For the last couple of years, I’ve been heavily focused on my catering company, J2Food. While the current public health crisis is going on, there are less parties and events happening, but people have still got to eat, right?!? And since we’re all stuck inside, why don’t we cook together? Enter in our new cooking series — “Cooking Under Quarantine.” Each episode will feature delicious and easy-to-make recipes that you can make at home with accessible ingredients. Perfect for chefs of all levels!
For our first episode, we’re cooking up a classic chicken dish to celebrate Shabbat (Friday night). This delicious Chicken Marsala is an easy, one pot dish that comes together in under an hour! So, it’s also great for a weeknight dinner that you want to make a little more special. This recipe is also great for veal cutlets or even tofu or a meaty fish to make it vegetarian.
The other night I was thinking about what to make for dinner on my way home, when I passed by one of the ubiquitous Halal carts. I don’t know why, but whenever I pass a Halal food cart, I always take a big sniff…it just smells so good! It immediately made me think of Middle Eastern flavors with lots of spices, citrus, and conversation. That night I made chicken shawarma for dinner with fixings, and instead of using store-bought dips, I decided to make my own–and it was so easy! Rustic lemon hummus consists of a quick trip to the pantry for most of the ingredients, and roasted eggplant babaghanoush will make your fellow diners think you’re a spice savant! Try these Middle Eastern spreads at home and you’ll never feel the need to head to the grocery the next time you want to eat some hummus.
Rustic Lemon Hummus
1 can of chickpeas—canned chickpeas are super easy and always in my pantry, but dried chickpeas that you soak overnight are really the best for this recipe and will give you a cleaner flavor
3 tablespoons of tahini paste
2 lemons—juice of both, and the zest of one
1 tablespoon of fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon of salt
1 teaspoon of black pepper
2 teaspoons of ground cumin
3-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon of paprika
Rinse the chickpeas off under cold water until you get rid of all of the gunk from the can off of the chickpeas
In a food processor or blender–I only had my KitchenAid mixer available, so that’s what I used–add the chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice and zest, salt and pepper
Start to mix all of the ingredients on low to slowly break up the chickpeas until it becomes a thick paste
Add in the rest of the spices, and gradually add the oil as you increase the speed to medium
The hummus is done when it gets to your personal consistency preference—I like mine a bit chunky—great for pita chips!
Spoon out into a bowl and eat with chips, pita, or use it was a topping for your favorite falafel. Hummus is also delicious as a spread or used in place of mayonnaise or mustard on sandwiches
Roasted Eggplant Babaghanoush
1 large eggplant
1 1/2 tablespoon of smoked paprika—this goes well with the roasted and charred eggplant, but regular paprika works just as well
1 1/2 tablespoon of cumin—add the extra teaspoon if you don’t have smoked paprika. The cumin has a natural smokiness that can compensate
4 garlic cloves, grated
1 1/2 tablespoons of salt
2 teaspoons of black pepper
1 tablespoon fo fresh parsley, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons of tahini paste
1/4 of an onion, grated
Hot sauce (to taste)—I like mine spicy, but this dip is delicious mild as well
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees fahrenheit
Cut your eggplant in half lengthwise—Resist the urge to peel it at this point! The peel will not only help keep moisture in the eggplant flesh, but also hold it together in the oven.
Use a fork or sharp paring knife to poke holes into the eggplant skin all over
Rub the flesh side with olive oil and season with 1/2 tablespoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of pepper, 1/2 tablespoon of paprika and 1/2 tablespoon of cumin
Roast the eggplant for 20-25 minutes until the skin is charred and the flesh becomes slightly creamy and the outside if browned—you want the skin to get black
Once the eggplant has cooled a bit, but still hot, use a knife or fork to remove the charred skin—it should come off very easily
Discard the skin and spoon the flesh into the bowl of a mixer or food processor
Pulse together the eggplant with the remaining ingredients until it comes together in a thick dip—feel free to blend it as much as you’d like
Serve similarly to the hummus, and garnish with a squeeze of lemon juice and extra parsley, and enjoy—One of my favorite ways to consume the eggplant is to make sabich, an Iraqi sandwich that consists of hard boiled eggs and fried eggplant on fresh pita bread. Babaghanoush would be a wonderful substitute for the traditional fried eggplant, and maybe add some salty feta cheese to give the sandwich a rich umami flavor
All I know is that both of these spreads are absolutely delicious, and are perfect for any dinner party or even an afternoon snack. You can also feel free to customize your hummus and babaghanoush—substitute cilantro for the parsley for a more Mexican version, top your hummus with some mushrooms sautéed with zhatar spice, or make a festive zucchini version of babaghanoush and spread it on some thick toast and top with avocado. Yummy! I love to simply serve them with some homemade pita chips!
Sorry I’ve been away for a few weeks, but work’s been crazy! This recipe is actually inspired by all of the craziness. I wanted something that was not only delicious, but also comforting. This lasagna is packed full of roasted vegetables, so it’s also a healthy dinner to serve your family. This recipe might seem like it has a lot of steps, but all of them are simple and can be multitasked. So if you want to feed a crowd, or have a lot of leftovers–which are delicious!–try this recipe for Roasted Vegetable Lasagna.
28 oz can of crushed tomatoes—my favorite brand is San Marzano for its inherent sweetness, but any brand should be fine
½ teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
2 ½ teaspoons of dried oregano
1 tin of anchovy filets—it’s important that the anchovies are packed in oil as opposed to water since you want to flavor and richness of the oil to help flavor the sauce. Flat filets are also easier for melting into the oil
4-5 medium garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 pound of grape tomatoes—quartered whole tomatoes or cherry tomatoes could work in this dish too, but grape tomatoes are a nice size and roast beautifully in the oven
Salt and pepper
1 pound of cremini mushrooms, halved or quartered depending on size
2 small to medium zucchini, cut into half moons
2 small to medium yellow squash, cut into half moons
1 green pepper, sliced into strips
1 large onion, chopped roughly
1 pound of ricotta cheese—it might be tempting to use low fat here, but use whole milk ricotta—trust me, you’ll taste the difference!
1 cup of Parmesan cheese—shredded or grated as long as you’d eat it on your pasta
10 oz package of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained—Make sure you squeeze as much water out of the spinach as you can
1 box of oven ready lasagna noodles
1 bag of shredded mozzarella—one of those Italian blends works too
1 small ball of fresh mozzarella (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Toss tomatoes with 1 tablespoon of oil, 1 teaspoon of oregano and salt, and ½ teaspoon of black pepper
Spread tomatoes on a sheet pan and roast for 15-20 minutes
At the same time, use a second, larger sheet pan for the zucchini, squash, pepper and onion and increase to 2 tablespoons of oil, 1 tablespoon of salt, 2 teaspoons of oregano, and 1 teaspoon of pepper
Roast the veggies for around 30 minutes, while you prepare the rest of the components for the lasagna
Drop the heat to 375 degrees when the veggies come out of the oven
While the veggies are in the oven, add enough olive oil to a big sauté pan to coat the bottom and heat on medium-high heat
Add anchovies to the pan and break them up with a back of a wooden spoon—Don’t skip this step! Even if you don’t like anchovies, the high heat will melt the filets into the oil and it will give needed background and depth to your sauce
Once the anchovy is melted, add the garlic and brown for about a minute or two
Add the mushrooms—it’s important for mushrooms to be spread out for them to brown evenly. If they’re too crowded in the pan, then they’ll start to steam and turn rubbery
Once the mushrooms have cooked, season with a teaspoon of salt, ½ teaspoon of black pepper,½ teaspoon of oregano
Add the crushed tomatoes to the pan and stir—you want the seasonings to be evenly spread throughout
Reduce the heat to medium low, and simmer until the roasted tomatoes are ready to come out of the oven, and then transfer tomatoes to the sauce
Continue to simmer for another 5 minutes
While the sauce is finishing up, you can work on the ricotta layer
In a large bowl, add ricotta cheese, parmesan, eggs, and spinach, as well as a teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon of pepper
Whisk all the ingredients together for about 3-4 minutes
Time to assemble the layers! In a 9×13 baking dish, spoon a bit of the tomato sauce on the bottom of the dish
Add the lasagna noodles to the dish in a single layer all the way across—I shingled a little and also got creative by using one noodle that I cracked to fill in empty crevices
The next layer should be some more tomato sauce
Next up is a layer of the roasted vegetables
After the vegetables should be a layer of the ricotta mixture—don’t skimp on the ricotta!
After the ricotta comes the cheese layer—add about ¼ of the bag of mozzarella cheese over the ricotta
Repeat the layering another 3 times, and top with a layer of noodles
For the final layer, add a thick layer of tomato sauce all over the top, followed by the rest of the cheese, and a handful of parmesan—for my top layer, I actually like to use some fresh mozzarella since it melts so beautifully and makes for a beautiful presentation
I place the whole thing onto a larger sheet tray so that if there’s spillage, it doesn’t go all over the oven floor
Bake in the oven at 375 degrees, uncovered, for 30-35 minutes
Let it cool for at least 5-10 minutes before you cut into it. In fact, lasagna is a great make-ahead dish that you can keep in the fridge for up to 2 days before heating it. If you plan to refrigerate, make sure you add an additional 10-12 minutes to the cooking time. Also, this makes for a pretty saucy lasagna, but if you want you can reserve some extra sauce and spoon it over the top of each piece as it’s served, and garnish with some extra parmesan. Now who wouldn’t want a piece of that beauty? Buon Appetito!
One of my favorite things to do in the kitchen is to experiment, and, of course, make my own version of restaurant dishes at home. Earlier in the day, I had gotten some Indian food for lunch, and of course eaten some fluffy, warm naan bread. The best part of naan—for me at least—is that you can use it to mop up the delicious curries and sauces. So, I asked myself, “What can I dip into my leftover lamb sauce?” Then it hit me—pita! But, plain pita is boring, so what about pita chips? These were so easy to make it’s ridiculous. Make these pita chips at home, and you’ll never feel like buying them at the store again. This recipe yields 18 chips, but feel free to make much, much more!
3 whole pita breads
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh parsley–I happened to have fresh herbs for another recipe, but dried herbs would work just as well
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh rosemary
zest of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons of salt
1 teaspoon of black pepper
3 tablespoons of vegetable oil
Cut each pita in half lengthwise
Cut each half into 3 equal sized wedges
Mix the parsley, rosemary, lemon zest, salt and pepper with the oil
Let the herb oil mixture sit for about 15 minutes, and set the oven to 300 degrees
Toss the pita triangles with the herb oil to lightly coat, and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet
Bake the pita chips for about 20-22 minutes, or until they are browned and crisped up
The other day I was in the mood to make some fish tacos at home, but the local market I went to only had these small onion flatbreads. So, I decided to scrap the idea for the night. The flatbreads actually turned out deliciously for my “new” tacos—or really chalupas maybe—and I ended up having a few of them leftover. So I thought of what I could do with a flatbread and was feeling in a very Mediterranean mood. I felt this was a very appropriate recipe since I’ve dedicated the last couple of weeks of blog posts to my recent vacation in the Middle East, and decided to do a fusion of Greek and Israeli cuisines.
These (not so mini!) lamb flatbreads were an experiment, but I knew the flavor combinations would mesh well together. The spicy lamb mixture, the creamy and tangy feta sauce, the briny pickled red onions and the soft, chewy onion flatbreads make a killer combination for dinner, appetizers or even to entertain!
1 lb. of ground lamb
8 oz block of Feta cheese–I’m going to echo the Barefoot Contessa by saying that you should make sure to use a quality feta in your dish—preferably Greek or Bulgarian
1/2 cup of lemon juice
1 cup of Greek yogurt, plain
1 teaspoon of mint, dried
6 large garlic cloves (or 8-9 small cloves)
2 teaspoons of black pepper
(optional) Balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Cumin
1 teaspoon Oregano
7-8 dried red chilies
1/2 can of pitted Black olives
1 teaspoon Olive oil
1 large red onion
1 tablespoon and 2 teaspoons of salt
1 tablespoon Sugar
1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
In the food processor, add the 3/4 of the feta cheese, lemon juice, yogurt, mint, 1 large or 2 small garlic cloves, and 1 teaspoon of black pepper
Whir it up until the feta is completely broken up, but the sauce still has some consistency to it—I like my sauce to still have some body to it, but blend to your own preference
Taste for seasoning!—I don’t add any salt since the feta is already so salty, but everyone has a different palette.
Pickled red onions:
Peel and slice the red onion thinly and place into a sieve or pasta strainer with small holes
In a jar or bowl—whatever canister you’d like to use to make your onions, I use a mason jar for my leftover—pour the sugar, tablespoon of salt and crushed red pepper
Cover with water and fill the jar, but leave enough room for the onions as well. Stir to dissolve
Add the vinegar—plain white vinegar is alright as well. Even rice wine vinegar could make these delicious for a banh mi sandwich
Boil a few cups of water in a kettle or on the stove, and when the water comes to a boil, pour over the onions
Place the par-blanched onions into the sugar-salt bowl. There should be enough water/vinegar mixture to cover all of the onions
Leave for at least one hour, but I left mine most of the day
In your food processor—no worries if it has residual sauce, it’s all going on the same dish—finely chop the olives, chilis, and remaining garlic
Mix together the lamb, salt, cumin, oregano, chile-olive-garlic mixture, olive oil, and the rest of the pepper in a bowl—use your hands to really get the meat to absorb the marinade
Don’t mix the mixture too much or you might make the meat tough when it eventually cooks
Let the meat sit and absorb the spices and marinade ingredients for at least 30-45 minutes and up to overnight
To assemble the flatbreads:
Lay flatbreads flat on a baking sheet—a pita or even naan bread would be a good substitute. Just make sure you use a bread that has a large flat surface and has some heft to it
Spoon some feta sauce on the bread and spread around the surface with a spoon to almost the edge—I put a good amount of sauce, but don’t use it all!
Using your hands, spread the equal amounts of the lamb mixture onto each flatbread and form into semi thick layer—at first I was going to cook the lamb first, but actually ended up forgetting to. By the time I remembered, it has already started cooking and the fat from the lamb ends up absorbed by the bread and flavored the whole dish amazingly
Sprinkle some feta over the top of the lamb, and slide these babies into the oven
Bake in the oven at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes—some ovens vary so if your oven tends to get super high, maybe stay on 350 instead
Remove from oven and let rest for a couple of minutes
Scatter some picked red onions all over the flatbreads after it comes out of the oven
Crumble some fresh feta over the top, as well as a few dollops of feta sauce
This last step is purely optional, but I thought it gives it a wonderful fruity afternoon and a bit of panache. Pour a little bit of thick balsamic vinegar over the top to garnish. I used a deliciously thick grapefruit, white balsamic that I had in the pantry
Slice with a pizza cutter and enjoy! Απολαύστε το γεύμα σας!
When I asked people what their favorite breakfast food was, I got a lot of answers—French toast, pancakes, oatmeal, smoothies, Cheerios, etc. The most common answer I got was eggs. The incredible, edible egg is a common, but delicious ingredient. It can top your burger to give you that runny yolk that adds a new level of decadence, be incorporated into a cake batter, baked into a quiche for company, or just hard-boiled. Personally, I love a great plate of soft scrambled eggs. It makes a fabulous breakfast, or a simple, weekday dinner. There are a lot of methods that people use to get their eggs perfectly scrambled—some with sour cream, milk, oil—I am an egg purist. The secret to my perfectly fluffy scrambled eggs: extra egg…and patience. This recipe takes some time, but it’s worth it!
1 tablespoon (or ⅛ of a stick of butter)
Salt + Pepper
Crack 2-3 eggs into a bowl.
Crack the last egg and add just the yolk into the bowl—you can save the egg white, maybe whip it for a meringue or incorporate it into a protein shake. While egg yolks may have a higher amount of cholesterol, they also contain lots of vitamins and iron. The extra yolk in this dish not only keeps the eggs moist and soft, but also helps it keep its distinctive yellow color.
Add a pinch of salt and black pepper to the eggs.
Using a fork, beat the eggs in a counter-clockwise direction from top to bottom. If it helps, tilt the bowl as you whip the eggs in the circular motion. Mixing the eggs this way will also help with the fluffy texture.
In a medium sauté pan, add your butter and heat on low
When the butter starts to melt, add your egg mixture to the pan
Using a rubber spatula scrape the bottom and sides of the pan
Keep cooking, continually moving the eggs around in the pan for 5-10 minutes. The eggs will start to solidify and come together, just make sure to constantly mix it up
Once the eggs are cooked, but still shiny and look slightly wet, turn the heat off and get your toast or sides ready—it might seem raw, but the eggs are cooked and safe to eat.
Sprinkle a pinch of sea salt on the eggs to finish them off. The mixture will be fluffy, moist and you don’t need cheese with these eggs since they are so soft and luxurious. A nice addition might be some fresh herbs though, like dill or parsley. Yum!