Thursday, August 28, 2014

Eggplant and Zucchini Shakshuka

I call any eggs cooked in any kind of red vegetable sauce a Shakshuka. If you want to make a more traditional version, you can try Ottolenghi's recipe (he also has a good one in his Jerusalem cookbook).

Clearly, I love egg dishes. But I especially love egg dishes that can be made for a crowd. Omelets or fried eggs are you usually best in small batches, but when you bake eggs, you can get a whole bunch going at one time... and that means that this type of dish can be served at a brunch, lunch, or even at a dinner party. They're still best served hot and fresh, but the sauce can be made ahead of time, and you could add and cook the eggs at the last minute for your guests.

I served this dish to my family for lunch along with a salad, and good crusty bread. Good crusty bread should probably be listed as an ingredient in this recipe.

This dish is super satisfying, deeply flavorful, and easily adjustable. Add or omit the veggies you like. The key is to have a chunky homemade tomato sauce with lots of veggies that has a kick to it. However you make it, enjoy!

Eggplant and Zucchini Shakshuka
Serves 4

1 small eggplant, cubed
1 tablespoon kosher salt
olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 small bell pepper (orange or red), diced
1 small zucchini, cubed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large tomato, diced
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon turmeric
big pinch crushed red chili flake (or to taste)
1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup plain tomato sauce/pureed tomatoes
1 teaspoon honey (or to taste)
salt and pepper to taste
8 eggs (2 per person)
chopped flat leaf parsley, for garnish

Preheat your oven to 375°F.

Start by preparing your eggplant. Cut it into small cubes, and sprinkle the cubes evenly with a tablespoon of kosher salt. Let it stand in a colander for 30 minutes. The salt will make the eggplant less bitter, and it will also prevent it from getting to soggy.

While your eggplant sits in salt, prep the rest of your veggies.

On medium high heat, drizzle in a few tablespoons of olive oil into a large cast iron skillet or braiser Dutch oven (if you don't have either, you can use 2 skillets, stainless steel is better than non-stick... but use what you got!). Let the olive oil get hot, and then add the salted and drained eggplant. Cook the eggplant until it starts to brown and soften, and is mostly cooked through.

Next, add the onion, pepper, and zucchini. Cook until all of the veggies soften and start to brown, about 6-8 minutes. Add more oil if the pan looks dry. Add the garlic, and cook until it softens and starts to smell aromatic, about 1-2 minutes. Add the tomato, then add the spices and cook everything for one minute until the veggies are coated in the spice mixture. Add the tomato paste, and coat all of the veggies in it. Finally add the tomato puree. You should have a very chunky sauce. You can add more or less tomato puree depending on your preference. Finally, season the sauce with honey, salt and pepper. The honey balances out the acidity of the tomatoes, and you can use less or more based on your preference.

Allow the sauce to simmer for 3-5 more minutes, until all of the veggies are fully cooked, and the flavors have come together.

Turn the heat off. At this point, you can reserve the sauce and reheat it just before you are about to cook the eggs. If you are using it immediately, make 8 little wells in the pan. Add one cracked egg to each little well. Cover the pan with a lid, and place it in the oven for 6-8 minutes, or until the eggs are still giggly, but the whites have started to turn opaque above the yolks. Garnish with chopped parsley (not shown in photo, but adds a really nice fresh flavor).

Serve immediately with the aforementioned crusty bread, especially if that bread is toasted!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Big Colorful Summer Salad

My dad is visiting from Jerusalem, and inspired by the salads that he loves to eat on a daily basis, I whipped this up as a main component for a light summer dinner. Along with the salad, I served smoked salmon and turmeric spiced basmati rice. The cool bright vegetables were a perfect compliment to the smoky salmon and aromatic rice.

I don't want to be misleading. This isn't an Israeli salad. For one, most Israeli salads are made up of a combination of tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and olive oil. Traditionally, these salads don't have lettuce, but in this case, I had a beautiful head of red leaf lettuce, and I wanted to include it to make the salad a more substantial dinnertime dish. Also, dressing for Israeli salads are super simple, and this salad includes a Dijon based vinaigrette. This salad is inspired-by, not in-the-tradition-of.

Those bright magenta things are thin slices of watermelon radish. Watermelon radish tastes similar to regular radish, but has a subtle sweetness to it. They are delicious and gorgeous and I love when they are in season. I found these at my local supermarket, but usually I spot them at the Hollywood Farmers' Market. 

The point is, for this salad you can throw in all kinds of chopped veggies on top of crisp lettuce. Think: big, colorful, and well-dressed.

Big Colorful Summer Salad
Serves 4-6

for the salad-
1 medium head red leaf lettuce, chopped
2 medium tomatoes, diced
2 small persian cucumbers, diced
1 small red bell pepper, diced
3-4 red radishes, sliced thin
1 watermelon radish, peeled and sliced thin
2-3 scallions, sliced thin
1 generous bunch of dill, roughly chopped

for the dressing-
2 heaping teaspoons good quality Dijon
juice of 1/2 a large lemon (or a whole lemon depending on its size)
1 small garlic clove, finely minced (or you can use a press)
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon oregano
Drop of honey
pinch of salt and pepper

Wash and dice all of your veggies and herbs. Add them to a large salad bowl.

Whisk together all of the dressing ingredients (or put them in a mason jar with a tight lid and shake it up). Taste the dressing. Add more lemon, dijon, honey, oil or salt. Dressings are all about finding the balance YOU like. Ingredients differ in terms of flavor, and proportions may have to be adjusted. Dip a piece of lettuce into the dressing if you need a better idea of how it will taste on the salad. 

Right before serving, sprinkle salt over the salad and toss. Then add the dressing to the salad. Toss until all the components are evenly coated. 

You can add crumbled feta or grilled chicken to make a meal out of the salad itself. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Super Good Classic Fried Chicken

Homemade fried chicken can take time, patience, and a little finesse. The work pays off, and this comfort food is always a crowd-pleaser. Even a reluctant meat-eater, such as myself, has a hard time turning down something this crunchy, delicious and tender.

You can do this in a skillet, or a dutch oven, or a deep fryer. You can serve this hot or room temp. Room temp is easier to serve, and might even be better. It's a good idea to serve the chicken with a side of honey. They go crazy good together. Summer and fried chicken are synonymous, and even though hot weather doesn't exactly scream standing over a hot stove frying something, it's still a satisfying dish to serve at a late evening picnic, at a daytime BBQ, or as a special treat to take to the beach.

Because I needed to make this fried chicken kosher, I did not give the chicken a traditional buttermilk marinade before frying it. Instead, I did a flavorful spice rub. Buttermilk marinades are definitely something to consider if you are inclined, but instead of using dairy, a simple brined chicken is just as good (and may even be better?). I chose kosher chicken, which meant the poultry had already been salted, and therefor effectively brined. I love cooking with kosher chickens for this reason: they turn out a lot more tender and flavorful, but you don't have to do the work of brining yourself.

This recipe is pretty forgiving. Methodology is way more important here then the specific amounts... you can change the spices for the dredging mixture, you could use gluten free flour, and you could marinade the chicken or not. If you don't have a deep fryer, I suggest investing in a candy/deep fry thermometer. You will need to constantly adjust the temperature on your stove top to make sure the chicken fries at the right temp to ensure even browning and cooking. A thermometer becomes a fry-saver.

Get ready for some addictive, soul-warming, crisp and juicy fried chicken.

Classic Fried Chicken
Serves 8-10

1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 1/2 tablespoons ground pepper
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons chipotle chile powder
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric

2 4-5 lb. kosher chickens, cut into 10 pieces (remove backbone, or have a butcher cut it up for you)
3 eggs, beaten with a splash of water
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons corn starch
oil for frying (peanut or safflower)

- Candy/fry thermometer
- Tongs or a spider
- Dutch oven or cast-iron skillet

In a small bowl, combine the salt, pepper, smoked paprika, garlic powder, chipotle powder, ground coriander, cumin and turmeric. Mix together well.

Make sure to pat down each piece of chicken with a paper towel to ensure dryness. Add the cut dry chicken parts to a large bowl. Sprinkle the spice mixture evenly over the chicken. Using your hands, toss the chicken pieces in the spice mixture and make sure each piece is evenly coated. Refrigerate for 3-5 hours.

Take the chicken out of the fridge, and let it come to room temp for about half an hour. Once the chicken is at room temp, fill a dutch oven or skillet with oil and place it on the stove on medium high heat. You want to make sure that the chicken is at last halfway submerged in oil as it fries on each side. You can fill a dutch oven a little more heavily with oil than a skillet. Allow the oil to reach 325°F.

While your oil is coming to temp, create the dreding mixtures for your chicken. I like to use baking dishes or deep bowls. In one dish, add the flour, corn starch and salt. Mix together with a fork. In another dish, whisk together the eggs with a splash of water. Lay out a rack with paper towels underneath it for the chicken to rest on once they are cooked. The excess oil will drip onto the paper towels and will help prevent the chicken from getting soggy in extra oil.

When your oil is heated to 325°F, start to dredge the chicken. You will need to fry your chicken in batches. You do not want to overcrowd the pot/skillet or your chicken will not fry as well. I usually fry 3-5 pieces at a time depending on the size of each piece of chicken (the fact that you have to fry in batches is part of the reason you need patience for this recipe... you could also use several pots at once to fry the chicken in a shorter amount of time... or just reach a zen cooking place and enjoy the time it takes to masterfully cook the meat). Take the chicken and dip it in the egg mixture first, followed by the flour mixture. Dust off any excess flour and gently place the chicken in the hot oil.  You want to keep the temperature of your oil consistent. Once you add the chicken pieces, the temp of the oil will drop, and you will need to raise the flame/temp on your stove. Adjust the heat while the chicken cooks so that the heat never goes above 325° or below 310°F.

Fry the chicken on each side for 6-8 minutes, or until both sides are golden brown, and the thickest part of the chicken is 165°F when tested with a meat thermometer (another handy and very cheap kitchen tool).

Using tongs, or a spider, remove the chicken once it is cooked and place it on a rack so that any excess oil can drip off.

Serve hot or room temp. Serve with your favorite condiments or side salads. I like to serve mine with a side of honey to dip the chicken in. Sounds crazy, but it's delicious. I also like to serve the chicken with a bright fresh salad (with lots of lemon or vinegar in the dressing), to cut the fat of the fried chicken.

Bon appetit!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Pear and Fig Galette

Firstly, things have been happening!

It's been a crazy summer. I just finished filming the first 13 episodes of the third season of Recipe Rehab, which is now streaming on Hulu if you want to check it out.

But bigger than any TV show could ever be, I became an aunt for the first time! I'm totally in love with my little niece, and she has been the most welcome distraction a person could have. Her appearance has also given me a good reason to cook and bake more. Her parents need nourishment for their hard work and sleep deprived nights, and I'm happy to have an excuse to spend more time in the kitchen.

So this week, when my CSA came with lovely figs and pears I was inspired to bake a galette for a lunchtime dessert for my brother, sister-in-law, her father and of course our little new addition (at the end of this post is a short review/issue with my CSA, Farm Fresh To You).

This recipe makes a super flaky crust, and this dessert isn't too sweet. If you're into something super sweet, you could add more sugar to the pears, or you could serve the galette with ice cream or whip cream. Slices of this treat would also make a great breakfast alongside a hot cup of coffee.

Galette's also seem so fancy and special, but they're easier to make than a pie, and produce similar results. Like all pastry, they do take some patience; but if you're in the right state of mind, they're very easy and fun. The only tricky part of this recipe is making the dough. My secret: keep everything SUPER cold. Chill the bowls, the flour, the butter, and the water. Also, chill the galette before you stick it in the oven. With pastry, the colder the better. Also, a food processor can help a ton. You can also omit figs, replace the pears with apples or even peaches or plums. There is so much wonderful fruit right now, anything you put into buttery pastry is bound to be delicious.

Pear and Fig Galette
Adapted from Christopher Hill
Serves 6

For the crust-
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour, chilled (plus more for dusting)
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) of COLD unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
3-6 tablespoons ice water

For the filling-
3 firm pears, cored and sliced thin
1-2 figs, sliced thin lengthwise
zest of one lemon
juice of half a lemon
3-4 tablespoons turbinado sugar, divided (also called sugar in the raw, or you can sub with brown sugar),
2-3 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 egg, beaten slightly with a splash of water or milk or almond milk
2 tablespoons honey

Start by putting all of your crust ingredients (including your food processor bowl) into the freezer until they are chilled.

In a food processor, add the flour, salt, and small cubes of butter. Pulse the mixture until the flour clumps into pea-sized pieces or becomes a course meal. Slowly drizzle in ice water one tablespoon at a time and continue to pulse. You want your dough to just come together when you press it together between your fingers. Be careful not to over-mix. Add only a little water at a time, because you don't want the dough to be too damp. You should see bits of the butter throughout the dough. When the dough easily sticks together, form it into a ball, cover it tightly with plastic wrap and chill it in the fridge for at least 2 hours or overnight. It's great to make this the night before and just have it ready the day you intend to bake it.

Core and slice your pears. I used three pears, you need roughly 3 1/2 cups of fruit, but it doesn't have to be exact. I like using a melon baller to remove the tough center of the fruit.

Add the sliced pears to a bowl. To the pears add a few tablespoons of sugar, the lemon zest, lemon juice, a few tablespoons of flour, the cinnamon, and the cardamom. You could add ginger instead of cardamom if so inclined. You just want to coat the fruit with the flour and sugar; the sugar will add extra sweetness, and the flour will help the pears from becoming to juicy and runny in the galette.

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

On a large flat surface, place a large sheet pan-sized piece of parchment paper and dust it lightly with flour. Lightly dust a rolling pin with flour, too. Roll out your dough into a circle that is about an 1/8 of an inch thick, or 14-15 inches in diameter. It doesn't have to be perfect, the craggy edges are part of the appeal. If you see specks of delicious butter, you made your dough right!

Once your dough is rolled out, you can fill it with concentric circles of the sliced spiced pears. Leave a 1.5-2-inch border around the edges, because you will fold the dough over the filing. Next, I slice up some fig rounds, and lay them out over the top of the pears. Fold the edges of dough over the fruit.

Transfer the galette with the parchment onto a baking sheet. Place the formed galette in the freezer for 5-10 minutes so that it has time to chill a bit before you bake it. This will help the crust turn out even better.

Beat one egg with a little water or milk or almond milk. Brush the top of the dough with the egg wash. Sprinkle more raw sugar over the top of the dough.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes at 450°F. Then, lower the temperature to 375°F, and bake for 25-30 more minutes or until the pears are cooked and the dough is a lovely golden brown. If the pastry starts to get too brown and the fruit still isn't cooked enough, cover those parts with foil, and bake the galette until the fruit is tender.

While the galette bakes, heat a few tablespoons of honey (or you could sub with apricot preserves) in a small sauce pan.

Once the galette is cooked, brush the top of the fruit with the warm honey. Transfer it to a wire rack (you can still keep it on the parchment paper), and let it cool for at least 10 minutes. You can serve this treat room temp, or warm. It's also great topped with vanilla ice cream or classic whip cream.


With regards to my CSA, Farm Fresh To You:
I love the produce, the convenience, and the customer service is excellent (when you call them), but I have had issues with delivery... mostly they seem to drop off my produce at 11:30 at night, and then it sits out all night in front of my building, and has been stolen, or some stuff has wilted, and it doesn't make sense as my next door neighbors get the exact same CSA at a reasonable time in the morning. I've called several times about it, but they claim they can't change a thing. Very sadly, I may have to discontinue the service... it just doesn't make sense to have someone come give you produce in the middle of the night when you are in bed or asleep. If anyone has any experience with this company, or advice about a comparable CSA in the East LA area, that would be great!