Spicy Eggplant Relish

June 18, 2013 § 1 Comment

Funny how when I make a salad, sauce or spread for a gathering of friends, the recipe always turns out to be from the Moosewood Cookbook. Not kidding. For flavor profiles that were developed back in the crunchy ’70s, the Moosewood’s recipes really seem to be a hit with people in the 2010s. Their popularity doesn’t seem to have anything to do with being mindful of healthy eating and instead has EVERYTHING to do with the fact that this food tastes awesome. Good-tasting food is an instant classic.

Spicy Eggplant Relish on a Stacy's Pita Chip

Spicy Eggplant Relish on a Stacy’s Pita Chip

The most recent dish to receive the “Oh man, I seriously need this recipe” comment is Spicy Eggplant Relish. Keep it in an all-veggie-ingredients-minced form, or mash it into a chunky puree after cooking. In either state of consistency, it can be used as a topping for crackers and pita, as a sandwich spread, or even tossed onto a veggie burger (or a real burger if you’re into that kind of thing).

And don’t let the “spicy” descriptor dissuade you. You’re in control of the spice. Make it as light or spicy as you wish.

Spicy Eggplant Relish (ala The Moosewood Cookbook)
2 tbs. olive oil
1 cup minced onion
1 medium eggplant, diced  (I kept the skin on, it’s fine)
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. cumin
1 medium red bell pepper, minced
1 medium clove garlic, minced
1 tbs. lemon juice
cayenne to taste (start with 1/4 tsp.)

 

1. Heat oil in pan. Add onions, eggplant, salt and cumin. Saute on medium for 15-20 minutes or until the eggplant is tender (but not mush). 2. Add in the pepper. Saute for about 8-10 minutes.
3. Stir in garlic and lemon juice and continue cooking another 5 minutes. Sprinkle in the cayenne, let it sit for a bit, then taste. Add more if you need more heat. Same goes for salt. Mash or not to mash, it’s up to you. Serve it straight away or let it come to room temperature. Cold is good, too, straight out of the fridge, but I prefer it room temp.

Homemade Pita Bread

April 25, 2013 § Leave a comment

I had a horrible experience, an embarrassing experience, a humility-inducing experience with homemade bread about 20 years ago. It was a “loaf” of rye bread that more accurately could be called an anvil. It defied some law of physics in how something so small could become so dense.pita bread

I swore off baking yeast breads for … oh, I’d say 15 years. And then, I let the embarrassment go. I’m a different person, I said. I can make different bread. I can make bread and be successful at it.

I’ve made a bunch of different bread overs the last five years or so. Various takes on wheat, white, whole grain, pizza, focaccia, sourdough—made with my very own sourdough starter! And it’s all turned out pretty tasty, too. I admit I need to work on my loaf shaping, but that will come with practice.

There’s one recipe for which I don’t need to shape up my boule-making skills, and that’s for pita bread. It’s flat and round, slightly puffy in the middle. I thought I could handle that pretty well. And it turns out it’s as easy as it seems. Why everyone everywhere isn’t making pita bread everyday, I have no idea. Get after it, people.

Pita Bread, adapted from The Moosewood Cookbook
1 cup wrist-temp water (about 95-100F)
1.5 tsp. active dry yeast
1 tbs. sugar or honey (I used raw sugar)
1 tsp. salt
3 to 3.5 cups flour (1 cup can be whole wheat)
a bit of oil
extra flour

1. Combine yeast and water in the bowl of a stand mixer and let it get foamy over the next 5 minutes.

2. Add sugar/honey and salt and stir until dissolved.

3. Put bowl onto mixer with a dough hook attachment, add one cup of flour and start to combine on low speed. Slowly add in two more cups of flour and continue to let the dough need in the bowl over the next 3-5 minutes. If it seems wettish, add in a sprinkling of flour as it mixes. You’re looking for a smooth dough.

4. Put dough in an oiled bowl and roll it around in there until the dough surface is oiled, too. Cover with a clean tea towel or plastic wrap, set in a warmish place (75F is good) for about an hour or until the dough has doubled in bulk. It could take up to 1.5 hrs.

5. Punch down dough and set it onto a clean and floured surface. Kneed it by hand for 5 minutes. Cut the dough into equal-sized pieces, anywhere from 6 to 12 segments. I made 8 because it was simple, and the pitas turned out just the size I wanted. . Knead each little dough ball for a minute or so (I turned each 30 times and figured that was about right). With a rolling pin, roll out each dough piece into a VERY THIN circle (or near circle, it doesn’t matter exactly). You WILL need to throw down extra flour. DO make sure the dough is no more than 1/8 inch thick—otherwise you end up with a pizza crust, no kidding. Let the dough circles rest for 30 minutes. After I rolled out each circle I placed it on a half sheet-sized piece of parchment, four per sheet overlapping slightly. It’s ok, don’t worry.

pita dough circle

NOTE: This circle-making process takes some time. By the time you are done rolling out the whole batch, the first circles have already been resting about 15 minutes. So at this point set the timer for 15 minutes, get your oven ready and start moving toward the next step.

6. Preheat oven to 500F. OR, if you have a silly oven like mine that will not go above 450F (Ggrrrrr…), set it to 450F and work with it. Place a sheet pan in the oven to warm up a bit then brush it with oil or cornmeal to prevent the dough from sticking. OR, place the dough circles on parchment and slide them onto the baking sheet, fitting as many dough circles in the oven as you can without them touching. Due to the craziness of my oven I am able to fit just two dough circles, which were placed on the parchment.

7. Let the circles bake for 6-8 minutes or until the circles puff up and are lightly browned and, more importantly, look like pita! At 450F, 8 minutes was the perfect amount of time. As soon as one batch is done, remove from the oven and wrap the pitas in a clean but damp tea towel and place them in a brown paper bag. Close the bag for 15 minutes. This keeps them soft(ish) for a day or so. After a day I would transfer them to a plastic bag.

golden pita bread

As an experiment, roll out one dough circle a little thicker than 1/8 inch and bake. Whereas the thinner circles puff up like you’ve filled them with helium, you’ll notice the thicker circle doesn’t puff up much at all—if at all. It’s ends up more like a pizza crust. Which tells me why not have this same recipe handy for when you want to make pizza?

stacked pita breads

Give pita a try and let me know what you think!

Roasted Eggplant on Toasted Pita

March 26, 2013 § Leave a comment

Ah, an over-stuffed pita sandwich…yum.

Who am I kidding!? When have I ever stuffed a pita and have it NOT break apart on me? Never. Ever. And once it breaks, it’s just all downhill from there. Your fingers get full of hummus. Whatever dressing you’ve put on the sandwich runs down your wrist into your sleeve. It’s no good, stuffing a pita.

Better to use pita like a sandwich bread.

Roasted eggplant and hummus on toasted pita

Roasted eggplant and hummus on toasted pita

That’s exactly what I did for lunch yesterday. Toasted pita cut into two half moons, each spread with Red Pepper Hummus, some roasted eggplant, and some greens lightly dressed with Lemony Vinaigrette. After chowing down, I realized the Fiery Onion Relish may have been a fun thing to have as a topping, too.

Maybe I’ll try that for today’s lunch.

 

 

Red Pepper Hummus

February 26, 2013 § 4 Comments

We haven’t bought a can of beans in, oh gosh…I’d say six months. This weekend we used our last stray can of black beans for a chili—and I remember moving to our new house with it and packing it away on an upper kitchen shelf. Cooking up dried beans in a pressure cooker is super easy and super cheap, and here’s the bonus: You get several cups of flavorful bean broth to add to whatever dish needs a little tasty liquid. (See how easy it is here.)

And if we’re cooking up our own beans, we might as well make our own favorite bean-based spread, right? I’m speaking of hummus, of course, made with those funny looking little chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans). I’ve written about hummus here before, but after making several batches of the stuff, I was left disappointed. Too thick. I wanted the creaminess you’d find in the off-the-shelf brands.

Jennifer found the solution—or very nearly—with a recipe from The New Moosewood Cookbook. Not completely creamy as we had hoped, she adjusted and tasted and made batch after batch until finally, she made the perfect consistency. The secret? Adding in some of that aforementioned bean broth and reducing the amount of tahini. Oh, and adding in a roasted red pepper.

Red Pepper Hummus (adapted from The New Moosewood Cookbook)

red pepper hummus

red pepper hummus

  • 2-3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • large handful parsley
  • 2 scallions, chopped into 1-in. pieces
  • 3 cups cooked chickpeas (nearly a 1-lb. bag of dry beans cooked, reserve cooking liquid)
  • 4 tbs. tahini
  • Juice of one lemon juice (or more, depending on said lemon’s juiciness)
  • 3/4-1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1/4 – 1/2 sumac to taste (optional if you can find it at your local Middle Eastern grocer)
  • 1/4 tsp. paprika
  • 1 red pepper, roasted at 425F for 30 min., cooled and skin removed, and cut into strips

1. In a food processor combine the garlic, parsley and scallions, and whir up into a mince.
2. Add chickpeas, tahini, lemon and salt. Puree into a paste.
3. Add the cumin, sumac and paprika as you add some of that reserved bean cooking liquid—try about 1/4 cup—and process. Add more liquid by the tablespoon until you find the consistency right for you. Careful with the sumac—you may like just a tad, so taste before adding any more than a 1/4 tsp.
4. Add the red pepper at the very end and pulse the food processor until it breaks down the red pepper. We’re not looking for a completely pureeing of the pepper. We just want it broken down into bits.

It’s great on a chip, on this awesome cracker we made last week, or—my favorite use—schmeared on a Roasted Eggplant on Whole Wheat Sandwich.

Moroccan Chickpea Stew

March 1, 2012 § 9 Comments

If you don’t like cumin, step away. You’ve made up your mind about the spice, and no amount of my praising it will change the way your taste buds feel. So, I’ll see you another day, okay?

But you cumin fans, lean in a bit closer—I have something to tell you. This stew … it’s awesome. Awesome as in delicious. Really. Super. Delicious. And it’s all due to the cumin.

It being from Bon Appetit may explain why it’s so delectable. Theirs is a meaty version. I’m sure the addition of chicken thighs is nothing but fabulous. I didn’t have them on hand—plus I’m doing a no-meat kinda thing currently. Still, this rocks with out the cluck factor.

Ingredients

  • 4 tbs olive oil, divided

    Chickpea Stew

    Chickpea Stew ala Bon Appetit

  • 2 skinless, boneless chicken thighs—optional
  • 1 medium sweet onion, sliced
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbs ground cumin—yes, that much
  • 2 tbs tomato paste
  • 3/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, rinsed, drained OR 1 lb. dry chickpeas cooked to firm
  • 1/2 cup chopped drained roasted red peppers from a jar (I just roasted a whole large red pepper myself)
  • 2 tbs (or more) fresh lemon juice
  • country-style bread
  • 3 tbs coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley

-IF you’re going the chicken route, heat 2 tbs of the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt; add to pot and cook, turning once, until browned, 8–10 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

-IF you’re not using chicken, heat 2 tbs of oil to medium low, add onion and garlic, and saute for 5-6 minutes or until onions become translucent. Add cumin, tomato paste and red pepper flakes; stir until a smooth paste forms, about 1 minute.

-IF using chicken, add it back into the pot along with bay leaves and 4 cups water and dislodge any of the brown chicken bits that might be on the bottom of the pot.

-Just a quick note: I used dry chickpeas and cooked them in a pressure cooker with 9 cups water, kosher salt, a celery stalk, a carrot, 2 bay leaves and 3 whole garlic cloves for 28 minutes. When I drained the chickpeas, I reserved the liquid and used that in place of 4 cups water. Mmmmm … more flavor.

-Bring everything in the pot to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, with occasional stirring. IF using chicken, let it simmer until chicken is tender (20 minutes). Sans chicken, 10 minutes is enough to get the flavors to meld.

-Transfer chicken to a plate (if it’s in there). Add chickpeas to pot and bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Shred your chicken off the bone and add it in there. Otherwise, skip it. Add in the red peppers and stir in remaining 2 tbs of oil (but only if you want – you don’t need to).

-Don’t skip this part: Give it a taste. Good, right? Yummy power-packed cumin flavor. Okay, now add in 2 tbs of lemon juice (or about half a lemon). Let it simmer for a minute. Now give it another taste? Better, huh? Yup, that lemon is a major major plus here. Adjust seasonings with salt and maybe more lemon if you think it needs it.

-Serving: Bon Appetit says to cube crusty bread, put it in an individual bowl, and ladle the stew on top. DO NOT even attempt. All you get is soggy bread. Bleck. But DO enjoy a nice slice alongside, dipping it to your liking. Oh, and sprinkle some parsley on top, too.

Good, good stewy stuff. There’s no room for cumin haters here.

A second try at hummus

February 17, 2012 § 3 Comments

“Second” is the key word here.

The first attempt was not documented by Dainty. You can guess the reason. Not that great. Boring. Thick. Spackle-like. Did I say tasteless? And it was surprising, too, since it was a Moosewood recipe.

Live and learn. And when it comes to reliable recipes for basic stuff, I have learned to turn to Alton Brown.

I’ve also learned that recipes are not brought down from on high by Moses—they are flexible. And I’ve become way more willing to be flexible with them. And I certainly had to in this case. It turns out that when using the amount of chickpeas the recipe calls for, I had to double the amount of liquids, too, in order to get it to a consistency I preferred. No more hummus spackle for me.

The recipe calls for 1 lb. of dry chickpeas soaked and brought back to edibleness. Jennifer had pressure-cooked a batch on Sunday—adding some carrot, celery and bay leaf—to add to a curry dish we had earlier in the week. But we had lots leftover. Hummus, I thought. Perfect.

But as I’m making the hummus—and it’s not the consistency of typical hummus—I’m thinking … Hmmm, maybe the recipe is wrong or I have way too many chickpeas here.

That said, I’m revising Alton’s recipe a bit.

Ingredients  hummus ingredients

  • 1 lb. dry chickpeas, prepared as directed on the bag (it’s not the equivalent of canned chickpeas, keep that in mind!)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1.5 tsp kosher salt
  • 5 tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice – or more to taste
  • 1/2 cup water*
  • 1/3 cup tahini
  • 1/2 cup evoo*
  • powdered sumac or paprika
  • salt and pepper

*these were the ingredients I had to double for a smoother, less spackle-like consistency

1. Whir up the chickpeas, garlic and salt in a food processor for 20-30 seconds. Scrape down the sides and whir it up again for about the same time.

2. Scrape sides. Add lemon juice and water. Whir it up again for 30 seconds.

3. Scrape sides. Add tahini and do it again.

4. With food processor running, drizzle in olive oil – not the entire thing, though. Stop and scrape when you’ve added 3/4 of it, check the consistency, add 4 good-sized pinches of salt, a half-dozen grinds of fresh black pepper, some shakes of sumac if you have it or some paprika, and whir it up again, adding the rest of the oil if you need it. You may need more oil, so go for it. Remember to adjust seasonings if you do. It’s okay to add a pinch and grind and shake here and there. Be moderate.

5. Enjoy it on a chip.

hummus

hummus with the consistency just the way I like it

For some reason, when I taste this it reminds me of egg salad. And I think that’s because of the pepper. If you despise egg salad, don’t judge—that was just my memory playing tricks on me. It’s perfectly tasty hummus, and my guinea pigs agree.

By the way, this recipe makes the perfect amount if the 5th Battalion is coming over, or if you’re having a party. Seriously, way too much for just having around the house.

Enjoy. And if you have comments, there’s a big box below just waiting for you.

 

 

Spicy Eggplant Relish ala Moosewod

July 22, 2011 § 1 Comment

One of the things we do when we spend time in Provincetown is head over to the Saturday farmers market. This time of year the stalls offer some great fresh produce we haven’t seen locally since last summer. This time we picked up two smallish eggplants. Versatile! Yummy! Pretty! Eggplants are all of the above … And also a bit short-lived on the countertop, especially in weather like this.

What to do with them? We could grill. We could stuff. We could make lasagna. We could bread. And we did none of those. Instead, when they began getting “long in the tooth,” we turned to an old standby – spicy eggplant relish.

I pulled this recipe from my Moosewood cookbook a few years ago for a get-together and used it as a dip. It got a great response. We used the leftovers in numerous ways, such as a spread for sandwiches, and also as an eat-by-the-forkful snack. Can’t remember exactly which Moosewood cookbook it came from, possibly the original. Luckily its a popular recipe and we were able to find it online – hey, we’re on vacation, we don’t travel with old cookbooks.

Recipe
2-3 Tbs olive oil
1 medium onion
1 small red pepper, large dice
2 small-medium eggplant, small cubes, don’t bother peeling
Salt, pepper and cayenne to taste

-heat oil over medium-low. Add onions and sautée until softish, 4-5 min.
-add cubed eggplant and red pepper. The eggplant will soak up a lot of the oil. Stir really well to coat all of it. Let it cook low and slow. Add a generous pinch or two of kosher salt and several turns of fresh pepper.
-Let it cook down awhile – 5 min or so. Add in as much cayenne as is appropriate for you. Cook partially covered for another 4-5 min.
-is the eggplant soft? Take it off the heat. Season with salt/pepper if needed.

We ran into one small problem during this – there was no cayenne in the house. How is that possible? We made due with some chili powder and red pepper flakes. The chili powder gave it a smoky flavor, making it a bit more savory. It was a good addition, actually. I added a bit too much red pepper flakes. Adding a small sliver of cheese when serving on a cracker will take care of that. Looking forward to having this in a tofu wrap for lunch. Perfect beach food.

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