Saturday, July 29, 2006

Cath: Kofte with Warm Eggplant Salad

Hi everyone...finally getting back into the swing of things here! Loved the kofte, esp. the spice mixture! That was my favorite part of the whole recipe. So good with the lamb. The salad was yummy too--great summer fare but I'm wondering if it could be streamlined a little bit. I don't have a grill so I did everything inside under the broiler. To save time I roasted the tomatoes and eggplant together (with some olive oil). Wondering if you really need to soak the eggplant afterwards? I tasted it straight out of the oven and didn't detect any bitterness. One funny thing--genius that I am I used wooden skewers WITHOUT soaking them...within three minutes there was smoke pluming from the oven! Not even sure you really need the skewers--esp. if you're not using a grill. I didn't love how this looked plated up (Kate you're right about them having a certain resemblance!) but everything tasted delish. Thanks for the great recipe Ashley.

Oh! I did a little Googling and found some more Baharat recipes...this site had a bunch that looked good...

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Recipe 11: Le "Mont Blanc" en surprise

After dusting off some of my neglected cookbooks, I finally found something that appealed to me and hopefully it will appeal to your tastebuds at the moment. How does a frozen mousse with crushed nutty brittle sound to you? I thought we'd all enjoy this dessert to cool us off during this very warm summer. A pseudo, fancier, richer version of ice cream without needing an ice cream maker. Simone Beck, co-author of Mastering the Art of French Cooking with Julia Child, has her own cookbook called Simca's Cuisine that have some very classic but timeless recipes such as this one. I'm always a bit scared of playing with any recipe with "caramel" in it because I'm always scared of it crystalizing on me. But cream of tartar has really prevented crystalizing. So hopefully this little trick that I learned in a couple of my cooking classes will help you out in this dessert.

2 c. heavy cream
1/2 t. vanilla extract
3 1/2 T. confectioners' sugar
3 egg whites
Pinch of salt
3/4 c. granulated sugar

Whip cream until almost firm. Beat in vanilla and confectioners' sugar and set aside.
Beat egg whites with a pinch of salt until they are stiff but not dry. Put the granulated sugar and 1/4 c. cold water into a sauce pan and boil to form a thick syrup. Pour immediately but gradually into the egg whites, beating on high until smooth. Set the bowl egg white mix into a bowl of ice cubes and continue beating until mixture is thick and cool. Lightly fold into the whipped cream.
Reserve 1/5-1/4 of mousse to fold in the nougatine and instant coffee later.
Spoon remaining mixture into a mold, bowl or individual ramekins.

Nougatine (crushed nut brittle):
1/2 c. walnuts, hazelnuts or any other kind of nuts you prefer
1/2 c. granulated sugar
Pinch of cream of tartar (to prevent crystallization of caramel)

1 - 1 1/2 t. powdered instant coffee

Put the nuts into a moderate oven to warm not brown. Put the sugar and 3 T. water into saucepan and boil to form a light caramel syrup. Immediately add the warmed nuts, stir over heat for a few seconds to coat the nuts. Pour caramel onto an oiled pan, spreading out into a layer with a spatula. Set aside to cool and harden. Chop up into 1/8 in pieces.
Fold nougatine and instant coffee into reserved mousse. Fill a pastry bag with the nougatine mousse. Insert the tube halfway into the middle of the molded mousse and squeeze gently. Stop squeezing and gently withdraw the piping tip from the mousse. Even out the surface of the mousse. Freeze until set, preferably overnight.

To serve:
Simca suggests to turn the Mont Blancs onto chilled plates topped with candied fruit or flowers.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Elaine: Kofte with Eggplant Salad I've missed cooking. All the spices really overwhelmed me during my first trimester. But now after a couple weeks have passed by, I'm feeling much better and had the best time making a mess in my kitchen again. Plus its been much cooler here this weekend which also gave me the energy to cook again. Using the grill outside made cleaning (for Mike) a little still didn't stop me from using every mixing bowl...heehee!

I felt like I was in chemistry class all over again when I was making the Turkish Baharat spice mix. In that mix, I made my own little concoction with what was in my pantry...instead of summer savory, I also cut some thyme from my back porch, and instead of pickling spice I used a combination of chinese five spice and garam masala which both have similar ingredients from my research.

I made the beef version of kofte being scared that the lamb might be too strong for my taste at the moment. Not being the best with our gas grill, I switched all the knobs to "lite" stepped away for a couple seconds, came back to hit the "ignite" button and a fireball attacked me and my pants. Luckily the lid was on, otherwise I'd have no facial hair left after this assignment. The eggplant and tomatoes were quick easy steps. Being a tomato-holic, I was kinda sad that I had to drain the delicious juices out of the grilled tomatoes. But I was extremely happy with my eggplant salad. So refreshing from how I usually cook eggplant and quite easy. Definitely making that again.

As for my kofte, I overcooked my kofte. Blackening eggplant and tomatoes are a no-brainer. However, cooking kofte on kebabs on the grill is definitely not one of my strengths. I should really stick to my trusty ole' oven. Next time.

After grilling my kofte to death, I thought some cucumber yogurt sauce would rescue my dish. So I stole some of Sam's yogurt, lemon juice and zest, chopped up some cucumbers, salted and olive oiled it and Voile! A sauce to help moisten up my meat.

I'm so glad I motivated myself to cook up this dish. Perfect summer meal. Going to snack on some leftover eggplant salad right now. Thanks Paula Wolfert!

Friday, July 21, 2006

Kate: Kofte with Warm Eggplant Salad

Sorry for the huge delay. I made this a couple of weeks ago before we went back the the UK for a holiday.
I substituted a few of the ingredients which I couldnt get, thyme for the summer savory and paprika for the aleppo pepper on your suggestions Ashley. The end result was delicious especially once finished with the flourish.
My wooden skewers were too small, really for cookie decorating (given to me by this cute pastry chef I know) so the kebabs were smaller than I imagined they should be. I have to admit it wasnt the prettiest meal I have ever served but anything lost on appearance was gained on flavour. As pointed out by Greg I probably should have left them on the skewers to serve so they didnt look like something untypeable...small detail.

I always find it difficult to come up with new ways to use eggplant but this was great and in fact I am sending my mum the recipe as they have just harvested thier first crop of eggplants from thier allotment and she is looking for some ideas.
I think the flourish deserves a second mention. I often find that its the final touches to meals that make them and this was definatley the case with the flourish it really did add something.
Fab recipe suggestion Ashley.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Jer: Kofte with Warm Eggplant Salad

One of my most memorable trips was a solo visit I did to Istanbul in 1999. I was mesmerized by the city – the spice market, the bazaar, the beautiful Hagia Sophia which was once the largest church in all of Christendom juxtapoxed against the Blue Mosque, a beautiful place of Islamic worship just down the road. I stayed at a very low-key inn the first part of my trip and then splurged on a majestic room at the Four Seasons for the second part of the trip which is located right in the center of town in a former prison. From the hotel’s rooftop you could see clear across the former Constantinople. On this trip I drank tea, haggled for and bought carpets, enjoyed Turkish delight, watched the ships along the Bospherous, chatted in numerous cafes with warm and friendly Turks, and ate a lot of eggplant salad and kofte.

I had never tried making eggplant salad at home so I found this recipe choice a real delight as it rekindled some truly wonderful memories that I have of this trip. I am in the middle of reading a book that follows the travels of Mandeville through the Byzantine Empire and in the car, I just finished Gilgamesh on audiobook, so I am particularly craving middle eastern food, culture and music right now. Also, tonight we celebrated the birthday of a good friend here who in October is embarking on a three week trip with two other buddies to Oman, Yemen, Dubai, and (if they can make the visas work), Iran. What better meal to serve him in honor of this upcoming trip than one of eggplant and lamb.

As is normally the case, Chino Family Farms provided incredible inspiration this morning. They had six or seven varieties of eggplant and the same number of tomatoes. I went to town and splurged on a few of each variety.

I put everything on the grill for the salad (the eggplants, tomatoes, the Italian green pepper, the Serrano chili, the spring onions and the garlic) and cooked them until the skins were fairly charred. There was an article in last week’s New York Times Food section about eggplant salad. In the recipe it said to slice the eggplant in half (but don’t cut it through) and tuck some slivered onions in the middle of the eggplant before grilling. I did this and found that it flavored the eggplant really nicely. I included the onions that I put into the eggplant into the salad. I made the salad a good 3-4 hours before dinner time and set it in a colander over a plate to drain. I think this was an important step as the finished product was thick with very pronounced flavors (the flavors were duller earlier in the day so letting it sit and thicken really helped elevate the flavor). I adjusted the salt/sugar every hour or so by tasting it. By the time I served it the eggplant salad was perfect. A little spice from the pepper, a little sweet from the sugar, a little tart from the lemon – wonderful and summery and everyone at the table loved it.

The kofte also turned out really well. I had some leftover onions (that were salted) so I chopped those up with the parsley and included them with the lamb and I thought the flavor was very nice. I think its important to use lamb as opposed to beef as the spices in this recipe are really authentic (good find!) so I think if it weren't lamb the dish wouldn't taste truly Turkish. The kofte were extremely moist and I wonder if that has to do with the soda water. I have never used soda water in meatballs but I think I will try it the next time I make Italian meatballs as I believe it is what really allowed the kofte to hold its moisture. Along side the kofte and eggplant salad I served a few lamb kebabs over couscous. I also served tzatziki on the side which I think was a nice addition to the plate. We did not have pita bread and I don't think its all that necesarry. The kofte and eggplant salad have such nice flavors that I think bread would just cut into that flavor. I did not reheat the eggplant salad as I thought it was just perfect at room temperature. I did not drizzle butter over the kofte. What I did instead was glaze them with olive oil before putting them on the grill and I think this was just the right amount of fat. I also think using fresh nutmeg is important as we could really identify the nutmeg in the kofte.

Our friends couldn’t stop raving about the food and Peter said that tonight’s meal was one of the best I had made in a long time. In fact he said he would repeatedly order that eggplant salad from a restaurant. Not too many Turkish restaurants here in San Diego so perhaps that means we’ll need to head back to Istanbul in the near future!