Flirting with Flavour


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Harissa and Honey Marinade

This past February I returned to the UK for three weeks to visit friends and clear my head. I am very lucky in that I was adopted into two wonderful families during my years living over there, both with mums whose skill in the kitchen is unparalleled. In fact, much of my cooking-coming-of-age took place in one of those inspiring kitchens, which had previously played host to the culinary explorations of Nigella Lawson! Or, at least, being that it was the previous home of Nigel Lawson, I like to tell myself that.

The Playhouse in the Garden

Every once in a while a flavour profile will leave you so captivated that you just must go back for seconds. And thirds. And perhaps fourths? I had sent a copy of Balaboosta to A as a Chanukkah/New Years gift and then received one myself for Christmas, but had yet to crack it open. Lucky for me, A’s mum had and a good number of the dishes we ate over the week I stayed with them were inspired by it. Everything was delicious. Having first been thoughtfully crafted by Einat Admony and then recreated by A’s mum, it couldn’t not be.

aubergine with harissa-honey chickpeas

But what was the dish that sparked a flood of inspiration? That would be the Harissa and Honey Hot Wings. A’s mum used the whole chicken and it worked just as well, serving it with crisped lacinato kale, which I now simply cannot imagine this dish without. The honey perfectly balances the heat of the harissa, which is much more subtle and full-bodied than the spice of a jalapeño. I, who rarely takes seconds, simply had to have another piece. This is huge for one who, in the past, has avoided all things spicy, because they tend to make my head explode. Rest assured those of you reading this who also struggle with spice. Yes, you may want to use a bit less harissa (I sometimes go a bit overboard, it’s just that good), but if you are working on embracing spice like I am, it will help turn your life around!

Upon my return to Philly, I had to find harissa and quick! Einat does give a recipe for making your own harissa, which I would like to try sometime, but for now I am happy using Les Moulins Mahjoub’s traditional harissa spread. I have used the harissa and honey marinade on anything and everything (but chicken!): chickpeas, mushrooms, cauliflower, broccoli, all of these together, you name it. It works and it is delicious! And I almost always serve it on a bed of crisped lacinato kale. I suppose any kale would do, I just happen to be partial to this Italian variety. Most recently I have also started serving it with roasted aubergine, since it’s in season. Like I said, it’s a winning flavour profile, with which you really can’t go wrong!

ready to go in the oven

So enough chit chatting away, here is the recipe I know you’ve all been waiting for. I wouldn’t judge if you had even skipped straight to the bottom of the page… No, but really.

 

Harissa and Honey Marinade

Ingredients

½ cup honey

1/3 cup olive oil

3 Tbsp harissa

2 Tbsp fresh lime juice

1 Tbsp kosher salt

Method

Whisk together all the ingredients. Taste and, if you think you can take a little extra kick, add another dollop of harissa. I dare you.

* * *

And here is a recipe to use the marine to make my favourite quick dinner of roasted aubergine topped w/ harissa-honey chickpeas and mushrooms.  It makes enough to 2, or 1 with leftovers for lunch the next day!

Ingredients

1/2 recipe of Harissa and Honey Marinade

2 baby aubergines

1 can organic chickpeas (it really does make a difference to use organic)

10 baby bella mushrooms

8 leaves of Lacinato Kale with the ends cut off

Method

1. Preheat oven to 375F

2. Prepare the harissa and honey marinade.  Chop mushrooms into quarters and place in medium bowl.  Rinse chickpeas, combine with the quartered-mushrooms, and toss with the marinade.  Allow to sit for about 15 minutes.

3. After about 10 minutes, slice each aubergine in half lengthwise, leaving a thin layer of skin connecting the 2 halves on one side.  Score each half with a knife, making sure not to cut through the skin.  Place aubergine in an oven-proof pan, then pour the chickpea-mushroom mixture over them.

4. Bake at 375F for 25-30 minutes, until the aubergine yields easily to a fork.

5. While the aubergine mixture is baking, crisp the kale in a cast-iron pan.  Drizzle 1 TBLS of olive oil in the pan and heat over medium-low heat then place a few leaves at a time in the pan and sprinkle with some sea salt.  Once crisp, but not burnt, remove from pan and continue until all leaves are done.  If you plan on having leftovers, I recommend only crisping the kale you will use in the moment.

6. Enjoy!!


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Pickin’ up pawpaws, put ’em in your pocket…

A couple of weeks ago, while at the annual Anniversary Weekend of the mosque where I went to pre-school, I tried pawpaw fruit for the first time.  The mosque has a farm where they grow a number of different fruits and vegetables.  And as I wandering around, I stopped to admire (hungrily, I might add) the apples that had been brought in from the farm.  In a small wicker basket on the edge of the table with the apples, were a fruit that I thought might be some kind of mango or papaya.  Unsure, I asked what they were.  “Pawpaws”, came the reply.

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Pickin up pawpaws, put ‘em in your pocket… A familiar, yet unfamiliar, tune made its way into my head.  Please tell me you also remember this nursery rhyme from your childhood?!

Upon asking a few more questions (and a couple google searches), I found out that pawpaw trees are native to the north east of the United States and are absolutely not related to papaya, which occasionally are given the nickname pawpaw.  They do, however, taste very tropical, a bit like a banana crossed with a mango and a hint of something that would make it the perfect accompaniment to a Piña Colada, and have the texture of papaya.  Their seeds are shaped like the stretched out pennies you can get as a souvenir at the zoo and there are lots of them, which make them a bit messy to eat.

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I had my first few bites of pawpaw and we threw ideas back and forth about what could be done with them, aside from eating them fresh – smoothies, curry, chilli, tea loaf, muffins, cookies, custard, were a few of the ones we came up with.  I did really like them fresh, but always one to leap at the chance to try new ingredients and recipes, I accepted the challenge to take 6 medium sized pawpaws and make something, anything, with them.  With my roadtrip to Maine coming up, I opted to make muffins, figuring they’d make a good snack for during the long ride.  The recipe I came up with, which is included below, is inspired by the pawpaw’s similarities to banana and the fall weather.  In order to get the puree, I washed, peeled, and de-seeded the pawpaws and then put the meat through a food processor for just 1-2 minutes, until I had a mashed-banana-like consistency.  The resulting muffin is really the perfect representation of autumnal spices.  For that reason, it would be a good accompaniment to a Thanksgiving brunch.  I’ve never tasted anything quite like it, but then again, until a few weeks ago neither had I ever tasted fresh pawpaw!  And, of course, these could be made using banana, mashed sweet potato, squash, or pumpkin, or anything you feel goes well with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and ginger!

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Pawpaw Muffins
Yield: 22 muffins

Ingredients
Dry

2 ¾ cup flour (I used a mixture of spelt & white rye)
1 7/8 tsp cream of tartar
¾ tsp salt
1 1/8 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon (I use a Vietnamese cinnamon that I got through the King Arthur Flour website – I have never had such a fragrant cinnamon, even when I grate it myself)
½ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp each of allspice and ground ginger
Zest of 1 lemon

1/2 cup unsweetened desiccated coconut
1/3 cup mixed chocolate & cinnamon chips

Walnuts, roughly chopped (to sprinkle on top)

Wet

¼ cup vegetable oil
6 medium ripe pawpaws, pureed
5/8 cup granulated sugar
½ cup light brown sugar, packed
Juice from ½ lemon
3 eggs

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 375F (190C or 350F convection).  Line muffin cups.
  2. In a medium bowl mix together flour, cream of tartar, salt, baking soda, spices, and lemon zest
  3. In the bowl of a mixer (or use a hand mixer), whisk oil, pawpaw puree, and sugar on medium speed until well mixed and fluffy. Add lemon juice and the eggs one at a time. Combine.
  4. Slowly add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Mix until just combined, making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Remove bowl form mixer and fold in coconut and chocolate/cinnamon chips.
  5. Divide batter evenly into muffin cups. Sprinkle with chopped walnuts
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes. (Mine cooked in 23 minutes in a convection oven at 350F.)


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Driving over the bridge from New Hampshire into Maine, I’m greeted by a sign exclaming: Welcome to Vacationland!

The past week has been full of good friends and good food, starting with an impromptu batch of homemade shakshuka and ending with a full array of vegan, gluten free ice creams, with lots of lobster in between.  It had been at least 10 years since I was last in Maine and I had never been to Boston, so I was certainly determined to experience the most I could!

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Shakshuka success! (photocredit: David Friedkin)

What a delight it was to wake up in the middle of the Maine woods this Saturday morning, the smell of french toast wafting up the stairs.  I wandered down to find H in the kitchen with her mom and the ensuing girl-talk, and fresh scrambled eggs with red onion and mushrooms her mom whipped up for me (since I couldn’t eat the french toast), were both highlights of the weekend.

Vacationland!!

Vacationland!!

Later in the day, I had the opportunity to visit my grandmother’s best friend right on the water in Biddeford Pool, basking equally in the stunning coastline, good company, and delicious lobster roll – sans roll, of course, which really just meant oodles and oodles of lobster meat on a few greens 🙂 – at Pier 77.

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The View from Pier 77

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The outside of Pier 77

And to finish off a glorious day, H’s parents took us all out to Boone’s in Portland, where if I hadn’t yet had enough lobster, I made sure to get my fix on all things seafood.  To start our table shared fried oysters and clams (in a GF batter!), as well as 4 different types of oysters on the halfshell.  While, I could have done without the clams, the oysters – raw and fried – were outrageous.  I usually don’t care for raw oysters, but these ones were perfectly tender and slid right down.  For the main, I lucked out and was sitting with three other foodies, also wanting to try everything, so we decided to get a bunch of dishes and split them:

New England Clam Chowder;
Crab Cakes;
Baked Stuffed Lobster with Scallops;
Baked Stuffed Haddock with Lobster and Buerre Blanc;
Charred Arctic Char a la plancha with a Buerre Blanc Sauce;
accompanied by sides of crispy brussel sprouts and coleslaw.

It was a LOT of food and we licked our plates clean, leaving just enough room for dessert – an outrageously rich flourless chocolate cake covered in dark chocolate ganach and studded with York’s peppermint patties to celebrate H’s mom’s birthday (and made by her as well – can you tell yet, how much I admire this woman?!).

Sunday night became a St Andrews reunion, running into former hallmates and catching up with Principal Louise Richardson at the Boston screening of Ever to Excel.  Afterwards, a few of us broke (gluten free) bread and wine at Legal Test Kitchen.  I got lobster again.  I know what you’re thinking – branch out girl!!  But let me tell you, when one is used to only partaking in lobster once a year and the said specimen generally comes from ShopRite, the fresh Maine variety is a temptation that it would be a sin to turn down!

“angry lobster” (GF)

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Crema Catalana (perhaps better known as Creme Brule)

Sharing all these delicious meals to you is making my mouth water, despite having just eating the best gluten free pizza I’ve ever had at the Two Boots in Grand Central Terminal (today is another travel day, this time destination: home).  By the way, if you ever find yourself at Two Boots (they have locations all over NYC as well as in Baltimore and New Orleans), I highly recommend the Tony Clifton – shitake mushrooms, vidalia onions, sweet red pepper peto, and mozzarella.  The plain cheese pizza is very good, as well, and the crust is thin and NOT grainy.  What a concept!  Even my food-normal friend enjoyed it, though she did comment that the wheat crust was better.

All of the above are more than enough to get excited about going to either Maine or Boston (or both!), but the crowning glory was dessert last night.  I had dinner at Canary Square in Jamaican Plain with 2 dear Pocono friends, which was great.  Canary Square is farm to table, definitely worth checking out.  But their dessert list wasn’t exactly inspired, so we took a walk down the street and were lured into a small storefront, FoMu, calling itself “alternative ice cream and cafe”. Turns out there is no dairy in the entire store.  None.  The majority of their ice creams are made with coconut milk, though there are a few soy-based, and the flavours range from dark chocolate, to cardamom pistachio, from avocado, to mocha chip, from apple spice donut, to pumpkin spice.  You get it.  They have basically every flavour you could ever imagine.  You can imagine what a treat this was, since I am usually relegated to whatever non-dairy flavour the supermarket has on its shelf and while these have certainly expanded over recent years, FoMu blew them all out of the water.  It was heaven.  I got my favourite gelato combo – dark chocolate with cardamom pistachio and chocolate chunks.  Yum.  Next time you are in Boston, go there.  And if anyone from FoMu reads this – can you please open a store in Philly?!

mint chip with rainbow sprinkles

mint chip with rainbow sprinkles

dark chocolate + cardamom pisatchio topped with TAZO chocolate chunks

dark chocolate + cardamom pisatchio topped with TAZO chocolate chunks

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espresso “ice cream” topped with Newman O’s

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“fall into FoMU” – yes please!


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Photo Essay: North London Markets

So, Saturday, instead of studying for exams, I wandered through North and East London, visiting markets and gawking at street art along the way.

Notting Hill Farmers’ Market

notting hill gate farmers' market

notting hill farmers’ market

yes, i did buy some of that spectacular looking rhubarb

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walking through the market

this mushroom man has the most amazing mushrooms I have ever seen. and they taste great too!

this mushroom man has the most amazing mushrooms I have ever seen. and they taste great too!

Picking out a Chelsea Bun. S said it's the best she's had in London! (and for only £1!)

Picking out a Chelsea Bun. S said it’s the best she’s had in London! (and for only £1!)

Flourish Bakery

Flourish Bakery – doesn’t it all just look great? i wish they did more wheat-free breads

Walking from Bethnal Green Station to Broadway Market

stik. on mare st, cambridge heath.

stik. on mare st, cambridge heath.

more street (roof?) art on mare st, cambridge heath

more street (roof?) art on mare st, cambridge heath

by the Andrews Rd entrance to the Regent's Canal Towpath

by the Andrews Rd entrance to the Regent’s Canal Towpath

Regent’s Canal Towpath

the floating bookshop. regent's canal

the floating bookshop. regent’s canal

word on the water

word on the water

Broadway Market

didgeridoo

didgeridoo

Fiendish & Goode.

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fiendish & goode – their gluten free selection was outrageous. definitely going back for more.

violet cakes. i managed to snag a vegan spelt chocolate cupcake w/ violet frosting

violet cakes. i managed to snag a vegan spelt chocolate cupcake w/ violet frosting

Market in the Schoolyard (London Fields)

getting my smoothie fix at the schoolyard market

getting my smoothie fix at the schoolyard market

Netil Market

Cooking Cooks.

cooking cooks

cooking cooks

Breddo’s Taco Shack. 

street taco brunch - the rave from breddo's taco shack

street taco brunch – the rave from breddo’s taco shack


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Shakshuka

I purposefully stopped eating hummus 9 days before leaving for Israel so that I would be able to indulge without feeling the effects of an overdose.  Yes, even I can overdose on hummus.  The theme of this trip, though, turned out to be shakshuka.  What’s that, you ask?  The best way I can think to describe it is as eggs poached in a thick, spiced (and slightly spicy) tomato sauce.  But that really doesn’t do it justice.

Here – a picture is worth a thousand words…

shakshuka

shakshuka

The young girl who piled grated parmesan onto her pasta to mask the taste of even a teaspoon of tomato sauce (if she let that sauce even touch her dish) would hardly recognise the one sitting here writing that one of her new favourite dishes is entirely tomato-based!  I am living proof that taste buds evolve.  And thank goodness for that, because otherwise I wouldn’t be able to appreciate the delights of blue cheese, olives, or … shakshuka!

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poaching the eggs

I have been playing around with a couple of different recipes for shakshuka since September, mostly relying on the many variations by Yotam Ottolenghi.  Last week, however, in googling shakshuka recipes for what must have been the hundredth time, I came across David Lebovitz’s blog on the subject.  Already a frequenter of his ‘sweet life in Paris’ site for all things desert related, his description of the lingering nature of the seasoning in this remarkable dish rung true for me.  I decided to give his attempt at recreating the flavours we had both fallen in love with a try.

I invited MC over for dinner and told her we were going to make my new favourite food.  She’d never tried it, let along heard of it.  No pressure.

The spices that make shakshuka so delicious are common in the Middle East and North Africa, but only recently becoming known to me.  I must admit that as I putzed around in the kitchen, chopping, sautéing, and smelling spices, it was not immediately clear to me that this was going to recreate the dish I was so craving.  But as the sauce simmered and eggs cooked, the scent wafting from the pan brought me back to a hot afternoon sitting in Bacci Café mopping up thickly simmered tomatoes married together by a soft, persistent web of spices.

It brought me back even further to a warm evening last August, in HaMarakia in Jerusalem, when I took my first bite from a still steaming pain, too hot to touch, slightly confused by the presence of a fork in my hand instead of a spoon (because it had been described to me as a soup).  Mmmm.  Shakshuka.

shakshuka at hamarakia

shakshuka at hamarakia

Shakshuka it the perfect one pot meal.  It should be served with warm, crusty bread.  Trust me, you’ll want it to help you wipe your bowl/pan clean.  Tonight I also decided to make tahina, a sauce made from tahini, lemon, garlic, and water, to dip the bread in.  And thanks to MC, I discovered that the tahina and shakshuka go really well together.

You can find David Lebovitz’s inspired recipe here.

dinkelbrot + tahina

dinkelbrot + tahina

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a simple + delicious dinner

Tahina (tahini sauce)
from Jerusalem, by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

Ingredients

150g light tahini paste
120 ml water
2 TBSP lemon juice
1 medium garlic clove, crushed
¼ tsp salt

Method

The fat and solids of the tahini tend to separate, so before starting make sure you’ve mixed the tahini well in its tub.

Put the paste into a medium mixing bowl and add the water, lemon juice, garlic and salt. Stir with a small whisk (or fork) until you get a thick sauce, the consistency of clear honey or just a bit runnier.  I actually, sometimes keep it a bit on the thicker side.  If you want it runnier, add a couple extra drops of water.  Don’t be alarmed if it seems to separate at first, all the ingredients will come together.

This makes approximately 350ml of sauce, which will keep in the fridge for about 1 week.  Before using from the fridge, stir again to loosen it up and add a little liquid if necessary.


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Apple and Pear Crumble (or an initiation into intuitive baking)

I have always wanted to be one of those people who could look at ingredients and intuitively combine them to create something wonderfully delicious, no recipe needed.  I have combined recipes before, taking and leaving different pieces of up to 7 or 8 different recipes, thus creating my own.  I’ve always been slightly intimidated to simply go forth without any reference point, though.

Last month, while in Israel, I received a special request to make apple pie.  I was there doing research and visiting my cousin J who moved to Tel Aviv to marry Y, an Israeli girl who has since become more like a big sister to me.  It seems that one of the things J missed most from the US was apple pie!  (Is there anything more quintessentially American?)

apple and pear crumble 1

apple and pear crumble

Now, I’m not a huge apple pie maker – there are usually blueberries or peaches, or both! (why not go wild?!) involved – and to find spelt flour in Tel Aviv at such late notice, while certainly possible, was a task made that much more challenging by the fact that it was Shabbat.  So, I improvised.  Despite Tel Aviv’s ardent refusal to jump on the religious bandwagon and shut down for Shabbat, the only grocery stores open are AMPM, so, of course, a trip there was necessitated.

J and I had a fabulous hummus dinner (more on that later), after which I scoured the meagre, though sufficient, selections of the nearby AMPM to see what I could do about this apple pie.  No Meghan-friendly flour, so…. How about a crumble?  No whole almonds – that’s okay, they had bags of chopped and crumbled almonds and walnuts.  No brown sugar?  Demerara will do – just adds a bit of an extra crunch.  The apples looked “meh”, but the pears looked pretty “all right”, so why not combine the two?  Plus, they’re getting cooked, so who really cares about a few surface-level blemishes.  What we care about is flavour!

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getting up close and personal with the crumble

Ingredients bought we headed home.  It was already quite late, but that’s never stopped me before.  I think J & Y were a bit surprised that I was baking at such a late hour (we actually fell asleep and didn’t even try it until the next morning!), but after being robbed by the AMPM’s monopoly on Shabbat grocery shopping, there was no way I was going to wait until the next day to be faced with the knowledge that I could have made this crumble for half, or even a third, of the price… [Note to self – don’t let Shabbat get the better of you, next time think ahead!]

The recipe below is the result of this late night endeavour as well as two subsequent trials and tweakings.  It’s still lacking a certain something, which if you figure out what it is, I’d love to hear it!  But, I am particularly proud of this recipe, because it has inaugurated me into the club of intuitive, recipe-less bakers. So, yay!

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the crumble topped with plain sheep yoghurt – delicious!

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3 hungry people can make a good dent pretty quickly!

Apple & Pear Crumble
Preheat oven to 180C

Filling:

4 medium-sized tart apples, chopped in large chunks
3 pears, chopped in large chunks
~ 1 inch of ginger, grated
juice from 1 orange
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg (optional)
¼ tsp ground ginger (if you don’t have fresh ginger)
juice from 3-4 passion fruits (optional)
3-4 TBSP date syrup (depending on how sweet the fruit is)
juice from about half a lemon (depending on how sour the fruit is)

Method:

Combine above ingredients in a bowl, making sure the fruit is well coated with the spices and juices. Pour into pie pan or whatever vessel you’re using.

Topping:

~ 1 ½ cups rolled oats
¾ cup chopped nuts (any combination you like – I generally do almonds and walnuts)
½ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
½ – ¾ cup brown sugar (depending on how sweet you want it)
5-6 TBSP (or glugs) melted butter or vegetable oil

Method:

Combine the dry ingredients in another bowl and then add the butter or oil and mix with your fingers until you have a sand-like consistency.  Crumble the mixture on top of the fruit mixture.

Bake for 30-40 minutes in an oven that has been preheated to 180C. It should be bubbling, the fruit should be tender (if stick a knife or fork into it), and the top should be brown. If the top browns before it is finished cooking, cover with foil. Alternatively, if the top is not crisp or brown enough for your liking, you can turn the oven heat up to 200C for 5 minutes to brown it.