Monday, September 24, 2007

Apple Season

Luckily for us, there were plenty of apples that were ripe and ready to be picked this last weekend. M., myself and two of our friends travelled upstate and picked apples on Saturday. We had a moment of panic as we drove when the sky opened and a torrential downpour soaked us, but when we arrived at the orchard it was dry albeit a bit cloudy.

We roamed the trees, peeking at varieties we'd never heard of (orange pippin?) and tasting as many different kinds as possible. I really liked the Gravenstein varietal that I tasted. Scarlet red in color, it's flavor was bright and sweet. And then there are my favorite Galas and Honeycrisps. When it's apple season, I'm a happy camper!

We brought home 25 pounds of apples. Yes. 25 pounds. There will be a lot of apple treats coming out of my kitchen in the days and weeks to come. And I started last night.

Here is my version of a basic applesauce recipe that floats around the internet. I made it up as I went along, but there's really little way to mess it up. If you want further inspiration, a quick google of crockpot applesauce will bring you more ideas. But here's what I did.

Crockpot Applesauce
6 servings

6-8 apples (I used McIntosh, Gala, and Honeycrisp but any kind will work)
4 quart crockpot (a larger one can be used, however you will need to prepare more apples)
1 tablespoon cinnamon
4 cloves
2 tablespoons sugar (or to taste)

Peel and chop apples. I used a handy dandy apple peeler/corer machine, but a basic peeler and knife will do the trick as well. Put in crock pot. Turn on high for 4 + hours. At the 2 hour point, remove lid and add spices. Replace lid. At the 4 hour point (or when cooked to desired texture), add sugar to taste. Cool, and refrigerate.


Sunday, September 09, 2007

Mezze, part one

Mezze. It is such a great word. According to Wikipedia, it means a selection of appetizers or small dishes taken with alcohol. What can be more perfect then that? And the alcohol is optional. In fact, I didn't actually know that was part of the definition until now but it certainly makes me love the concept even more. Enjoying a mezze-style meal is like having a little party. So tonight, we had a little mezze. No occasion. Sunday night. Football. Mezze.

The idea of making Middle Eastern food came from two sources. First of all, we went to one of our favorite Middle Eastern restaurants last night. And I mean favorite. Here in NYC, you have to really love a restaurant to return. After all, there are hundreds of thousands of more out there. Why return for just "okay"? But this restaurant in the East Village is fantastic. No menus, $35 for 7 plus courses and just a delicious mezze of food. But last night, they weren't up to their usual standards. Yes, the falafel was outstanding, but the hummus tasted bland. The usual fattoush salad had been changed to an avocado feta salad (also too bland) and there were several other similar changes. I was left wanting more.... wanting the fattoush salad and wanting better tasting hummus. This, coupled with the three eggplants picked from the garden this week planted the idea of making a mezze for dinner tonight into my mind. And then, I just couldn't think of anything else.

Baba Ghanouj is a personal thing. I like mine creamy, smoky from the grill but with enough tahini to make the flavor fuller. M. prefers his thinner and smokier. To each their own. Except that I was the chef tonight. :)

Baba Ghanoush (Roasted Eggplant with Tahini)
Deborah Madison
Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

1 large or 2 medium eggplants, about 1 1/4 pounds
3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup tahini
Juice of 1 large lemon
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Chopped parsley
2 tablespoons of mayonnaise

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Slash eggplant in several places so it won't explode, and then put in pan and bake until the point of collapse (30-40 minutes). Let skin harden and char in a few places to give it a smoky flavor. I cooked my eggplant on the grill for about 40 minutes. Let rest for 15 minutes or so. Peel eggplant, and puree in blender or food processor with the garlic and tahini. Season with lemon juice and salt to taste. I added a couple of tablespoons of mayonnaise to round out the flavor even more. Mayonnaise is a common ingredient in Israeli style baba ghanoush, but again optional. Mound puree in a bowl, create slight depression with the back of a spoon. Pour a little olive oil in to the depression, sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Mojito Madness!

I've already made my feelings about mojitos known. So, last week I was feeling in a Cuban mood again. I made a nice pot of black beans (the same recipe as in the link above) and cooked up some brown rice. Then, I decided to get creative with some tofu I had lying around.

Now, I do love tofu. But I love flavorful tofu. Tofu marinated and grilled. Tofu sauced and baked. I like interesting tofu. But, I rarely take the time to make it interesting. But this recipe for a Mojito Marinade in one of my cooking magazines from earlier in the summer had lingered in my memory. See, I get a lot of cooking magazines. And while I love flipping through them, to be honest it is a good month when I actually cook something out of one. But often a recipe sticks in my mind and all of a sudden, it MUST be made. I couldn't tell you what else was in the article on marinades that I read all those months ago, but the Mojito Marinade stuck out. So I tried it.

The marinade was easy to assemble (the most time consuming step being grating some lime zest), and after a whir in the food processor - it was done. And, minus the shallots which are not usually an ingredient found in any mojito I've come across, the marinade looked almost good enough to drink. I split the marinade between the tofu, and some sliced vegetables (peppers, zuchini and the like) prepared to grill. After a about a half hour's wait, we were off to the grill.

I really liked this marinade on tofu. The tangy sweetness of the marinade carmelized on the grill, and complemented the somewhat bland taste of the plain tofu. The flavor did not come out as well on the vegetables, however I don't think that I had quite enough marinade for the amount of vegetables I prepared. With more marinade, the flavor might have come through better.

Sadly, my pictures of this meal did not come out well. I forgot to take a picture while plated, and the lighting in the kitchen was poor when I remembered to photograph. But, I plan to make this marinade again in the future and when I do so, perhaps I'll have more photographic luck.