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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Perfect Pizza

I never liked pizza when I could have it, but as soon as I found out that I was allergic to wheat and cow dairy, it seemed the greatest injustice in the world to be unable to indulge in everyone’s favourite fast food – pizza.  Even then, I understood the irony.  The grass is always greener, right?

topped and ready to go

topped and ready to go

Luckily, my mom – always game for anything baking related, especially if it contained yeast – took up her dough hook and would make homemade pizza dough for the occasional treat.  I don’t think I helped once in this process, while still at home.  So that once I got to school and had that pizza craving, it was inextricably linked to a longing for home.

Four years later, I no longer get so homesick, but I’ve made pizza quite a few times – mostly using our trusty recipe from the New Balance Cookbook – and I wonder what took me so long to join in the fun.  If you have never played around with yeasted dough before, do it.  Seriously, what’s stopping you?  Is it the kneading and rising and the instructions that say that the dough should be ‘springy’?  I’ll be the first to admit, having only become fully comfortable with breads and other doughs after working in the bakery, that it’s easier to learn these things from an experienced hand.  In person.  The in person bit can be key.  But, pizza dough is a great place to start.  It’s extremely forgiving and sometimes even no-knead, like this one from Jim Lahey of Sullivan St Bakery.  If you’re ever in New York, GO!  And try his take on a sourdough – it’s out of this world.

fresh from the oven

fresh from the oven

Plus, you get fresh, homemade pizza at the end of your experiment, and a compliment from your Italian (former) flatmate.  What could be better?

omnomnom

omnomnom

Jim Lahey’s Pizza Crust
from My Bread.  I found it on Dinner: A Love Story [which is a fantastic blog – you should check it out!]

Yield: 2 balls of dough for 2 thin pizza crusts

Ingredients:

3 3/4 cups flour (I use a mixture of 2/3 white and 1/3 whole spelt)
2 1/2 teaspoons instant or other active dry yeast
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1 1/3 cup room-temperature water

Method:

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, yeast, salt, and sugar. Add the water and, using a wooden spoon or your hand, mix until blended, at least 30 seconds. The dough will be stiff, not wet and sticky.

Cover the bowl and let sit at room temperature until the dough has more than doubled in volume, about 2 hours.

Divide the dough in two and shape each into flattened balls. (Dough can be frozen at this point.)

When you are ready to make a pizza, preheat oven to 500°F (260C) roll out one ball of dough in a rectangular shape and place on an oiled cookie sheet.  I generally sprinkle some cornmeal on the bottom of mine, instead of oil, and it works fine.

Top with desired toppings (my personal favourite is just a tiny bit of sauce with sautéed mushrooms and onions, topped with fresh tomatoes mozzarella and basil) and bake at 500°F (260C) for about 15-20 minutes.  Keep an eye on the cheese and crust while it bakes to make sure it doesn’t burn.