Eggplant stuffed with Ground Lamb

I’ve rediscovered eggplant as of late, and enjoy making any dish that calls for roasting them.  While I grew up with eggplant making appearances at dinner, in Korean cooking it is generally raw or very lightly tossed in a pan and so you never really got that wonderful, rich eggplant flavor.  This makes for an easy dinner that looks beautiful and goes very nicely with any rich red wine, we like using a California Zinfandel.

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Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground lamb (or ground beef but ground lamb has a nice flavor)
  • 1 yellow onion (diced)
  • 2 serrano peppers (depending on how spicy you want it)
  • 1 vine ripened tomato
  • 2 eggplants
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • EVOO

Directions

  1. In a large pan, add some olive oil and sauté the onions until translucent, about 10 minutes with the cumin and coriander and salt.  Add the ground lamb and cook until browned, about 10-15 minutes.
  2. In the meantime, heat your oven to 400 degrees.  Cut the eggplants in half length-wise, drizzle with olive oil and place on foil on a baking sheet.  Scoop out a little bit of each eggplant where the seeds are.
  3. Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes or until the edges of the eggplant are starting to look crispy.
  4. Keep the heat on in the oven after roasting the eggplants, and add about 1/4 of the ground lamb mixture to each eggplant, carefully mounding them on top of the eggplants.  Add a tomato slice and half of a pepper.
  5. Return to the oven, and bake at 400 degrees for another 20 minutes.
  6. Serve immediately!

Salmon in Chermoula with Couscous

Some time ago, American Express used to send me Food and Wine cookbooks and I just stacked them in a corner, never really using them for inspiration.  At some point in the Fall, I started leafing through and have since found some amazing recipes that we’ve been cooking over and over again.  One of these has been this delicious salmon recipe.

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We LOVE salmon – or rather, the “ocean trout” that we get at our grocery store that happens to look like salmon and in my opinion actually tastes better than salmon.  So when we found this Michael Solomonov recipe for salmon in our book (surprising that it is *not* in our Zahav book) we had to try it!

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The mushroom sauce is perhaps not the prettiest thing, but oh my goodness so delicious.  As they say, can’t judge taste by its looks!

INGREDIENTS

SALMON
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Four 5-ounce skinless salmon fillets
TAHINI SAUCE
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup sliced cremini mushrooms
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon tahini
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped dill
  • Kosher salt
COUSCOUS
  • 1 cup Israeli couscous (6 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped Spanish onion
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup tomato puree
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water

Directions

  1. PREPARE THE SALMONIn a blender, puree the cilantro, canola oil, garlic, ginger, paprika, salt, turmeric and cumin until smooth. Pour the marinade into a resealable plastic bag, add the salmon and seal the bag. Turn to coat the fish and refrigerate overnight.
  2. MAKE THE TAHINI SAUCEIn a small skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the mushrooms and garlic and cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until the mushrooms are well browned, 10 minutes. Scrape the mushrooms and garlic into a blender and let cool. Add the tahini, lemon juice and 1/3 cup of water and puree until smooth. Stir in the dill and season with salt.
  3. PREPARE THE COUSCOUSIn a medium saucepan, toast the couscous over moderate heat, tossing, until golden, 10 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl. In the same saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and a pinch each of cinnamon and salt and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened and just starting to brown, about 8 minutes. Add the toasted couscous and cook for 1 minute, stirring, then stir in the tomato puree. Add the warm water 1/2 cup at a time and stir constantly over moderately low heat, allowing the liquid to be absorbed between additions, until the couscous is al dente, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and keep warm; add 1 or 2 tablespoons of water if the couscous seems dry.
  4. PREPARE THE COUSCOUSLight a grill or preheat a grill pan. Scrape the marinade off the salmon, season the fish with salt and grill over high heat, turning once, until lightly charred and nearly cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes. Spoon the couscous onto plates, top with the salmon, drizzle with the tahini sauce and serve.

MAKE AHEAD

The tahini sauce can be refrigerated overnight. Bring to room temperature before serving.

SUGGESTED PAIRING

Peach-scented, full-bodied French white like Viognier.

From Food and Wine, Michael Solomonov’s Salmon in Chermoula

French Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Glaze

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If you have two hours you can make any day Valentine’s Day! The recipe is from an old “The Best of Bon Appetit” cookbook and can even be adjusted to be made for Passover. Nothing spells L-O-V-E like chocolate and this cake is rich without being overly sweet or cloying. If you missed out on Valentine’s Day, then make any night special with this dessert. The actual prep and baking time is under an hour, but the cake needs to cool before you can glaze it. It is easy enough for even a novice to make and wow a certain someone.

French Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Glaze

Yield: one 8-inch cake

Ingredients

For cake

1 cup raw almonds, skin on

4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate (I actually used a 64% Valrhona because I like my chocolate a little darker; however, go too dark and it won’t work)

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature

2/3 cup granulated white sugar

3 eggs (regular or smaller “large” eggs)

1/4 cup fine dry breadcrumbs

Zest of 1 large navel orange

Chocolate Glaze (See recipe below)

For glaze

2 ounces of unsweetened chocolate

2 ounces of semi-sweet or 64% chocolate (I don’t like things too sweet)

1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened

2 teaspoons of honey

Directions

For Cake

  1. Butter or use a spray like PAM on the bottom and sides of an 8-inch round cake pan. Line the bottom with parchment, spray that and set aside.
  2. Grind almonds in a blender or food processor with 1 Tablespoon of sugar and the breadcrumbs to prevent the almonds from forming a paste. Set aside.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  4. Melt chocolate in a bowl set over hot but not boiling water. Be sure that the bowl does not actually touch the water. Stir occasionally with a rubber spatula. Remove from the heat, just before all of the chocolate is melted. Stir to melt the remaining chocolate.
  5. Using a hand or standing mixer beat the butter until soft and fluffy. Gradually add in the sugar and beat constantly. Once the sugar has been incorporated, add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Don’t worry if things haven’t quite come together at this point. Everything will be fine.
  6. Add the breadcrumbs, almonds and orange rind. Mix through. Now add the chocolate in a stream, with the mixer on low. Mix thoroughly.
  7. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and gently shake the pan to even out the batter.
  8. Bake for about 30 minutes and allow to cool on a cake rack for 30 minutes. The center of the cake will be fairly moist still so you may have to give the cake a good bang with your knuckles to get it to fall out. Discard the parchment and allow the cake to cool completely. Don’t worry if the center sinks a bit. This is part of the cake’s charm.
  9. Once thoroughly cooled, place the cake on a rack or cake decorating plate over waxed paper. Pour the glaze over the top, carefully tipping the cake so that the glaze runs evenly over the top and sides. If necessary, smooth the sides with a metal spatula. If you wish, you can garland the rim with toasted slivered almonds.

For Glaze

  1. Combine the two chocolates, butter and honey in a bowl set over hot water. Melt, stirring.
  2. Remove from the heat and beat until cool but still “pourable” – just until it starts to thicken.

 

Pistachio, Chocolate and Dried Cherries Tart

Valentine’s Day for some reason always means chocolate dessert for me.  Whether it’s a molten lava cake or a sachertorte or really any other chocolate dessert.  This would be great for this year’s weekday Valentine’s as it is easy to make ahead.

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We found this recipe after watching the Food Network and much to my pleasant surprise, this ended up being one of those recipes turns out exactly as you would expect.  I might have had to go to two or three different grocery stores to find the ingredients (dried cherries in a pinch are at Trader Joe’s, though I’d recommend buying from nuts.com if you have the time to plan ahead)!

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This is a very rich dessert though, so wouldn’t recommend making for a crowd that is looking for lighter desserts.  On the other hand, if one of your crowd members is a dedicated chocolate enthusiast (ahem, Matthew) this is a winner!

Also, I might have called this a cake for the 4 days it was around before Matt finished it off, and was reminded multiple times that this is a TART not a CAKE.  Not that that in any way diminished from its deliciousness.

Ingredients

Crust:
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, plus more for greasing pan
  • Eight 4 1/2-inch-long plain or almond biscotti cookies, coarsely broken (about 5 1/2 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup cherry preserves or jam, such as Bonne Maman 
Filling:
  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips, such as Ghiradelli
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 3/4 cup chopped shelled pistachio nuts
  • Salt flakes, such as Maldon, optional

For the crust: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Combine the biscotti, butter and sugar in a food processor. Blend until the mixture forms moist crumbs that stick together when pressed. Firmly press the crumbs into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake until golden and feels firm to the touch, about 15 minutes. Cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes. Spread the cherry preserves over the cooled crust leaving a 1/2 to 1-inch border.

For the filling: Place the chocolate chips in a medium bowl. Heat the cream in a medium saucepan over medium heat to just below a boil. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the cream over the chocolate chips. Stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Add the dried cherries and 1/2 cup of the pistachios. Pour the chocolate filling over the cherry preserves and sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup pistachios on top. Refrigerate for at least 5 hours or preferably overnight.

Loosen the tart from the sides of the pan by running a thin metal spatula around the edge. Unmold the tart and transfer to a serving plate. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt flakes, if using. Cut into wedges and serve.

Pear and Walnut Cake

I’m always intrigued by dessert recipes that sound hearty and rustic, so when Matt found this recipe in the Financial Times one weekend, it was a no brainer to try it out.  Of note, I had no idea which pears to use, and was surprised to find five different varietals at the store.

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I went with my gut of getting a crisper pear (Bosc pears) and it seemed to turn out fine. In fact the little bit of crunch went very nicely with the texture of the walnuts in the cake.

For the topping
(which starts as the base)

4 small pears (I used Bosc, and I think only about 3.5 ended up fitting)
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
2 tbsp unsalted butter cut into six pieces

For the cake batter

2 sticks and 2 tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature
1 2/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup ground almonds
1 cup ground walnuts
1/2 tsp ground nutmet
1 tsp ground cinnamon
4 large eggs
zest and juice of an orange
3/4 cup easy cook polenta
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt

Directions

  1. Heat your oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Line your 9″ cake tin with paper, and then wrap the outside with foil (in case it leaks, don’t want it leaking into the oven which makes a mess)
  3. Peel the pears and halve them. Use a teaspoon to remove the seeds. Sprinkle the sugar on the base of the tin. Cut the butter into eight small pieces and place them in the pear cavity you created by removing the seeds. Place the pear on to the bottom of the tin in a flower formation so the butter touches the sugar and the flat part of the pear also touches the sugar. It should look like seven petals around and one in the middle. You may need to trim the pears so they fit snugly.
  4. Cream the butter and sugar, using a mixer with a paddle attachment or by hand with a large spatula, until they are well-combined but not too fluffy. Add two of the eggs and mix well, then add the remaining ingredients including the last two eggs and beat together until you have a smooth mix. Spoon the mix over the pears to cover entirely and use the back of a spoon to smooth it out as much as possible.
  5. Place in the centre of the oven and bake for 30 minutes before rotating to assure an even bake, and continue for a further 20-25 minutes. This cake is a little tricky; the texture will feel rather soft when it comes out but it will settle and firm up after 20 minutes. Check the cake after the provided times — the centre of the cake should feel like the outer rim. The best way to tell if it’s ready is to poke the sides, then poke the centre — they should feel the same. If your finger sinks immediately, add another 10 minutes to the baking time.
  6. Remove from the oven and leave the cake in the tin. If you try and turn it out straight away, it will collapse. Set a timer for 20 minutes, then take a serving plate and place it on the baking tin, flip the cake and ease it out, peel away the baking paper and serve. It is lovely warm but will also keep well at room temperature.

Adapted from The Financial Times, Pear and Walnut cake