MOROCCAN CARROT SALAD

I love carrots but have a problem with eating them raw, cannot quite wrap my mind around the harsh texture. In fact, when I see carrot sticks playing as crackers next to a nice bowl of hummus, I feel a bit sad. In this salad, raw carrots are grated and mellowed down by spending some time in a nice dressing with one of my favorite ingredients, pomegranate molasses.  It is absolutely delicious, and even a person with my anti-raw carrot approach will love it. Trust me.

MOROCCAN CARROT SALAD
(adapted from many sources)

2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
1/8 tsp smoked paprika
Kosher salt
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
⅓ cup dried dates, thinly sliced
1 pound carrots, peeled and shredded
3/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1/2 cup pitted green olives, chopped
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

Prepare the dressing by mixing in a bowl the lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, turmeric, paprika and salt.  Pour the olive oil whisking constantly. Add the chopped dates. Reserve while you process the carrots.

Shred the carrots in a food processor or grating by hand.  Add the carrots and olives to the dressing/dates mixture, and mix well. Leave it to stand at room temperature for about 10 minutes. Add the toasted almonds, sprinkle the pomegranate seeds on top, adjust seasoning and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Cannot praise this simple salad enough. One of the things I love most about it is that it is still good next day. How many salads stand an overnight sleep in the fridge? Not that many. Well, maybe if you have more rabbit genes than me, you could find the texture next day a bit too soft, but I doubt it. Still delicious. Pomegranate molasses brings the right amount of sharpness and sweetness, it all goes together beautifully. And don’t skip the pomegranate seeds, they please the eyes and the palate!

Between writing this post and publishing it, I made this salad again. Second time around I used Ras-El-Hanout instead of turmeric, skipped the paprika, and added thinly sliced green apples instead of green olives. Another version, same deliciousness…

 

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TWICE-COOKED EGGPLANT

This recipe was adapted from the cookbook Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking, by Michael Solomonov. It is very unusual in the sense that you essentially fry the eggplant to the point that it seems ruined. Black. Burned beyond recognition. I made it exactly as described and we enjoyed it quite a bit, however it was a tad oil-heavy, hard to digest.  I wanted to re-visit the method using the air-fryer instead. To compensate for the lack of a “smoky” flavor given by the charred component in the original recipe, I seasoned it with smoked paprika. And for our taste, it was even better!

TWICE-COOKED EGGPLANT
(adapted from Zahav)

2 medium eggplants, cut into thick rounds
2 tablespoons kosher salt
about 3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
2 large stalks of celery, chopped
2 medium shallots, minced
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1/8 cup sherry vinegar
chopped fresh parsley to taste
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Sprinkle the eggplant slices with the salt, join the slices as if forming the full eggplant again, and tightly wrap each with plastic film. Liquid will collect inside the package. After 20 minutes or so, open the package and rinse lightly. Blot dry with paper towels.  Brush each slice lightly with olive oil and air-fry at 390 F for about 15 minutes, moving the slices around every few minutes.

As the eggplant is air-frying, coat a large non-stick skillet with 2 tablespoons olive oil, and sautee the bell pepper, celery and shallots, seasoning with salt, coriander and smoked paprika.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are very soft but not brown, about 12 minutes.

Add the air-fryed eggplant and vinegar to the pan, breaking up the eggplant and mashing it coarsely until well combined. Cook until the vinegar has evaporated, about 8 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the parsley and lemon juice.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: In the picture above you see the extent of frying that must be done before proceeding with the recipe. He includes a photo in the book to make sure everyone knows what he’s talking about when he says black. Charred. It does take a while, especially if you have only one large skillet to prepare two eggplants.

I did not take a picture from the air-fryed version, but it looked like the first photo in the composite picture. But it got there with a lot less oil, I only lightly brushed the slices once and that was it. Overall, a delicious side dish, that is good right after prepared, but also wonderful next day, enjoyed cold or gently re-heated.

Before I leave you, let me tell you that this trick of wrapping the eggplant tightly in plastic to release the bitter liquid was a tip I sent many years ago to Fine Cooking magazine, back when they had a contest for readers, I think it was called tip of the month. I won and got some nice gadgets, including the salad spinner I still own! Anyway, it’s a nice method. Not only you don’t need to spread the eggplant in a large area and find ways to weigh it down, but wrapping it is less messy and somehow makes the liquid come out faster. If you have to work with several eggplants, they can just sit side by side over your countertop. Piece of cake!

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CHICKPEAS AND ZUCCHINI WITH TAHINI SAUCE

This side dish was the marriage of two regular appearances in our kitchen: quickly sauteed zucchini and air-fried chickpeas. The union was celebrated with a nice amount of tahini sauce.  I tell you, this worked very very well. If you don’t have an air-fryer, roast the chickpeas in a 400-420F oven. It takes longer and the texture won’t be quite as crunchy, but it will work just fine.  I intended to sprinkle pomegranate seeds right before serving for a little extra bling, but of course that day the grocery store had ran out of them. Best laid plans.

LEMONY ZUCCHINI AND CHICKPEAS WITH TAHINI-SAUCE
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

for the tahini-sauce:
1/3 cup plain full-fat yogurt
1/8 cup tahini paste
juice and zest of 1 lemon
2 tsp honey
salt to taste
water if needed
for the veggies:

3 small zucchini, sliced in half lengthwise, then thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper
juice of 1 lemon
1 can chickpeas, well drained and dried
olive oil to coat chickpeas
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp cumin
salt to taste
fresh parsley
(pomegranate seeds if you have them)

Make the tahini sauce: whisk all ingredients in a small bowl. Reserve.

Make the air-fried chickpeas.  Coat them lightly with olive oil, add the spices and place them in the air-frier set at the highest temperature (usually 390F) for about 12 minutes. They should be crunchy and golden brown.  Reserve.

Heat the olive oil in a 12-inch non-stick skillet, add the zucchini covering the whole surface, season with salt and pepper. Let the slices cook undisturbed until the side in contact with the pan is well seared. Move the slices around and cook until done. Sprinkle lemon juice all over, cover the pan for a minute, remove the lid, add the chickpeas and parsley.  Serve immediately with the tahini sauce on top.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: When I was a child, teenager or even young adult, you could not bribe me to eat chickpeas, which in Portuguese have the non-appealing name of “grão-de-bico”. It translates – loosely – as “the grain of the beak”. They can also be called “ervilha-de-galinha”, which ends up as “chicken’s green peas”. Yeah, very sexy. How could anyone consider that a delicacy? Anyway, now I crave it. Go figure.

Leftovers were delicious a couple of days later. In fact, I found out that air-fried chickpeas, when microwaved just enough to make them warm, get a nice texture, a bit more creamy inside. My lunch coupled this tasty concoction with a fried egg on top.  I was smiling the whole afternoon.

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ROASTED CAULIFLOWER SALAD OVER HUMMUS

We are back from a month-long trip to England, where I had the pleasure of eating twice at Ottolenghi and once at Dishoom.  Both restaurants focus on Middle Eastern food, and both serve dishes absolutely packed with flavor. No matter what you order, it will feel like an explosion of flavors: hot, bright, lemony, spicy, with contrasting textures to make it all even more appealing. I came back home with the goals of being a bit less timid with how I season our food, and also of expanding my horizons as far as veggie side dishes are concerned. It’s not a secret that I have a weak spot for hummus and all things chickpeas. Hummus is great as a dip, but it is quite amazing when coupled with roasted veggies such as cauliflower. This recipe will prove it to you…

ROASTED CAULIFLOWER SALAD OVER HUMMUS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen, inspired by Simple)

for the salad component:
florets from 1 large cauliflower
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
olive oil to coat cauliflower
salt and pepper
⅓ cup walnuts, toasted
½ cup chopped green olives
parsley leaves to taste, chopped
juice and zest of on large lemon

for the hummus:
14oz can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons tahini
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil  to taste (less than 1/2 cup)
lemon juice to taste
water if needed to adjust consistency

Heat oven to 400°F.  Coat the cauliflower florets with olive oil, add all spices and mix well. Place in a single layer in a roasting pan and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through. Toast the walnuts on a dry, non-stick frying pan over medium heat until fragrant. Reserve.

Make the hummus by processing the chickpeas with the tahini, cumin and cayenne pepper. Season with salt and pepper, and with the processor running add the olive oil until it gets a creamy consistency. Add lemon juice, taste and adjust seasoning. If needed, add cold water to thin the hummus. Reserve.

Assemble the dish: in a large bowl, mix the roasted cauliflower florets with the walnuts, green olives, parsley and lemon juice.  Drizzle a bit of olive oil right before serving over hummus.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This was absolutely scrumptious! You could conceivably omit the hummus, but it adds a lot to the dish. It would stand as a full vegetarian meal if coupled with items such as farro, couscous, or bulgur wheat. We enjoyed it with boneless chicken thighs marinated in yogurt & smoked paprika, with a bit of plain rice. It was our first dinner after coming back home, jet-lagged, tired, but looking forward to sleeping in our own bed, with three very happy pups nearby. I missed them so much…


Dinner is served!

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THE BEST, THE VERY BEST HUMMUS

If you ask me to make a list of things I could eat on a daily basis, hummus will show up as #1. Simple as that.

Bewitching Kitchen

We eat hummus all the time. Almost always store-bought, because we actually like the two brands available in our neck of the woods: Sabra and Athenos. Sometimes I refresh it with a little lemon juice, olive oil, some cumin or paprika, but sometimes we just dig in, straight from the container. I have quite a few hummus-like recipes in the blog, departures from the classic, using avocado, edamame, even pumpkin. Oddly enough, I never posted the classic, chickpea-tahini entity. Until now, that is. The recipe I tried this past weekend was a revelation, and I am still kicking myself for taking such a long time to try it, when bloggers and cookbook authors have been raving about it for ages. This is the way hummus is prepared in the Middle East. The prominent flavor is exactly what is intended to be: chickpeas and tahini. No distractions. The texture…

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CHICKPEA BURGERS: VEGAN AND DELICIOUS

No, I am not turning vegan. How could I? Not only I am quite fond of animal protein in my diet, but I am too passionate about patisserie and once you get dairy and eggs out of that world, things get a bit dicey. But as it seems to be the case for many people, we are reducing the amount of meat we consume – particularly red meat – and incorporating some vegetarian-friendly meals in our routine. These veggie burgers are quite amazing. The tahini sauce is based on yogurt, so there goes the vegan component out the window. Such is life.

CHICKPEA BURGERS WITH TAHINI SAUCE
(adapted from Veggie Burgers Every Which Way)

for the veggie patties:
1 cup dried chickpeas, rinsed thoroughly
1 celery rib, roughly chopped
½ cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of ½ lemon
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp za’tar
½ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chickpea flour (or substitute all-purpose flour)

for the sauce:
1/2 cup Greek-style plain yogurt
2 Tablespoons tahini
1 teaspoon lemon juice
salt to taste
Sriracha sauce to taste  

Cover the chickpeas by 4 inches of water in a bowl and let sit for 24 hours. Drain thoroughly.

Heat  the oven to 400°F.  Combine the chickpeas, celery, parsley, lemon zest and juice, cumin, za’tar, baking soda, salt, and black pepper in a food processor. Pulse until coarsely combined. If the mixture is struggling to come together, add a bit of water, but no more than 2 tablespoons.  If it seems a bit too lose (it was the case for me), add the chickpea or regular flour.

Place the patties on a liberally oiled baking sheet. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, flipping them once halfway through, until golden and firm.

Combine all the ingredients for the tahini sauce in a small bowl, serve with the chickpea burgers, with the toppings of your choice. 

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

 

Comments: This was adapted from a great book by Lukas Volger, with all kinds of veggie burgers you might dream of, unusual combinations of flavors, I had a hard time deciding which one to cook first. I can tell you the next might be Butternut Squash, Black Bean and Chestnuts Burger… how about that? 

These Chickpea version had me worried all the way through serving time, and I even told the husband that we could be facing a Plan B, aka as Going Out for Dinner. I thought they were going to crumble in the oven, they seemed too delicate and not quite holding together. But the secret for all these burgers that incorporate grains and mashed veggies is to place them over a baking sheet well coated with oil, and let the oven do its magic. It forms a crust that gets things going in the right direction. Flip it once, gently, and that’s it.

I had to include the above picture because once I realized what I was doing, I laughed at myself. The drizzle of tahini sauce? I used a mini-piping bag, designed for ganache or tempered chocolate or Royal icing drizzles. Yeap. I might be just a tad obsessed.  You can use a fork, a spoon… or follow my twisted path. I won’t judge.

Please notice that the chickpeas are incorporated in the patties raw, just soaked in water for 24 hours. According to Lukas, that’s the best way to use them in veggie burgers, otherwise they will crumble as you try to cook them.  Something to consider if you try to design your own version.

The tahini sauce. Most recipes, in my opinion, add way too much tahini, to the point that the taste seems to glue to the back of the tongue and sit there until next day.  I prefer to have a hint of tahini, a bit more lemon, and the more pleasant saucy texture of a higher proportion of yogurt. You do what feels right for you, it’s your kitchen…

Leftovers were still pretty good next day, after a very quick warming up in the microwave. They go well with Kaiser rolls. I thought about including the rolls in this post, but I need to improve my shaping skills. If you like to see the recipe I used (everything was excellent, except my work shaping them), pay Karen a visit with a click here.

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ASIAN-STYLE EGGPLANT “MEATBALLS”

Disclaimer: these are not meatballs, they are actually vegetarian. But it’s hard to avoid the association. Eggplant Balls? Eggplant Morsels? Nah, neither one works for me. Plus, “meatballs” is  the way Katie Lee referred to them in the FoodTV show The Kitchen, so I can always lay blame on her. Having said that, these are pretty awesome. A bit more work than you might expect, but worth it. What makes them a bit more involved is the fact that you must (according to Katie) process each component separately.  Other than that, a very straightforward method, for a tasty alternative to meatballs.

ASIAN-STYLE EGGPLANT MEATBALLS
(slightly modified from Katie Lee)

6 cups small cubed eggplant, peel left on (from 1 large eggplant)
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, quartered
1/2 cup unsalted raw cashews
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
1 large egg, lightly whisked

Heat oven to 450 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Place eggplant in a large mixing bowl and slowly drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Stir and drizzle in an additional tablespoon of oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Spread on a prepared baking sheet. Combine mushrooms and remaining teaspoon oil and spread on remaining baking sheet.

Bake eggplant and mushrooms 10 minutes, then stir and bake an additional 10 minutes.

Reduce oven heat to 400 degrees F. Pulse eggplant a few times in a food processor until coarse in texture. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Pulse mushrooms until coarse and add to the same bowl. Pulse cashews until coarse and transfer to bowl.  Add panko, ginger, basil, egg, salt and pepper to the mixture and stir to combine.

Use a small ice cream scoop or yours hands to scoop eggplant mixture into 12 balls and arrange on reserved lined baking sheet. Bake until crispy and browned, about 20 minutes.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This was our dinner on a Monday, so I prepared everything up to the final roasting on the day before. It would be too hard to make it after work, but if you can spread the preparation in two days, it is perfect. Less than 30 minutes and a nice dinner is ready for you. I took them into a more Italian territory by warming up some tomato sauce and serving with them. These are quite delicate, so don’t try to simmer them covered in the sauce, they might fall apart.  Mine were probably more fragile even, because since my eggplant was a bit small, I included one zucchini in the mixture.  Zucchini has quite a bit more moisture, and I should have adjusted the amount of panko to account for that.  I am giving you the original recipe, and advise you to stick with eggplant and mushrooms only.

Making them the day before also helps them retain the shape during baking, but you could stick them in the fridge for an hour or so and proceed with roasting.  It is nice to reduce the amount of meat we consume, so these are quite likely going into our regular rotation. They could work well also as appetizers, making them smaller and serving with a dipping sauce, perhaps a tahini-yogurt to keep with the Asian flavor, if so desired.  Two thumbs up from both of us, omnivores at heart…

 

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