Yotam Ottolenghi says of this eggplant dish, "I can't think of a more rustically elegant (is that a contradiction in terms?) starter." Contradiction? Hardly.
Ottolenghi is an Israeli-Italian chef residing in London, with a flavor palette that's out of this world. This recipe is adapted from his 2010 cookbook Plenty, and I selected it for today's post because of its gloriously gorgeous colorful presentation, not to mention it's delicious and a perfect easy-to-make dish for your holiday table (or anytime). I prepared it for an anniversary dinner party, not as a starter, but as a side dish with grilled lamb chops and naan--it was heavenly.
Another advantage for a dinner party: it can be served at room temperature, meaning it's easier to make ahead of time.
Adapted from: Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi
Number of servings: 4 as a starter or side dish
Writer Julian Barnes said of mourning, "The thing is—nature is so exact, it hurts exactly as much as it is worth, so in a way, one relishes the pain, I think. If it didn't matter, it wouldn't matter."
A friend sent this line in a condolence letter when my momala passed away, and it has resonated ever since. The grieving is commensurate with the loving, a testament to what’s missing.
This has been a particularly difficult year for my boyfriend (the blog's man behind the curtain, the one behind the editorial notes), who is grieving the passing of his mom, and today is actually the one-year anniversary.
Kathryn Bailey was an accomplished jazz pianist based in the San Francisco bay area, who accompanied everyone from Billie Holiday to the Buddy Morrow Orchestra, Berkeley's Straw Hat Theatre, and Ronnie Cass.
We miss you everyday, Kathy.
There is no gray area with brussels sprouts. People love them or hate them. Luckily, I live in a house were brussels sprouts rule. The BF actually requests this cruciferous vegetable any chance he gets.
The many health benefits of brussels sprouts are well documented. They're loaded with vitamin K (great for bone health), promote weight loss and lower cholesterol levels, are a great source of protein, and can even reduce cancer risk.
When cooking with them, can't stress this enough: buy good sprouts. They should feel firm and have tight, shiny-edged leaves. I like to buy medium-to-small ones, because I find the larger ones have a more bitter flavor (especially those gigantic, loose-leafed monstrosities). Never buy those.
Several thousand acres of sprouts are planted in coastal areas of San Mateo, Santa Cruz, and Monterey counties of California (lucky to have this level of quality available locally), which offer an ideal combination of coastal fog year-round.
Roasting brussels sprouts (in the oven) was my way of winning over skeptics (like the BF), but this recipe works whether you steam them on a stove top or use the microwave. Those of you with one oven, like me, will appreciate not having to use it for multiple dishes, especially on Thanksgiving or other holidays.
This dish is delicious alongside any meat that typically graces the holiday table: beef, turkey, ham, lamb, pork, duck or sausage (second pic).
NOTE: I make these in the microwave for convenience, but feel free to steam the sprouts on the stove top.
Number of servings: 4 (depending on how many other side dishes you offer)
Latkes are not just for Hannukah.
Everyone has their own Thanksgiving traditions. Growing up in our family, the turkey was not the star of the show. We were all about appetizers. Once, I asked Mamala how this all started and she couldn't remember, but at some point two appetizers turned into 20 and it took on a life of its own. We used to stay up all night before Thanksgiving and make: chopped liver, herring in sour cream, herring in tomatoes, herring in vinegar, clam poppers, rumaki, stuffed mushrooms, deviled eggs, vegetable trays, three kinds of rye bread, Japanese pickled radish, olives, cornichons, stuffed celery, liptauer (an Austrian favorite), Boston brown bread, and a pistachio pudding-green jello-cottage cheese-fruit cocktail-mayo-7-UP mold (it was the '70s, believe it was called Watergate Salad). Of course, little-girl me disliked all the appetizers we made, except black olives. Thank goodness I was allowed to stick them on my fingers.
So much time. energy and stomach space was spent on appetizers that we rarely ate our turkey and sides on Thanksgiving. If we did, it was at 10:00pm or the next day.
We've had many memorable Thanksgivings. My brother Mike had an epic Thanksgiving-Hannukah reunion in 2004. My Chicago family has hosted many extraordinary Thanksgiving reunions. We also had a beautiful yet bittersweet Thanksgiving with family and friends two weeks before my Mamala passed away in 2011.
There is always that one Thanksgiving that my family always laughs at: 1979. My father passed away that September and it was the first holiday without him. I had recently started college and my older brother Mike, a sophomore at Oregon State, thought it would be a nice idea to invite a married foreign-exchange couple from Korea to a traditional American Thanksgiving.
Mamala and I decided that we would forgo the appetizers and focus on the traditional turkey dinner. We worked feverishly all week cleaning the house, shopping, cooking, and decorating. Thanksgiving morning I put a 25-pound turkey in the oven and got to work on the rest of the feast. Did I mention we had a dog (part wolf, unbeknownest to us at the time), at the time. His name was Blitz.
[Ed. Note: Good lord I do not like where this is going.]
Mike arrived with the Korean couple around noon, and they arrived in the most gorgeous traditional Korean attire, a hanbok en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanbok. They looked spectacular, were polite and gracious beyond words, just downright lovely people. We spoke no Korean and they spoke no English, but we managed just fine.
Our holiday table was beautifully set with my Mamala's customary Thanksgiving cornucopia, complete with seasonal fruit, plus pilgrim and Native-American candles that she bought 16 years prior when my younger sister Julie was born.
The turkey was baking away. Intoxicating aroma. I might have even cut a little piece of crispy skin off the tail end and snacked on it. [Ed. Note: I'ma tell.] The kitchen and dining room were closed off. Guests were in the living room.
4:00pm, countdown to dinner. The turkey needs to rest for 20 minutes before carving, so that 25-pound bird was carefully placed on the counter, covered with foil, and I finally joined everyone else in the living room.
Suddenly, THUNK. Growling. Snarling. Chomping.
[Ed. Note: The horror. Slowly she turned, inch by inch, step by...]
My heart dropped. I raced into the kitchen with Mamala close behind. There was Blitz with the turkey on the floor, devouring a leg and starting on the precious white meat. He hissed, growled, and bared teeth as I tried to reach for the bird. I grabbed a broom handle and tried to grab what was left of the turkey. His jaw dripped with coveted turkey juices. It was a scene out of Cujo.
[Ed. Note: Getting Stephen King's agent on the phone.]
By the time I could grab the turkey, it was mostly carcass with a little meat dangling on bone. What was once a meal for eight was soup stock. Mamala and I stared at the carcass, a beautiful turkey five minutes ago. We stared at the dog, who was beaming. Once our shock subsided we had no idea what to serve for dinner.
Meanwhile in the living room...Mike has said he never forgot the look on our guests' faces as they heard these psychotic masticating sounds emanating from the adjacent room. Like the proper Midwesterner my Mamala was raised to be, we of course never said a word to them about what transpired in the kitchen, and pretended like nothing happened.
Long story short, we ended up having all vegetarian side dishes for Thanksgiving that year. The Korean couple could not have been more gracious. They enjoyed the meal and we all had a blast. It was an unforgettable holiday and brings a smile to my face every time I think of it.
This Thanksgiving, consider making latkes for your vegetarian guests so they will not have to sustain their hunger on side dishes alone.
Adapted from: Food and Wine, November 2012
Number of servings: 4 dozen mini latkes
I'm writing this post on Halloween morning and it's the first cool day of fall (always pleased when it's sweater weather). Know you're seeing this the day after, and hope you had a fun evening with the trick or treaters.
Roasted yam wedges are common fare in our house, usually lightly slicked with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkled with salt, Aleppo pepper and coriander powder, and roasted until crispy like fries. Makes for a terrific side dish. Even "Supergirl" Marlowe (see pictures below) loves them.
However, this satisfying entree fits the bill for a meatless meal while having enough flavor, heft and protein to satisfy our carnivore tastes. It's also perfect for the cooler weather we have coming.
Crispy Tandoori Chickpeas
Tahini Lime Sauce
"You say tomato, I say tomahto."
September is one of those in-between cooking months. Summer is over, but it’s still hot out and the Farmers Market bins are overflowing with juicy, ripe tomatoes in myriad of colors. Autumn root vegetables have made an appearance, and I can't wait to leap into fall, but I promised my BF I would not start decorating or making anything pumpkin-related until Oct 1. [Ed. Note: It would be "All Halloween All The Time" in this house, if she could get away with it.]
This tart is a perfect end of summer meal—lunch, brunch, dinner or an even better appetizer. It's also a great way to use up all your ripe garden tomatoes in a quick and non-fussy fashion. And on muggy odd-weather weeks like we've experienced recently in the bay area (triple-digit heat followed by monsoon rain and lightning), lets be real, I don't want to bake when it's a bajillion degrees.
I have made this tart every September for the last decade with various crusts, i.e., one sheet of defrosted puff pastry, homemade rye, buckwheat, or polenta tart crust, as well as whole wheat pizza dough. This time I made it with Vicolo cornmeal pizza crust (see picture below). This is not a sponsored post, but these ready-made crusts are a godsend: freshly made, organic, all natural, no preservatives, and there are even gluten-free options. They come pre-packaged in the refrigerated section of your grocery store (Safeway, Trader Joes, Whole Foods, etc.), and if you like the taste and texture of cornmeal, you won't be disappointed.
If you can't find Vicolo in your grocery store, you can substitute with one sheet of defrosted puff pastry, rolled out to a 9x13 rectangle and placed on a baking sheet. Follow the baking instructions on the box and let it cool completely, then follow the rest of my instructions for the filling and assembly.
Number of Servings: Approx 2-3 (per one 8-inch tart).
Note: Ingredient list below is for one 8-inch tart, and Vicolo crusts come in packages of two. So if you want to make both you will need to double the filling amounts below.
I'm Jacquie, personal chef & recipe developer in the bay area. Living life with my wildly funny boyfriend and dog Marlowe. Lover of books, bourbon, chocolate and movies.