Sunday, August 18, 2013

Baba Ghanoush (or Moutabel)

We lived in the Middle East for three years towards the beginning of our marriage, and we absolutely fell in love with the food there.  I already liked hummus, but I had never heard of what the locals called Moutabel. It is essentially the same thing as hummus, but made of roasted eggplant instead of chickpeas.  The rest of the recipe is nearly identical.  In India they call this Baba Ghanoush, which is what most people probably know it by.  

Because it's made with roasted eggplant, it has a smokey depth that is very different from hummus.  The tahini flavor of hummus is muted a lot in the Baba Ghanoush, and instead it's creamier and richer.  I love love love this, which is why I was so happy to get some eggplants in my CSA delivery this week. I immediately knew what to make!

You can eat Baba Ghanoush the same way you eat hummus, namely with pita, crackers,
veggies, or with grilled meat or veggies.  Tonight we ate it with Arabic-seasoned beef kabobs, grilled mini sweet peppers, grilled grape tomatoes, and grilled onions.  Oh, and some homemade pita, recipe courtesy of this website.

As a note, tahini is also known as tahina or sesame paste.  Every grocery store seems to put it in a different location.  Sometimes it's with the peanut butter and other nut butters, sometimes it's with the foreign food, sometimes it's in the "health food" section.  Ask someone at customer service to look it up for you before you search the whole store.  It will save you time!

Baba Ghanoush

2 large purple eggplants (not the Japenese variety)
1/4 cup tahini (sesame paste)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tsp)
1 1/2 tsp salt
Olive oil for garnish
Sumac for garnish (optional)

First you need to roast the eggplant.  Cut away the green leafy bits around the stem of the eggplants, but leave the stem itself on, as it makes a handy place to hold.  Spray the skin of the eggplants with cooking spray, and then place them under the broiler (on a baking sheet) or on a grill.  If you have adjustable heat settings, keep it on high.  Turn them every 5-10 minutes, and cook until the skins are black and cracking, about 20-25 minutes.  Then set them aside for at least 20 minutes to cool, or until they're cool enough to handle with your bare hands.

Once the eggplant is cool, peel away the skin.  It should come off fairly easily if you've cooked it enough.  Then slice the eggplant all the way around from top to bottom, like you're cutting open an avocado.  Using a spoon, scrape out all the seeds, leaving only the firm pulpy part of the eggplant.  Remove the stem end, and toss whatever you have left (the pulpy part of the eggplant) into a food processor or blender. 

Puree the eggplant until fairly smooth.  Add in the tahini, lemon juice, garlic, and salt and process until well combined.  If it's way too thick to mix you can add a little water.  JUST A LITTLE!  When finished blending, pour the Baba Ghanoush into a serving bowl, swirl a little olive oil on top, sprinkle a bit of sumac over it, and serve!

Will keep for about a week in the refrigerator.  Can be served warm, room temperature, or cool, but I prefer slightly warm. 

Makes about 3 cups.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Quick and Easy Fresh Peach Pie with Whipped Coconut Cream

Several years ago my sister-in-law made this pie for a family gathering.  I've since seen it lots of other places, and it is one of my favorites because it's so quick and easy, and delicious, and showcases the amazing peaches that are in season right now!  So when we went peach picking last week I knew I had to make it!

I decided to spice it up a bit by serving it with whipped coconut cream instead of regular whipped cream.  I think it took it from a great pie to an amazing pie.  It was just the right amount of coconut to transport you to another place.  Yum!

I've included directions on how to make the graham cracker crust, but if you prefer to buy a ready-made one, just skip the first three ingredients and the first part of the instructions.

Quick and Easy Fresh Peach Pie with Whipped Coconut Cream
Recipe adapted from Melinda Davis

1 sleeve graham crackers (10 full crackers)
2 T sugar
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), melted
6-8 large ripe peaches
1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 lemon, juiced
1 can coconut milk (full fat, or it won't whip!)
2 Tbs powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla

For the crust, place all the crackers in a food processor and process until they turn into crumbs.  Pour into a medium bowl and mix with 2 T sugar.  Add melted butter and stir.  Press into bottom and sides of a pie pan, using the back of a soup spoon to smooth to an even thickness.  Place in refrigerator until ready to use.

Skin, pit and slice all the peaches into a medium bowl.  Pour sweetened condensed milk and lemon juice over the peaches and stir gently until well-combined.  Pour peaches and milk sauce into pie crust.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours (or more). 

Place can of coconut milk into freezer at least 30 minutes before serving pie.  Just before serving, remove can from freezer.  TURN CAN UPSIDE DOWN and open from bottom.  This is because the fat, which is what you want to whip, rises to the top.  You need to get rid of the coconut water that is at the bottom, so open the can upside down and pour out the coconut milk.  You can keep it for another use or discard it, as you desire.

Once the coconut water is removed, scoop out the coconut cream into a medium bowl.  Add powdered sugar and vanilla and beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes on high.  Unlike regular whipped cream, coconut cream stores well in the refrigerator and won't separate.

Serve a slice of cold pie with the coconut cream on top.  Enjoy!

Makes 1 pie, about 6-8 slices.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Zucchini Lasagne

It's that time of year again -- Zucchini Time!  They are plentiful at the moment, and I'm loving it!  Unfortunately, I'm the only member of my family that loves the zukes, which means I end up having to "hide" them in foods quite often.  I love making Zucchini Bread, as well as Slow-Cooker Thai Chicken, which uses zucchini as well.  But I wanted something new. 

I was talking with my friend Amy and she mentioned that she had made lasagne, substituting zucchini for the noodles.  Her only complaint was that you didn't taste enough of the zucchini.  Perfect! I thought.  My family will love it!  Of course, if you are a big lover of zucchini you can double it, and just put thicker layers of the zucchini between the layers of cheese and meat.

I served this with some amazing cheesy garlic bread that I found on this site.

As a side note, this makes one 8"x8" square pan, enough for 6 servings.  If you want a 9"x13" pan, you can double the recipe.

Zucchini Lasagne
Recipe adapted from Natalie Beal

1 T olive oil
1/2 lb Italian sausage
1 tsp minced garlic
1 T fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1 15-oz can diced tomatoes (or 2 fresh tomatoes, chopped)
1 6-oz can tomato paste
1 large zucchini, very thinly sliced into circles or half-circles (use a Mandolin or food processor if you have one!)
1 1/2 cups cottage cheese
1 egg
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 tsp fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 lb shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 375F.
In a medium skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat.  Add Italian sausage and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned.  Add garlic, basil, salt, tomatoes, and tomato paste and stir to combine.  Cook 5-10 minutes on a low simmer.  Set aside.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine cottage cheese, egg, Parmesan cheese, parsley, pepper and all but 1/4 cup of mozzarella cheese.  Set aside the last 1/4 cup of mozzarella to put on top of the lasagne before baking.
Spoon a very small amount of the meat sauce into the bottom of an 8"x8" square pan and spread to thinly cover the bottom.  Layer half the zucchini, with edges of circles slightly overlapping, in rows until the bottom of the pan is covered.  Next spread half the cheese mixture on top of the zucchini, followed by half the meat mixture.  Next layer the remaining zucchini slices, followed by the remainder of the cheese and then the meat sauce.  Top with the 1/4 cup reserved mozzarella cheese.
Bake in the preheated 375F oven for 30 minutes.  Let sit for 10-15 minutes before serving.
Serves 6.