Aubergine and Lentil Pie

015aAs luck would have it, the very first vegetarian main I trialed for Thanksgiving was such a winner that I did not need to attempt others. This aubergine and lentil pie hits all the right notes: it is hearty and savory without being heavy, and it’s a touch exotic yet wholesome enough to complement a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. It is also beautiful and can be cooked the day before you intend to serve it without losing any flavor or texture upon reheating. (I even thought the flavor improved after a day.) It is exactly what I was looking for – something special, festive, and autumnal for the vegetarians at the table. This pie is adapted from a recipe in Dan Lepard’s excellent home baking book, Short and Sweet. I have changed the spicing of the pie’s filling from Lepard’s original, but he deserves credit for the inspiration, the proportions, and the marvelous crust. Continue reading

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Pan-Seared Octopus with Delicata Squash, Chickpeas, and Saffron

DSC_0278aMany people shy away from cooking octopus, believing that it is too difficult to cook. The truth is slightly different. Octopus is relatively easy to cook; it’s tenderizing the octopus that poses the challenges. Perfectly-cooked octopus definitely must not be rubbery, but one also must not commit the cardinal sin of mushy octopus. Everyone seems to have a different method for tenderizing octopus. Some people literally beat octopus with a rock, or, failing that, with a meat tenderizer. My friend Patrick sets up a pot of boiling water and a pot of ice water, and plunges the octopus in each water bath for about ten seconds, switching back and forth, about 30 times. I have heard that tenderizing the octopus sous vide works extremely well. I used to simmer octopus for about an hour in a pot of water to which some milk (the lactic acid works the trick) has been added. But I swear by my new method, which is time-consuming, but infallibly produces excellent results. Continue reading

Spicy Cocktail Nuts

DSC_0673bAlthough nothing can substitute for a well-crafted cocktail, I have an abiding affection for good bar food. I have been known to drag friends to Mark’s Bar at Hix (where the drinks are undeniably excellent) simply because I craved the salty-fatty-crispy-hot pork crackling with Bramley apple sauce that you can get for a mere £3.95, which perfectly complements the sharp gin drinks I gravitate towards. (The freebie marmite sticks are another story – I still loathe marmite, after over three years in England.) Lately, when I host cocktail parties, I like to make my own bar snacks. Sure, it’s perfectly fine to dump a bag of potato chips (sorry, Brits – crisps) in a bowl, particularly if you’re hosting a large group, but if you have the time, it is so much more fun (and impressive!) to offer BESPOKE SNACKS tailored specifically to the drinks on offer. At a recent dinner party at which I served mostly Mexican dishes, I started the evening with margaritas, home-made Mexican pickles, and these spiced cocktail nuts.  Continue reading

Mexican Milk-Braised Brisket

DSC_0288aAlmost exactly a year ago, I ate at El Suadero, the Monday night Mexican pop-up at Sitka and Spruce in Seattle, which is where I had the unforgettable eponymous milk-braised veal brisket that inspired this dish. Sometime after I returned to London, I set about finding boneless rolled veal brisket, which is what I decided that I needed to recreate it. Starting from the premise that I would only buy free-raised veal, I bought two rolled veal briskets from the lovely people at the Wild Beef Company, which sometimes trades at the Borough Market, and excitedly told my father what I planned to make. My father, who is not a religious man but can have a cruel streak, intoned ominously, “Thou shalt not seethe the calf in its mother’s milk.” Continue reading

Lamb, Mint, and Almond Meatballs with Saffron-Almond Sauce

Life in the new flat is not all wine and roses. Since my move in early October, I’ve been contending with the Never-Ending Kitchen Remodel. You know, that delightful pastiche featuring those charming rascals, the Slapdash Contractors, with supporting roles played by the Goddamn Shitty Appliances. The first time I attempted to use the oven I turned on the timer rather than the heat, and couldn’t figure out how to turn it off. It ticked loudly tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick until I worked out how to get the heat on and blew all the fuses in the kitchen. Sarf-East cockney contractor Del-boy came round an hour or two later and put the oven on its own fuse. Once the oven was reconnected the timer started ticking again tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick. Del-boy scratched his head, muttered something about not being boffered, and skulked off. Saturday I brought home beef bones to roast for stock, at which point I learned the oven doesn’t actually work, as in doesn’t get hot. I stomped around crankily and may have whined a bit about wanting to roast things. Lovely Flatmate called the truculent nameless Polish contractor, who looked in the oven and said, “I can’t fix. You need specialist.”

So, still no oven. The timer works though. There it is now, tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick. Continue reading

Renata’s Red Beans and Rice

My sister, Renata, is a fantastic cook. Unlike me, she’s humble and understated; she doesn’t feel the need to spray her accomplishments all over the internet. But she is supremely accomplished in the kitchen, and a master of comfort food. I don’t mean that in some passive-aggressive denigrating way. Hers is the kind of food you crave when the weather is cold and blowy and you’re feeling a little forlorn. It’s the food you share with family and close friends.

This recipe is for Renata’s famous red beans and rice, which is adapted from a recipe by Nuyorican chef Joe Quintana. Continue reading

Toasted Bulghur Salad with Spring Vegetables and Lemon-Tahini Dressing

In London we have had one of the coldest, wettest springs on record. This morning when I went to the Marylebone Farmer’s Market people were heroically sitting in the nearby park wearing wool hats and scarves. I was wearing a winter jacket, and I was still chilly. Nevertheless, my circadian clock tells me summer is coming, or at least I think that’s why I have stopped craving big dark wintry stews and instead hanker after light fresh-tasting salads. This bulghur salad is a request from my sister. (I LOVE getting requests for recipes.) She apparently has a lot of bulghur in her pantry, and as it happens so do I: last week I crankily picked up a sack of coarse bulghur for 70 p from one of the innumerable Middle Eastern groceries that dot northwest London so I could meet the £5 minimum to use my credit card. But how fortuitous! I love this salad. Continue reading

Moroccan Stewed Pumpkin with Chickpeas and Preserved Lemon

I have been feeling Blog Guilt lately (as a nice Jewish girl, I am good at guilt, especially over pointless things) because I haven’t posted any vegetarian recipes for a while. But, vegetarians, this recipe is a delicious vegetarian gem. It is one of those recipes that you feed to ignoramus meat eaters and say “take that!” and they say, “I didn’t realize vegetarian cooking could be so tasty!” and you smile smugly and maybe you tell them it is vegan just to really mess with their heads. This recipe came about as a happy kitchen accident, which is my favourite kind. There was The Pumpkin which I bought on impulse because it was an exciting blue-gray colour, and then there was the sack of onions that I bought with the vague idea of making onion jam. And the rest, as they say, was delicious. Continue reading

Split Pea Soup

I am jetlagged. Yesterday was my first day in Seattle (I flew in from London Sunday night) and my brain feels like Cheerios. Which means that last night I stared dumbly at the vegetables at the Madison Market for at least five minutes feeling not simply indecisive, but incapable of decision. Picked up some yellow cauliflower (cool looking, but $4.49 a pound. A pound!), put it down. Picked up some white radishes, put them down. Looked at the beets, felt like I was going to cry. When I wandered to the baking aisle I couldn’t deal with all the bags of things. So many packages! All with letters on them, all in a row, so OVERWHELMING. So it was with a feeling of weepy relief that I decided to make split pea soup.* Split pea soup was a staple of my diet Continue reading

Aubergine, Slow-Roasted Tomato, and Chickpea Tagine

I regard the aubergine – that great, glossy, globelike sex organ of the nightshade – with something akin to worship. I didn’t always feel this way, however. Growing up in pre-culinary revolution New York, I only ever encountered the aubergine in eggplant parmigiana, in Bronx Italian restaurants. There, sliced thin, breaded, fried, and concealed under masses of garlicky tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese, the aubergine was flabby and insipid. Why order it when you could have pasta? Or clams casino? But the aubergine crept up on me. I first comprehended the Power of the Aubergine Continue reading