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.

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It’s What We Do

kosher vegetarian

It must be an August thing, because I’ve been dreaming about eggplant again. A thick purple gem of an aubergine came a few weeks back in my CSA, and I had been tossing around ideas of what I wanted to do with it for days. I knew I wanted it to be a dip perfect for pita — tomatoey, soft with a bit of a shimmer, not too smoky. I also knew I wanted to use the green pepper that came in the same box. But I couldn’t quite put my finger on exactly how I was to execute my vision. I knew that Aleza was coming to town, so I assured the eggplant that its fate would be a lovely one, if it could just hang on a few more days.

In preparation for our visit, we chatted a bit online about my vision, bouncing around flavors from Israel, Persia and Armenia — places that do magical things with eggplant. On a Tuesday morning, Aleza and I hunkered down with slices of leftover blueberry pie in her parents’ kitchen. (Yes, I took a vacation day to cook this eggplant. And I think all mornings should start with slices of leftover blueberry pie.) While digging around the refrigerator, her dad came downstairs and asked us if we needed any help. “Oh no,” we assured him, “we’re all set.” We were just checking to make sure there wasn’t a vegetable we had overlooked who would want to join the eggplant. We ended up taking two smaller eggplants Aleza had picked up at the farmer’s market in Provincetown, to supplement my own.

Although it had been literally a dozen years since Aleza and I cooked and studied together in Israel, it felt just so right to have planned an entire visit around cooking a meal. “It’s what we do,” Aleza summed up to her father.

Eggplant a la Aleza Eve

Ingredients

2 lbs. of eggplant (one very large one will do)

Enough oil to cover a pan

1 1/2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds

1 half white onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 green pepper, chopped

1 1/2 teaspoons Aleppo pepper

14 oz. can crushed tomato

Salt to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees

We began the eggplant preparation by placing them one at a time directly on top of a burner on the stove for about 10 minutes, turning them about every two minutes so that the entire eggplant would come into contact with the flame. This blistered its skin and started to soften its flesh. Then we tossed it into a very hot preheated oven and roasted it while we prepared the rest of the dish.

As we discussed relationships, politics, writing, religion, music and tattoos, I chopped the onion while Aleza chopped up the green pepper and garlic. We went with whole cumin seeds, which we added to a pan of hot oil, and watched until they jumped and popped. Then we added the onions and a pinch of salt, which we cooked for about 10 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon every two minutes or so. Next we added the Aleppo pepper, green pepper and garlic, and cooked that altogether for about 15 more minutes.

(I had to run to the grocery store at this point to pick up black beans for a little protein for the corn salad we had decided to serve with the eggplant, so I didn’t actually witness this next part, but will recreate as best I can.)

A good 40 minutes had passed since we’d added the eggplant to the oven, and Aleza could see it was ready by the way it had completely softened and collapsed in on itself. She knew it was really ready by the way the flesh was easily scraped from its skin with a fork, which she then added to the onion-cumin-pepper mixture on the stove. Then she added about half of a 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes. She was a little worried that she’d added too much, but it was just what I’d had in mind.

We cooked the dish for another 10 minutes or so, making sure all the flavors melded into each other. As we turned off the stove, Aleza drizzled a little red wine vinegar onto the eggplant, to perk it up. After toasting some pita (which I also purchased on my trip to the grocery store) we enjoyed my eggplant vision in its full glory, drizzling olive oil onto the servings on our plate.