More fun with eggplant

Eggplant and Roasted Garlic Salad

Israel doesn’t have a national vegetable. If it did, I am positive it would be the eggplant. It’s such a versatile vegetable, and is prepared in so many different ways, depending on the ethnicity of the cook. In my case, my ethnicity meant that my first proper encounter with eggplant (known in my native South Africa as a bringal), was when I made aliyah. I had to first learn how to enjoy the taste. Once I had achieved that goal, I then moved on to figuring out how to prepare this jolly purple veg. Now it’s a favorite go-to veg on a regular basis.

One of my favorite ways to handle eggplant is to slice it down the middle and roast it in the oven. Then there is so much you can do with the soft, smoky flesh. I’ve already posted a recipe for the classic Baba Ganoush, which is the queen of eggplant salads. Last week, I was about to make it, but I had already prepared my Roasted Pumpkin and Tehina Salad, and I wanted a different taste. So I took a whole head of garlic, roasted it and mixed it with the roasted eggplant. It’s so simple. The rich and distinct taste of the roasted garlic makes this salad taste so good that you will just want to eat it with a spoon. But pita or challah work well too.

EGGPLANT AND ROASTED GARLIC SALAD

Ingredients

1 medium sized eggplant

A little olive oil

1 head of garlic

2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tablespoons mayonnaise (I use low fat)

Salt and pepper to taste

How to do it

1. Pre-heat your oven to 180°C (350°F)

2. Slice the eggplant lengthways in two. Rub a little olive oil over the flesh side of each half and sprinkle with a little salt. Place on a baking tray, flesh side up. Place a whole head of garlic on the tray as well. Roast for about 25 minutes and remove the garlic. Continue to roast the eggplant until a fork slides into the narrow part of the eggplant very smoothly (about another 20-30 minutes depending on the thickness of the eggplant). Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

3. Peel the eggplant or scoop the soft flesh out with a large spoon. Chop the eggplant with a large knife and place in a medium sized bowl.

4. Squeeze each garlic clove out of the peel into the bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Adjust the seasoning to taste.

Serve with fresh pita or good fresh bread.

Serves about 6-8.

Easy and delicious Rosh Hashana Green Beans

Honey ginger green beans

Honey ginger green beans

Lots of symbolic foods compete for table space at Rosh Hashana meals. It’s hard to cover all of them, but here’s one that’s so easy and delicious, you’re going to want to make sure you add it to your menu.

On Rosh Hashana, green beans symbolize prosperity and increased blessings for the New Year. The Talmudic instructs us to eat “rubiya” (actually fenugreek, a small seed-filled pod), pointing to the Hebrew word for increase or multiply. Some people substitute green beans for fenugreek;  others use black-eyed peas.

This recipe throws in some honey for good measure, but also a lot of good Asian flavors that balance the sweetness.

Make sure you buy fresh, thin green beans. The thicker ones tend to get dry and stalky, and don’t taste good.

HONEY GINGER GREEN BEANS

500g (1 lb) green beans topped and tailed

About 1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt and black pepper to taste

2 tablespoons honey or silan (date honey)

2 tablespoons soy sauce

4 cloves of crushed garlic

2 tablespoons orange juice

1 teaspoon finely grated ginger

½ teaspoon sesame oil

HOW TO DO IT

1. Preheat oven to 220°C (425°F)

2. Line a baking tray with baking paper and spread the olive oil evenly. Spread beans out and roll them around in the oil so they are evenly coated.  Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Roast for 10 minutes.

3. While the beans are roasting, mix together the remaining ingredients – honey/silan, soy sauce, garlic, orange juice, ginger and sesame oil in a small bowl.

4. Remove beans from oven and coat them evenly with the sauce. Return the tray to the oven and bake for another 5-10 minutes. For firmer, juicier beans, only bake for 5 minutes. If you prefer the beans a lot softer then bake for 10 minutes. I recommend 5 minutes.

Serves about 6 as a side dish.

This can be served hot or room temperature.

 

Pre-Rosh Hashana Confessions – Time for a Different Cake

Festive Rosh Hashana Loaf Cake

Festive Rosh Hashana Loaf Cake

This is the time of year where we do some soul searching. Leaving aside the purely spiritual, I am looking to the kitchen now, and I have a confession to make: I really don’t like honey cake. Every year, I churn out honey cakes because that’s what we’re expected to do, and every year I promise myself – this is the last time. The fact is that I don’t know anyone who likes honey cake either. So enough of the forced bakery. Rosh Hashana is a joyful festival, so it’s time to recreate the Rosh Hashana cake.

After a little recipe research and some of my own inspiration, here’s a recipe I’ve cobbled together for a Rosh Hashana cake that I think is a fitting and symbolic end to any festive meal.  The ingredients work for this festival: I’ve used apples, which I think are a lot tastier in a cake than honey; there are dates, one of the seven species, and one of the five foods that the Gemarah points to as good edible omens for Rosh Hashana (along with gourds, fenugreek, leeks and beets); and pomegranates, which we traditionally eat on the second night of Rosh Hashana as the new fruit, and which  supposedly contain 613 seeds representing the mitzvot. There is a custom to avoid eating nuts on Rosh Hashana due to the numerical value of the Hebrew word ‘egoz’ (nut) equalling ‘chet’ (sin). If you don’t follow this custom, do add the walnuts, but the cake can be baked without them (but make it again after Rosh Hashana so you don’t miss out on this extra level of taste and texture.”

Packed full of Rosh Hashana symbolism, with enough sweetness to compensate for the honey, this moist, tasty, good looking cake is a fitting substitute for the honey cake.

Wishing you all a sweet New Year!

FESTIVE ROSH HASHANA FRUIT LOAF CAKE

Ingredients

Cake

150g butter/margarine, softened

¾ cup castor sugar plus 2 tablespoons

3 eggs

½ cup self-raising flour

½ cup whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 tablespoon ground ginger

2 apples peeled, quartered, cored and thinly sliced

6-8 dried dates roughly chopped

½ cup roughly chopped walnuts (Don’t use an electric blender)

Ground cinnamon

Glaze

½ cup pomegranate juice (the juice of approximately 1 pomegranate). Tip: Use a simple hand juicer so you can save the pomegranate seeds as well. Wear an apron – it’s a little messy.

¼ cup of pomegranate seeds (set aside from the juicing)

¼ cup sugar

¼ cup lemon juice

3 tablespoons powdered sugar

How to do it

Cake

1. Preheat the oven to 170°C (330°F)

2. Beat the butter/margarine and the 150 g sugar in mixer until pale and creamy.

3. Add the eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition.

4. Add the flours, baking powder and ginger, mix on a slow speed until just combined.

Unglazed loaf

Unglazed loaf – tastes good too…

5. Fold in the dates, 2 thirds of the apples and nuts.

6. Line a 25 x 12-centimetre loaf tin with baking paper and spray with non-stick spray. Pour the mixture in and arrange the leftover apple slices in a criss-cross pattern on top of the cake, and sprinkle with the remaining sugar and dust with ground cinnamon.

7. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until a knife comes out clean when inserted in the centre.

8. Remove from the oven, allow to cool and put on a plate before glazing

Glaze

1. In a small saucepan, bring the pomegranate juice and the sugar to a boil. Reduce to medium-low heat and simmer for 15 minutes to allow the mixture to reduce, stirring frequently.

2. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for about 10 minutes.

3. Beat in the powdered sugar until completely smooth, and add the pomegranate seeds.

4. Drizzle over the cake, allowing some of the glaze to run down the sides.

Serves 8.

Finding the Brownie Holy Grail

Lush chocolate brownies
Lush chocolate brownies

Lush chocolate brownies. The baseball field grass is not a recommended garnish…

We’ve been having a tough time in Israel these past weeks. Sirens have had us rushing to shelters, and the country is in turmoil. Without making light of this difficult situation, I do feel the need to post a recipe, after a rather long absence. Let’s face it, when were stressed out, food is a great comfort. And when we’re talking comfort food, how can chocolate not immediately come to mind?

Chocolate brownies are a great way to deliver the king of all sweets. I have been through many brownie recipes – some I like because they are very quick to make, others, because they are just decadent over the top.  Recently, I found a recipe that I think has to be the Holy Grail of brownie recipes and and everything a real classic brownie should be. It uses lots of chocolate and then a little more, and the result is one of the most chocolaty, lush, rich brownies you will ever eat.

I’ve made these a few times for my son’s baseball team – I doubled the recipe of course. Served immediately after a 2+- hour game, they are wolfed down with great appreciation. The picture here is of a batch I made for one of the games. I had to rush in with my camera so that there would be some left to photograph!

So for times like these, as well as for times that are less stressful but just call for a good brownie, here’s my recipe for Lush Chocolate Brownies.

LUSH CHOCOLATE BROWNIES

Ingredients

275 g (10 oz) dark chocolate

225g (8 oz) butter or margarine

3 large eggs

1 cup (225 g/8 oz) brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

115 g (4 oz) or just under 1 cup self raising flour

115 g (4 oz) chocolate chips (dark or white)

1 cup chopped pecans (optional)

How to do it

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (350°F)

2. Melt the chocolate and butter together over low heat till smooth. Set aside to cool for a few minutes.

3. In a bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla, and then stir in the melted chocolate.

4, Fold in the flour, chocolate chips and pecans.

5. Line a 30 x 20 cm (12 x 8 in) baking tin with baking paper, and spray with cooking spray. Pour the mixture in and bake for 35-40 minutes. Don’t over-bake if you want a gooey brownie.

6. Leave to cool and then cut into squares.

Makes 12 large brownies.

Recipes with Friends

Roasted kohlrabi, beets and fennel
Roasted kohlrabi, beets and fennel

Roasted kohlrabi, beets and fennel

I love getting tips and new ideas from my friends. I also love brainstorming with them to come up with new ideas. Both of these happened to be when I was on a recent visit to Cape Town. At a glorious BBQ at her home, my friend Marianna introduced me to a new idea for serving kohlrabi. A relatively common vegetable in Israel, it’s less known in other countries. I first met this hard root veggie when I moved to Israel. It’s always served raw and in salads – I don’t love it as I think it’s rather bland. Marianna shook things up by roasting it, and it was sensational. A few nights later, I was treated to another wonderful meal at my friend Adrienne who roasted beets and fennel together. That too was a great combo. Then the topic of roasted kohlrabi came up, and hey presto, the two of us figured that throwing all three into the roasting pan had to be a good idea. It was!

I now have a new favorite roasted veggie combo that taste amazing, is really easy to prepare, and the best part is that whenever I make it, I’ll think about Marianna and Adrienne. Food and friends are really the best combination. Thanks ladies – this one’s for you.

ROASTED KOHLRABI, BEETS AND FENNEL

Ingredients

Kohrabi, beets and fennel

Kohrabi, beets and fennel

1-2 large fennel bulbs

2 large beets

3 kohlrabis

1-2 heads of garlic (optional)

2 tablespoons olive oil

Coarse salt

2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (for serving)

How to do it

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F)

2. Line a large roasting pan with baking paper and grease it with some of the olive oil.

3. Fennel – slice off the base of the fennel, and tops and peel the outer layer. Chop into large bit size chunks.

4. Kohlrabi – peel the kohlrabi and cut them into large bite size chunks.

5. Beets – peel the beets and cut them into bite size chunks that are smaller than the kohlrabi and the fennel as the beets take a little longer to cook.

6. Place all the veggies in the baking dish, including the whole heads of garlic, sprinkle with salt and the remaining olive oil and toss to coat all the veggies in oil. Bake in the middle of the oven for 35-40 minutes or until a fork smoothly enters a piece of beet.

7. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Squeeze the garlic out of the peels into the veggies (if using), sprinkle with Balsamic vinegar, toss around and serve at room temperature or warm.

Serves about 6 people.

Something Healthy, Something Asian

Seaweed Salad
Seaweed Salad

Seaweed Salad

One of my favorite dishes to order when we get takeout sushi is seaweed salad. I love the flavor combination and I adore the taste of seaweed. And, it turns out, wakame, the edible seaweed used in this salad, is really good for you – while it’s a little high on sodium, it’s low in saturated fat and cholesterol and is a good source of Vitamins A, C, E, K, Niacin, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, and more (check out the nutritional low-down here).

After the 5,000th time I ordered this salad, I decided that it was time to make it myself. Turns out that the recipes online didn’t quite square up to what I was used to eating and enjoying, so I created my own. You can buy wakame today in most large supermarkets and specialty food stores in Israel in the Asian sections. It comes in 40g and 100g bags. For this recipe, I use 40g. Don’t be alarmed when you see the raw product – it looks like there’s very little in the bag, but once you add water, it expands like crazy in a few minutes. You can also add tofu to make it a really nutritious meal.

While there are a few steps to making this salad, none of them take very much time, and from start to finish this salad takes about 20 minutes to throw together, depending on how many ingredients you add. My recipe has a few options for ingredients, but add whatever you enjoy, just make sure they are crunchy veggies and that they are very thinly sliced so they suck in all that dressing flavor. I’ve made this several times in the past few weeks, and I am addicted.

SEAWEED SALAD

Ingredients

Dressing

1/3 cup Asian rice vinegar

1/3 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons sesame oil

2 tablespoons Mirin (optional)

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

½ teaspoon minced garlic

Salad

100g (3½ oz) thin rice noodles

40 g (1½ oz) dried wakame

3 small cucumbers (Israeli) peeled and very thinly sliced

2 small red peppers very thinly sliced

A large handful of bean sprouts

(Optional) About 100g (4 oz) firm tofu (add the amount according to your taste)

How to do it

1. Add the noodles to a saucepan of boiling water and stir. Bring the water to the boil and let the noodles cook for 1-2 minutes. Taste them and just as they have softened, remove from the heat, drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside. Tip: I break the noodles into shorter strands so they’re easier to eat.

2. Place the dried wakame in a medium-sized bowl, fill with cold water. Allow to stand for 5 minutes, then drain well, squeezing out any excess water. The wakame will more or less quadruple in size.

3.  If you are using tofu, cut into into small cubes and marinade it in the dressing for at least an hour before you assemble the salad.

4. Mix the wakame, noodles and all the vegetables (and tofu) in a salad bowl, and add the dressing, mixing it all through well. Allow the salad to sit for at least 2 hours before serving – the longer it sits, the better the flavors will be. This salad keeps well in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Serves about 8.

Keep warm with hot fruit crumble

Fruit crumble

Fruit crumble with apples and plums served with whipped cream

A hearty winter meal is best ended with a warm fruit crumble.

I’ve tried lots of different versions of fruit crumbles, crisps, buckles, cobblers, but I always come back to the one I’ve been making for what seems like forever. I’ve cobbled together (yes, a shameless pun) a recipe using a recipe from The Joy of Cooking for the crumble part. You know how the book has those two red book-mark ribbons? Well, one of my two ribbons is permanently placed between the pages of this recipe because it’s what I most use this book for. I use my own fresh fruit filling recipe,  which you can vary depending on the season and your preferences. My advice is to always use apples as a base because they are nice and tart and aren’t too watery, so maintain a good consistency. Then add your favorites – strawberries, plums, peaches… To finish it off, serve this with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream of sweetened whipped cream, and send your guests home desperately needing a nap!

This recipe works very well as a parev dessert as well.

HOT FRUIT CRUMBLE

Ingredients

5 cups peeled and very thinly sliced green apples (for variation, cut down apples to 3 cups and add 2 cups of peeled and thinly sliced ripe plums or peaches, or sliced strawberries. For strawberries, slice ahead of time and let them sit in a strainer for about an hour to get rid of excess liquid)

1 cup butter or margarine

2 cups packed brown sugar

1½ cups flour

1½ cups quick cooking oatmeal

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

How to do it

1. Pre-heat your oven to 180°C (350°F)

2. In a medium-sized pot, melt the butter/margarine.

3. Add the sugar, flour, oatmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt and mix together well.

4. Spread half of the crumble mixture on the bottom of a medium-sized ungreased oven-proof dish, and pat down so the bottom of the dish is fully covered. Then spread the fruit over the crumble. Top with the rest of the crumble mixture, spreading it evenly over the fruit.

5. Bake for 30-35 minutes.

Serve warm. Serves about 8.