For Emily.

I’ve been remiss, again, with my posts. Life and long summer days have wrapped me in a tight cocoon and I’ve gone adrift; carried through sadness, sunshine, grief, laughter and bliss.
The loss of a loved one, followed by the loss of another have left great voids, and yet I’ve just come back from one of the best vacations in some time.
photo 2 photo 1 photo 5photo 5 photo 4
Spending the past two weeks in the company of my teenage daughter, just she and I, has been surprisingly pleasant.
A bit of sand and surf in the mix can’t have hurt.
 photo 4
 photo 3photo 2photo 1
In the weeks prior to our departure, I made use of summer’s finest. I set aside sweet aspirations and went straight for the savory: eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes and peppers, crafting them into an unctuous load of ratatouille, fat with flavor and richly satisfying.
 photo 4
I don’t generally fare well with nightshades unless they are well-cooked. With ratatouille, the biggest investment is time; the peppers and tomatoes have ample opportunity to languish about at gentle simmer until their flavors mellow, sweeten and concentrate into jammy perfection. Into which gets folded a load of caramelized, roasted eggplant and zucchini. I use a recipe from Francis Lam as my template, following his method (nearly) verbatim, save a shortcut, here and there. I’ve been using it for years; as it’s probably the best ratatouille recipe I’ve found. Its yield is quite generous, encouraging me to divide in half and freeze some for later, however my leftovers were pulled from icy depths within about two weeks, as I found myself craving it daily.
 photo 5
Ratatouille is incredibly versatile, I folded it into fluffy omelets, enjoyed it with quinoa, served it with toasted baguette, and alongside cold salmon during an impromptu picnic. I also recall serving gently warmed over salad with a bit of feta and chickpeas.
 photo 1
This’ll likely eat up an afternoon, however the hands-on investment is pretty modest. Having the ingredients prepped and at the ready makes for a smooth experience.
The rest is merely waiting. And waiting. And…
 photo 2
Enjoy, and Much Love,
J
Weapons-Grade Ratatouille by Francis Lam, with adaptations.
Note: this recipe yields approximately 1/2 gallon of ratatouille. I wouldn’t recommend halving it, as the effort alone is worth its yield. Ratatouille will keep well, refrigerated for ~5 days, or up to three months in the freezer.
Ingredients:
1 head garlic, minced
3 shallots, minced
1 large onion (about 12 ounces), minced
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 large red peppers, puréed
4 pounds of tomatoes, puréed
2 pounds of zucchini, cut into cubed
2 pounds of eggplant, cubed
2 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
Additional 2-3 tablespoons olive oil, as needed
Method:
  1. Salt eggplant with ~1/2-1 tsp of salt, then set in a colander to drain. This will aid the eggplant in releasing some of its water content. Set aside and proceed with the following.
  2. In a large pan, heat olive oil over medium-low and add garlic, shallot and onion. I used a 4-quart wide-bottom Le Cruset enameled cast iron, which I knew would handle the volume. Season with salt and pepper; ~1/2 teaspoon each, or a nice healthy pinch.
  3. Once the aromatics are glossy and golden, add the red pepper puree and another pinch of salt and pepper. Allow the mixture to simmer for a good 30-45 minutes, until the volume is reduced by about half.
  4. Next, add the tomato puree and continue to simmer, giving a gentle stir every 20-30 minutes or so. The sauce will simmer for ~1.5 hours, during which time you’ll proceed with roasting the eggplant and zucchini
  5. Preheat oven to 450. Line two large baking sheets with parchment. Pat the eggplant dry, then toss both eggplant and zucchini with a generous amount of olive oil, salt and pepper.
  6. Roast until nicely-charred, about 40 minutes. This may require shifting pans about halfway through, and may require two stages due to the sheer quantity of veggies. However, this dish has nothing but time on its hands. Set roasted veg aside for later.
  7. Once the tomato base has reduced considerably, down to a mere quart, maximum, and the olive oil has become visible on the surface of the sauce, fold in the roasted vegetables. Give the mix a few more healthy gratings of pepper.
  8. Fold in basil and thyme. Taste again and season with additional salt and pepper, if needed.

Teaser.

Good golly. I have patience for many things in the kitchen, however despite the allure of this bread, I am steering clear of any attempts to recreate its blistery-golden crust and likely stellar chew. There was, once, a failed attempt at making sourdough starter some ten years ago,  after I’d ogled my way through the La Brea Bakery bread book. However after several days, I needed a break and made for a weekend getaway.
In the middle of Summer.
Needless to say, when I’d returned, my starter was a giant, pungent, purple mass, bubbling over the top of my refrigerator in 85-degree heat.
That was my last experience with long-fermentation, and the words “feed me, Seymour!” are always in the recesses of my mind. The humming and cooing over craft loaves in recent articles makes me grateful to live in an area where celebrated bakeries such as Macrina, Tall Grass, Columbia City and Essential Baking Company are within a quick walk or farmer’s market-reach away.
photo

Coconut Cream Cake.

Moving on.
I took an extended weekend to spend time with family, peppering it with a bit of travel and baking. The cake above is just a teaser, as I’m still tweaking the recipe. I hope to post it eventually.
The week finds me craving the comforts of home, and of good company. I’d invited a girlfriend of mine over for dinner who prefers to avoid both meat and gluten, so naturally my mind conjured up Eastern flavors. I had some red lentils and a tin of tomatoes on hand, and plenty of spices, along with some ghee I’d made a few weeks back. If you’ve never made ghee, or clarified butter, it’s insanely easy to do; all one needs is a bit of mindfulness and time.
PicFrame
Lately, I’m come to favor blooming spices in a bit of fat or oil. Usually I’l grind or bruise them with either a mortar and pestle or, to be truthful, my coffee grinder. If I’m feeling lazy, I’ll just toss them into the dal at the beginning of cooking. Needless to say, freshly-ground or bloomed spices are simply the best way to get the truest flavor and aromatic bang from your ingredients.
Red Lentil Dal with Tomatoes

Red Lentil Dal with Tomatoes

For this dal, I bloomed the spices in ghee, and cooked the lentils along with lots of garlic and ginger and chopped tomatoes. It’s fantastic served with some nutty basmati rice. It’s my ultimate comfort food.
Enjoy, and much love,
J
Ooh! p.s. I also whipped up some pickles. Well, carrot pickles. They should be ready in about 5 days.
Lucky me.
Spiced Carrot Pickles

Spiced Carrot Pickles

Red Lentil Dal with Tomatoes
2 c. water
1 c. red lentils
1-2 tbsp fresh chopped ginger
1 tbsp finely sliced garlic
1 14.5 oz plum tomatoes, chopped, reserving most of the liquid
1 tbsp ghee, or unflavored oil
5 cardamom pods
1 tsp brown or black mustard seed
1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp cumin seed
1-2 chills or 1/2 tsp red chili peppers
Salt, for seasoning
Basmati rice, cooked, to serve
Chopped cilantro, for garnish
Method:
Combine first five ingredients, including tomato juice in a 4-quart pan over medium high heat. As mixture comes to a boil, reduce to low and simmer, covered.
Meanwhile, bloom the spices: melt ghee in sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add spices and toss well, cooking for no longer than 30-60 seconds so as to avoid burning. Scrape ingredients into pan with lentils, cover again and continue cooking.
Check lentils for doneness at ~35-40 minutes. They should be soft and mash slightly with the push of a spoon. Season with salt to taste and serve over rice and garnished with cilantro.

 

Feed Me, Seymour!

After a weekend being in good company of friends, being nourished in both body and heart, I find myself in the kitchen today. It feels like I’m making up for lost time. The week has been bubbling over with activity, so cooking a meal has been little more than an afterthought.
So, gifted with an extra hour in my day, I found myself laying in bed dreaming up what I wanted to make.
Something hot and stew-y, for sure, something sweet, and something with raw elements.
Garbanzo Bean Stew with Preserved Lemon
I wanted to create an unctuous, meat-free stew and had been pouring over recipes that paired game-y meats with fruit. I’ve had this thing for Moroccan spices lately and was dying to test out my recent batch of preserved lemon. I use garbanzo beans frequently for hummus and in salads, however I rarely use them in soups, preferring the many varieties of lentils available. Garbanzo beans are firm, nutty and can hold their own in a soup with lots of competing elements. Adding a bit of harissa heightens the flavors and adds extra heat.
This stew is stellar, and can be served with couscous, bread or another grain. I served it over quinoa to give it a bit of a protein boost and keep it a bit lighter, as I always like to keep room for dessert!
Garbanzo Bean Stew with Preserved Lemon
2 onions, sliced thinly
1/4 cup olive oil
3 c cooked garbanzo beans
2 32-oz cans whole plum tomatoes, chopped, juice reserved
1 preserved lemon, insides removed, chopped
3/4 cup dried Turkish apricots, quartered
1 Tbsp harissa
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
2 cinnamon sticks
2 c. vegetable or chicken broth
1 bunch kale, chopped
Method
1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.
2. Add onion and cook ~15 minutes, giving a stir every few minutes to evenly caramelize.
3. Turn the heat up to high, and add all remaining ingredients except kale.
4. Once boiling, turn heat down and simmer for ~40 minutes.
5. Toss in kale, allowing it to steam for ~5 minutes, then fold into the stew.
6. Serve over cooked quinoa or couscous; with cilantro and harissa as garnish.
pomegranate arils

pomegranate arils

I also had this pomegranate I’d been meaning to break into. As I was waiting for my press to steep my coffee, I spotted the pomegranate and popped myself up onto the counter, knife in hand. A colleague taught me a fancy technique for scoring pomegranate so as not to bruise the fruit. I peeled back the flesh to reveal the plump juicy jewels inside. After plucking away for about 10 minutes, I had a nice full bowl of seeds. I could have easily gone with a simple arugula salad with pomegranate and toasted pistachios, however I also wanted to do a bit of roasting and satisfy my squash addiction. What I ended up with was truly gorgeous and flavorful as well; kale marinated in a lovely vinaigrette and tossed with roasted delicata squash and pomegranate seeds.
Kale and Delicata Squash Salad with Pomegranate Seeds

Kale and Delicata Squash Salad with Pomegranate Arils

Kale Salad with Delicata Squash and Pomegranate Arils

2 delicata squash, halved, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch crescents
olive oil
salt and pepper
1 large head lacinato (flat leaf) kale
Vinaigrette:
4 T olive oil
2 T apple cider vinegar
1 T lemon juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tap salt
1/2 tsp pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Toss squash with a bit of olive oil (~2 tbsp), a generous pinch of salt and several grates of pepper. Roast for 40-45 minutes, giving a toss about halfway through so that the squash caramelizes evenly.
Wash kale and chop into ribbons. Set in a large bowl.
Combine vinaigrette; massage into kale. Add delicata and mix lightly. Fold in pomegranate seeds and garnish with pistachio seeds and chèvre.
Pear and Almond Cake

Pear and Almond Cake

Moving on to dessert. Initially, I’d planned to do something with pear and ginger, and then I recalled having a bit of almond flour in my larder. I discovered a recipe on food 52.com, which you can find the link here:
I made few deviations from the recipe, with exception of increasing the proportion of almond flour to baking flour and substituting olive oil for canola oil. This made for a dense, moist cake, which I served with some vanilla-scented creme fraiche. It was truly divine.
Much Love,
J