cool about 15 minutes.
While the roasted veggies are cooling in the bag, make the flatbread dough. Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Make a well in the center, and add olive oil and egg yolk. Gradually add water, mixing into the flour with a wooden spoon. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about a minute until soft, smooth and elastic. Form into a ball and place into a large lightly oiled bowl. Cover with a kitchen towel and leave in a warm place for 30 minutes until dough puffs slightly.
Peel cooled roasted veggies, discarding the stems, seeds and skins. Slice into thin strips, then toss gently with onions, garlic and olives. Season generously with salt and pepper. Set aside.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to fit a lightly oiled 12 by 9 inch baking pan. Press dough into pan and trim edges if need be.
Cover the base of the dough with the tomato slices. Brush with 2 tbsp olive oil. Arrange the veggies evenly over the tomato slices and drizzle with remaining oil. Bake until edges are starting to brown, about 25 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool slightly, slice into squares and serve warm.
Coca Recapte around the web
Elizabet Figueras calles it a leftover foccacia and makes hers with veggies and salt cod
Most recipes for corn pudding get published in the fall, evoking images of the Indians and the Pilgrims gathered around the Thanksgiving table. These recipes are a great reason to use the leftover corn you had put in the freezer in July and then forgot you had until you found it while cleaning out the freezer in November.
Here’s what I say – forget the frozen corn. Make the corn pudding in July using sweet corn fresh off the ear. And don’t waste the recipe on leftover corn – buy the corn special just for this recipe. It’s worth it. Serve it with reheated ribs and barbecue sauce that you had found in the freezer. Add green beans, and if the weather is right, it can become your first rooftop dinner of the season.
Oh and did I mention I didn’t actually make this? Mr TBTAM did! But I helped reheat the ribs and set the table.
Corn Pudding (Modified from Fonda San Miguel: Thirty Years of Food and Art, by Tom Gilliland, Miguel Ravago, and Virginia B. Wood, in Epicurious)
If you make this, I recommend cutting the peppers in a large dice rather than strips above, because the strips make it hard to cut the pudding onto squares, which is why it sort of just looks like a delciious clump on the plate…
2 pounds fresh corn kernels
Whole milk as needed (up to a cup)
6 eggs, separated
1/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons butter, softened
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
cayenne pepper to taste (about a pinch or more to taste)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Cheddar cheese
1 poblano chile, roasted, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/4-inch strips
Half of a red bell pepper, cut into strips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with butter or oil. Puree the corn in the food processor with just enough milk to make a smooth puree (we used a little over a half cup). With the machine running, add egg yolks, one at a time, and process 30 seconds after each addition. Keeping machin running, add the sugar a little at a time and process until mixture is lighter in color and sugar is dissolved, about 3 minutes. Add butter and process until smooth. Transfer to a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt, and baking powder; fold into corn mixture. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form and fold into corn mixture, alternating with the shredded cheese. Pour into baking dish and top with strips of chile and red bell pepper. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.
An Even Easier and Less Fattening Corn Pudding
We got the whole idea of making corn pudding from my mother in law Irene, who made this much simpler and just as delicious recipe, also from Epicurious. I’m making Irene’s version next time – it’s also less calories..
Note – this post went out on the feed before I had finished editing it. Don’t use the feed recipe, it’s got errors. Use this one.
Having friends over for dinner who are both Kosher and vegetarian can be a challenge, and I love a good challenge. What makes it a fun challenge is that these friends are always up for trying something new, and appreciate the efforts we make to accomodate their dietary preferences. Even better is the fact that our kids are older, which means we’ve moved on beyond just pasta.
Mutual college spring breaks for our daughters was last night’s reason for getting together. It was also the first day in weeks when I did not have to be anywhere but home, having been overwhelmed with work, life and family issues. I actually had time to cook!
Turning to one of my favorite cookbooks, Regional Italian Cuisine, for inspiration, I found it on pages 156-157, where there were photos and recipes for four gorgeous Tuscan vegetable dishes.
Fagioli all/accelletto (White Beans w/ Sage)
Spinach gratinati (Baked Spinach)
Funghi alla toscana (Stewed Mushrooms)
Finocchi al fortno (Baked Fennel)
“Let’s make them all!” I called to Mr TBTAM, who agreed that they looked so beautiful together in the book, they’d make a perfect dinner. We figured we’d round out the meal with mesclun salad with a lemon vinaigrette and a warm baguette.
So we rode our bikes to Fairway for provisions, doing a Central Park Loop on the way there and back. (My first ride of the season, I can’t wait for more warm weather!)
Believe it or not, preparing these four dishes was not very difficult, and Mr TBTAM and I only spent a total of about 2 hours in the kitchen, including time for making some fresh breadcrumbs. We started with the beans, which we allowed to stew on the stovetop for about an hour, while we made the rest of the dishes. The breadcrumbs and the Fennel were next, and while that baked, I made the spinach. Last was the most amazing – the mushrooms. All the cooked dishes kept nicely while we sat around drinking wine and munching on appetizers for over an hour, and reheated beautifully just before mealtime.
The best part is that we now have four tried and true side dishes for future dinners, vegetarian or not.
And so do you.
I’m starting with the prettiest first, and will post the others over the next few days. Enjoy!
Funghi alla Toscana
Garlic, tomato paste, lemon and mint combine to give these mushrooms a most wonderful flavor. My recipe uses more mushrooms and a tad less olive oil than the original, (17 ounces and 5 tbsp, respectively, in the original recipe).
1 1/2 lbs small to medium sized fresh mixed mushrooms (I used bella, white and chanterelles)
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
4 tbsp olive oil
Salt + pepper to taste
2 tbsp tomato paste
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp butter
2-4 tbsp chopped fresh mint for garnish
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Clean and thinly slice mushrooms, tossing them with 1/2 the lemon juice. Heat olive oil in a cast iron skillet. Add mushrooms and saute over medium high heat – how long? The original recipe does not say. I figured until they just barely give up their water, or about 5 minutes. While the mushrooms are cooking, melt butter in a sauce pan. Saute garlic in the butter until golden, about 1-2 minutes, then add the rest of lemon juice and the tomato paste and season with salt and pepper. Add to the mushrooms, season again with salt and pepper and pop the skillet into the oven for 10 minutes. Top with mint and serve hot in the skillet.
If you had a gift certificate for dinner at Blue Hill, when would you go? Summer or winter? Would it be salads, corn, fresh tomatoes, summer vegetables and berries or root vegetables, greenhouse greens and autumn fruits?
I chose winter. Perhaps it’s my Irish/Slav potato-loving roots and my love of cheeses and cured meats. Or the fact that the gift certificate, given to me by a grateful patient over a year ago, was about to expire.
For those of you who may not know Blue Hill, it’s the restaurant the Obamas chosefor date night in 2009, where chef Dan Barber, at the forefront of the farm-to-table movement, serves food the NY times says “you’d almost rather hug than eat”.
We took the girls to Blue Hill for a special family dinner, riding the train to West 4th St one Sunday evening in mid-January, walking through the Village and stopping along the way to browse the vinyl at Bleecker Bobs before taking a late seating at Blue Hill. We’ve never before eaten with the kids at such a high end restaurant, but they’re old enough now to appreciate it, and have a good consciousness of the issues regarding the food supply in this country and the importance of restaurants like Blue Hill in supporting local farmers.
The meal was marvelous, every bite a satisfying surprise. Since the gift certificate went only so far towards what is a very pricey meal, we decided to share the appetizers and skip the bottle of wine so we could enjoy dessert. So no one was more surprised than I to discover that, despite what might have seemed small portions in another restaurant, we were utterly satisfied by the end of our meal and elected to forgo dessert.
But that’s what real food does, doesn’t it? It truly satisfies.
Sometimes I wonder if the reason Americans are so fat is because we just keep looking to satiate our inner craving for real food, a craving that synthetic processed food will never be able to fill. Which suggests that the higher price tag for organic veggies and grass fed meats may actually bely the biggest food bargain we’ll ever get.
Blue Hill-Inspired Braised Fennel and Apples
The Blue Hill appetizer that inspired this dish was braised and roasted fennel, smoked apples and homemade pancetta. They sliced their apples so thin you could almost see through them – without a mandoline, I couldn’t come close, but still I enjoyed my own version almost as much. I based my recipe on one from Simply Recipes (nice pic there of braised fennel), used pistachios instead of pancetta, and drizzled a nice rich balsamic vinegar atop for color and a dash of flavor.
2 small fennel bulbs
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
(optional) a tiny sprig of fresh rosemary or thyme
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 large Gold Rush or other tart crisp apple, thinly sliced Roasted peeled pistachios – I get mine from a local Middle Eastern Food shop
Trim the fennel, halve each bulb through the core, then cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick slices.
Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the fennel (in batches if ned be) until browned on all sides, turning carefully and seasoning with salt and pepper while browning, about 4-5 mins each.
Add the broth and bring to a boil. Simmer, covered, until tender, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a bowl. Raise the heat to high, add 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar, and reduce the sauce until syrupy.
Arange the apples on a serving plate, then top with fennel and pistachios. Drizzle with balsamic reduction.