AIR-FRIED EGGPLANT RAITA

The abuse of culinary terms is alive and well in the Bewitching Kitchen. Raita with no cucumber? Yes, I am afraid so. Let’s call it raita-ish. At any rate, this is delicious. I used the air-fryer to prepare the eggplant, which is fast and furious. But not overly furious. If you don’t have an air-fryer, just roast the eggplant in the oven until it softens into submission. Inspiration came from Nik Sharma’s The Flavor Equation.

AIR-FRIED EGGPLANT RAITA
(adapted from The Flavor Equation)

1 large eggplant
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
kosher salt
1 Serrano pepper, de-seeded, minced
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
2 Tbsp chopped mint
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup Greek yogurt (adjust according to your preference)
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 Tbsp grapeseed oil
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
1/2 tsp Nigella seeds
1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper

Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise. Brush the cut surfaces with the olive oil and arrange them in the air-fryer, cut side up. Air-fry until golden brown and soft, about 25 minutes at 390F (or the highest temperature of your fryer). Remove from the heat, cover with aluminum foil, and let cool completely.

Remove the flesh, place in a bowl and season lightly with salt. Add the Serrano pepper, cilantro, mint, and black pepper. Add the yogurt and lemon juice, and whisk well to combine. If you want it fully smooth, use an immersion blender, but I prefer to have some texture so I just used a spoon. Adjust seasoning with salt.

Make the toasted spices: heat the grapeseed oil over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the mustard and Nigella seeds and fry for 30 to 45 seconds. Remove from the heat. Add the Aleppo pepper and gently mix. Pour the hot oil with the spices over the raita and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I really love the book The Flavor Equation (Nik Sharma) but this particular recipe, as written, would not work well for my goals. It would make a very loose dip, with a much higher proportion of yogurt, and that’s not exactly what I had in mind. I wanted to enjoy it more as a veggie side-dish to go along a turkey meatloaf (already in the blog and in constant rotation in our kitchen), so I adapted it, as well as a few other minor changes. It ended up working also as a dip, perfect with Ak-Mak crackers.

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FROM OUR GARDEN TO YOU

Two side dishes, tomatoes and eggplant, from our garden to the blog, thanks to the efforts of my beloved husband, who is turning out like a pro in all things backyard – new lawn (Zoysia), ornamental grasses, flowers, veggies, he’s done it all this year!

TOMATO “PONZU” SALAD
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

for the dressing:
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
juice from 1 blood orange, strained (or regular orange)
2 tsp lime juice
2 tbsp soy sauce
tomatoes, any kind you like
fresh dill
flake salt

Place all the ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl and whisk well.

Place the tomatoes in a serving bowl, preferably in a single layer, and pour the dressing over the top. Leave at room temperature for about 30 minutes, then sprinkle dill and salt, and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Use the best tomatoes you can find, and you will be totally blown away by this simple way to serve them. Ours were so juicy and flavorful! Truly spectacular, a great year for tomatoes in Kansas.

AIR-FRIED EGGPLANT WITH BUTTERMILK-ZA’ATAR SAUCE
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

NO AIR-FRYER?
No problem: bake in 400F oven and increase time

1 large eggplant
1/4 cup olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper to taste

for the sauce:
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup yogurt, full-fat
1/2 tsp za’atar
olive oil to drizzle

Whisk the oil, lemon, salt and pepper.  Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise and score the surface with a very sharp knife in a diamond pattern. Brush the oil mixture on the surface.  Place the eggplant, cut side up, in the air-fryer. 

Air-fry at the highest temperature (mine is 390F) for about 20 minutes, until golden and cooked through.  

As the eggplant fries, make the sauce by mixing all ingredients except the olive oil. Top eggplant with the sauce, add a little more za’atar, and serve. 
  

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I should give full credit to my friend Elaine, the Sourdough Queen, who recently got an air-fryer and has been trying all sorts of goodies using it. She raved about eggplants, so I decided to try it myself. She actually air-fryed it whole, and it works great too, so keep that in mind. Our air-fryer is small, one eggplant divided in half barely fits in the beginning, but as it cooks it shrinks a bit. The texture was amazing. I realize the picture with the sauce on top does not look appealing, but you have to once again trust me: the taste was divine! Looks like 2021 will be the year of posting not-so-good-looking pictures in the Bewitching Kitchen. Oh, well… there are worse problems in life.

ONE YEAR AGO: Lady Bug Macarons

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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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GENIUS EGGPLANT PARMIGIANA

I am so excited about this recipe! I saw Jeff Mauro prepare it during a recent show of The Kitchen, and just knew I had to try it right away. Right away as in same day. That’s what happened. And then I could not wait much longer to share. Eggplant is a tricky veggie. It soaks oil like nobody’s business, I love eggplant parm, but usually avoid the breading and the frying and end up with a very simplified version starting from grilled slices. It is ok, but compared to this method? It doesn’t even seem like the same recipe.  Try it and I know you will be amazed.

EGGPLANT PARMIGIANA
(from Jeff Mauro, as seen in The Kitchen)

1 medium to large eggplant
2 eggs, beaten with a teaspoon of water
salt and pepper
1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano cheese
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
tomato sauce
slices of mozzarella cheese

Heat a baking sheet – empty – in a very hot oven, 450 to 500F.

While the baking sheet is heating, peel the eggplant, cut crosswise in 1/2 inch slices. Reserve.

Put the eggs, water, salt and pepper in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Mix the breadcrumbs and Parmigiano cheese in another bowl next to it. Dip each eggplant slice into the egg wash, but allow just one side to get wet with the mixture. Dip it in the breadcrumb mixture, pressing to coat, and carefully place on a rack with the crumb side up.

Make sure you have the tomato sauce warmed up and ready to go, and the cheese slices also nearby. Remove the baking sheet (careful, it’s going to be very hot) and drizzle the olive oil to coat the hot surface. Working quickly, add the eggplant slices with the crumb down. It will stick to the oil and start to get pretty hot right away.  Add the tomato sauce on top, cover with cheese, and place in the oven, reducing the temperature to 375 F.

Cook for 15 to 20 minutes. I added a little extra tomato sauce on top after 10 minutes.  When the cheese is starting to get golden brown at the edges,  the eggplant will be done. Serve right away with your favorite side dish.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I hope I made myself clear about how much we loved this recipe. Eggplant without excessive oil? Check. Eggplant with a delicate crunchy component? Check. Eggplant cooked to perfection, not a slight hint of mush? Check. Melted cheese with a bonus of browned up edges to nibble on? Check.

I doubt I’ll ever make it any other way. For the two of us, one-quarter sheet pan held 6 slices of eggplant, perfect for our meal with two slices leftover for a light lunch next day. That was exactly one eggplant. I used store-bought tomato sauce this time (Rao is a brand I like very much), and provolone cheese instead of the more traditional mozzarella.

I do hope you try it and let me know if it will make you do an extended version of a Happy Dance. Now, when you make it, please skip the exotic maneuver I used. When I was about to crack the second egg for the egg wash, it slipped and headed at 9.8 meters per second squared to the floor. With lightning fast reflexes (I am very proud of that, actually), I grabbed it between my knees, but that cracked the egg. There’s only so much luck a person can have.  Egg yolk miraculously stayed put inside the broken shell, but egg white made a truly epic mess in my pants. There was intense profanity going around, and a husband pretty much folded in two laughing. Thankfully, no pictures. But you can use your imagination, in case you need a good laugh, like some humans apparently do.

Never a dull moment, folks… never a dull moment…

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PALEO MOUSSAKA

Do I follow a Paleo diet? No, not really.  But I am quite open-minded when it comes to food, and love a recipe that turns something a bit on the heavy side into a lighter but still delicious version.  I have zero interest in lighter food that loses a ton in the flavor department. Or texture.  This is another gem of a recipe I found at Mike’s site, The Iron You, made and loved.  It is amazing how versatile cauliflower can be, in this preparation it doubles as a pseudo-bechamel sauce, and I guarantee you won’t miss the real thing. Plus, instead of having a hard time getting up from your dining chair because your stomach acts as if it’s trying to digest 14 bricks, you’ll be light as a feather slowly dangling through the air. Ok, not quite as light.  But close enough.

Paleo Moussaka

PALEO MOUSSAKA
(slightly adapted from The Iron You)

for the eggplant layers:
2 medium eggplants, peeled and sliced into ½-inch thick rounds
olive oil
lemon juice
sea salt
ground black pepper

for the meat sauce:
1 lb ground beef (or ground lamb, more authentic)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 can 28 oz diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 handfuls fresh parsley, chopped
2 teaspoons dried oregano
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon red vinegar
¼ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
A pinch of ground black pepper

for the Paleo bechamel sauce:
¾ cup almond milk  (I used half milk, half almond milk)
2 cups  (7 oz) cauliflower florets (best to weigh it)
dash of nutmeg
1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
A pinch of ground black pepper
3 eggs

Heat oven to 400°F.

Whisk a little olive oil with lemon juice. On a baking sheet brush eggplant slices with the oil/lemon mixture and season generously with salt and pepper. Spread in a single layer and roast in the oven until soft and golden about 25 to 30 minutes. While the eggplant is roasting make the meat sauce.

In a large saucepan, heat one tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat, add shallots and garlic and saute for 2 to 3 minutes until translucent. Add meat and cook, stirring to prevent sticking, until meat is browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in diced tomatoes, tomato paste, parsley, oregano, cinnamon, vinegar, salt and pepper and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and set aside.

In the meantime make the paleo bechamel sauce. In a saucepan add cauliflower florets, milk, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover with a lid and cook for 15 minutes. Add a pinch of nutmeg. Remove from the heat and with an immersion blender, blend until smooth, or use a food processor.  Whisk the eggs in a medium bowl, add a little of the warm sauce to temper them, then slowly add them to the sauce.

To assemble the moussaka, lightly grease baking dish large appropriate to make two layers of eggplant slices. I used a round, 10-inch diameter baking dish. Arrange eggplant slices to form a uniform layer. Cover the eggplant evenly with half of the meat mixture. Repeat to make a second layer. Carefully spoon the cauliflower bechamel sauce over the meat mixture and spread evenly to the edges.  Try not to disturb the meat mixture too much.
.
Bake uncovered for about 25 minutes, until the top is nicely puffed and browned. Let rest 10 minutes, and serve warm.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

moussakacomposite

Comments: I like to peel my eggplant slices after roasting, but if you prefer to peel before, or to leave the slices  unpeeled, go for it.  I am not too fond of the bitter taste of the peel and find its texture unappealing, so I definitely remove it before assembling the moussaka.  For dishes such as this one, I am happy to remove the peel on my plate, as the presentation is nicer with the intact Solanum melongena.

I love the meat sauce with its touch of cinnamon. The smell as it simmered was to die for!  And I must share this picture, because it’s a rare occasion: I managed to catch a photo of steam rising from the pan… how sexy is that?   I was impressed by Karen’s achievement in her post a while ago, and managed to get there too….

MeatSauce

 

Since it was my first time making pseudo-bechamel with cauliflower,  I decided to be precise and weighed the florets. I suppose eyeballing 2 cups would work too, but I felt like playing safe. The best part of the dish? Leftovers were even better than on the first day. In fact, I would almost advise you to make this dish a couple of days before showtime. The flavors mingled together perfectly, the dish had a more wholesome feel. Awesome.

When I served this moussaka, I did not tell Phil the modifications to make it Paleo.  He could hardly believe when I divulged the dirty secret to involve cauliflower. It works so well, it’s kind of surprising. Don’t be put off by it, give this method a try, it is so much lighter than the real thing, but it still feels like comfort food. A gastronomic win-win situation.

Mike, thanks again for the great recipe, your blog is a constant source of inspiration!

served

Dinner is served!

 

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