Fregola and Blueberry BBQ Redux

For those who, like me, cannot get enough of either Blueberry BBQ Sauce or Vivian Howard’s recipes, here is last night’s dinner, Blueberry BBQ Chicken Flatbread.

VivanHowardPizza

Blueberry BBQ Chicken Flatbread from Vivian Howard

The DishnDat twist?  Well, it was my own pizza dough recipe.  I made the Blueberry Barbeque Chicken, used a combination of mozzarella and fontina cheeses instead of the smoked gouda. Don’t like smoked gouda, and didn’t have any jalapeños.  Still, absolutely delicious and one of the best things I’ve ever eaten.

A new Italian restaurant opened in our neighborhood, which is all it takes to make Mr. Darcy happy.  But when I saw fregola on the menu , I realized that this Italian has a Sardinian accent, and I put it on the list for a lunchtime audition. What they served was not the fregola that I learned at Giuliano Bugiali’s knee. It was much larger, smooth and round, and without the clumps that are characteristic of the fregola that I was familiar with. Subsequent research informed me that this is Fregola Sarda. Think toasted Israeli couscous, and you’ve got the picture.

Basically, fregola, a/k/a/ Italian couscous, is a saffron-scented Sardinian toasted pasta made from couscous. It is perfect for fish and seafood, and just delicious all by itself with a simple summer tomato sauce or caramelized onions and cheese.

You can buy fregola, but that takes all the fun out of it. To make it yourself, all you need is a sheet pan, two measuring cups, and your own two hands. It’s a great rainy day activity with the kiddos or grandkiddos. Or not.

Fregola

Ingredients

1 pound couscous (not pre-cooked)
1/2 cup cold water
3 jumbo egg yolks
2 generous pinches saffron
1 pinch salt

Instructions

Preheat oven to 375°

  1. Prepare one cup measure with the water; and another with the egg yolks, salt and saffron, mixed well;
  2. Spread out the couscous on the sheet pan;
  3. Add the cold water, little by little, starting in the center;
  4. Working outward, incorporate the couscous using your hands;
  5. Working slowly, add the water, incorporating more and more of the couscous until the water is gone and all the grains have absorbed the water;
  6. Rub (“fregare” in Italian means “to rub” — that’s the clean version* ) the couscous between your hands to keep the grains separate and uniform;
  7. The grains will swell;
  8. When your hands are completely dry, you are done;
  9. Spread out  the couscous on the sheet pan again;
  10. Repeat the same process with the egg mixture;
  11. The grains will swell once again;
  12. Once again, when your hands are dry, you are done;
  13. Spread out the couscous on the sheet pan and place in the preheated oven;
  14. Bake for 10 minutes or until couscous is dry;
  15. Turn down oven to lowest it will go, and leave the fregola for 3 hours, but don’t let it turn brown;
  16. Let cool completely, and store in a jar, tightly closed.

And here it is:  One, Two, Three!

Fregola1

Rub in the water.

Fregola2

Rub in the eggs.

Fregola3

Baked!

Now, that was the easy way.  There is a more time-consuming way , one that involves repeating the rubbing and baking three times.  With this method, you will get the characteristic clumps.

 *According to our friend, La Bellezza, “in the NE fregola means ‘crumb,’ but can also mean ‘urge.’ To be ‘in fregola’ is to be in heat.”

How frisqué!

More on Summer Vegetable Pies, Mejadra (Lentils and Rice)

finalproduct

A Ricotta Tart by Yotam Ottolenghi caught my eye, but it was too hot to do any marketing, so I decided to use it as inspiration and to adapt it to whatever was in the pantry. Well, I did have to go out and buy a container of ricotta, but I almost passed out from the heat! They weren’t kidding when they said it would feel like 110°!  I had a supply of roasted tomatoes, leftover spinach, and some baby eggplants that I wanted to get rid of. They had more seeds than flesh and I had no idea what to do with them.

So here is the DishnDat version with tomatoes, eggplant, spinach and phyllo dough.

Vegetable Ricotta Pie

Ingredients

½ package phyllo dough at room temperature
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and sliced thin
5 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped or pushed through a garlic press
3 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
1 15 oz. container ricotta
1 knob parmigiano-reggiano, grated
Two large handfuls of chopped basil leaves, chopped
½ tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
1 cup roasted tomatoes and their oil
1 handful leftover spinach leaves
8 tiny eggplants, roasted, split and seeded
1 small fresh mozzarella ball, cut in half and sliced into half-moons

Instructions

Lightly brush a 10″ or 11″ pie plate with olive oil;

Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan, add the sliced onions and garlic and allow to caramelize until deep golden brown;CaramelizedOnions

Gently open the phyllo dough and begin to spread over the pie pan, layer by layer, tucking in the overhang;

  • Lightly brush each layer with olive oil; PreparingPhyllo
  • With a hand mixer beat the eggs until very light and fluffy;
  •  Gently add the ricotta, the onions and garlic, the chopped basil, and the salt and pepper;
  • Pour the entire mixture into the phyllo crust and bake for 45  minutes;
  • Meanwhile prepare the toppings:  using a hand blender mix the tomatoes, parm-regg, spinach, and a pinch of salt until smooth;
  • Remove pie from oven and lower heat to 300°;

RicottaTart

Spread the tomato mixture over the top of the pie;tomatoLayer

Decorate with eggplant halves and mozzarella, and return to the oven to bake for 10 minutes.
Mozzarella

VegetableRicottaTartSlice

The pie can be eaten right out of the oven, cooled to room temperature, or cold the next morning if you’ve run out of cold pizza!

Surprisingly, the hit of the weekend was a stab at a homely dish of letils and rice known variously as Majudra, Mujadara, Majaderrah, Mengedarrah, Mejadra, Mujaderra, et al., which we can refer to as “M,” a dish claimed by Jews, Arabs, Indians, and probably many others throughout the Levant and beyond.

Mejadra

“M” is for “Mourning” and Jacob’s “Mess of pottage.”

In traditional Judaism, M is a dish made for times of mourning, like the days preceding the fast of Tisha B’ Av, an annual period of mourning. M is a dish of lentils, rice, fried onions, and sometimes hard-boiled eggs and yogurt. It’s an aromatic, light and fluffy pilaf to which the onions provide a counterpoint of both bitter and sweet. Cinnamon, allspice and turmeric provide a fragrant punch, and the toasted cumin and coriander seeds, in addition to flavor and aroma, give it the same kind of surprising and satisfying crunch you find in a bowl of Bibimbap.

M is an economical dish that is packed with protein. The lentils are not just nutritious, but symbolic of mourning in two ways: First, they are round and signify the circle of life; second, unlike other legumes, they have no opening or “mouth,” just like the mourner who has no “mouth” or words to express grief and must suffer in silence. For this version, I used Sami Tamimi’s recipe for Mejadra from Ottolenghi and Tamimi’s Jerusalem. (I also recommend Tori Avey’s recipe from The Shiksa in the Kitchen.) I used black lentils and red basmati rice, and I didn’t fry the onions, but finished off a stash of caramelized onions that was in the refrigerator.  Fried onions are preferable, because they add  welcome texture, and because everything is better fried. Duh. I also added sumac onions, because I add them to everything, and instead of plain yogurt, I like tzatziki. The best. M  is a dish that is very simple and plain, befitting the occasion, yet, once you start eating it, you can’t stop. But go easy, because it should last for a few days. Try if for breakfast scrambled up with eggs. Like any “pottage,” you can pretty much add anything to it as you go along. Without meat, it’s a dish for somber times; with meat, it’s a dish for celebrations. The best part is you don’t have to be either Jewish or in mourning.

Southern Tomato Pie

SouthernTomatoPieVivanHoward

Southern Tomato Pie from Vivian Howard.

You remember Vivian Howard from last week, right? The blueberry vinegar BBQ chicken chick? If you haven’t watched her PBS program, A Chef’s Life, I highly recommend it. Even Mr. Darcy, who has no interest in where food comes from or how it is prepared, likes it. But, then again, she is a very pretty woman. Bless his heart.

I am collecting all of her recipes  that I can find on line (Cornbread Coffee Cake with Fresh Figs, and Chocolate Cake with Beets), and will be reporting on same in the weeks to come. Note to Vivian: Hey, girl, hey! I am just sitting here waiting for your cookbook to be released (the day after my birthday!) Pre-ordered on Amazon. I made your Southern Tomato Pie this weekend, and we enjoyed it so much that I made four more crusts for the freezer.

Southern Tomato Pie is a dish I first heard of on my first trip to Charleston, S.C. At the hotel, I asked the concierge where to go to learn all I could about Southern food . . .  in three days. When I told her that I was even willing to eat okra, she leaned over the counter and told me, sotto voce, to go straight to the Dixie Supply Bakery and Cafe and eat everything on the menu, especially the tomato pie.  Which I did. Except for the tomato pie. It sold out every day just as soon as I got to the front of the line! But for all other Southern food? They have been the gold standard for me ever since. Shrimp and grits? Oh, don’t even talk to me!

The. Best. Ever. What can I say? The best American literature and the best American food come from the South. American qua American, of course; I don’t wear an onion roll on my head.

So, anyway, when I saw Vivian Howard’s recipe for Southern Tomato Pie, I thought, hmmmm, this is my chance to taste a real southern tomato pie. Well, of course, how would I know? I guess if I like it, it must be authentic!

The recipe is time-consuming, but not difficult. It’s two kinds of tomatoes three ways, caramelized onions (and thanks, Vivian, for not saying that the onions will caramelize in 10 minutes!), two kinds of cheese (fontina and parm-regg), basil, and mayo. Honh? Mayo? Fuggedaboutit. It works. The crust is as thin as a cookie and, even though it is not sweet, it is so delicious and distinctive that it could be eaten just like a cookie. Alone. I kid you not. The blend of tomatoes, cheeses, and mayo is exactly right. The result is sweet and salty, chewy, smooth and crunchy.  All the things that make your mouth happy. This is a dish you will keep eating until it’s all gone (hey, who ate my pie?), all the while looking forward to the next time.

TomatoPieSlice

The crust can be made in the food processor:  just keep a couple of extra tablespoons of ice water handy so that the dough comes together quickly.

Blindbakedcrust

Blind-baked crust.

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Onions on their way to a deep caramel.

DrainingTomatoes

Cubed tomatoes draining with sugar and salt.

DicedTomatoes

Cubed tomatoes going into the oven with salt, thyme and olive oil.

RoastedDicedTomatoes

Cubed tomatoes coming out of the oven with a nice roast on them.

For the filling, mix the raw and roasted tomatoes, and the onions.  Scoop into the baked pie crust and add the cheeses, the mayo and the basil, which have been mixed together in a separate bowl. Top with thin slices of Roma tomatoes. Bake. This recipe makes even mediocre tomatoes taste as if they have been just picked from the vine.

In a bread-baking mood (and when am I not?). I’ve been tempted for a while now to try King Arthur Flour’s sprouted wheat flour, and the bag arrived a few days ago.  For Mr. Darcy’s snacking pleasure, I made KAF’S Sprouted Wheat Vanilla Chai Bars.  Before you say, “Oh, good. Healthy,” I should tell you that the recipe calls for two (count’ em, 2) cups of sugar. So much for whole wheat healthiness. Every notice that anything touted as low-fat (or lo-fat) never mentions that they are also high- (or hi-) sugar? Whatever is made healthier by reducing the fat, it seems, is made less healthy by far by adding in ton of sugar and other sweeteners. That’s right. You can’t win. Both the dough and the topping contain KAF’s Chai Spice, a blend of ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, allspice, anise, and black pepper. As a result, the cookies have a gingerbread plus flavor, and the really good chewy texture of a brownie. They go equally well with both coffee and tea. So, dunk alors!

SproutedWheatVanilla ChaiBars

From the side of the sprouted wheat flour bag, I made some sprouted wheat raisin bread.

flourbagbread

Nice. Not thrilling.

While on a raisin bread roll, I gave KAF’s Harvest Bread with sweet potato and raisins a whirl. Any old raisin bread satisfies Mr. Darcy, and these were fine, but not terribly interesting.

SweetPotatoHarvestBread

Love the color from the sweet potato.

And, speaking of women I admire, you must know that my amazingly creative, talented and resourceful niece  — the real chef in the family — started Vermont Amber, a toffee company. You will not believe the flavors she has come up with: salted sesame, cacao nib, ginger cookie, fennel, sun-dried tomatoes, in addition to the usual suspects. This is not the jaw-breaking toffee sugar chunks you probably remember from your childhood, but thin and meltinyourmouth flavor shots. If you are ever at a loss for a gift, or party favors, or you are or know a toffee junkie, check it out. There is even a Toffee-of-the-Month Club. Go. Order on line!

VermontAmberToffeeoftheMonthClub

Sun-dried tomato toffee? Yes, please!

 

“Finding My Way Home Through the Kitchen”

Softboiledegg

Is there anything so tactile and intangible, so concrete and elusive, so  illusory and entirely satisfying or not as a food memory? With all the senses, it will recall time, place, and sentiment like nothing else. I can still smell the vanilla pudding that I was fed as a baby. When I make soft-boiled eggs in the morning, I can see my father standing at the kitchen sink, looking out the window, contentedly scooping out his soft boiled eggs and eating them straight from the shell, having his buttered rye bread (never cut in half, never toasted), and drinking his coffee. Humming. Funny that even soft-boiled eggs can be an homage. That’s why I make them. I get to see my father again.

Food memories often get me into the kitchen. Food memories have been on my mind this week in particular —  partly because it has been a difficult week, and partly because I have been reading Pam Freir’s Laughing With My Mouth Full: Tales From a Gulf Islands Kitchen, and wishing that I had written it!

But it’s a long way. And it’s been a long time. So I head for the kitchen instead. You can always find your way home through the kitchen.
From Pam Frier, Laughing With My Mouth Full (2005) p. 12.

It was an odd week, gastronomically and otherwise.  Yes, the AC arrived, and yes it made a difference, thanks for asking.  There is a big difference throughout the apartment, and enough of a difference in the kitchen that I am able to function almost normally. No, it isn’t cool, but it is bearable. Especially when the oven is turned off!

VioletBlondies

The Violet Butterscotch Blondie with Caramel Shards

We had company this weekend, and for me, company is just an excuse to get into the kitchen and bake! This time, “company” was a pretext to delve further into The Violet Bakery Cookbook by Claire Ptak. First up,  Violet Butterscotch Blondies with Caramel Shards. This is a rich, gooey, sweet and salty wonder. Pssst. The caramel shards make it spectacular.

Shards

Caramel that will grow up to be shards!

Then came the Red Velvet Cake from The Violet Bakery Cookbook. This was for our friend from California whom we have not seen for quite some time.  I thought the occasion called for something that looked celebratory. The frosting is cream cheese and butter, and pink. The DishnDat tweaks included a tablespoon of espresso powder in the cake, because we can’t eat chocolate without coffee now, can we? Also a few dollops of King Arthur Flour’s Red Velvet Flavor in both the cake and the frosting. Like my MIL before me, I am always suspicious of vegetable oil as a substitute for butter, but this was a light and flavorful cake  —  chocolatey with just a hint of citrus. The cake is better than the frosting unless you are a sugar overload-lover.

REDVELVETVIOLTET

Talk about loving hands at home!

Catching up with our California girl and meeting her boyfriend reminded me of the days when I lived in California. I had a boyfriend. I even had a boyfriend whose parents loved me and always wanted to take us to dinner. They lived in the San Fernando Valley (yes, the “Valley” as in Valley Girl) and the biggest deal around was a fancy steakhouse where I was introduced to Surf ‘n Turf for the first time in my life. I was flabbergasted. I had no idea such riches existed anywhere. No wonder people risked life and limb to come to America! I loved his parents, I loved the way they fed me, but, alas, after a while, I no longer loved the boyfriend and I had to do the right thing. I’ve never had Surf ‘n Turf since. Sigh. Talk about homage.

VioletRedVelvetSlice

Mr. Darcy is always delighted when the kitchen produces sweets, so for a recent dinner I tried a recipe for Blueberry BBQ Chicken from Vivian Howard, chef and owner of Chef and the Farmer restaurant in Kinston, North Carolina, and the drawling, laid-back star of PBS’s A Chef’s Life. Instead of firing up our non-existent backyard grill in our non-existent backyard, I just covered a sheet pan with foil, cut up a nice Murray’s chicken, sprayed it with olive oil, and sprinkled a little salt on it. During the cooking time (one hour), I basted it  about every 20 minutes with Chef and the Farmer’s Blueberry BBQ sauce, which is essentially a blueberry vinegar. The result is hint of sweetness that plays well with the crispy, salty, sweet chicken.

VivianHoward'sBlueberry BBQChicken

And I will leave you with Mr. Darcy’s favorite bread of late.  It is a simple Monkey Bread. I use the Cook’s Country version, but I can’t reproduce it without their permission.  It has been produced elsewhere, however.  The DishnDat tweak is to omit the brown sugar coating and the glaze.  Dust the pan with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar. It’s perfect for breakfast and whatEVer?

ModifiedMonkeyBread

What to Cook Under a Heat Dome?

VioletBrownies

Rye flour brownies from Violet Bakery Cookbook. Just because.

The obvious answer to the title question is, “Don’t cook; that’s why God created Delivery.” But if I don’t even want to go out to eat during a 95° to 105° “heat dome,” much less cook myself, why would I want to make one of those good-natured, hard-working “Mexican” immigrants our Führer manqué is so fond of reviling, bring the food to me?  “Well,” would be the response, “because they depend on your tips to make a living. If you don’t order out, they can’t feed their families.” And so on. When is a rationale merely a pretext?  Must every little decision involve an ethical dilemma?  Well, yes, or so it seems. And so now I have to admit that we have finally broken down and ordered an air conditioner for the kitchen.  After all these years of having an air conditioner only in Popeye’s room, we went against our principles and bought yet another.  I know, I know.  If it weren’t for all the air conditioning units, etc., we wouldn’t even have a heat dome.  Sigh.  But truthfully, I can’t wait for it to arrive and be installed. There, I’ve said it. It’s official:  I am a hypocrite and a bad person.

SconesandMonkeybread

Mini scones with oatmeal and cranberries and monkey bread. Faster than baking regular bread loaves and they can bake together.

Be that as it may, what can you cook under a heat dome before the AC arrives? I wanted to stay ahead of the heat wave, and so I spent two days cooking up deli containers of mix and match vegetables that can be added to salads, pastas (cooked in the microwave), or served with eggs and toast. Anything that doesn’t require a hot oven. Eggplant is nice and meaty, so I cut it up and mixed it with olive oil and garlic. It stores in the refrigerator to be used as is. I did the same thing with zucchini. I loaded up on cucumbers, scallions and basil to add some brightness to whatever I ended up throwing together, and I didn’t forget the Granny Smiths. They go with everything!

TunaSalad

Tuna and a boatload of raw vegetables. Apples, olive oil and apple cider vinegar.

And what doesn’t go with fresh corn? In recent weeks, I’ve learned that you can cook corn on the cob, husk on, in the microwave. Two ears, three minutes, and “viola” — cahn! Jars of tuna, frozen fish sticks, and cans of beans help a lot. Food that was stockpiled on cooler days is a boon.  Just don’t do what I did: a mystery container from the freezer turned out to be a four-alarm chili that only Mr. Darcy could eat. Oh, NO, Mr. Bill!

MicrowaveCorn4July2016

SteamedKale

Steamed kale is versatile and healthy.

SumacRedOnions

Sumac red onions: I can’t eat a meal without them anymore! The vinegar and sumac dull that harsh raw red onion burn, making this an incredibly refreshing addition to any dish.

Long-time neighbors invited us for dinner the other night. One of the hallmarks of living in Gotham is that you live next door to the same people for years, and year after year, you nod and smile, you make small talk in the elevator, and you say, “We should get together.”  But, you have careers, families, and all the stress and anxiety of keeping your Big City/Big Dreams lives from stalling out, and so you never do. Then, after, say, 30 years or so, when you are all in various stages of hearing loss, you finally get together. You bring a Lime Buttermilk Pound Cake that you’ve adapted from a Lemon Buttermilk Pound Cake recipe (because you have limes but no lemons) from Christopher Kimball’s new venture, Milk Street Kitchen.

LimePoundCakeMilkKitchen

Yes, it’s that M.C. Escher cake pan again!

You are treated to an elegant dinner of fish en papillote, beautifully dressed greens, and pasta with uncooked, fresh tomato sauce—not to mention a dessert of fresh fruits, shortcake, ice cream AND whipped cream (be still my heart). You admire their home, you share your political despair, you talk about travel, the other neighbors, and you overstay your welcome. And then you steal their recipes.

FreshTomatoSaucejpg

It was the glass jar that did it. Our hostess had prepped her tomatoes and held them in a glass jar until she was ready to add them to the pasta. That made me think I should make a lot of it, keep it in a glass jar in the refrigerator, and add it to everything under the sun. And I did.

Fresh Uncooked Tomato Sauce

1 large container cherry or grape heirloom tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon crushed tarragon

That’s it. Mix it all up, keep it in the refrigerator, and use it for anything. Here it is in a pasta with chicken meatballs plus some fresh corn and sumac red onion thrown in. Add the tomatoes and vegetables to the pasta straight from the refrigerator or at room temperature , add a schlug of the pasta water, and lots and lots of freshly grated parmesan.  No one will complain.  And with the tomatoes and the corn, it tastes like summer. In a good way.

PastaSalad

The second time around, I omitted the meatballs, and added chopped up olives. Mwah!

 

Mushrooms, Eggplant and Scallion All-Purpose Mixture

Ingredients 

1 medium graffiti* eggplant, cut into small even pieces of any shape or size
2 boxes any kind of mushrooms, sliced or chopped
6 large scallions (or 1 large leek)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
Juice of one lemon to squeeze over the eggplant to keep it from turning color
Pinch of salt and pepper

*Graffiti eggplant because it’s so pretty and has fewer of those pesky bitter eggplant seeds, and you never have to feel guilty about not taking the time to salt the eggplant.

Instructions

Cook everything together in olive oil until just wilted. Use for all manner of meals, such as frittata, omelets, or on pasta.

MushroomsEggplantScallions

 

Kale, Mushroom, Eggplant, Scallion and Ricotta Frittata

KaleFrittata

A retooled and revised version from last week’s post. More cheese. No bread!

Ingredients

7 large eggs
1/2 cup fat-free half and half
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
12 small thin slices of parmesan cheese
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
4 cups kale, trimmed, chopped and steamed
1/2 cup of eggplant and mushroom mixture above

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 375°;
  2. Spray a muffin tin with Bakers Joy or neutral vegetable oil like canola;
  3. Beat the eggs with the half and half;
  4. Add the cheeses and then the vegetables and mix well;
  5. Fill the cups;
  6.  Bake for 15 minutes;
  7. Top each “muffin” with a slice of the parmesan cheese;
  8. Bake another 5 minutes;
  9. Remove from oven and let cool on wire rack for no more than 10 minutes.

Watermelon and Crumbled Feta Cheese — or not

Sandia

Keep cut up sandía in the refrigerator for snacking and for a refreshing salad with feta cheese.

SandiaFeta

Did it work? Was it worth two days of sweat just to get us through the heat dome? Well, it got us through the weekend, and there are still three days to go so the jury is still out. Despite my best efforts, there have been some epic fails. Like the  eggplant, pureed with olive oil, red onion and garlic that is sitting in the refrigerator, because I just don’t know what to do with it that doesn’t involve chips. Every meal tends to reference the last, but, in the end, I am able to spend more time holed up in Popeye’s room with the air conditioner. Mr. Darcy is happy and, as for me:  It’s too hot to eat!

Salad1

Salad, salad, salad.

Frittata Muffins for Breakfast: Heat and Serve

CauliflowerFrittata3

Frittata muffins with cauliflower, leeks, potato, peas, and gochujang paste.

Summer is here with a vengeance.  I love summer, more sunlight and less clothing, but I hate heat and humidity.  July means heat and humidity.  In July, a small kitchen with very little ventilation means SOS!

What’s easy?  Well, pizza.

pizzadoughwithfreshbasil

Pizza dough with fresh basil.

But pizza means heating the oven to 450°. Sigh.  What about tuna?  Well, yes, but can anyone really bear having tuna breath every day? And we know the smell doesn’t go away no matter how many times you floss, brush and rinse with mouthwash.

Last week I mentioned Ellie Krieger, her mini-frittatas baked in a muffin tin, and her very excellent method of cleaning leeks. Her recipe is easy, easy, easy, and quite adaptable to whatever you have around. It’s just eggs, cheese, milk, vegetables, and salt and pepper. Herbs optional, but always a nice touch.

MixingtheFrittata

These lovely little frittata are a lifesaver for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  Make enough of them ahead of time and just pop them in the microwave when you are ready for a meal.  Nuke for 30 seconds at a time up to four times. Check carefully after each nuke so that they don’t dry out.

AsparagusLeekMushroomFrittata1

From Ellie Krieger, asparagus, leek and mushroom mini-frittatas.

Mr. Darcy ate these as fast as I could get them out of the oven, so I decided to change it up a bit, and I tried cauliflower, potato, leek, and peas with some gochujang (Korean red pepper paste) to give the essential blandness of these ingredients a little shtup.

CauliflowerLeekPotatoMushroomFrittata2

CauliflowerFrittata3

The basic formula is 4 cups cooked vegetables (steamed, roasted or sautéed). If using a water-logged vegetable like zucchini or tomato, it’s best to roast or sautée rather than steam. Add something in the onion/garlic family — onions, garlic, leeks, scallions, salt and pepper, herbs, 1/4 cup grated cheese, 7 eggs and 1/4 cup of milk. Beat the eggs with cheese, herbs, S&P, add the cooked and cooled vegetables. Spoon into a greased muffin tin, and bake about 20 minutes at 350°. Go for it!

Note:  Do not allow the baked frittata to sit in the muffin tin for more than 10 minutes to cool before removing them or they will have soggy bottoms.  Yes. I learned the hard way.

I admit to doing a little travel day-dreaming lately since the Brexit and the emergence of a strong USD.  I would love to go to Bath and take some baking classes with Richard Bertinet, eat at every single Ottolenghi restaurant at least twice, and stop into The Violet Bakery several times a day. (Oh yes, the Tate and the thayatah, but, right now, I just want to eat!) Speaking of day-dreaming, I often pick up Claire Ptak’s lovely little book, The Violet Bakery Cookbook,  and picture myself running a lovely little café with lovely little treats and snick-snacks. While thumbing through The Violet Bakery Cookbook, I came across Ptak’s recipe for a kale, leek, rosemary, ricotta bread pudding, and wondered if I could convert the bread pudding to mini-frittata.  With a few minor adjustments, yes, I could . . . and did!

ClairePtak

Kale, leeks, fresh rosemary, ricotta bread pudding from Claire Ptak made into mini-frittata.

Instead of using the bread (as in bread pudding), I placed a small round of garlic toast from the supermarket in the bottom of each muffin cup. Instead of using chile flakes, I used 1/2 tablespoon of  gochujang paste. Can you tell that gochujang is one of my latest obsessions? I didn’t strain the custard, but mixed all the ingredients together and used a hand blender for the same effect. Baked them in a 350° oven for 30 to 40 minutes.

We are talking about an egg-based meal, which is very versatile and very forgiving.  These little guys pack quite the nutritional punch and have a little of each basic food group except chocolate.  You can eat as much or as little as you like.

I like to serve them with tahini sauce, red onion sumac,

TheWorks

The Works.

or DishnDat homemade tomato fig jam

TomatoFigJam

Tomato fig jam: 4 cups tomatoes, 1 cup fresh figs. Cook on high heat stirring constantly for almost 30 minutes or until it looks jammy. 1/2 cup sugar if you must, but with the figs, you don’t really need it! Without figs, 1/2 to 1 cup sugar.

A Shameless Request! Vote for DishnDat!

We interrupt whatever you are doing to bring you this dispatch from the Department of Who Knew?  I just learned that Saveur Magazine gives annual awards for best food blogs.  I also just learned that DishnDat has been nominated for Best Blog 2016 in at least two categories:  Weeknight Dinners and Humor. So PLEEZ PLEEZ PLEEEZ vote for DishnDat at http://www.saveur.com/blog-awards-2016-nominate.  But please hurry, because you have only until July 18 before the polls close. 

Be sure to use the entire URL:  http://dishndat.me.

In the meantime, here is a photo of a recipe I made from my latest obsession, Israel Eats by Steven Rothfeld.  Eggplant, olive oil, tahini, lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, mint leaves. *Sigh*

And thank you so much for reading DishnDat and for your vote! EggplantMintPomegranateSaladfromIsraelEats

Cold Sesame Noodles . . . With a Twist

For quite a while now I have been eyeing a kitchen gadget called a spiralizer, and I have been successful in talking myself out of it. Zucchini pasta? I don’t even like zucchini, and when I want pasta, I want pasta.  Not a vegetable.  Also, they are expensive and take up a lot of space, making them easy to resist.  Then, the other day, I am walking the aisles at Tarzhay, minding my own business, and I spy a tiny little spiralizer by OXO.  It was so cute.  And it kept saying, “Aw, give us a try.”  So, now I have a new toy. It’s not a good spiralizer, but the price was right and like any new toy, it’s fun to play with until it breaks.

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How about some “hash”?   Below is the yield from a very small yellow potato. I was able to spiralize a substantial amount of potato to accompany our breakfast eggs.

Whitepotato

Some Pluses
*A small amount of vegetable yields a surprisingly high volume of “noodles.”
*It’s a means of adding a little textural variety to salads and other dishes when                                 you don’t have mad knife skills.
*I can imagine this as a way to deal with vegetable-reluctant children. If they                                      spiralize their vegetables, they may be curious about eating them!  And it beats                              all that nonsense about hiding vegetables in a batch of brownies! But don’t get                               me started.

Some Minuses
*You always get that little stick and a hockey puck with a hole in it at the end.                                 *The holder that comes with it doesn’t really grab the end of the vegetable, so it’s fairly useless.
*Although it looks effortless, It’s not really easy to use; you wouldn’t want to                                       spiralize an entire squash, for example, unless you have Olympian wrists.

But, I’m in the groove and not even thinking pasta substitute. I’m spiralizing every single vegetable I can get my hands on for salads.  Including zucchini.  Spiralizing adds a fun shape and texture to the usual chopped/torn vegetables that I dump in a bowl every night.

Back in the faux pasta department:  I did try butternut squash spaghetti and meatballs, and I have to admit that I really liked it. (Full disclosure:  I did not spiralize an entire squash, but but the butternut squash “noodles.”  at Whole Foods!) I used a basic tomato sauce, some chicken meatballs I found in the freezer, and topped it all off with grated parmesan.  By the way, need a no-fuss Tomato Sauce in a hurry?  Take three or four medium tomatoes and cut in half horizontally.  Rub the cut side of each half against the large holes on a box grater over a bowl.  Strain through a sieve to remove the seeds and the skin, unless you like the seeds and the skin and that’s totally fine. Add salt and garlic and there you have it. Fresh tomato sauce. You don’t need to cook it.  If you want a cooked tomato sauce, which arguably has greater depth of flavor, add a tablespoon each of olive oil and tomato paste and let it cook down by half.  Some people swear by cutting an onion in half, throwing it in the cooking tomato sauce, and discarding it when finished.  It’s up to you. I use a half-tablespoon each of tomato powder and olive oil if I’m not cooking it. Basil leaves are always welcome in either the hot or cold version.

butternutsquashspaghetti

If you can see the white beans, you can see that I throw beans into almost everything!

butternutsquashspaghettiandmeatballs

Looks like pasta with tomato sauce, meatballs and parm.  Gotta admit it’s satisfying.

And speaking of pasta (and when don’t we speak of pasta, Mr. Darcy’s favorite food, and the password to all his accounts), during the latest heat wave, all the food pushers have been pushing cold sesame noodles as a refreshing meal.  Maybe, just maybe, I could try it with vegetable noodles?  I actually would have liked to try zucchini for the crunch, but I didn’t have any and so I settled on sweet potatoes, because well, because I had a couple. I don’t like sweet potatoes, but they are healthier than the kind I do like, and I do like sweet potato “fries.”  But I don’t like them so much that I eat very much of them. It’s just the idea of French Fries. Sigh. But I digress.

sweetpotatosesamenoodles3

Cold Sesame Noodles

Ingredients

3 cups sweet potato, spiralized (honestly, I think butternut squash would be a good choice here)
1 large cucumber, spiralized or chopped fine
6 scallions, sliced
1 carrot, spiralized
1 1/2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons tahini
1 tablespoon crunchy peanut butter
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon gochujang (Korean hot pepper paste)
1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
1 knob grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons minced garlic

Instructions

sweetpotatosesamenoodles2

  1. Steam the sweet potato “noodles,” but don’t let them get too soft (this is why i recommend the butternut squash);
  2. Mix the cucumber, scallion, and the carrot in a large bowl;
  3. In a small bowl, mix all the other ingredients;
  4. Add the sweet potato and the sauce to the ingredients in the large bowl, and chill.

 

 

 

 

P.S.  I would still prefer to eat this with real noodles. Who wouldn’t? But the sauce is awesome if I do say so myself!

So, what’s the verdict?  Do I buy a spiralizer?  No. Probably not, anyway. I am toying with the idea of get the spiralizer attachment for my stand mixer, but . . . . not today!

And just for well, nothing, I have to show you this cool way to clean leeks that I  learned this weekend. I was channel surfing and came across an old standby, Ellie Krieger, who is an accomplished cook as well as a Cornell and Columbia-educated nutritionist. She always offers great ideas for tasty and healthy meals without “health food” and without gimmicks. I’m going to write about one of her recipes next week, but here is her great technique for cleaning leeks (which are on the shopping list for next week’s post). Farewell ice water bath!

Leeks1

1. Rinse the leek, and cut off the end, leaving the rest of it intact.

Leeks2

2. Split the leek in half up to the hard and deep green portion of the stalk.

Leeks3

3. Flip the leek and cut again up to the hard dark green.

Leeks4

4. Hold the leek under running water, spreading out the white and light green portion, and rinse thoroughly.

Leeks5

5. Now sever the lower portion and discard the tough leaves. Save them for soup!

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6. And there you are, leeks ready for whatever knife cuts are in store for them!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well that’s it for now. BBC Great Baking Show starts in 10 minutes and no one (and I mean no one) is allowed to interrupt!

Cast Iron Cooking: As American as the Fourth of July

ChickenNYT

Nancy Silverton’s Flattened Chicken with Roasted Lemon Slices. This is possibly the best chicken I ever ate!

Despite my rant last week about always being scooped by the Times, I read the article (so-so), and I tried Nancy Silverton’s Flattened Chicken with Roasted Lemon Slices (so great). Have I mentioned that this is possibly the best chicken I ever ate! The chicken comes out of the pan tender and flavorful. Even the white meat was juicy. Be sure to eat the lemon pieces, rind and slices, as well as the bits of garlic. They will be blackened from the pan, just like the chicken, and oh so delicious.

I served it with the mango, cucumber and sumac-onion salad from Zahav.ChickenMangoSalad

A few weeks ago, I decided to get serious about cast iron. Why, you ask, when we all know how lazy you are, why in the world would you willingly use cookware that is a bitch to clean and care for?  And at your age?  Well, in a word:  flavor.  Cast iron promises flavor by virtue of the cast iron itself.  As much as I love my Danish Scanpans, and even though I do use olive oil spray on them before I add the food, it’s still non-stick and let’s face it:  Fat Carries the Flavor. Without adequate amounts of butter or oil, food cooked in a non-stick pan is going to tend toward the rubbery — in texture and in taste.  Cast iron lovers always say that once your pan is properly seasoned, you don’t need any fat, and the flavor is wonderful.  Well, everyone knows how great cast iron is for searing, so how could I resist its siren call?

To backtrack a bit: I have a pizza pan that was the answer to my pizza prayers, and a cast iron griddle that was on the way to ruination by not being cleaned properly. Cleaning is definitely the great bugaboo of cast iron cooking. I was intimidated by all the claims about 100-year old skillets that never saw soap and water. Fortunately, you have an inside track. And no, I don’t mean DishnDat. You have my inside track:  When in doubt, I turn to Lodge. They make the standard cast iron pans that sell for a reasonable price and last forever.  My cast iron guru is Lodge’s Garrett Cook who assures me that soap and water are fine so long as you don’t soak, but clean, rinse, and dry immediately.  Never use an abrasive cleanser. Thanks to Garrett, not only did my pizza pan survive my clumsy efforts and others’ bad advice, but I was able to resurrect both the gunky griddle and an 8″ skillet hidden in the back of the cabinet.

Pizza_1

In addition, America’s Test Kitchen just came out with the Cook’s Country Cook It in Cast Iron Cookbook, and you can always rely on ATK.  Recently, I attended a demo at Sur La Table where Jack Bishop of ATK proceeded to recap everything I had already learned from Garrett Cook,  and also baked a blueberry pie in a cast iron skillet for us.CastIronPanandBooks

Wonderful, yes, but I was more interested in the everyday stuff. Will my morning eggs taste better cooked in a cast iron pan? I was convinced that I should buy 10″ and 12″ skillets, the later of which I can’t even lift and is going to Popeye the next time I see him! I pulled out my old 8″ and got to work.  I find that I use the 10″ all the time now.  It is the most convenient size for most things that I cook and I can lift it with ease.  And yes, breakfast has definitely improved.

I made naan in the 10″ cast iron pan. Imagine getting that tandoor oven char in a frying pan!Naan

Note:  Forget about the myths, good and bad.  Yes, you can cook tomatoes, vinegar, lemons and other acids in cast iron as long is the pan is well-seasoned.  See the chicken above!  No, these are not true non-stick pans. Yes, food cooks faster. No, the heat is not distributed evenly. Finally, you don’t need a fancy artisanal $300 skillet. You just need to take proper care of the $16 one and it will do the job.

Here are  curly sweet potato “fries,”SweetPotatoCurlyFries

sprayed with olive oil spray and roasted in the oven, sprinkled with salt and and then added to the skillet with the eggs.

FriedEggsSweetPotatoNaan

Fried eggs are perfect and unlike non-stick pans, don’t taste like rubber.

The key to success is a clean pan and a seasoned pan. Happily, pans come pre-seasoned nowadays, but you need to continue to season them as you use them.  The black gets shinier and shinier, and the shinier it gets, the less fat you need for cooking.  At some point, it becomes virtually almost a non-stick pan.  Yes.  The cast iron pan carries the flavor without almost any fat.

There are some nice gadgets to make the tasks of cleaning and seasoning much easier. My favorite is a chainmail scrubber, available on, of course, Amazon. Ditto the Lodge Scrub Brush. One problem for me was that all the experts constantly recommend using paper towels for cleaning and for applying seasoning oil (BTW, flaxseed is supposed to be the best for this purpose and it smells terrible, but the smell evaporates).  I am constantly battling to reduce my reliance on paper towels, so I used newspapers (I was thinking covered wagons) and Mr. Darcy’s old t-shirts for cleaning until I discovered the chainmail scrubber and the brush.  In addition, I use a long silicone basting brush for applying a very light coat of oil for seasoning. No more paper towel waste.

When the grandchildren come to visit, the griddle will get a workout for pancakes. In the meantime, it’s time to return to our Sunday night tradition of pizza.  The Lodge cast iron pizza pan is all you need. Over the years, I spent money needlessly on all kinds of unnecessary peels, gadgets and whatchamacallits to make a really good pizza.  Everything but build a pizza oven. Last year, I bought the Lodge pizza pan and it was a lifesaver.  Look at this!  And it smells like pizza, and the bottom crust is crusty, and the cheese is gooey, and I’ve finally learned to NOT put too much sauce on it, and it’s easy to put in and take out of the oven, and Mr. Darcy is happy, and isn’t that what we all want?

Pizza_2

This is the real deal and without a pizza oven!

Shabbat Shalom — Eating Down the Refrigerator– A Friday Night Tradition

ShabbatShalom_4

All the leftovers you and your family will ever need!

In my very long life, I have known very few people who don’t love leftovers. What’s better than leftover pizza for breakfast, I ask you? We like leftovers so much in our house that we have made a Friday night ritual of eating down the refrigerator. This is less a religious practice than because-it’s-Friday-night-at-the-end-of-a-long-week-and-I’m-too-tired-to-cook-and-I-don’t-want-to-wait-for-delivery-and-besides-I-am-too-tired-even-to decide-what-I-want-to-order practice. Sometimes it  means getting out all the leftovers, heating them up (or not), and sometimes it means “transforming” the leftovers into something else — a salad, a casserole.  Usually, I am far too lazy to do anything more than just put a placemat on the kitchen table and plop out the containers with spoons. In the immortal words of Rabbit, “Help yourself, Pooh!”

P.S. If you haven’t heard Carol Channing read Winnie the Pooh, you haven’t lived.

ShabbatShalom_1

If you build it, they will come!

A particularly successful Shabbat Shalom Salad I made recently was good enough to warrant space here. As always, I rooted through every nook and cranny of the refrigerator so that nothing would go to waste, and you will very likely recognize ingredients on the list from these pages. And from the DishnDat Facebook page where I post (IMHO) mouth-watering photos of mouth-watering food!

Shabbat Shalom Salad

Ingredients
(I would have added olives if I had thought of it!)

Sri Lankan red basmati rice
Steamed kale
Kernels from fresh corn on the cob
Sautéed mushrooms
Caramelized red onions
Roasted rainbow carrots
Radishes
Cucumbers
Steak (any leftover protein will do, of course)
Chickpea brittle
Feta cheese
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Lemon juice
Nutmeg (a must with greens)
Salt and pepper

Instructions

Simply start with a base of grains or greens and keep adding.  Even if you think an ingredient won’t “go,” you can find a way to make it work.  Usually, just olive oil and salt will bring everything together.  In this case, there was so much salad, that we ate it for a week, and I added some chicken when the steak was gone.  I added tahini and lemon juice one night just to perk it up. Adding more cheese, feta, in particular, helped to brighten it, too.

ShabbatShalom_3

Just keep adding odds and ends for a great mix of flavor and texture.

For those of you who follow celebrity chefs, I just read that Tom Colicchio does the same thing in his house, and is touting it as a means not to waste food.  All very well and good, but I am miffed that he didn’t mention that he got the idea from me. After all, Mr. Darcy and I have been doing this longer than Colicchio has been a celebrity chef!

Oh, and, by the way, as the old Levy’s Jewish Rye ad said, “You don’t have to be Jewish” to make a Shabbat Shalom Salad, on whatever day you celebrate the Sabbath, or any other day of the week!

ShabbatShalom_2

Stretch it our with bits of other goodies. Anything goes.

And speaking of being miffed:  If’n you don’t mind, I need to bitch. Why am I always being scooped? And always by the Times? Here I am slaving over a study of cast-iron cooking for a blogpost and, sure enough, today’s Times scoops me. This happens all the time, and usually by that skinny redhead Melissa Clark. Yes, you’re right:  I wish I were skinny, I wish I were a redhead, and most of all, I wish the NYT would stop scooping me! Color me bummed.