For our next episode of Cooking Under Quarantine, we’ll be making one of my favorite Fall dishes — Moroccan Chicken Tagine. While my version of this classic Moroccan dish isn’t actually cooked inside of a tagine pot, but it echoes a lot of the flavors that I love when I ordering tagines at Moroccan restaurants — a little bit sweet, salty, sour, savory and the protein is always fall apart tender. It’s very comforting as the weather turns colder, and is also great to make in the slow cooker! So follow along with Chef Jon, and let us know how yours turns out.
1 chicken cut into 8 pieces or 1-2 lb package of boneless chicken thighs
2 preserved lemons, chopped — Can buy preserved lemons at most specialty food stores, but can also substitute 2-3 regular lemons, juices and zest grated
Parsley or Cilantro (optional)
Blend the spices and any other spices you like and add a couple tablespoons of olive oil — enough to form into a rub and coat the chicken on all sides with it, Let the chicken marinate for at least 15 minutes in the spice rub
Sauté chicken in olive oil in a hot Dutch oven or deep pot on both sides until browned but not fully cooked through
Remove chicken and set aside. You’ll come back to it later
In same pot add garlic and onions and cook until starting to brown (approx 5 min)
Add carrots and keep cooking
If you have extra, season the veggies with more of the spice rub and heat until fragrant
Add preserved lemon and olives to the pot
Add broth and lemon juice to veggie pan to deglaze the pan, and make sure to scrape bottom of the pot for flavor bits — add just enough broth so that the liquid covers the ingredients
Add aprocots to the pot and make sure to give everything a good mix!
Add the chicken back in and stir all together — taste the liquid and adjust seasonings to your taste. Maybe add more lemon, salt, etc
Heat on medium high for 5-10 minutes until the liquid begins to simmer, then cover and lower heat to medium low and simmer for about 45 min – 1 hour
Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro and/or parsley then spoon over couscous or serve in a bowl with sides of your choosing.
I love to serve this dish with some lemon couscous, herb roasted tomatoes and some crusty bread to mop up all the delicious sauce. It’s always a big hit and perfect for leftovers!
My family is celebrating my brother’s upcoming marriage with a small, outdoor wedding. But, I wanted to share the recipes for what we’ll be eating with you, so that you can recreate those flavors at home! So follow along with Chef Jon in the video above (or on YouTube HERE) or by following the recipe below, as we make Pistachio-Coconut Crusted Salmon with an Arugula-Pistachio Pesto and Grilled Corn, Tomato and Avocado Salad. Perfect for a summer celebration!
Pistachio-Coconut Crusted Salmon
Salmon fillets, skin on
Garlic, 3-4 cloves
1/2 cup of shelled pistachios
1/2 cup shredded coconut flakes, unsweetened
1 tbsp of dijon mustard — can substitute mayo if desired
2 tsp of salt
1/2 tsp of black pepper
2 lemons, halved and grilled cut side down (optional)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
While the oven is preheating, let’s make the crust — in the bowl of a food processor, add the pistachios, garlic, coconut, 1 tsp of salt and pepper
Pulse in the food processor until the mixture comes together and is similar in texture and size to sand — you can do this without a food processor by putting mixture into a plastic bag and taking your aggression out on it with a rolling pin!
Pat the salmon dry with a towel, and then season with the remaining salt, and transfer it to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper — you can use tin foil, but parchment paper will make sure the salmon won’t stick. Plus, makes for super easy cleanup!
Using a brush or a spoon, spread the dijon all over the flesh of the salmon — this is the glue the helps the crust stick
Using your hands, cover the mustard-covered salmon with the crust mixture. Make sure to cover the fish evenly, so it will cook evenly, and cover it all over — we don’t want any parts uncovered
Once the fish is covered, pour some olive oil over the top to help with browning the crust
Bake the fish for 10-12 minutes then remove from oven and let the fish cool for at least 5 minutes
Garnish with the Arugula-Pistachio pesto, grilled lemons and serve with Grilled Corn, Tomato and Avocado Salad. Yum!
1-2 cups of arugula or baby arugula
1 cup of pistachios — you can substitute walnuts if you’ve used up all your pistachios on the fish
1-2 tsps of lemon zest
1-2 tbsps of lemon juice
Garlic, 4-5 cloves
1/2 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese or Pecorino Romano or an aged, hard cheese
In the bowl of a food processor (or mortar and pestle) add all of the ingredients except for the oil
Pulse the mixture continuously while adding olive oil until it turns into a loose paste. I like mine a little coarse and chunky, but you can choose your own thickness
If you find it too thick, add more olive oil or a bit more lemon juice. Make sure to taste it!
Empty mixture into a bowl and let it sit at least 10-15 minutes before using — this pesto is also great as a pasta sauce. Just mix the cold or room temperature pesto into hot pasta. So good!
Grilled Corn, Tomato & Avocado Salad
Corn, 4-5 ears
Cherry tomatoes, 1 pint, cut in half
Red onion, 1 medium or 1/2 large onion, diced
Avocados, 2 — make sure that your avocados are ripe, but not mushy, chopped in 1/2 inch cubes
1/4 cup of champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
2 tbsp of honey
1 tbsp of dijon mustard
2 tsps of dried mint
1/4 cup of lemon juice
1/3 cup of olive oil
1/2 cup of fresh cilantro
Heat your grill or grill-pan to medium heat — you want it hot, but not smoking
While the grill is getting hot, clean your corn by removing both the husk and silk strands — you want corn to grill contact to happen
Place the corn on the grill (and some lemon halves which make a great garnish) — don’t worry about turning the corn too too often since you want some of that char and grill color on the corn. You should probably give it a nudge every 3-5 minutes — it will only take about 10-15 minutes total to cook
While the corn is grilling, dice your onion and chop the tomatoes in half and place in a large bowl big enough for mixing
Once your corn has come off the grill and cooled for a few min, cut off the end of the corn so you have a straight edge, and balance the corn on its straight end
Using a sharp, chef’s knife, starting at the top of the ear, cut of the corn kernels by cutting straight down, and rotate the corn once you get to the bottom and repeat until you’ve cut all of the corn off the cob. Repeat for all of the ears or corn. Add the corn to the tomatoes and onions
Cut your avocados by running a sharp knife along the outside, around the pit until you’ve gone all the way around. Use your hands to twist the 2 halves apart
Take your knife and thwack it into the avocado pit so it sticks into it, then twist to detach the pit from the avocado
Use a spoon to scoop out the avocado meat and chop into 1/2 inch pieces
Drizzle the avocado pieces in lemon juice to keep them bright green before you mix into the corn salad mixture.
For the dressing: mix honey, champagne vinegar, olive oil, dijon, salt, pepper, cilantro and mint in a bowl and mix vigorously until the dressing is one homogeneous mixture — I like to use a mason jar.
Pour the dressing over the corn-tomato mixture (reserving some dressing if needed later) and add the avocados
Gently toss everything together until all of the ingredients have a little bit of dressing on them, and make sure to be delicate with the avocado so it doesn’t get mushed
Garnish with more chopped cilantro, and erve with your favorite fish or chicken dish on a beautiful summer day — like for a wedding celebration perhaps. Bon appetit!
Boneless chicken breast or thighs (Substitutes: tofu), 1-2 lb, cut into chunks
Curry paste (green or red), 2-3 heaping tbsps
Fish sauce, 1 tbsp
Coconut milk, 1 can or 1.5 cups
Scallions, 1 bunch
Garlic, 2-3 tbsp or to taste
Onions, 1-2 small onions or 1 large onion
Carrots, 3-4 carrots
Bell pepper, 2 bell peppers
Potato, 2-3 potatoes
Peanut oil (or vegetable or canola — something neutral)
Thai chilies, Sambal Olek (chili paste) or other hot pepper (optional)
Chop some potatoes into 1/2 inch pieces, toss with a little bit of oil, salt and pepper, and roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes on 450
While that’s going, cut your chicken into medium-sized chunks — you can also use already sliced chicken or chicken tenders, but I think it’s fun and rustic to DIY
In order to get a good sear on the chicken, you should heat your wok or sauté pan until it’s very hot, then throw the chicken in with a little bit of neutral-flavored oil like canola
While the chicken is browning, mince your garlic, scallions and chop your other veggies (onion, peppers, carrots
Once the chicken is cooked, but not cooked to death, take out and reserve for later, and toss veggies into the hot wok starting with the garlic to perfume the pan
Once you’ve sweated the veggies, add the scallions and deglaze the pan with some fish sauce (or soy sauce)
Add a few heaping spoonfuls of curry paste and make sure that it gets evenly distributed so that it gets incorporated throughout the dish
After cooking the curry paste into the veggies for a few minutes, add your coconut milk and mix thoroughly, and this would also be the time to add some sambal olek chili paste or dried chilies if you like a spicy curry. Can skip this if you want.
Simmer for a few minutes, then add the chicken back into the pan along with the roasted potatoes which should be done at this point. This would also be a time to add other starchy ingredients you might be using: roasted squash, pumpkin, sweet potato, tofu, etc.
Simmer uncovered for about 10-15 min so that curry thickens up
Serve immediately over noodles or rice and garnish with cilantro and Thai chilies, or put it in the fridge and eat it the next day. So delicious as leftovers — Yum!
Cooking Under Quarantine is back! In this episode, we’re making Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya.
I ate Jambalaya for the first (and certainly not the last!) time while visiting New Orleans. New Orleans is the kind of city that foodie dreams are made of, and I love it. In the past, I’d visit about once a year with friends and we’d spend a long weekend eating delicious cajun food, drinking, spending time at the pool, then rinse and repeat.
So, when I thought of what to make next in this series, the choice was easy. Jambalaya is a hearty rice-based dish with meat and/or seafood, tomato, veggies and a little cajun kick. This comforting one-pot dish comes together in under an hour and is super versatile and adaptable for cooks of any level. So follow along with Chef Jon and let us know how yours turned out!
Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya
Boneless chicken breast or thighs, 1-2lb
Andouille sausage (or another kind of smoked sausage), 4 links
Onions, 1 big or 2 small, chopped
Carrots, 2, chopped
Bell pepper, 2 chopped
Scallions, 1 bunch
Can of crushed tomatoes, 28oz can
Tomato paste, small can
Cajun seasoning, 2-3tbsp
Gumbo file, 2 tsp (optional)
Rice, 1 cup
Chicken broth (or vegetable broth), 1-2 cups
Garlic, 5-6 cloves
Favorite brand of hot sauce
Heat olive oil frying pan with at least a 1 inch lip, and sauté sausage for at 7-10 min until browned but not 100% cooked through
Remove sausage from pan and set aside for later.
In the sausage fat, start to sauté your veggies. Season with salt and pepper
Add garlic once veggies are soft and sauté until starting to brown
Make a well in middle of pan by pushing veggies to the sides, and add chicken
Once chicken has browned, add 1-2 spoonfuls of tomato paste as well as Cajun seasoning
Add rice to pan and toast for a couple of minutes
Add crushed tomatoes and broth and give the pan a few big stirs so everything is mixed up well. Also add sausage back into the pan
Cover and cook for 20-25 min depending on what kind of rice you’re using — stir pan every 5-10 min but don’t mess with it too much. Add extra liquid if needed
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.
Risotto is one of those dishes that sounds super fancy–and it definitely tastes luxurious!–but is actually far easier to make at home than most people think. In fact, it doesn’t even need cream or milk to make it creamy. You just need to buy the right kind of rice and give it a little love and attention and you’ll be whipping up some restaurant worthy risotto in no time. Flavor it with your favorite mix-ins like roasted asparagus, caramelized onions, roasted butternut squash or more. Bon appetito!
Arborio rice, 2 cups — you must use arborio rice for this dish. Arborio rice has a super high starch content and this is what makes your risotto creamy and delicious!
Garlic, 5-6 cloves chopped
White wine, 1 cup
Chicken stock (or vegetable stock if you want to keep it vegetarian/dairy), 4 cups — if you wanted to do a super rich and earthy mushroom risotto, you could make some mushroom broth by rehydrating dried porcini mushrooms for a truly luxurious risotto dish!
Salt and pepper
Parmesan (or nondairy substitute such as nutritional yeast), optional but always worth it
Heat the stock in a saucepan and add any flavorings you’d like to it such as herbs, lemon juice, spices etc.
Sauté garlic in olive oil until fragrant and slightly brown. Season with salt and pepper
Add rice and toss to coat. Sauté the rice so it gets nice and toasty. This will give it a wonderful and deep flavor later on
Add about a cup of white wine of your choice — you can also use champagne, sparkling wine etc. Just make sure it’s something you like. If you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it! The flavor will just concentrate as it’s cooking
Stir the rice, and once it’s absorbed the wine, start adding about a cup of broth to the rice and stir it around
Every time the rice absorbs the liquid, it needs to be stirred. As it cooks and gets stirred, it will start to release its starches which creates the creaminess that is characteristic of risotto
After about 18 minutes, you will have added several cups of liquid and the ride should be creamy and have expanded. Give it a quick taste for seasoning and to make sure the rice is al dente (should have a little bit of chew left)
Now would be the time to add anything to the risotto like some roasted asparagus, maple roasted butternut squash if you wanted to go sweet, or anything you like
Turn off the heat and add some nutritional yeast (if meat meal) to give it some umami or a cup of grated Parmesan cheese if a dairy meal and stir.
Serve while still warm. To reheat, heat risotto into a saucepan with a 1/4 cup of water and stir until steamy and ready to inhale
So I’ve recently started offering small group cooking classes through my catering company,J2Food, and the theme for the first session was all about love. It was a few days before Valentine’s Day, and it was a couples-themed class, It’s a Date! And what can be more romantic than cooking for your loved one? Or, even better, cooking together. So as I was considering what we should make for the meal, I thought we should have all foods that not only taste delicious but also look amazing and can be made by any amateur chef (and easy to clean to boot!).
Chicken Marsala is one of my favorite dishes to make for guests and even crowds. It sounds and tastes very complex, but is actually very simple to make and very impressive in its presentation and flavors. It’s a recipe that I teach all of my cousins when they go to college so that they have at least one quality trick up their sleeve to throw down. This dish is also great for a quick weeknight meal. Serve it over some herbed egg noodles, with creamy garlic mashed potatoes or even with a fresh arugula salad. Enjoy and let me know how yours turns out!
Chicken breasts, boneless – while I often opt for the more forgiving chicken thighs, it’s very traditional to use chicken breast in this recipe for texture and size
Mushrooms, halved – I like Cremini (mini portobellos), but button mushrooms or any variety are good to use. Sometimes I like to use a mix of mushrooms…you can never have too many
Bottle of Marsala wine – I would definitely use real Marsala wine (usually found in the dessert wine section near the Madeira or sherry). Resist the urge to use Marsala cooking wine found in the grocery store since those are loaded with salt and MSG.
Salt and pepper
Dried herbs – whatever your favorite flavors are (we used rosemary, thyme, and oregano)
Fresh parsley, chopped
Garlic, 8-10 cloves chopped
Pound the chicken breasts out to about 1/4-1/2 inch thickness. Doesn’t need to be super thin since these are getting twice-cooked
Add enough olive oil to a heavy-bottomed sauté pan to coat and start to heat on medium
Mix a heavy pinch of dried herbs, salt and pepper into about 1.5 cups of flour — you may need more later on, so don’t be skimpy now
Dip the chicken pieces into the seasoned flour mixture one by one to coat then add to the hot pan — How hot should the pan be? You should hear a small sizzle or see some small bubbles form around the edge of the chicken
Cook the chicken pieces for 2-3 minutes per side so they both get a slight crisp and are golden to golden brown on each side
Reserve partially cooked chicken for later to finish cooking
In the same pan, add a heaping tablespoon of chopped garlic
After the garlic has started to brown, add the mushrooms — it’s important that mushrooms have room to cook or they’ll steam instead of sautéing so don’t overcrowd the pan
One the mushrooms have cooked, add a few spoonfuls of the flour mixture to the pan and stir to coat the mushrooms and so that all of the flour gets to cook off some
After a couple of minutes, deglaze the pan with about half the bottle of Marsala — the pan should start to sizzle rapidly and this is the time for you to use your spatula/spoon to scrape up the good, crusty bits from the bottom of the pan. This is pure flavor…Yum!!!
Add about 1 cup of chicken stock to the pan, and also season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste. Let the sauce mixture come up to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer and cook for a couple of minutes to get rid some of the sharpness from the wine and stock
At this point, the floury mushrooms acted as our roux, and the sauce should be starting to thicken. Add the chicken back into the sauce and submerge.
Cover the pan with a lid of tight aluminum foil and cook for another 20 minutes on simmer or medium-low heat. The chicken will get nice and tender and the sauce will thicken some more
Once done, serve on a big platter with some risotto, egg noodles or mashed potatoes. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley
I love coming up with new ways to cook with some of my favorite ingredients, especially comfort foods. To me, a big wok full of curry is super comforting and was one of the dishes I made all the time when I moved into my first solo apartment. It’s warm, earthy, spicy and makes me feel good all over. Plus, it’s amazing for leftovers! So, when Mama Lam’s, a local food vendor making and selling their own Malaysian Curry Paste that I had the pleasure of meeting at the annual Queens Taste, event contacted me about partnering up, I was excited. I couldn’t wait to try cooking with their homemade, Malaysian curry paste and curating a couple of dishes to use their product in.
I decided to create a curry themed meal featuring Mama Lam’s Curry Paste two ways—a Pistachio Crusted Curry Salmon and a Curry Noodles with Crispy Tofu. Check out the recipes below and also watch my YouTube cooking demo here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1PCoQ8uLQYU.
Pistachio Crusted Curry Salmon
4-6 salmon filets (skin on)
2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1/2 jar of Mama Lam’s curry paste
1 tbsp Sambal Olek or another Southeast Asian chili sauce—Sriracha works fine.
I recommend not skipping this ingredient, even if you don’t like spicy food. The fish has a warming heat and it is very much tempered by the coconut milk and acidity of the lime juice
1/2 can of coconut milk
2 tbsp of olive oil
1 tbsp of ginger, chopped
1 stalk of lemongrass, cut into pieces–you can also use 1/2 tbsp of chopped lemongrass from a tube. You’ll find this near the fresh herbs in the market
Juice of 2 limes
2 cups of roasted pistachios, shell removed
1 tbsp salt
1/2 tbsp of black pepper
Create a marinade with the chili sauce, ginger, garlic, lime juice, coconut milk, lemongrass, oil, salt and pepper
Marinade the salmon for at least an hour and up to 4 hours
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
Crush the pistachios with either your hands or a mallet. A rolling pin works well too—this is very cathartic and a great way to take out your aggression. Ha!
After the fish has soaked, dip the salmon into the pistachios and coat on sides and top with the nuts
Place the salmon skin side down on a greased baking pan and bake for 20 minutes until the crust is set—The fish should be cooked through, but still a bit pink in the center and very moist. It will continue cooking for a few minutes once it comes out of the oven
Garnish with fresh parsley or cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice over the top
This fish is delicious served all on its own with a fresh salad or some roasted asparagus, but is even better with some Curry Noodles!
Curry Noodles with Crispy Tofu
1 package of firm tofu, 14oz
1 pound of broad rice noodles
2 bell peppers, chopped
2 yellow onions, chopped
1 eggplant—chopped into bite sized pieces. I love to use Japanese or graffiti eggplant for this dish not only because of the beautiful color, but also because it has less water in it than an Italian eggplant, so it’ll be sweeter and stay firmer when cooked down
3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tbsp of fish sauce
1/2 jar of Mama Lam’s curry paste
1 tbsp of Sambal Olek chili sauce
1 bunch of scallions, chopped (reserve some for garnish)—also called green onion or spring onion in some supermarkets
1 can of coconut milk—do not use reduced fat as the texture and thickness of the sauce will be off. Plus, coconut milk is a healthy fat
Vegetable or peanut oil—any high heat oil will do such as canola, corn, grapeseed oil, etc.
The first step of this dish is to make the crispy tofu—who doesn’t like their tofu crispy?
Tofu has a lot of water, which is why it usually tastes bland. In fact, the biggest mistake that most cooks make when handling tofu is not getting rid of the excess water. This will never work! Even if you just want to marinade the tofu you’ll still need to do this step
Put the tofu between two paper towels and press. Repeat this process 2-3 times, and then let the tofu sit between the towels for at least 20 minutes to really draw out the moisture
Heat up your wok until it starts to smoke a little, then add the oil. It’s important that you don’t add your oil before this as you don’t want it to bubble up and burn you
Add the tofu to the wok and spread it out in a single layer—you should hear it sizzle. If there’s no sizzle, then your wok isn’t hot enough and your tofu will steam instead of crisp up
Let the tofu cook on one side for a couple min, then mix it up and repeat this process a few times until it’s crispy on all sides. This shouldn’t take longer than 10 minutes or so
Put your tofu on a plate and place aside for later on
Heat your wok back up on the stove while you get the rest of your ingredients ready
Add some more oil, then add the garlic, ginger and scallions—this is the holy trinity of Asian dishes!
Let these sauté for a minute, then add the curry paste and heat through, followed by the onions, peppers and eggplant
Let the veggies cook for a few minutes, then add the fish sauce, chili sauce and coconut milk and stir until it becomes a homogenized sauce
Cook the curry for at least 10 minutes or longer depending on how thick you like your sauce—as it cooks the flavors of the salty fish sauce, spicy chilis, earthy curry and more will concentrate
Meanwhile, drop the rice noodles into some salted boiling water—off the heat—and let soak for 5 minutes
Add the par-cooked noodles to the curry and toss together in the wok
Let the noodles and curry cook together as the noodles absorb the sauce and meld together into one cohesive dish
Garnish with the crispy tofu, fresh cilantro, chopped scallions, and some chopped peanuts or pistachios if you’d like to tie the two dishes together even more
Eat while still hot or add some sesame oil and have as a cold salad the next day for lunch. Yum!
Enjoy these dishes together with a Spicy Asian Cucumber Salad for a fabulous Southeast Asian inspired dinner at home.
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!