I’ve Had My Eye On This One

Elijah the Prophet visits us on Passover, but Yotam Ottolenghi was at our table on Rosh Hashana. I already told you about the fish we had on first night from his cookbook Jerusalem. But I cracked open both Plenty and Plenty More for our vegetarian guests the second night.

first day of daycare

I know I should be talking about the fresh corn polenta and eggplant because it’s September and both of those foods are pretty much perfect right now. But my guests and I both agree that it’s the roasted red onions with walnut salsa that needs to be talked about.

I’ve had my eye on this salad for as long as I’ve had this cookbook in my collection. Roasting the red onions until they’re golden on top and near translucent in the rings takes the bite out of them and renders them almost sweet. The arugula provides a nice contrast, and the goat cheese connects the two with its tang. And the walnut salsa. Oh, the walnut salsa.

The third thing is a slice of mushroom tart that I whipped together.

Because I know a lot of you are wondering — it’s a mushroom tart.

Ottolenghi recipes are often pretty labor- and time-intensive, but not this one. Yes, the roasting of the onions will take about 40 minutes, give or take, but everything else comes together very quickly – you put the walnut salsa together while the onions roast to give them some time to get to know each other. I set the half cup of parsley in two rounds of cold water to clean it. As per usual, I only used about half a hot pepper, but how much you use is entirely up to you. Where it says to brush the onions with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, I just tossed everything in a large bowl and then lay them out on a baking pan covered in parchment paper.

hula hoop

I have a five pound bag of red onions, a 10 lb. bag of walnuts from Costco, a second log of goat cheese, two bunches of parsley, leftover arugula and the remaining half of hot red pepper. So, basically, I’m making this again for dinner tonight. I couldn’t forgive myself if I didn’t.

Red Onions with Walnut Salsa from Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi

Ingredients

4 medium red onions (1 1/3 lb/600 g)

1 ½ Tablespoons olive oil

1 cup/20 g arugula

½ cup/15 g small flat-leaf parsley leaves

2 oz/60 g soft goat cheese broken into 3/4-inch/2-cm chunks

Salt and black pepper

Salsa

2/3 cup/65 g walnuts, coarsely chopped

1 red chile, seeded and finely chopped (use your discretion)

1 clove garlic, crushed

3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 Tablespoon olive oil

Salt

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425F/220C

Peel the onions and remove the tops and tails. Cut each crosswise into 3 slices, about 3/4-inch/2-cm thick, and place on a baking sheet. Brush the slices with the olive oil, sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon salt and some black pepper, and roast in the oven for about 40 minutes, until the onions are cooked and golden brown on top. If they haven’t taken on much color, place under a hot broiler for a few minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.

While the onions are cooking, put all of the salsa ingredients in a small bowl, add ¼ teaspoon salt, stir and set aside.

To serve, put the arugula and parsley in a large bowl. Add the warm onions, the cheese and half the salsa and toss carefully so the onions don’t fall apart. Divide among shallow plates, spoon the remaining salsa over the top, and serve.

‘Shrooms on a Plane

I’ve been meaning to tell you about these mushrooms. I totally forgot about them until I rediscovered them on my phone. I was scrolling through Lilli photos at my desk at work and came across these. The first time I made them was when we were on lockdown. That’s probably why I forgot to talk about them.

Taste of Allston

I found the recipe in the strangest of ways: On an airplane, on our return flight from Spain and The Netherlands. I was delighted to discover that one of the channels on my personal television included some cooking shows. While I’m not a fan of The Food Network, it’s hard not to love Jamie Oliver. I actually couldn’t find my headphones, so I just watched Jamie make these mushrooms. They looked great and I put them on my to-do list, but I never had all the ingredients in the house at the same time until this past April.

It turns out these mushrooms are fantastic, and I ended up making them three more times in quick succession. They use a hot pepper, so get out your rubber gloves if you’re going to be handling babies in the near future.

mushrooms to be roasted

Since I didn’t actually hear this recipe on the plane, I’ve tried to get this as close to a recipe as possible. These mushrooms now take their place in the category of foods that I haven’t actually served because I eat them at the stove top. (This includes a humdinger of a kohlrabi recipe from summer CSAs past.)

The measurement of 10 oz. of mushrooms is based solely on the fact that that is the amount in the containers sold in grocery stores. The truth is, if you want enough to serve anyone apart from yourself over the stove, I’d recommend preparing 20 ounces of mushrooms. I will leave the amount of hot pepper up to your own personal tastes, but please don’t skip it.

Roasted Mushrooms adapted from Jamie Oliver

Ingredients

10 ounces of mushrooms, rubbed clean and quartered

2 cloves or 1 Tablespoon of fresh chopped garlic

Up to one small red hot chili pepper, minced

1 Tablespoon fresh chopped parsley

1 very large pinch of kosher salt

2 Tablespoons olive oil (This is a guess. I honestly just pour until its moist enough to toss)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees

Place all the ingredients in a large bowl. Using your hands, toss to combine. Don’t be scared to get your hands dirty.

Pour all ingredients into a small roasting dish, making sure to scrape in all the good stuff that is sticking to the sides of the bowl.

Roast the mushrooms for approximately 25 minutes. You’ll know to remove them when the mushrooms are  deep brown and the garlic will have begun to caramelize.

Try and get them into a serving bowl, but I won’t blame you if they don’t make it onto the table.

The Fourth Quarter

My father, who is originally from London and who now lives in Jerusalem, was once given advice on how to act more American: start drinking coffee instead of tea and watch the Celtics. Granted, this was 30 years ago, when I was little and the Big Three were Bird, McHale and Parish. Even though the coffee suggestion was a bit ludicrous, watching the Celtics seemed like sound advice, and I’ve been a Celtics fan my whole life.

Sure, I’m sad the season is over, but if you told me in January that it would have lasted until the fourth quarter of Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, well, I wouldn’t have believed it. I don’t think anyone believed in the Celtics more than Doc Rivers, and I’m so happy he knew we were all wrong.

We hosted nearly every game in this post-season, and I always had something out for our guests to enjoy. Man cannot live on nachos alone, and truthfully, I’m much more likely to slap together a Mediterranean mezzes platter than to order a pizza. And so this eggplant dip found its way onto a platter last week.

I wonder what Ottolenghi, an Israeli now living in London, would have to say about his eggplant dip being eaten with gusto in front of such a uniquely American sporting event, but I won’t wonder too long. There’s dip to eat, people!

This might have been the easiest thing I’ve ever done to an eggplant. The day before, I placed it, whole, on a foil-coated pan, coated it with oil and roasted it for 3 hours, or until it turned mushy and caved in on itself. Once the foil had cooled off enough to handle, I folded it around the eggplant, dropped it in a bowl, and put that in the fridge overnight. The next day, I scraped the meat from the blackened, blistered skin, and made this dip in less than seven minutes.

Sure, our basketball season is over for now, but with about 17 hours of Euro 2012 on the DVR and the Olympics coming next month, I have no doubt this dip will be made again and again.

Burnt Eggplant with Tahini from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty

Ingredients

1 large eggplant

1/3 cup tahini paste

¼ cup water

2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses

1 Tablespoon lemon juice

1 garlic clove, crushed

3 Tablespoons chopped parsley

Salt and pepper

A little olive oil to finish

Directions

First, burn the eggplant. (I was very lazy with mine and simply roasted the eggplant in a 400 degree oven for about 3 hours, keeping a close eye on it after the second hour.) Ottolenghi suggests (and I fully support) lining the area around the stove burners with foil to protect them, and starting the eggplants on the stovetop by putting the eggplant directly on two moderate flames and roasting for 12 to 15 minutes, turning frequently with metal tongs, until the flesh is soft and smoky and the skin is burnt all over. Keep an eye on them the whole time so they don’t catch fire. For an electric stove, pierce the eggplant with a sharp knife in a few places. Put them foil-lined tray and place directly under a hot broiler for 1 hour, turning them a few times. The eggplants need to deflate completely and their skin should burn and break.

When cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh into a colander, avoiding blackened skin. Leave to drain for at least 30 minutes.

Chop the eggplant flesh roughly and transfer to a medium mixing bowl. Add the tahini, water, pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, garlic, parsley and some salt and pepper; mix well with a whisk. Taste and adjust the season, adding more garlic, lemon juice or molasses if needed. You want the salad to have a robust sour/slightly sweet flavor.

I served the eggplant with lots of cut up crunchy vegetables and triangles of whole wheat pita. Ottolenghi suggests sprinkling fresh pomegranate seeds on it and tossing it with sliced mini cucumbers and cherry tomatoes and making it more of a salad. It’s up to you, really.

Dinner At The Palm

I know I’m about four years late to the party, but I’ve just discovered Mad Men. I mean, I knew about the show, but hadn’t had the chance to watch it and enjoy not only the storylines (although Season 4 is rather dark) but also the clothing and the sets. And, since I took that Food and the Visual Arts class last fall, I’ve learned to pay close attention to the foods cooked, ordered or, in the case of Don Draper and his co-workers, drunk. My reflux prevents me from posting about my favorite cocktail, so instead I’m going to write about one of my favorite salad ingredients: hearts of palm.

Don seems to be a fan of the curious vegetable, ordering it at Sardi’s in Season 2, and Trudy Campbell serves a salad of them to Pete in Season 3. Literally cut from the hearts of palm trees, the vegetable came into vogue as post-war Americans became more affluent and more adventurous in their eating (think Polynesian/Chinese food).

Hearts of palm and I have a bit of a history. About 10 years ago, Sylvie and I went on a bit of a hearts of palm binge. (Side note: How is it possible I only started talking about Syl a month ago? Clearly we spend a great deal of our time together talking about food.) We had gone through all the hearts of palm my mom had purchased for Passover, but we wanted more. We scoured the shelves at the Big Y in the center of town, and even tracked down the manager. He had never heard of the vegetable, but assured us he would order a case. A few weeks later we got the call: our hearts of palm had arrived, an entire case of them. It turned out the manager ordered a case for the store, and an entire case just for us.  We stood there for a second, and then nodded together, in that way that siblings are able to have entire discussions with each other without saying a word, said thank you, and went home with our bounty.

Our go-to application was usually a salad with chopped avocado, halved grape tomatoes and a vibrant vinaigrette. Since it’s February and tomatoes are a no-no in my kitchen, I’ve pulled up a recipe for a hearts of palm salad from the upcoming Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook, which is coming out in March. (Turns out I’m not the only one out there with a food and drink fixation of the show. The cookbook is based on a blog.)

Now, this “Sardi’s Hearts of Palm Salad” is a pantry recipe for me. Granted, it’s kind of ridiculous I have pimentos on hand, and if you don’t, I would suggest opening a jar of roasted red peppers and adding them to the vinegar-onion mixture as you chop the rest of the dressing ingredients. In the course of making this salad I also discovered I have three separate jars of capers in the fridge, but as I’ve mentioned in the past, I have a predilection for pickled things.

I minced the onions and added them to the vinegar before I chopped anything else so they’d have less of a bite by the time the salad was ready to be served. I’ve ignored the recipe’s instructions regarding the lettuce leaves and sprigs of watercress because I am far less likely to have those items reliably in the fridge. For those nervous about using canned hearts of palm, they can also be found in glass jars.

Quick tip for hard-boiling the eggs: I take a note from Alton Brown for this one, and cook my eggs in my plug-in kettle I keep on the counter (or kum-kum for those reading this in Israel). After the kettle boils and pops, let them rest in the pot for 10 minutes, and you’ll have perfectly boiled eggs.

Sardi’s Hearts of Palm Salad (from The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook)

Ingredients

1 can hearts of palm

6 thin slices pimento

4 Tablespoons vinaigrette dressing (see recipe below)

Vinaigrette Dressing

1 Tablespoon finely chopped onion

¼ cup white wine vinegar

½ dill pickle

1 teaspoon capers, finely chopped

1 Tablespoon finely chopped parsley

1 Tablespoon finely chopped pimento

1 teaspoon finely chopped hard-boiled egg white

1 teaspoon salt

¼ olive oil

Directions

Place the finely chopped onion in a small bowl and add the vinegar.

Chop the rest of the ingredients and add them to the small bowl. Sprinkle with salt and add the olive oil, Stir thoroughly. Keep in refrigerator. Always stir before using.

Slice the hearts of palm into ¼ inch round slices. Place in a serving bowl. Stir in two tablespoons of the vinaigrette. Taste and add more dressing if necessary.

The Silver Lining

This past June, on the way to my cousin’s baby shower, I got lost. Really, really lost. Like, call my parents on a Sunday morning slightly hysterical lost. Like, call Rich the morning after a bachelor party while he’s eating at IHOP lost. The worst part was I had a GPS, but the road I would have normally taken was being worked on, and every time I turned on the GPS to lead me north, it directed me back to the closed-off highway. By some miracle, I made it to the shower on-time, although I now know that GPS and cellphone reception between Lowell, MA, and southern New Hampshire is a bit spotty in places.

The silver lining to the story is that while I was in the car, NPR’s Weekend Edition introduced me to Yotam Ottolenghi, an Israeli-born chef now working in London, whose new vegetarian cookbook, Plenty, has become a smash hit this year. Vegetarian and Israeli — basically, a cookbook written for me. My friend Sara tells me that when she lived in London in 2005 she went to his restaurant all the time, but was always surprised that he had so little name recognition in the States.

As soon as I made it back from the shower, I put my name on the waiting list at the library. There were about two dozen people ahead of me, and as his recipes started popping up on blogs I read, I needed to remind myself that patience is a virtue. Last week, I received the notice that the book was waiting for me at my local branch around the corner. I was so excited. It was my turn, finally. Mine, mine, mine.

Except, not unlike the GPS debacle, the book the librarian handed me wasn’t Plenty, but his first cookbook, Ottolenghi: The Cookbook, written in 2008. Well, I told myself, a top chef still has top recipes, even if they aren’t the ones I was counting on. So I decided to make lemonade out of lemons — or, in Ottolenghi’s case, preserved lemons — and dove in.

It’s always interesting reading a cookbook from another country because it’s a reminder that there’s a whole lot of world outside of my home. I knew that courgettes were zucchini and aubergines were eggplants, but I had no idea that snow peas were called mangetout, or that I actually had a swede — aka a yellow turnip, aka a rutabaga — in my crisper. I also had celeriac, (celery root) in the house as well, a cast-off from my officemate’s CSA.

The recipe I have for you today, a celery root and rutabaga slaw, is just perfect for these late autumn/almost winter months, and makes me wish these veggies were year-round produce. I’d never considered eating rutabaga raw, as I usually roast or braise them. And boy, have I been missing out! Seriously, the dish is extraordinary. Rich said it was one of the better things I’ve made lately. Not that I’ve been serving him swill; it’s just a really amazing salad.

Here’s what Ottolenghi has to say about this dish:

It is a bit like a rémoulade in its tang, but also has multilayered sweet (dried cherries) and savoury (capers) flavours to create a magnificently intense accompaniment to fish or lamb. It will also make a great addition to a vegetarian mezze.

Variations on this dish are endless. Try using kohlrabi, beetroot, turnip, carrot or cabbage, or a combination of them for this salad. Most soft herbs would suit, and don’t forget the acidity from citrus juice or vinegar to lighten it up.

I always have capers in the house, and I keep dried cherries from Ocean State Job Lot on hand in the pantry at all times, making this a great pantry recipe. I’ve made this dish twice in a five day period, and that’s without my large food processor. If you do have a food processor, this whips up in a jiff; if you don’t, I promise you it’s worth the extra effort. I didn’t have any sunflower oil on hand, so I used olive oil exclusively for the salad. I also used regular sugar in lieu of caster sugar. The slaw was still wonderful.

Don’t be scared of the ugly celery root. Give it a rinse to get some of the dirt off, and stand it up on the cutting board and cut the skin off by slicing down the sides of the bulb with a large sharp knife. You can cut the waxy skin off the rutabaga in the same manner.

The recipe is in grams, so my digital scale got quite the workout this week. I’ve converted it into ounces and cups for a more Continental-friendly audience, but the grams are the original measure and most accurate.

Sweet and sour celeriac and swede (aka Sweet and sour celery root and rutabaga) from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook

Serves 4-6

250g (9 oz., 1 1/2 cup) celeriac, peeled and thinly shredded

250g (9 oz., 1 1/2 cup) swede, peeled and thinly shredded

4 Tablespoons roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley

4 Tablespoons roughly chopped dill

50g (2 oz., 1/3 cup) capers, drained and roughly chopped

4 Tablespoons lemon juice (about 1 large lemon)

1 teaspoon cider vinegar

4 Tablespoons olive oil

4 Tablespoons sunflower oil

3 teaspoons Dijon mustard

2 garlic cloves, crushed

2 teaspoons caster sugar

100g (3.5 oz., 1/2 cup) dried sour cherries

Salt and black pepper

  1. Place the shredded celeriac and swede in a mixing bowl. Add all the rest of the ingredients and use your hands to mix everything together thoroughly. ‘Massaging’ the vegetables a little will help them absorb the flavors. Taste and add salt and pepper to your liking You might also want to add some extra sugar and vinegar.
  2. Allow the salad to sit for an hour so the flavors can evolve. It will keep for up to 2 days in the fridge. Add more herbs just before serving, for a fresher look.

Gimme Carrots

I found a second book the day I visited The Strand in early July, but for the sake of a smooth story, I left it out. But now the second book has caused a bit of kitchen inspiration, in the strangest of ways. This is odd, seeing as how it’s the Keith Richards autobiography Life.

Let me explain: I’ve made a concerted effort this summer to stay away from the grocery store, relying instead on my CSA box for my produce. It’s a mixed bag, literally: one week might offer a pint of sweet-as-sugar strawberries, but nestled among some twisted green garlic scapes. The downside: for three weeks and counting, I have received bunches of my vegetable kryptonite: carrots. Not that I don’t like carrots, because I adore them, but they give me a tummy ache. A terrible, terrible tummy ache.

The first week I cleaned them and handed them over to Rich, who crunched away in the other room, only to return to the kitchen to ask if we could maybe keep carrots in the house as a snack. The next week brought more bunches of the vegetable, although now they were coming in all sorts of lovely red and purple hues.

So how does Keith Richards’ life fit into this post? In chapter six of Life, he and his mates, awaiting trial on drugs charges, decide on a whim to drive to Morocco in Keith’s blue Bentley. (Fun fact: Keith claims the bust was orchestrated by News of the World, who paid off his Belgian chauffeur. The more things change…) But rather than be disgusted/secretly impressed with the wanton drug use, all I could think about was Moroccan carrot salad. Garlicky, pungent, with flicks of green parsley, it’s one of my all-time favorite dishes. But like Keith’s relationship with Jack Daniels, I just cannot eat it anymore. But Rich can — two nights in a row. He hasn’t complained yet.

Moroccan Carrot Salad

I have been making this salad in single servings, but my guess is that most of you will want to double or triple it. And I promise you the math will work.

The recipe here is very bare bones, and I encourage you to mix things up if you’re so inclined. Harrisa would be a great addition, although I’ve left it out in this simple version.

3 carrots, chopped into one-inch pieces (about 1 cup)

1 clove of garlic, minced (I actually lean towards two, but I’m a bit extreme in my garlic use)

1 small handful of parsley, minced

1 Tablespoon olive oil

Two squeezes of lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

Pinch of red pepper flakes, or to taste

Pinch of salt

Directions: Fill a small saucepan with water and pinch of salt. Add the chopped carrots and set on the stove to boil. Cook until soft, about 10 minutes. To test for softness, pierce with a fork.

While the carrots are cooking, chop your garlic and parsley. Place those in a medium-sized bowl, along with the spices and salt. Once the carrots have cooked, remove from the heat and drain in a colander in the sink. Add the cooked carrots to the bowl of garlic, salt and spices. Add the oil and lemon juice. Stir. Enjoy. When Rich brings the bowl back, carrot-free, I run my finger around the bowl and lick with gusto. This last step is up to you.