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.

ONE YEAR AGO: Mokonut’s Rye Cranberry Chocolate Chip Cookies

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FOUR YEARS AGO: Cream Cheese Mini-Pancakes with Smoked Salmon

FIVE YEARS AGO:  Star-Shaped Chocolate Brioche Bread

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INCREDIBLY SIMPLE TIMES FOUR: OCTOBER 2018

Time to feature recipes that are so simple they hardly qualify as such.

INCREDIBLY SIMPLE #1

AIR-FRIED CHICKPEAS
(also work in a regular oven)

AIR-FRIED CHICKPEAS

1 can chickpeas
a little olive oil
spices of your choice (I used Southwest mix from Penzey’s)
salt
grated Parmigiano cheese

Drain the chickpeas and dry them on paper towels. You need to prevent them from steaming, as much as possible. Place them in a bowl, coat lightly with olive oil, and add the spices of your choice, just a little sprinkle will do. Season with salt.

Spray the basket of your air-fryer with olive oil. Set it to 360 F. Add the chickpeas and roast them for 12 to 15 minutes, shaking the basket every five minutes or so.  Transfer them to a serving bowl, and sprinkle Parmigiano while they are hot. Enjoy right away, or store them for many hours at room temperature, uncovered. They are still excellent next day.

If using a regular oven, set it to 400F, and roast the chickpeas for 25 to 30 minutes.

to print the recipe, click here

I’ve made them both ways, oven and air-fryer. The air-fryer gives a little more crunch, so it is my favorite method. The fact that it is so fast does not hurt it either!  Beware, they are addictive. Perfect to nibble as appetizer but also quite good sprinkled over salads, spinach in particular goes well with crunchy chickpeas. Curry is a great spice to add to them before air-frying/roasting. Make sure to save them in an open bowl, they keep their crunchy nature better that way. Not that they will last that long.

INCREDIBLY SIMPLE #2

LEMONY SAUTEED ZUCCHINI

LEMONY ZUCCHINI

Prepare enough zucchini pieces to almost cover a 12-inch non-stick frying pan, like shown below:


Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the pan and allow it to heat until almost smoking. Add the pieces of zucchini, season with salt and pepper, and do not touch them. Let them develop a dark golden color on the side touching the pan, like shown below:

Only when they get to this point, move them to get some color on another side. Again, move them as little as possible, and wait for a deep color to develop. When the zucchini is tender (but not mushy), squeeze lemon juice all over, and shake the pan to move the slices around and gently coat them with the lemony glaze that forms.  Serve immediately, adjust seasoning if necessary.

INCREDIBLY SIMPLE #3

SMOKED RICE

Smoked rice, you ask? I first read about it in a blog I follow, Love and Olive Oil. Lindsay bought some smoked Basmati rice and raved about it. I was intrigued, and decided to take the smoke into my own hands. If you don’t have a smoker, you can follow the method described hereIf you have an electric smoker, it’s quite straightforward…

Add hickory wooden chips (or any wood you like) to the smoker

and set it to 175 F.

Place 2 cups of rice on a quarter-sheet baking pan.

Smoke it for one hour.

Allow it to cool completely, and cook the rice as you normally would.

 

I cooked one cup and saved another smoked cup for later. I was afraid that the rice would be all clumped up, because I did not want to rinse it after smoking. To my surprise, it was super fluffy, all grains well separated. The hour of heating at 175 F did not hurt anything, quite the contrary.  The rice had just the right amount of smokiness, and was excellent as a side dish for some sausages cooked sous-vide. We are smoking rice quite often these days…

INCREDIBLY SIMPLE #4

SOUS-VIDE ITALIAN SAUSAGES

SOUS-VIDE ITALIAN SAUSAGES

5 Italian sausages
1/2 cup Lager beer
salt and pepper

Heat the sous-vide to 170 F.

Place the sausages inside a food-safe plastic bag. Add the beer, season with a little salt and pepper.  Use the water displacement method to close the bag.

Submerge the bag and cook the sausages for 1  to 3 hours.

Remove the sausages from the bag, discard the cooking liquid. Dry the sausages very well, and crisp them up on a non-stick pan with a light coating of oil, or on a hot grill.

The sausages cooked sous-vide can also be kept in the fridge for a couple of days. When you want to serve them, place them in hot water for 5 minutes, then proceed to saute them as described.

to print the recipe, click here

Sous-vide sausages, smoked rice, and a little butternut squash on the side…

When we cook sausages on the grill, we go through a pretty elaborate method of switching them from the grill to a pan with simmering beer on top of the stove. They go back and forth, back and forth, from simmering to the grill, to make sure they end up moist and flavorful. The sous-vide delivers the same quality in terms of texture, without any hassle at all. I doubt I will cook this type of sausage any other way. Even warmed up in the microwave two days later, they were excellent.  If you have a sous-vide gadget, give it a try.

I realize that this series of Incredibly Easy recipes used an air-fryer, electric smoker, and a sous-vide, but except for the Italian sausages, all others can be prepared without any special cooking equipment.

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AIR-FRIED MEXICAN MEATLOAF

Don’t run away, you can make this tasty recipe in any oven, but let me tell you that the air-fryer shines on this preparation.  My friend Dorothy blogged about it not too long ago and urged me to give it a try. I made it three times in consecutive weeks. Yes, that’s how much we loved it. Simple to put together, and ready in 20 minutes thanks to the air-fryer environment, a blast of very intense heat concentrated in that small chamber. Pure awesomeness. It gets a nice crust, the meat inside is moist, with just the right amount of spicy heat. We inhaled them. Leftovers are wonderful too, by the way.

MEXICAN TURKEY MEATLOAF
(adapted from Shockingly Delicious)

1 egg
1 pound ground turkey
1 onion, chopped (I omitted)
1/3 cup almond flour
1 cup (about 4 ounces) grated Mexican blend cheese
1/4 cup green salsa (I used La Victoria)
1 cup finely sliced spinach leaves
2-4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground oregano
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
A few grinds of black pepper

Spray the basket of the air fryer with nonstick spray. If you have a perforated parchment sheet protector, lay it on the screen.

In a large mixing bowl, crack the egg and use a fork to beat it lightly. Add the turkey, onion (if using), almond flour, cheese, salsa, spinach, cilantro, and all spices. Gently mix with your hands.

Shape the turkey mixture into 4 loaves.  Place them in the air fryer, turn the heat to 390F degrees, and set the timer for 20 minutes.

Remove basket from oven, and place each meat loaf on a dinner plate. Top with additional salsa — either green or red salsa,  if you so desire.

You may also shape this into a single loaf and bake it in the oven for about 45 minutes.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The first time I made this recipe, I completely forgot to spray the basket of the air-fryer with some oil. I had the most epic mess to deal with later, as bits and pieces of crusty cheese bonded happily with the screen. I tell you, it was not fun. Having learned a painful lesson, I made it again and not only greased the basket, but I also protected it with a special perforated parchment liner that works like a charm both for bamboo steamers and air-fryers.  I highly recommend those, although you could improvise with parchment paper and scissors. I am not very gifted with this type of DIY stuff, so I rather amazon-it.

My main modification of Dorothy’s version was to use almond flour instead of bread crumbs, which reduces the carbo-load a bit, and gives a slight nutty flavor which I love. You can definitely go for the traditional bread crumb option, in this case you should add about 1/2 cup.

Dorothy, thanks for the inspiration! Glad you are having fun with your air-fryer, I hope we’ll go on inspiring each other!

Note added after publication: it was brought to my attention a nice review on different brands of air-fryers. If any of my readers is considering such purchase, take a look here before you decide which one to get.

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A TRIO OF AIR-FRIED GOODIES

For those who follow my blog for a while, it’s obvious that I love a new gadget. In the kitchen, in the lab, I am always excited to try something new. Then comes the flip side of that coin. The after-taste of guilt after brining a new toy home. “Did I really need that?”  Next, I make solemn promises to never ever fall to temptation again (yeah, right). Lolita, our Philips air-fryer, was no exception, I went through intense mea culpa sessions every time I passed by the laundry room and saw her in all her shiny beauty sitting on the countertop. Ready and waiting. Guilty feelings are not fun, so I fight them with my best weapon: putting Lolita to work as often as possible. You know what? It seems to work. So here I am to share three guilt-removing dishes made in the air-fryer.

GOODIE #1
FRIED MANIOC ROOT, A BRAZILIAN CLASSIC

I’ve published quite a few years ago a full tutorial on how to make “mandioca frita.” You can read it here,  so that you learn how to prepare it. Please, don’t ever try to fry the root without cooking it first.

Once you got your pieces of yucca root cooked, they can sit in the fridge for a few days, or even be frozen. To cook them in the air-fryer, simply coat them with a little olive oil, season with salt, and place in the fryer at 390F for 20 minutes or so.  The time will vary depending on the size of your fries. Watch them as they start to get dark brown, then remove them and salt the pieces before enjoying them.

Just like potato fries and sweet potato fries, there will be a difference in texture, as the fried pieces will not be soaked in oil. That, of course, may turn off some traditionalists, but I find it a brilliant way to reduce the fat content still allowing us to enjoy this delicacy.

GOODIE #2
SWEET POTATO CHIPS

I’ve blogged about sweet potato chips made using the spiralizer. In this simpler version, I cut them by hand and omitted the soaking. The idea was to get them to the table as quickly as possible on a weeknight. I used a mixture of orange and white sweet potatoes, cut them more or less uniformly in 1/4 inch slices, coated them very lightly with salt and into the basket they went. Temperature was set to 390F, which is the highest setting the Philips will go to, and they took about 18 minutes to get brown, shaking the pan every once in a while.  I must say I preferred the batch made with the spiralizer, but if you need to take a simpler, faster route, these are still pretty pretty pretty good (any Curb your Enthusiasm fans out there?).

GOODIE #3
PARSNIP FRIES

These turned out excellent! The only problem with them was the amount. I ended up with a smaller portion than anticipated. It so happened that when I was peeling the parsnips, the largest of all slipped from my hand and fell on the floor. A race took place between Sally and a certain dog that attends by the name of Bogey Quit That. Against all odds, since the cook happened to be closer to the fallen root, BQT won, and thought it was super fun to grab it and run around the house with it, as fast as his powerful legs would allow. There was a bit of profanity involved, some screaming, until he finally dropped the badly mangled veggie on the second floor of our home, near the bed in a guest bedroom. Into the trash it went. Serial killer, folks. As I mentioned many times, I must have been a serial killer in a past life. Eternal karma.

But, back to the recipe. Cut the parsnips as uniformly as possible. Not an easy thing to do, those are creatures shaped in exotic ways. Coat them with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and then add one to two teaspoons of cornmeal all over, shake gently. Any cornmeal that doesn’t stick, it’s ok, you just want a very subtle coating. Place them in the basket of the air-fryer, and set it to 360F. Cook for 10 minutes, increase the heat to 390F and cook a few more minutes, shaking the pan every once in a while. As they brown, remove them and adjust seasoning with salt if needed. Due to their shape, some bits will be more cooked than others. No big deal, it’s all good. They have this wonderful sharp taste, like fries that had a date with a lemon. Yeah, that’s about right. Love them.

We really love the air-fryer, and I have no regrets about buying it. It makes portions that are perfect for the two of us, it is not too noisy, it doesn’t smoke, it is super easy to clean, and it doesn’t require a lot of time to reach temperature. Two minutes at most, but I don’t even worry about that. I put everything inside, turn it on and add two minutes to the cooking time to compensate for the heating.

Of the three goodies, I think the parsnips were my favorite. I might try to make them in the spiralizer as chips, just for fun. We enjoyed them with a New Mexico Pork Chile, rice, and avocado slices. Simple, but very tasty dinner. Of course, a little more parsnip fries would have been nice… But life with BQT has its complexities…

 

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