We have a lot of things to thank Julia Child for beyond the fact that she popularized French home cooking here in the U.S. She made cooking cool. She pioneered a cooking show genre that has exploded into the countless cooking shows that eat […]
Tag: Blue Cayenne Food and Photography
Anyone out there who doesn’t like artichokes? I don’t see any hands. I think artichokes are a bit like avocados. Even served simply without a whole lot of fuss, both vegetables generate a lot of buzz around the table. Carrots and celery certainly don’t get […]
Which “vegetable” is actually a berry, has the highest nicotine content among all vegetables, and is 95% water? (Hint: Chinese ladies once used the dye extracted from this vegetable’s skin to polish their teeth to a then-fashionable gray hue.)
It’s the eggplant. Who knew? (Don’t worry about the nicotine part, by the way. You would have to consume 20 pounds of eggplant to get the amount of nicotine in a single cigarette. That is more eggplant than even eurysome Chris Christie could eat in one sitting.)
Also called a brinjal (India), a melanzana (Italy) and an aubergine (France), the eggplant is a member of the nightshade family that includes tomatoes and potatoes. Native to Asia, the eggplant was introduced into Europe via Mediterranean trade. Thomas Jefferson is credited with introducing the eggplant to American tables and grew plants in his Virginia garden.
Historically, the reputation of the eggplant is a mix. On the one hand, there is a charming Japanese proverb that enthuses about dreaming of eggplant on New Year’s Eve: “The happiest omen for a new year is first Mt. Fuji, then the falcon, and lastly eggplant.” (I’m trying to imagine the storyline of such a dream. It might go something like this… With a cloud-shrouded Mt.Fuji looming majestically in the background, a solitary falcon soars soundlessly above the landscape. Suddenly, spotting its prey, the falcon stops mid-air and then swoops from the sky, only to find that he has targeted a single purple eggplant. Bummer for the falcon. No! Wait! The curious falcon notices that the eggplant is glowing–an enchanted orb. Then, before the world-weary falcon’s eyes, the eggplant transforms into a lovely purple-gowned princess. The princess promptly falls in love with the lonely falcon and bestows upon him a single magical kiss whereupon the falcon morphs into a handsome Japanese prince. And today, if you look ever so carefully, you can see them– two lovers standing in luxuriant fields of eggplants growing on the slopes of Mt. Fuji and pondering their good fortune in life. The prince is now a wealthy anime mogul and the princess operates an elegant ryokan named L’aubergine. <cue the music>)
On the other hand, Medieval Europeans were wary of consuming eggplant, believing it was a poison that could cause madness. (The Italian word for eggplant is a variation on the term mad apple.)
The high season for eggplants is August to October, so you will find an abundance of eggplants (there are more than twenty varieties) in markets at the moment, and this recipe, adapted from Ottolenghi’s well-regarded cookbook Jerusalem, is both a delicious and beautiful way to ease into eggplant season.
Wishing you handsome princes and eggplant dreams.
Yields 4 Servings
1 hr, 30 Total Time
- 2 cloves garlic (crushed)
- 2 t. ground cumin
- 2 t. ground coriander
- 1 t. chili flakes
- 1 t. sweet paprika
- 2 T. finely-chopped preserved lemon peel (I used 1 t. lemon zest)
- 2/3 C. olive oil
- 2 medium eggplants
- 1 C. fine bulgur (I used coarse)
- 2/3 C. boiling water
- 1/2 C. golden raisins (or more to your taste)
- 3 1/2 T. warm water
- 2 t. cilantro (chopped)
- 2 t. mint (chopped)
- 1/3 C. pitted green olives (roughly chopped or halved)
- 1/3 C. sliced almonds (toasted)
- 3 green onions (chopped)
- 1 1/2 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 C. Greek yogurt
- Feta (crumbled) to garnish
- Pinenuts (toasted) to garnish
- Chopped cilantro to garnish
- A drizzle of good quality olive oil
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Chermoula: Mix garlic, cumin, coriander, chili, paprika, lemon, 2/3 of the olive oil, and 1/2 t. salt in a bowl and set aside.
- Cut eggplants in half lengthwise. Score the flesh of the eggplants and spoon chermoula sauce over each half, spreading evenly. With the cut side facing up, place eggplants on a baking sheet and roast the eggplant in the oven for about 40 minutes. (The eggplants should be totally soft when they are done.)
- Put the bulgur in a bowl and pour boiling water over the bulgur. Let the bulgur sit and absorb the water while you finish the dish.
- Put raisins in a bowl, add warm water and let them sit for about 10 minutes. Drain the raisins and discard the water. Add the soaked raisins to the bulgur and add remaining oil. Add cilantro, mint, olives, almonds, green onions, lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Stir. Taste and adjust salt if necessary.
- Plate the eggplants and spoon bulgur mixture on top of each cooked eggplant half. Spoon on a dollop of yogurt. Garnish with feta, cilantro, and pine nuts. Drizzle a bit of olive oil over the eggplants. Serve warm or at room temperature.
You can find bulgur at Middle Eastern markets. I buy mine at the local Jon's Marketplace. The recipe calls for fine bulgur but I had coarse bulgar on my shelf and it worked fine.
The original recipe called for using preserved lemon peel. Preserved lemon peel is wonderful but I didn't have any in my pantry. I substituted the zest of a lemon.
Here is a link to Amazon and Ottolenghi’s book: Yotam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem cookbook.
This is the easiest vanilla ice cream recipe ever. You should make it now before you are priced out of the vanilla aisle! During normal times, vanilla, approximately 80% of which is produced in the hardscrabble African island-nation of Madagascar, is the second most expensive […]
For me, it’s Snickers bars, refried beans, candied corn, and vanilla ice cream. (No. I don’t eat them together.) We’re talking about comfort food today, or, as the dictionary defines it: ” food that is enjoyable to eat and makes the eater feel better emotionally.” […]
For the love of plums…
I have eaten the plums that were in the icebox and which you were probably saving for breakfast Forgive me they were delicious so sweet and so cold --"This is just to say" by William Carlos Williams
William Carlos Williams and I are on the same page when it comes to plums; neither of us is (was) able to exert much self-control. In Williams’ case, he offered a poetic non-apology apology for his misdeed–a poem that takes the form of a note you might find left on an empty refrigerator.
Over the years since its publication in 1934, Williams’ minimalist poem has become something of a modern meme, with clever spoofs of the poem exchanged among friends and posted online (like the one that appears below).
But back to plums…not only has the taste of plums intrigued cooks (and poets) for centuries, but the word plum has insinuated itself into our conversations as a metaphor. If you get a plum of a job, for example, that’s a very good thing. Conversely, if someone tells you that you are a bit of a plum, you are being called an idiot. (Ouch!)
Right now, plums (the fruit kind…well, maybe both kinds) are everywhere! The stone fruit season runs from May to early October and supermarket bins and farmers’ market stalls are overflowing with multiple varieties (and a rainbow of colors) of plums. (There are more than 2000 varieties, by the way!)
Speaking of the abundance of plum varieties in cultivation, we owe a debt of gratitude to Luther Burbank whose hybridizing efforts with the fruit have given us considerable biodiversity in plum production. He is credited with developing over 100 plum varieties. He mixed it up, too, crossing plums with apricots. Today, as a result of Burbank’s pioneering work and the work of gifted hybridizers since, we can find beautiful pluots (75% plum/25% apricot), plumcots (50% plum/50% apricot) and apriums (75% apricot/25% plum) in the markets.
So buy some! At about 30 calories for one medium-size plum, there is no good reason to resist the temptation to fill up your fruit bowls with this season’s beautiful plums. Remember that plums are also rich sources of antioxidants, minerals and vitamins–particularly vitamin C– so you are buying a bag of health foods.
Here is a recipe for a great plum tart made with a cookie-ish crust. This recipe is delicious and the finished dish is visually spectacular. I confess that I had planned to bake two tarts this time–one for me and one for a friend–but the temptation of fresh plums in my fruit bowl got the better of me.
This recipe was adapted from one posted on the epicurious site. Here is a link to the original recipe: Epicurious’ recipe for Plum Tarts .
Yields 12 Servings
- For pastry dough:
- 1 1/2 C. all-purpose flour
- 1 stick cold unsalted butter (cut into 1/2-inch pieces)
- 1/4 C. sugar
- 1/2 t. salt
- 1/2 t. finely-grated fresh lemon zest
- 2 large egg yolks
- For filling:
- 1/2 C. sugar
- 1 1/2 T. cornstarch
- 2 pounds plums (pitted and sliced)
- 1/2 T. fresh lemon juice
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
- Using your food processor, combine flour, butter, sugar, salt and zest. Pulse the mixture until it resembles a coarse meal with some small lumps that are about the size of a pea mixed in. Add the egg yolks and process until the mixture begins to come together in a clump.
- Place the dough mixture onto your work surface and divide it into 2 portions. Smear each portion once with the heel of your hand (using a forward motion). This will help distribute the fat in the dough. Put the two portions together and form into a ball.
- Put the ball of dough into a tart pan. With floured fingers, press the dough into the tart pan. You want an even 1/4 inch layer of dough covering the bottom of the pan and extending up the sides of the pan. (Use a tart pan with a removable bottom) Chill the dough in the tart pan for approximately 30 minutes--until it is firm.
- To prepare the filling for the tart, mix the sugar and cornstarch together in a large bowl. Next, add the plums and the lemon juice and toss the mixture to coat the plums. Let this mixture stand for approximately 30 minutes. Stir the mixture occasionally. You want to have a juicy mixture of plums to arrange in your tart shell.
- Arrange the plum slices in the tart shell in concentric circles. Pour the juices in the bowl over the plums in the tart. (I had some juice left over the last time I made this tart. I was using particularly juicy plums. I didn't want to fill the tart shell to overflowing and did not use all the liquid.)
- Bake your tart in the middle of your oven for 15 minutes at 425 degrees F. After 15 minutes, take the tart out of the oven and loosely cover it with foil. Return to the oven and bake the tart for 40 to 50 minutes at 375 degrees F. When the tart is properly baked, the plums will be tender and the juices will be bubbling and slightly thickened.
- Cool tart completely before trying to remove it from your tart pan.
It is turn-on-the-air conditioner hot here in Huntington Beach. Even tiny Juliet who thrives on two long walks a day just stares at me in disgust when I pick up her leash. Here she is giving me some too-hot-to-walk side eye. It’s certainly not cooking […]
Yotam Ottolenghi. <sigh> This Ottolenghi recipe was featured recently on the NY Times food site and it is wonderful. The crumb is light and the almond flour gives this little cake a delightful texture. This cake is so good, in fact, that it is almost […]
Spiralizers. You’ve probably heard of them.
Toaster-sized spiralizer appliances take boring old potatoes, beets and zucchini–you know, the vegetables that come to you in the elegant shapes that Mother Nature intended– and turn them into noodles. (Forgive my snark.)
Nevertheless, I confess that I’m a cooking gadget collector and I do own a Paderno spiralizer. Like a lot of the other kitchen gadgets that have caught my eye (Does anyone else out there have onion goggles? I didn’t think so.), I haven’t used it much.
This summer, I decided that I would give the spiralizer a fair try after my neighbor raved about the healthy spiralized foods that her daughter, Randlyn, was turning out (and enjoying) in her kitchen.
Bon Appetit Magazine, by the way, did an interesting piece on spiralizers. The BA writer focused on the psychology of spiralizing vegetables arguing that changing the shape of the vegetables tricks our minds into eating more of those healthy foods. More zucchini. Fewer carbs.
And, there may be something to that argument. I remember one summer when my family, crammed into an unairconditioned VW bug and traveling 2000 grueling miles to visit relatives in rural Mississippi, stopped at a drive-in restaurant somewhere in the wilds of Eastern Texas where French fried potato spirals were served in parchment-lined red plastic trays. Your order came with a decanter of vinegar to sprinkle over your potatoes. I still remember the novelty of that presentation, and, here I am a gazillion years later comtemplating spiralizing potatoes. (Bon Appetit Magazine on spiralizers ).
So, I’m giving spiralizing the good old college try (CSULB 1968) this summer. Here is a recipe for a pretty (and delicious) Asian zucchini noodle salad. This salad has all sorts of textures going for it and the piquant sesame-oil-flavored dressing is wonderful.
You will find the link to the original recipe from which this recipe was adapted here: Simply Recipes’ Asian Zucchini Salad .
Thanks, Randlyn, for the nudge.
Yields 4 Servings
- Vegetables for the Salad
- 3-4 zucchinis
- 1/2 t. salt
- 1 1/2 C. thinly-sliced and roughly-chopped red cabbage
- 1 large carrot (grated)
- 1/2 large red bell pepper (thinly-sliced and cut into 1-inch segments)
- 2 green onions (thinly-sliced on the diagonal)
- 1/2 bunch cilantro (chopped)
- Chopped peanuts for garnish
- 1/3 C. seasoned rice vinegar
- 2 T. olive oil
- 1 1/2 t. dark roasted sesame oil
- 1 clove garlic (minced)
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- Spiralize the zucchini. You should have about five cups of zucchini noodles for this recipe. As you spiralize the noodles, you will want to cut them into manageable lengths. Place the spiralized zucchini noodles in a large bowl and set aside.
- Combine cabbage, carrot, bell peppers, onions and cilantro in a bowl. Set aside.
- Whisk rice vinegar, olive oil, dark sesame oil, minced garlic and red pepper flakes in a bowl. Pour this dressing over the cabbage mixture and let the mixture marinate for an hour or so.
- Arrange the marinated cabbage mixture over the top of the zucchini noodles. Spoon a couple of spoonfuls of the dressing over the dish. Garnish with chopped peanuts and additional cilantro.
The original recipe called for sprinkling salt over zucchini noodles to draw out some of the moisture in the zucchini. I liked the crunch of the zucchini noodles fresh out of the spiralizer and skipped that step.
This wonderful Julia Moskin recipe for Spicy Peanut Stew with Ginger and Tomato recently came across my desk and flooded my world with all kinds of happy memories. Talk about an endorphin rush! When my husband and I were traveling, we were fortunate to make […]