Search results for 'Claudia Roden book of middle eastern food'

Snow Birds

11 Jan

For a minute there, I almost believed that winter had forgotten about us up here.

Isaacs lavendar yesterday.

Isaac's lavender yesterday.

Isaacs Lavendar Today

Isaac's lavender today

I was watching the status updates on facebook of my friends down in the city: Playing in the snow in Brooklyn! Cozy inside watching the snow fall.  Snowball fight!

And we were up here, in the great snowy north, with no new snow.  It was mystifying.

And then, as soon as I dared to mention something to Isaac, oh?  What’s that?  A flake.  Followed by another and another.  By the time we got home from the grocery store, it was snowing in earnest.

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Something Good To Eat

15 Nov

“Welcome to Camp Chaos!” I chirped.

NoHo Door, Of special note, the N is on the southside and the S is on the northside

I was up to my elbows in dough and there was a halo of steam around my forehead. Isaac was home at least a half an hour earlier than I had expected him and I was running about a half an hour behind. The timing was actually perfect, I was able to finish up my kneading while he unpacked.

He was back from visiting his family for Western Orthodox Christmas. He’d given one of his sisters the New Book Of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden and so, as a treat, he whipped up lamb in yoghurt sauce and basmati rice for a light, traditional Colorado Christmas dinner. It went over gangbusters but was a bit of a gutbuster and so he was quite relieved to learn that all of the bubbling and simmering and kneading was not in fact preparation for some arcane Medieval feast reenactment, but rather for a nice, light bean and kale soup with freshly baked bread.

The Old Police HQ, NoLita

I was at first tempted to try this absolutley ridiculously good looking pork loin Luisa whipped up last week, but alas, by the time I made it to my old greenmarket stomping grounds at Tompkins Square, the pork guy was all out of pork. “What have you got left?” I pleaded. “Welllllll… I’ve got a few chicken parts… Some livers, some wings, a few necks and quite a few feet!” “Ah, I guess you’ve made my decision for me,” I replied, “I’d been torn between making a roasted pork loin and chicken soup!” So I bought some feet and wings, a few onions and lots of kale and headed home.

Bloomberg Building, Le Cirque is to the left

I do some of my best thinking just before drifting off to sleep (I’m also a champ at brainstorming in the shower), the challenge is remembering my great idea the next morning. On Saturday night I was thinking about beans. But not just any beans. Christmas Limas. Big, beautiful speckled dried lima beans that Christina had sent me in trade a few months ago for a jar of Pepi Pep Peps. In the note she sent with the beans, Christina warned that they take quite a bit more time soaking and cooking than smaller dried beans, and so I was thinking about this while falling asleep, and just then, right on the edge, I thought of a solution. The yogotherm.

The yogotherm came into our house as part of the cheesemaking kit I bought Isaac for his birthday. It’s a little plastic bucket with a lid, that slides into a styrofoam sleeve which sits inside a pretty plastic container with cows on it. Not the most environmentally responsible thing I own, but unlike other yogurt makers, it doesn’t need electricity. In cheesemaking the yogotherm keeps cultured milk warm while the cultures do their thing and make cheese, yogurt, kefir and all manner of delightful things. And so I figured, if it can make me cheese, why on earth couldn’t it make me beans?

Bryant Park Sheep

I rinsed my beans and popped them into a ziptop bag filled with warmish (probably around 100°F) water, stuck the bag in the bucket and closed up the contraption. By the time I got home 5 hours later, the beans were absolutely perfect. I have discovered something huge in bean cookery! Hear that Steve? My gigantic Christmas Limas only took an hour to cook after their yogotherm soaking. I feel like I’ve really contributed something to the culinary landscape with this.

The Old West Village Jail

To the beans I added lacinato kale and green mustard greens (thanks for the idea Toni) and a few ladles of stock. It’s the most aromatic stock I’ve ever made. I decided to forego my traditional recipe in favor of something a bit gutsier; a base of fennel, parsnips, bay leaves and thyme. I’ll definitely make this again, but there’s one thing I will not repeat.

Cooking with chicken feet. Ugh. Mine had some of the weird foamy skin still clinging to them, which skeeved me out, and then, as you’re cooking, they poke out of the liquid, looking like something that should be in the pot of Macbeth’s witches. Yes, they make good stock, but, oh man, no, not again. No more chicken feet.

Lacinato Kale

So we sat down to nice, piping hot bowls of soup with a “baguette” I had baked. I say “baguette” because this loaf was as French as EuroDisney. I followed Judith Jones‘ recipe from The Tenth Muse, but, not having a stand mixer I kneaded the loaves by hand for, oh, maybe 30 minutes? The bread has a nice crumb, but teeny tiny holes. I was hoping that the long kneading would produce enough gluten to support nice big airy holes, but alas. I actually think I may have kneaded it too much. I guess this just means I’ll have to buy myself a stand mixer for Christmas (unless someone buys me one beforehand, hint, hint…).

Western Orthodox Christmas Beans & Greens Soup

The soup was delightful. Christmas Limas get their name because to some, they taste like chestnuts, and chestnuts are associated with, well, Christmas! If you cook them to just the right consistency, you can squish the bean against the roof of your mouth, and as Christina puts it the, “inside of the bean squirts out like mashed potatoes.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Head below the jump for the recipes for Aromatic Stock and Western Orthodox Christmas Soup.

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Have You Met Ms. Jones?

25 Oct

I was supposed to meet Judith Jones last night.

Empire State Building

It was dark and blustering as I trotted up the slick sidewalks of Fifth Avenue, ducking and weaving around tourists and construction sheds. It was only four blocks, and I covered them in an odd half run, half trot, holding my breath the whole time, checking my watch every few strides. I turned the corner onto 19th Street and my hope faded. I could tell that the event was over. I checked my watch again, 8:01pm. I had missed her.

I burst into the store and asked the proprietor, “Is she still here?” “No,” he said, “the event ended at 8.” “But it’s only just 8:01 now,” I pleaded. “I’m sorry, but you missed her, you should have gotten here earlier,” he snapped peevishly. “I couldn’t,” I blubbered, “work.” “Well, I’ve got a few signed books left I’d be happy to sell you,” he added in a kinder tone. “No, thank you, that’s not the point. I wanted to meet her.” And then I turned and walked away, thoroughly depressed.

Empire State Building

It’d been a truly cruddy day, and meeting Judith Jones was the light at the end of the tunnel. I knew I had a two hour window, I knew she was only four blocks away, and yet all the servers of creation kept me from her. Sometimes I hate computers.

So, who is this woman that I hold in such high regard? Judith Jones was (and still is) an editor at Alfred Knopf. As a young woman living in Paris she found and helped get published The Diary of A Young Girl by Anne Frank. She brought us Julia Child as an author and TV personality. She’s also worked with James Beard, Madhur Jaffrey, Lidia Bastianich, Marcella Hazan, Edna Lewis, Marion Cunningham, Joan Nathan and many, many others.

Empire State Building

But most importantly to me she discovered and edited two of my favorite cookbooks of all time: Roy Andries de Groot‘s Feasts For All Seasons and Claudia Roden‘s A Book Of Middle Eastern Food. I discovered all this a few months ago after I took a galley of Ms. Jones’ memoir, The Tenth Muse, that had been sent to someone in my office and set aside to be thrown out with the trash. The girly lavender cover threw me off, but I decided to take a closer look and there on the back was this quote:

Food is one of the greatest gifts of life… You should derive enormous pleasure from making it, eating it, enjoying it with family, and it should be honored.

Each chapter was a revelation, how she made her choices, the women she met, the lessons she learned. The Boy quickly grew tired of me coming home, bursting through the door and starting our conversation with, “Do you know what else Judith Jones did?” Finally he suggested I contact Knopf’s press office to let them know that I really wanted to meet Ms. Jones, to sit down with her and talk to her. I did, and all I got back was a terse email inviting me to the reading she did last night. But alas, I missed it.

Empire State Building

As I sit here typing at my desk, next to my bookshelf, I’m scanning the titles. So many of the cookbooks I love and trust were published by Knopf. Did she have a hand in all of them? Could one woman have shaped the way I cook so anonymously? It’s a delicious question, and one I’m afraid I’ll never get to ask.

When I finally made it home last night I was exhausted and famished, but too tired to cook. I tore off a hunk of focaccia and poured myself a glass of good red wine. I sat and munched and thought. Ms. Jones still cooks dinner for herself every night and all I could manage was a hunk of bread. It’s humbling and inspiring.

My Books

If I had had the energy I would have loved to have eaten my favorite quick and easy dinner last night. I didn’t have the energy then, but I’d love to give you the recipe now. The slaw (known around here as slawpy) is made a day in advance and goes much faster if you have a “chou chef” to help with the prep (the Boy’s term, not mine!).

Slawpy

All that is required upon arriving home is the caramelizing of onions and garlic and boiling the pierogis. It’s fast, healthy and delicious.

Pierogies with Caramelized Purple & Yellow Onions

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do, if you’ve got the time to make it.

Head below the jump for the recipe for Fluffy Dilly Slaw.

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The Survivor

4 Oct

Do you remember way back in the balmy month of May, with much excitement, I announced the planting of my little fire escape container garden?

Happier Times

There were tomatoes and radishes and herbs and peppers and even strawberries, all tucked neatly into little containers, basking happily in the dappled Brooklyn sun.

Well, I hate to say it, but it’s been a dramatic summer and there were few survivors.

First there was summer’s refusal to get started. The plants wanted heat, but there wasn’t any. Then there was the tornado which uprooted a few and harmed many. Then there was the rain that kept beating my seedlings into pulp. And finally, there were the squirrels; those dumb, stupid baby squirrels who feel that my planters are the perfect place to hide all their bounty that I am positive they will never remember.

Tomatoes? Gone. The radishes and herbs? KOed by the weather. The strawberries managed to give me two really cute berries, and that was all. They were then hit by the double header of tornado and squirrels. As you can see, it wasn’t only this guy who had a rough summer of farming in Brooklyn!

Strawberries

But you’ll notice I haven’t said a thing about the peppers. Well, that’s because they survived! I feared for them. They were the hardest hit by the tornado. All six plants were torqued out by the wind into a very neat spiral and had many broken leaves and stems. So I gently gathered them up and tied them together and hoped that would be enough. It was. They kept growing, but wouldn’t flower.

Then we started making cheese. One of the recipes noted that leftover whey makes great plant food. So after our first cheesemaking foray I let the whey cool and then fed the peppers. I could almost hear them cheering! The next morning they looked so perky and happy, and then just a day or two later the first blossom bloomed. And then another day or two later, we had our first pepper, a Portugese hot.

Portugese Hot Pepper

This weekend, with prospects for at least another half-dozen peppers, the Boy and I decided it was time to harvest our first Brooklyn-grown produce. But it needed a proper end.

I recently bought Claudia Roden’s The New Book of Middle Eastern Food, the follow up, decades in the making, to her first book, and possibly my favorite cook book of all time. It has many of the same recipes as the book from the ’70s, updated and adapted for the modern home cook, plus hundreds of new ones. In one meal Ms. Roden made me think of this book as essential. She is genius.*

Portugese Hot Pepper

Over a year ago the Boy had printed out a recipe for Shakshuka from the Times and brought it home to me. When he does this, I know he really wants to try whatever it is, and that it’s probably something I might not be so fond of. Something about that recipe rubbed me the wrong way. It was so fussy and long and complicated. I kept hiding it and hoping he’d forget about it. But no.

I had said I wanted to make something with tomatoes. Shakshuka he said! I whimpered something about not being in the mood. I wanted a place to properly use my one pepper. Shakshuka he said! I mumbled something about it being too complicated. I wanted to coddle the beautiful free range eggs I’d picked up earlier in the week. Shakshuka he said! I murmured something about the pepper getting lost in all those flavors.

And then, finally, we were at the greenmarket, my patience was wearing very, very thin and there, at one of the stands were the world’s largest bell peppers and I agreed. Shakshouka I sighed.

Shakshouka

Something was niggling at the back of my head. Hadn’t I seen a recipe in The New Book for shakshouka that looked really simple and clean and easy? Yes, I had. And so, this is where our brave little pepper ended his life, in a warm, molten, silky, sweet and spicy tangle of tomatoes and eggs. A fitting end? Incredibly so.

I paired the shakshouka with a Tunisian salad, supposed to be served cold, of mashed potatoes, shatta and capers that I served warm, and pomegranate and curry lamb sausages.

The tiniest whisper of spice from the sausage melded perfectly with the rest of the meal. Both dishes, though intensely flavorful and at least a little spicy, were devoid of any high seasoning. The light cinnamon aroma was the element that transformed the disparate elements and elevated them into a meal. It was delightful.

Shakshouka, Mashed Potatoes with Capers & Pomegranate/Curry Lamb Sausages

And so we sat and munched and oohed and aahed and discussed next years garden. First, I’ll start the seedlings inside. Second, I’m going to make sure my plants and dirt come from organic sources. Third, I will buy containers that are too high for squirrels to clamber into. Fourth, chicken wire will go over everything. Fifth, pray to god there are no more tornadoes!

*As an aside, did everyone read the profile the New Yorker did on Ms. Roden in the food issue? They’ve only got an abstract, a sidebar and some recipes online now, so it’s worth trying to track it down. It made me, even more, want to fly to London and hang out with her. I cannot wait for her volume on Spain to be published!

Head below the jump for the recipes for Claudia Roden’s Shakshouka and Slatit Batata Marfusa.

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Eggtoes

2 Aug

Do you know what these are?

Eggtoes!

No, it’s probably not what you’re thinking.

Here, let me give you a hint.

Look closely at the cap. Wouldn’t it look more at home on something darker, possibly in an aubergine color, slightly more ovoid and with fewer tiger stripes?

Yep, Now you’ve got it! They’re teeny, tiny orange eggplants! Solanum gilo to be exact.

Eggtoe!

Did anyone else catch To Market, To Market To Buy A Fat Pig on their local PBS station last night? Much like FloFab, I have been blown away by the produce this summer. Each fruit and vegetable I’ve bought in the past few months has been better than I can remember it ever having been.

I was seduced by some tiny Tristar strawberries yesterday so I bought them, washed them and left them out for my co-workers. Most eschewed them, opting instead for the farewell cake of a departing colleague, but one gentleman who had spent many, many years working the Paris beat took one and fell immediately into raptures, saying they tasted just like the fraises he remembers so fondly.

Strobbleberries

The time I’ve been spending at the market this summer has been as good for my soul as the veggies have been good for our stomachs. There’s magic to a market in the morning. Everyone’s still a little sleepy, there’s less hustlebustle, more elbow room, more time to stop and smell the roses and more time to have a nice chat.

That was one of my favorite points in To Market, To Market…, the reason people love their markets so much is the interaction they can have there that’s absent from a megamart, it’s the people element. A good conversation about food, whether with the farmer, or with the dude being picky about the condition of his fava bean pods, can leave me in a finer mood than any giant coffee in the morning.

So far this summer I’ve met a long lost friend of my mother’s, a goat cheese maker who was on the Columbia County Horse Bowl team (as was I) and a tomato farmer who shares the cheese his goat farming neighbor makes just for him.

But, enough about markets. If you’re coming here, you probably love them too.  Let’s get back to the eggtoes.

Turmeric-scented Reshteh

I found them at the Union Square greenmarket last Friday at the same stand that had the Pimientos de Padron and near the guy with the baby artichokes. Here’s the thing. I love eggplant. All of them. I’ve never met one I didn’t like. The Boy on the other hand? Not so much.

On our first trip up to the Adirondacks three years ago, we arrived very, very late and very, very hungry. Apparently there was a lasagna, but all I remember is walking into the kitchen, giving my mom a hug and a kiss and then turning in horror to the counter where she had a huge sheet pan full of eggplant slices, slick with pesto and wrapped around chunks of mozzarella cheese. I let out a groan. Oh no, I thought, the Boy is never going to eat those! And yet eat them he did. With gusto no less.

Stuffed Eggtoes

I hoped we had turned a corner, and we had, of sorts. He still doesn’t love them, but he’ll play nicely when I bring home a bag of luminous, tiger-striped orbs and promise him couscous.

I didn’t quite know what to do with my eggtoes so I turned to Claudia. There are many eggplant recipes in her book, but most of them bring out the mucilaginous quality of the fruits that I so love and the Boy so hates. They also didn’t seem all that uniquely Middle Eastern.

What did seem unique, however, were the many recipes for stuffed eggplant, using lamb and all sorts of heady, exotic spices. Problem was, I had no ground lamb and was feeling monumentally lazy, so I concocted my own stuffing of Turmeric-scented reshteh and a melange of aromatics. The eggtoes cooked slowly in a luxurious sauce of heirloom tomatoes and baby artichokes perfumed with cinnamon and cloves while the couscous steamed.

Stuffed Eggtoes

Some of the ‘chokes were a little tough and the sauce kind of burnt to the bottom of the pan, but what survived was intensely delicious when mixed with the couscous. The aubergines were a little bitter, but the stuffing was out of this world.

They may not have been the best eggplants I’ve ever eaten, but they sure were the best eggtoes!

Head below the jump for the recipe for Stuffed Eggtoes With Couscous.

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