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Persian Smokey Eggplant Salad (Yum!)

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This recipe is a variation (my interpretation) of a recipe from the book, Persiana: Recipes from the Middle East and Beyond. I was recently offered the book to review and am pretty excited about it (and it takes a lot for me to get excited about a new cookbook these days). I am not really that familiar with the cuisines of Persia, or modern day Iran (which is one of the oldest cuisines in the world), but I am familiar with the flavors in these recipes…very fresh and bright flavors. And while the recipes may be simple the flavors are complex and multi-layered. At any rate, this recipe is really easy to make and also really delicious…it is definitely one I will make again (and likely again and again). Plus it is a lot of fun cooking the eggplant over an open flame.

 

Persian Smokey Eggplant Salad

Serves 8

4 large eggplant

½ red bell pepper, diced small

½ green bell pepper, diced small

¼ red onion, diced small

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper

½ teaspoon sea salt

3 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons virgin olive oil

1 bunch flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

Cook the eggplant by placing them directly over an open flame of a gas stove. Turn the eggplant as needed. The skin will blister and blacken; it will look burnt. Continue to cook and turn the eggplant until it is very soft and heated throughout. Transfer the eggplant to a clean surface and allow to cool enough to handle. Gently peel away the blackened skin while placing the flesh of the eggplant in a colander over a sink to drain any excess moisture. Coarse-chop the flesh of the eggplant and transfer it to a bowl with the remainder of the ingredients. Gently stir and fold the salad to thoroughly incorporate the ingredients. Allow the salad to rest for a few minutes prior to serving. Serve warm or chilled with toasted garlic bread or wedges of pita.

Urban Simplicity.

Fragrant Chicken and Vegetable Ragoût!

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This is a basic ragoût recipe, or a main dish stew. Like all of the recipes that I post, this is not carved in stone but should serve more as a guide. The ingredients and seasonings can all be interchanged–added or deleted–to suit your personal tastes. This is perfect middle-of-the-winter comfort food. It’s delicious and packed full of nutrients…and the best part is that it will only use one pot to prepare.

Fragrant Chicken and Vegetable Ragoût

Serves 6

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, diced

1 carrot, diced

¼ head green cabbage, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon turmeric

½ teaspoon ground coriander

½ teaspoon crushed hot pepper

½ teaspoon kosher salt

2 turnips, diced

1 bunch kale, diced

1 medium potato, diced

4 cups chicken broth

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, diced

1 (15 oz) can red beans, drained and rinsed

¼ cup lemon juice

Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot, and cabbage; cook and stir for a few minutes until the vegetables are wilted and just begin to brown, then stir in the grlic and cook another minute or so. Lower the heat and add the spices: cumin, turmeric, coriander, hot pepper, and salt. Stir the spices into the vegetables, then add the turnips, kale, and potato; stirring to coat with spices and oil. Then add the chicken broth and bring it to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and add the diced chicken. Simmer the stew for 20 minutes, or until the meat is cooked and vegetables are tender, then stir in the beans and cook for another minute or so. Lastly, stir in the lemon juice and remove the pot from the heat.

Urban Simplicity.

Bouillon de dinde…

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Nearly every year after the Thanksgiving feast at my sister’s house I lug the turkey carcass home, leave it on my porch overnight (as my fridge isn’t large enough to accommodate it), and make broth with it the next day. The simmering broth makes my house smell delicious and drives my two dogs nuts (but I do put some on their food as a treat). After packaging it in increments I freeze it and use it for a few weeks–or months–thereafter for whatever recipe calls for chicken broth. It’s so easy to make and offers a really delicious flavor. The simple recipe for broth is below, but if you’d like to read an article I wrote for Artvoice sometime ago regarding other Thanksgiving leftovers, click here; and here’s a link to an article on broth itself.

Turkey Broth 

1 cooked turkey carcass, and any scraps, juices, and pan scrapings

1 onion, quartered

1 carrot, cut into thirds

4 ribs celery, cut into thirds

4 cloves garlic, crushed

2 bay leaves

10 whole black peppercorns 

Combine the ingredients in a heavy-bottomed stockpot and cover with enough cold water to cover them by two inches. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a slow simmer. Cook for a few hours, skimming the surface as necessary. Strain and refrigerate until needed.  

Urban Simplicity.

Penne Pasta with Tomatoes, Basil, and Twice-Cooked Garlic

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This is such an easy summertime recipe you’ll want to make it all the time, especially if you have your own victory garden. It’s bursting with flavor and it comes from the vine-ripe tomatoes, twice cooked garlic, and herbs. And the best part is that the entire dish can be prepared in about 20 minutes (if you are somewhat organized). I finished the dish with a liberal sprinkling of crushed hot pepper and grated Parmesan cheese (which are not reflected in the recipe).

Penne Pasta with Tomatoes, Basil, and Twice-Cooked Garlic

Serves 4

½ pound whole wheat penne pasta

4 tablespoons olive oil

6 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced in half

1 small onion, diced

1 small bell pepper, diced

3 cups diced tomatoes

1 cup chicken broth

¼ teaspoon sea salt

1 bunch parsley, chopped

1 bunch basil, chopped

Cook the penne in plenty of boiling water, then drain it and set it aside. Combine the olive oil and garlic in a sauce pot over medium heat and cook the garlic slowly for 5-10 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove the garlic from the pot with a slotted spoon, leaving the oil in the pot. Turn the heat up to medium high, and add the diced onion and pepper to the hot oil. Cook the onions and peppers for a few minutes. While the onions and peppers are cooking, mince the cooked garlic. When the onions and peppers just begin to brown add the garlic back to the pot and cook for another minute or two. Stir in the tomatoes, chicken broth, and salt. Bring the liquid to a boil, then lower to a simmer, and cook the sauce until it reduces by about half and becomes slightly thick. Add the pasta to the sauce, gently turning it to coat it evenly and to reheat it. Then stir in the basil and parsley and remove the pot from the heat.


Urban Simplicity.

Two Condiments…

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Okay. So these two condiments are so easy to make and so bursting with flavor you’ll wonder why you haven’t made them before. The recipes of course are not carved in stone…add or subtract flavors and ingredients that you like. Experiment. Nonetheless, both of these are sure to please.

Honey-Mustard

Makes about 2 1/2 cups

1 cup yellow mustard seeds

2 tablespoons brown mustard seeds

1/4 cup honey

1 cup white wine vinegar

1/4 cup white wine

1 teaspoon turmeric

Combine all of the ingredients in a glass jar and allow to soak at room temperature for about two days. Transfer to a blender and puree to desired consistency. Return to the glass jar and refrigerate.

BBQ Sauce

Makes about 3 cups

2 cups ketchup

2/3 cup cider vinegar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup molasses

1/2 cup yellow mustard

3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon onion powder

2 teaspoons ground black pepper

1 teaspoon salt

Combine all the ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a simmer. Cook over low heat for 20-30 minutes. Stir frequently to avoid scorching.

Urban Simplicity.

Smokey Roast Red Pepper Hummus (yum!)

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This is another one of those recipes that is so easy to make and so delicious that you’ll wonder why you don’t make it more often. You can use fresh peppers—as I did for this recipe—or jarred ones which you rinse. I cooked the peppers over the grate of my stove at work, but this time of year it is fun (and flavorful) to cook them outside on a charcoal grill. And as with most my recipes, this is just a suggestion…add whatever flavorings or seasoning you would like. You’ll also note that when I say this is easy to make, it truly is one step. Once the peppers are roasted you simply combine everything in a food processor and puree it. The hummus will keep for about 5 days in the refrigerator…but it is so delicious it will likely be eaten straight away.

 

Smokey Roast Red Pepper Hummus

Makes about 4 cups

2 (15oz) cans chick peas, drained and rinsed

2 roasted red peppers

1 cup tahini

¼ cup lemon juice

¼ cup hot pepper sauce (optional)

4 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons smoked paprika

1 teaspoon sea salt

 

Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor and process to a smooth puree.

 

How to Roast a Pepper

Remove stickers from the pepper. Place the pepper directly on the grate of your gas stove with the flame adjusted to medium. Using a set of tongs turn the pepper ever couple of minutes until the entire outside is completely black. Immediately place the pepper(s) into a small paper bag and seal it closed. Allow the pepper to rest for a couple of minutes. The steam that naturally occurs loosens the skin. Remove the pepper, and while holding it under cold running water gently rub of the blackened skin (it’s wise, but not essential, to do this over a small colander to catch the skin, which may clog the drain). After the skin is removed gently tear the pepper in two and remove the stem and rinse the seeds.

Urban Simplicity.

The Miracle of Controlled Spoilage (bis)

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“Preserving was almost a mania with Mrs. Bergson…
When there was nothing to preserve, she began to pickle.”
—Willa Cather, “Death Comes for the Archbishop” (1927)

Fermented foods still amaze me. Not only are they bursting with flavor and so incredibly good for you, but they basically make themselves; you simply provide the proper conditions and let nature take it’s course…salt some food, put it in a bucket and wait. Yup, it’s that simple. Kim-chi, or spicy Korean sauerkraut, is my favorite. I’ve posted this recipe many times before but not in a while. I was prompted to re-post the recipe after tasting my latest batch of the good stuff (pictured). Being as hot as it has been it didn’t take long to ferment and geeeze o’ man is it delicious…bubbling and bursting with flavor and nutrients in each bit. This is so easy to make; I hope you try it. If you’re interested to read more about fermented foods (and would like a bunch more recipes) here are a couple articles I wrote for Artvoice on the subject a few years ago (click here and here). If you’d like to delve deeper into fermented foods, I recommend this book.

Kim Chi

(Korean-Style Sauerkraut)

1 head Napa cabbage, cut into two-inch pieces

1 small daikon, grated

2 tablespoons kosher salt

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 small piece ginger, minced

1 small onion, minced

2 tablespoons chili paste

1 tablespoon sugar

Mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl. Transfer to a container that is wide enough to fit a few small plates inside it. Press the cabbage down and weight it with plates. Cover the container and leave at room temperature. After a day it should release enough liquid that it is submerged, if not, add a little salted water. After about 2 days small bubbles will appear, after about a week or so it will smell and taste distinctively sour. Taste it as often as you like and when the flavor is to your liking transfer the container to the refrigerator to slow its fermentation.

Urban Simplicity.

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