Sunday, November 17, 2013

Hollandaise, Where Have You Been All My Life?

Some things in life stare you in the face for ages until you finally truly see them, like those horrible hidden pictures sold in the mall in the 90s. You know the ones? They were brightly colored, almost pretty, with some kind of hidden image that I was either too aloof to recognize or didn't exist at all.

For me, two food realities, no three, are emerging:
1) there is no substitute for tamarind paste.
2) artichokes are easier to prepare than I thought.
3) and, hollandaise rocks my socks off.

I discovered the first in my previous post on stuffed eggplant with lamb, cinnamon and tamarind. The remaining two discoveries happened simultaneously when I attempted to recreate a scene from Julie & Julia in which Julie and Eric enjoy steamed artichoke with hollandaise sauce. (If that's not food porn, I don't know what is.)

Don't tune me out. I know hollandaise sounds a little antiquated, like some boring gravy-esque sauce that your grandma ate before she learned that egg yolks raise your cholesterol (not entirely true), and your mom didn't because she already knew that, and you haven't because no one has told you how sexy and delicious hollandaise is or taught you how to make it. And, since most of the micronutrients in an egg are in its gloriously silky yolk, I should think that hollandaise practically a health food.

Okay, maybe that's a stretch.

You really don't need me to give you the recipe. It's been published in a million nearly identical forms already. (Try Alton Brown's hollandaise recipe.) I can't even post "my version" -- it's one of those things that cannot be improved upon.

So, promise me you'll make it?

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Stuffed Eggplant with Lamb, Cinnamon, and Tamarind


Several nights ago, the women on my street planned a girl's night in with recipes prepared from the cookbook Jerusalem, by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi (available at Anthropologie). I had the privilege of making the main course, and though I'll admit it was a little time consuming, it was so worth it!

Have you ever ground your own meat? I purchased lamb and ground it coarsely with a Kitchenaid. The difference between purchasing pre-ground meat and grinding it myself was noticeable. The former tends to stick together, like a paste, whereas the latter tends to maintain its crumbly texture, allowing for increased browning. If you do not have a grinder, choose a piece of eat and have your butcher or the person working the meat counter to do it for you. 

I adjusted the recipe somewhat to suit my tastes and yield enough to feed my friends. It's perfect for a cozy fall dinner with a bottle of Shiraz or dry sparkling wine.

serves 4-6 
olive oil
2 eggplants, sliced lengthwise
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 yellow onion, minced
3/4 pound ground lamb
1/2 cup pine nuts
handful fresh parsley 
2 teaspoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
3/4 cup water
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 teaspoon tamarind paste
4 cinnamon sticks 
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

plain yogurt, for serving

In a large, glass baking dish, snuggle the eggplants skin-side down. Brush them with olive oil, sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt, and bake for about 20 minutes in a preheated 425 degree oven.

Meanwhile, mix together the spices and divide in half. Cook the onions in a couple tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. After the onions have softened somewhat, about 5-7 minutes, add half of the spice mixture. Cook for another 5 minutes, then turn the heat up to medium-high, push the onions to the side of the skillet, and add the lamb. When it has browned, add the pine nuts, parsley, and tomato paste. Continue cooking until the lamb is cooked through. Season to taste with a pinch of sugar and salt.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining spices with the water, lemon juice, tamarind, cinnamon sticks, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and the sugar. Pour this mixture into the bottom of the eggplant roasting pan.

Spoon the lamb mixture over the eggplants, then cover tightly with foil and bake for an hour. Remove from the oven and baste with the sauce, adding more water if needed. Return to the oven to cook for another 30 minutes to an hour.

Serve warm or at room temperature with parsley and plain yogurt.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Caramelized Onion Pizza with Leeks and Balsamic

This past Monday, I was writing at a cafe near my house and met two women from the 1,000 Days Partnership. They invited me to join them for an evening with Candice Kumai, their first chef ambassador, at Scott Conant's restaurant, Scarpetta in Beverly Hills. I'll pretend I wasn't starstruck. Yeah, no big deal, just sharing a drink with one of the Iron Chef judges at a world-renowned restaurant. Sure. All in a day's work.

 The organization was created three years ago by Hilary Clinton to shine a spotlight on the time from conception to a child's second birthday when the nutrition he or she receives is more pivotal than at any other time in life. According to the project, the right nutrition during the 1,000 day window can:
  • save more than one million lives each year;
  • significantly reduce the human and economic burden of diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria and HIV/AIDS;
  • reduce the risk for developing various non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, and other chronic conditions later in life;
  • improve an individual’s educational achievement and earning potential; and,
  • increase a country’s GDP by at least 2-3 percent annually.
When I realized that both of my boys were past the window, I'll admit, I felt just a tinge of fear. Did I do everything right? Did I breastfeed them for long enough? Did I delay the introduction of solid foods for long enough? Did I invite them to try enough fruits and vegetables? I guess the same questions plague every mother, whether or not she faces food scarcity, like most women in the developing world do.

I walked away from the event with a new found admiration for Candice Kumai and a deep desire to partner with the 1,000 Days program in whatever ways I can to encourage women to nourish themselves and their babies.

To that end, I also walked away with Candice's cookbook Cook Yourself Sexy. I'm working my way through it for a review I'm doing for one of my food writing clients and last night, I tried her grilled mushroom and leek flatbread pizza. It was, hands down the best pizza I have ever eaten. Seriously.

You know why I'm a horrible food writer? All I want to say is, yum, chew, yum, just, chew, try it, yum. nom nom. Oh, that will never do. Must learn to describe food better. For now, let the photography and the recipe inspire you.

serves two 
olive oil
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced in rounds
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons butter
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, rinsed, dried, and very thinly sliced
1 leek, thoroughly rinsed and thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 pizza crusts
2 ounces parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 cup basil chiffonade

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the onions until they begin to pick up some color, about 5-7 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar, and cook until soft, another 3-5 minutes. Push the onions to the edges of the pan and melt one tablespoon of the butter in the center of the pan.

Turn the heat up to medium-high. Brown the mushrooms in two or three batches, being sure not to overcrowd the pan. Push the finished 'shrooms to the side as you work your way through them.
Add the leek and salt, and cook for another two minutes.

Top the crust with a light drizzle of olive oil and the topping. Grate a generous helping of parmesan over the top. Bake according to the directions of your pizza crust - more if it's frozen, you know the drill.
Remove from the oven and grate another shower of parmesan over the top and the basil chiffonade. Share only with the people you really, really love.

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