Moussaka

Moussaka3 (2)

One of the highlights of our trip to Greece a few years ago was certainly the food. The smells from cooking Greek classics at home always conjures up memories of that fantastic trip, and so while a bit tedious, we enjoy making this meal for “events.” This time we were cooking for my parents in sunny LA. When I first took it out of the oven there were protestations of “oh my! So much food – it will be enough for leftovers for weeks!” But after seconds… and thirds… there really wasn’t much left. On the other hand, I like to think that when people get thirds, whatever the dish is is *really* good. We found this recipe after using a different one for moussaka, but when we saw this claim to be the “Best ever moussaka” we decided to put it to the test. And sure enough, this really was the best ever that we’ve had, especially when paired with the wine used to make it!

Ingredients

2 medium globe eggplants (or 3 small eggplants)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 pounds ground lamb
2 yellow onions, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon fines herbes
¼ cup minced parsley
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
¾ cup red wine
½ cup plain bread crumbs
¾ pound feta cheese

Sauce
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg yolk, beaten
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Garnish: chopped parsley

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Cut tops off eggplants and cut lengthwise in ¼-inch-thick slices. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and place on paper towels for 30 minutes to absorb the moisture. Rinse, wipe eggplant dry, and place in a single layer on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Roast for 30 minutes.
  2. In a large sauté pan or skillet over medium-high heat, cook the lamb, onions, and garlic, crumbling the lamb with a fork and stirring frequently until browned.
  3. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain thoroughly in a strainer. Place meat mixture on paper towels and pat dry to further remove fat.
  4. Return the meat to the cleaned pan and add remaining 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, fines herbes, parsley, and tomato paste. Stir well. Add wine and simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. Grease the bottom of a 9 X 13 ovenproof baking dish and dust with all but 3 tablespoons of bread crumbs. Reserve remaining bread crumbs for sauce.Sauce
  6. To make sauce, in a medium sauté pan over low-medium heat, melt butter and whisk in flour. Stir in milk, nutmeg, and salt and stir until thickened. In a separate mixing bowl, spoon a little of the hot sauce into the egg yolk and add the 3 tablespoons of reserved bread crumbs. Then, blend the egg-bread crumb mixture into the sauce. Mix thoroughly.
  7. Layer dish first with eggplant, then meat, and then with a generous portion of feta cheese. Repeat layers and top with sauce.
  8. Lower oven heat to 350°F. Top the dish with Parmesan and bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until top of cheese is golden brown. Cut into square servings. Garnish with chopped parsley. The Wine Lover’s Cookbook by Sid Goldstein  

     

Roasted Chicken with Clementines and Arak

Roasted chicken with clementines4 (2)

For many years I led a program that brought Catholic School High School teachers to Israel to give them an opportunity to see the country outside of the very narrow focus that was available to them in the news. The hope was that it would give a more balanced and broader perspective to present to their students. I was fortunate enough to have kept up with some of the teachers even after I had retired. My husband and I hosted one of the teachers along with her husband for dinner last week and as food was always a highlight of the trip, I decided to make a Middle Eastern meal. I had homemade hummus, “burnt” eggplant with garlic, lemon and pomegranate seeds, kohlrabi salad, pita and this roasted chicken served with basmati rice. The chicken essentially is a sheet-pan meal, which is prepped the night before and then cooked an hour before serving. It comes from Jerusalem, A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi that was given to me as a gift by my niece. I made a few changes, mostly in proportions, but the biggest change was in the temperature that I used to cook the dish. Ottolenghi suggests cooking everything at 475 degrees F. but I found that was much too high and would have resulted in burnt skin and under-done chicken. I cooked mine at 400 degrees F. The other major change I made was that I did not cook my chicken in the sauce. I poured the marinating liquid into a saucepan and cooked it separately on the stove. It was much less messy than trying to pour off the hot sauce later to reduce and I knew that the chicken would be moist enough from the marinade that it didn’t need to cook in the liquid, which also allowed my skin to become truly crispy, which I like. The recipe can be made with Arak, Ouzo or Pernod, all of which have an anise base. Arak would be used in Israel, but I had Ouzo on hand and used that successfully. This dish definite qualifies as comfort food and can easily be increased for a crowd. Left-overs warmed in a 250 degree F oven were wonderful so don’t worry if this makes more than you need immediately.

Roasted Chicken with Clementines and Arak

Yield: 6-8 servings

Ingredients

3/4 cup + 1 Tablespoon Arak, Ouzo or Pernod

1/2 cup of EVOO

6 Tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice

6 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/4 cup Dijon or whole grain mustard

6 Tablespoons dark brown sugar

3 large fennel bulbs, trimmed and cut into 8 wedges each

6 chicken thighs, bone-in with skin

4 chicken breasts, bone-in with skin

8 small clementines with the peel, cut horizontally into thick slices (usually 3 slices per clementine)

2 Tablespoons thyme leaves

1 Tablespoon fennel seeds

1 Tablespoon Kosher salt and 1.5 teaspoons Aleppo pepper or to taste

Directions

  1. Mix together the first 6 ingredients. Add the salt and Aleppo pepper and whisk to combine. Using 2 sets of doubled freezer bags (no clean-up!) divide the chicken between the bags. (You can use a glass or stainless bowl if you prefer.) Divide the fennel bulbs and clementine slices between the bags. Pour half of the marinating mixture into each bag. Using your hand, carefully mix everything through, trying not to smush the clementines or break up the fennel wedges. Alternatively you can carefully seal the bags and holding it over the sink, gently massage everything in the bag. Place the sealed bags standing up in the fridge. Ideally this is done the night before, but it can be done a few hours before if that is all the time you have.
  2. When you are ready to cook the chicken, preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. and raise the oven rack to the next to top space. I used two pans and two ovens to make this much chicken but you can use one oven rotating the pans as needed.
  3. I covered two sheet pans with heavy duty foil (again – no clean-up!) I liked that these pans weren’t super deep which allowed everything to get really good color and a crispy skin on the chicken.
  4. I carefully opened a corner of the freezer bags and poured the marinating liquid into a small saucepan. I then places the chicken pieces, skin side up on the pans and placed the fennel wedges and clementines around the chicken, but not covering the chicken. I roasted everything for about 45 minutes or until the skin was crackling and everything had great color. This is one time when you really want to eat the skin!Roasted chicken with clementines
  5. While the chicken was cooking, I brought the marinating liquid to a boil, uncovered. I boiled the liquid down by about half and set it aside until I was ready to serve. when the chicken was ready, I brought the sauce to a simmer and spooned it over the top after plating. Roasted chicken with clementines6

Lamb Meatballs with Cauliflower

Lamb Meatballs3

I came across this recipe on the Food52 website and it caught my eye. Lamb is my favorite meat and we eat a lot of it in our house.  Don’t get put-off by the seemingly long list of ingredients. This recipe came together fairly quickly although I did make some modifications from the original. I also added some Basmati rice to make what I considered a satisfying meal. If you prefer to simply serve it with a good pita or naan that would also work. Clean-up was minimal since the lamb and cauliflower cook on the same pan, lined with aluminum foil. And, if like me, you do a lot of Middle Eastern and Indian cooking, you should have the spices, tahini and pomegranate molasses on hand. The tahini-yogurt sauce makes more than you will need, but it is wonderful with any grilled or roasted meat or vegetables and thinned further can be used as a salad dressing.

Lamb Meatballs with Cauliflower by Emily C and modified by me

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

For lamb meatballs

1.5 pounds ground lamb

1 teaspoon each: Aleppo pepper, ground cumin, fennel seed, Kosher salt

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1.5 Tablespoons Greek Yogurt (2% or full-fat only please)

2 teaspoons garlic cloves, minced or crushed

3-4 Tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley or cilantro

Olive oil or Grapeseed oil for greasing the pan

For cauliflower

1 large head of cauliflower (about 2.5 pounds), cut or broken into small florets

About 3 Tablespoons EVOO

2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses (available online and in Middle Eastern grocery stores)

1 teaspoon Kosher salt or more to taste

1.5 teaspoons ground cumin

For Tahini-Yogurt Sauce

1/2 cup tahini

3 Tablespoons Greek yogurt (2% or full-fat)

Juice of 2 lemons

1 Tablespoon pomegranate molasses

Kosher salt and Aleppo pepper to taste

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Tap water for thinning the sauce (How much you use will depend on the tahini that you are using and your own personal taste as to how thin you like your sauce. Start with about 1/2 cup. The sauce will also thicken a bit over time so if you make this ahead, you may add more water before serving.)

2 Tablespoons of pomegranate arils (that’s the good stuff!)

1/4 chopped flat-leaf parsley or cilantro for serving

Directions

  1. Heat broiler and place rack towards the top of your oven. If you don’t have a broiler, you can heat your oven to 425 degrees F. and it should still be fine. Line a large rimmed pan with heavy duty aluminum foil – unless you love doing dishes! Drizzle the foil with the oil.
  2. In a large glass or stainless steel bowl (I always use these when dealing with raw meat.) combine all of the ingredients for the lamb meatballs with the exception of the oil. Use your hands to combine everything. Then shape the meatballs, using about 2 Tablespoons of mixture at a time. Place the meatballs on the greased pan. Gently roll the balls to lightly coat with the oil. Broil the meatballs, turning once, until they are browned and cooked through. This will depend on the temperature you use and the individuality of your oven. They should take about 10 minutes. Mine took a bit longer.
  3. While the meatballs are cooking, toss the cauliflower with the flavorings and oil and set aside.
  4. Remove the cooked meatballs to a platter that has cooked, hot Basmati rice on it (if using). Cover the platter with foil to keep hot while you cook the cauliflower.
  5. Pour the cauliflower in a single layer onto the same pan, in the juices left behind from the lamb meatballs. Return to the broiler and cook for between 6-10 minutes, or until the cauliflower is tender and has begun to brown. Lamb meatballs2
  6. While the cauliflower cooks (although this can easily be made ahead and refrigerated) mix together the ingredients for the tahini yogurt sauce. Be sure to stir the tahini well before adding anything else to it. I find a wire whisk works best. Tahini yogurt sauce
  7. When the cauliflower is cooked, add it to the platter with lamb meatballs and rice. Sprinkle the parsley or cilantro and the pomegranate arils on top and serve the sauce on the side.

 

 

Harira – Moroccan Chickpea and Lamb Soup

Harira

My family can never have enough soup – especially now that we have entered the dreary, damp, chilly season. I have many soups that I go back to again and again, but it is always fun to find a new one. This soup comes from The Book of New Israeli Food by Janna Gur. This is no “first-course” soup, but an entire meal in a bowl. As with most Moroccan food, it is well-seasoned, but each person gets to control the amount of heat by adding harissa or filfel chuma to his own bowl when it is served. I’m serving mine with some garlic naan, but pita or even a really good homemade white bread or challah will do.

Harira – Moroccan Chickpea and Lamb Soup from The Book of New Israeli Food by Janna Gur and tweaked by me

Yield: 10-12 servings

Ingredients

1/4 cup EVOO

1.5 pounds of lean, boneless lamb stew meat cut into 1-2 inch pieces

3 medium onions, peeled and chopped

6 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed or finely minced

1 cup of dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight (or longer) and drained

1 cup brown lentils

Kosher Salt and fresh ground black pepper OR Aleppo pepper (Don’t be stingy – it’s a big pot of soup!)

1.5 teaspoons ground turmeric

1 teaspoon dried ground ginger

1.5 teaspoons ground coriander

Scant 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

About 1 pound of tomatoes, cut into small dice (You could use a  14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes if there are no decent tomatoes available or if you don’t want to be bothered with chopping them)

About 10-12 cups of chicken stock or water (I use stock)

12 chicken drumsticks

1/2 cup rice (I used brown Bismati, but keep in mind that if you use white rice it doesn’t take as long to cook.) I like to soak my rice in cold water for about 15-20 minutes and then drain it to remove additional unwanted starch.

To Serve

Freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste

Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or cilantro

Harissa or Filfel Chuma (Harissa is pretty easily accessible in grocery stores these days and either red or green will do. I have linked to recipes for both Harissa and Filfel Chuma should you wish to make your own. There are endless variations of both so feel free to experiment. IMG_3949

Directions

  1. Depending on how old your dried chickpeas are, you should soak them at least overnight or longer. If longer, I would refrigerate them after about 8 hours, changing the water once. Drain them before using. See Note.
  2. Heat the oil in a heavy pan (I love cast iron for this) and brown the lamb pieces. Transfer the browned lamb chunks to a large soup pot or Dutch oven.
  3. Add all of the remaining ingredients except for the chicken and rice. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cover tightly, cooking for 90 minutes.
  4. Add the chicken and drained rice and cook for between 30-50 more minutes, depending on the type of rice used. Taste and adjust the seasonings. IMG_3950
  5. When ready to serve, garnish with the lemon juice and parsley or cilantro. Allow each person to add the Harissa or Filfel Chuma. Serve with bread.  IMG_3954

NOTE: If you are in a hurry or forgot to soak your chickpeas (or are simply lazy!) you could use canned. However, I would not add them until I add the chicken drumsticks and the rice. I would use 2 drained and rinsed 15 ounce cans or its equivalent.

 

 

Moroccan Beet and Orange Salad with Pistachios

Beet and Orange Salad

I find that North African food and Indian food mix and match beautifully. So when I was serving an Indian-themed dinner for the first night of Rosh HaShana, I didn’t hesitate to use this Moroccan beet salad as a side dish. Aside from being healthy and delicious, beets add such vibrant color to any table and when paired with bright oranges there are few foods that are more visually stunning. I saw this recipe in the Chicago Tribune and immediately decided to include it in my holiday dinner. Since now you can easily purchase pre-roasted and peeled organic beets in your grocery store, this dish only takes minutes to prepare. I prepped all of the elements ahead of dinner and then combined them just as my guests were arriving. If you add the oranges too soon, they will pick up the color from the beets and while the salad will still taste wonderful, the effect of the contrasting colors will not be as pronounced. And here for a perfect pairing of Moroccan and Indian….

Moroccan Beet and Orange Salad by Joan Nathan from “King Solomon’s Table”

Yield: 8-10 servings

Ingredients

6 to 8 medium beets

2 tbsp. olive oil

2 to 3 navel oranges

Juice of 1 small lemon

2 clove garlic, minced

1 tsp. ground cumin, or to

taste

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

4 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

½ bunch fresh parsley, chopped

2 tbsp. chopped green

pistachios

Directions

  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Rinse the beets, rub them with the olive oil, and then wrap them in foil and put them on a baking sheet. Roast them for about one hour until tender when poked with a fork. When cool enough to handle, peel the beets and cut into bite-size wedges. (Or buy pre-roasted and peeled beets, simply drain and cut them.)
  3. With a sharp knife, cut off the tops and bottoms of the oranges. Slice off the peel and the white pith and cut in between the white membranes to extract individual segments.
  4. Mix the lemon juice, garlic, cumin, and salt and pepper to taste in a small bowl or jar. Whisk in the olive oil, then toss with the beets. Let sit for a few hours at room temperature.
  5. Just before serving, add the orange segments and sprinkle with the parsley and pistachio nuts for color.

Stuffed Veal Rolls (Braciolette Ripieni)

IMG_3530

The French and Italians became adept at making elegant and delicious meals using cheaper cuts of meat as well as using smaller amounts of meat than we tend to do in the United States. One way to achieve this is by pounding meat or poultry very thin and stuffing and rolling it with all kinds of wonderful fillings that add flavor as well as satisfying heft to the dish. They have the added benefit of also making beautiful pinwheels of color, texture and taste when sliced that would make you proud to serve to any guest. The following recipe comes from a book called Italian Cooking by Mary Reynolds that I have used for over 30 years. Follow the directions exactly and you will have a wonderful result, but also feel free to use it as a jumping off point and source of inspiration, varying the fillings to suit your tastes. Just try to keep in mind flavor balance, textures and the property of the ingredients when they are cooked. So, if for instance, you want to add chopped spinach, you should blanch it first and squeeze out all of the liquid. And remember that a little goes a long way if you start out with flavorful ingredients.

When I was in my teens I read about the way calves were treated in order to produce tender veal. While it didn’t make me into a vegetarian, I swore off veal for over 25 years. With the rise of organic farming also came awareness about the more humane treatment of animals. I still rarely eat veal but when I do, it is sourced from veal calves in non-tethered, humane environments, where the calves are ethically raised on family farms. If you still won’t eat veal – either because of the cost or for ethical reasons – I have successfully made this dish using pounded chicken breasts. Make it for your family and turn any night into a special night. They don’t have to know how easy it was. You can accompany this with polenta or rice or make it even quicker and use a good commercial pasta. I used a butternut squash ravioli and roasted asparagus. With a small salad, my husband and I ate like royalty and I only used less than 4 ounces of veal/person.

Stuffed Veal Rolls (Braciolette Ripieni)

IMG_3533

Yield: 6-8 servings

Ingredients

8 scallops of veal, each weighing about 2 ounces

8 thin slices of prosciutto or jamon

2 slices of bread with crusts removed (I used a multi-grain bread because that was what I had on hand. Almost any bread would do; however, I wouldn’t use sour dough or corn bread here.)

3 Tablespoons seedless raisins (preferably Sultana or “white” raisins)

1/4 cup pine nuts or slivered blanched almonds

1/4 grated Parmesan, Asiago or Pecorino Romano cheese

2 Tablespoons chopped, fresh flat-leaf parsley

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper

2 Tablespoons EVOO

2/3 cup of dry(ish) white wine (Use what you plan on drinking)

Directions

  1. Lay the scallops of veal (or chicken breasts) between 2 pieces of parchment paper and beat until thin but unbroken. If you don’t own a flat meat tenderizer (DO NOT use the kind with spikes!) you can use a small but heavy frying pan. Remove the paper and lay a piece of prosciutto or jamon over each flattened scallop.
  2. Soak the bread in tap water for about a minute. Then drain and squeeze it to remove all excess moisture. Mix the wet, softened bread with the raisins, cheese, nuts, parsley, slat and pepper. Divide the stuffing among the veal scallops.
  3. Roll up each scallop from the shorter end and secure your packages with two toothpicks/roll. Don’t worry if you lose a little filling. I just throw it into the sauce so nothing is wasted here.
  4. Heat the EVOO in a pan with a tight-fitting lid that is large enough to hold the rolls in a single layer. Brown the rolls fairly quickly on medium high heat, turning as necessary. Tongs make this very easy.
  5. Pour the wine over the rolls and cover tightly. Simmer the rolls on a low heat, turning once, for about 20 minutes. This can also be done in a 350 degree F oven but why heat up your whole kitchen if you don’t have to?
  6. Transfer the rolls to a serving dish and cover loosely with foil to keep warm. Boil the pan juices until reduced by about half. Remove the toothpicks and cut each roll in half on the diagonal, with the cut side facing up. Pour the pan juices over the top and serve.  IMG_3531

 

Spiced Lamb with Cauliflower Tabbouleh

Spiced Lamb with Cauliflower tabbouleh

If you have been following my blog at all, you know by now that I love lamb in almost any form, but particularly in Mediterranean and South Asian recipes. You also know that one of my favorite food blogs is Food52, so when I saw this recipe, I immediately sent it to Frances and printed it out for myself. She and I both made it this past weekend and it was a big hit in New York and Chicago. The cauliflower tabbouleh is wonderful on its own and would make a terrific side instead of a starch for any grilled or roasted meat or fish. (SEE NOTE BELOW) This recipe will definitely enter my regular food rotation. I would encourage you to make your own baharat or hawaij spice, especially if you have a spice or coffee grinder, but if you don’t feel so inclined, these spice mixes are available at Middle Eastern grocery stores and online. And if you don’t eat lamb (why, why don’t you eat lamb!?) I’m confident that this would be equally delicious with ground turkey or beef. 

Spiced Lamb with Cauliflower Tabbouleh by Posie Harwood of Food 52, inspired by a Sunbasket recipe and tweaked by me.

Yield:   3-4 servings

Ingredients

3.5 Tablespoons olive oil, divided

cloves garlic, minced
1 head cauliflower, cored and chopped finely (it should resemble couscous)
1.5 pounds ground lamb
2-3 tablespoons baharat or hawaij spice blend (see a recipe for hawaij in my Yemenite Soup recipe) If you make your own spice mixture, it likely will be stronger so I would suggest using the smaller amount. Commercial mixes tend to be milder.
small Persian cucumbers, diced
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered

Zest and juice of 1 large lemon

1 large bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, optional for garnishing

 

For the sauce
1/2 cup warm water (plus more if needed)

1/2 
cup tahini1/2 teaspoon garlic powderJuice of one lemon Salt, to tasteDirections

  1. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium-high heat and add the garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  2. Add the chopped cauliflower and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and starting to brown, about 8 minutes. (Note: If you want to make your prep easier, chop the cauliflower by tossing it in the food processor and pulsing a few times.)
  3. Season with salt and pepper (I used Aleppo pepper, but you could use fresh-cracked black pepper) and add a drizzle of olive oil to the cooked cauliflower.IMG_3355
  4. Transfer the cooked cauliflower to a large bowl. Don’t wipe out the pan.
  5. To the bowl of cauliflower, add the cucumbers, tomatoes, lemon zest, lemon juice, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper (Aleppo pepper, if you have it) and toss to combine. Set aside.
  6. In the same skillet, heat the remaining 1.5 Tablespoons of olive oil. Add the ground lamb and spices. Season with salt and pepper (Aleppo), and cook over medium-high heat until the lamb browns, breaking it up with a spatula as it cooks. Don’t worry if there is any fat in the pan at the end. The dish can use it and if you allow the lamb to sit for a minute after cooking, most of the juices/fat will be re-absorbed.
  7. To make the dressing: Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until smooth. It should be pourable; if it’s too thick, add more warm water. It should be easy to drizzle but not super thin.
  8. When ready to serve, place a good helping of the cauliflower mixture into a large bowl, and divide the lamb on top. Top with a liberal drizzle of the tahini dressing. Garnish with a handful of fresh cilantro. I served some whole wheat pita and spiced yogurt on the side. You could also serve with hummus.

NOTE: I recently made the cauliflower tabbouleh as a side with something else and found that by adding fresh torn mint leaves and chopped cilantro I kicked it up the notch it needed to be served without the spiced lamb on top.