Chermoula Eggplant

If you are a reader of food blogs you've already heard everyone extolling the virtues of the Yotam Ottolenghi and his cookbooks Jerusalem, Ottolenghi, Plenty, and Plenty More. I bought Jerusalem early this year on a whim: it's an absolutely gorgeous book, full of fabulous photography and overflowing with detail on the regional cuisines that have influenced and inspired Jerusalem's. I really enjoy when cookbooks are more than a collection of recipes, when they have a narrative that elevates the recipes on their pages. So yes, I highly recommend Jerusalem if you are an adventurous eater who likes to eat her vegetables. Moreover, this book has hands down the best way to cook eggplant in the history of forever and ever amen. Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise, score the flesh with deep cuts across the surface (without cutting through the skin), and slather some good marinade yum yums all over it (i.e. chermoula). When you roast it at a high temperature, the marinade seeps down into the all those crevices you've made, and you end up with soft, velvety eggplant that tastes super good. Yup. It's delicious. Ottolenghi is the based god of vegetables.

Chermoula is a marinade used in Algerian, Moroccan, and Tunisian cooking. This recipe in particular combines preserved lemon, garlic, cumin, dried coriander and chili, and paprika, but there are variations that include saffron, fresh coriander (a.k.a. cilantro), onion, black pepper, et cetera. If you've never had preserved lemon before it is divine and you should buy some immediately, or make your own if you are so blessed to have citrus growing near you.

nekkid chermoula eggplant with all-dressed-up chermoula eggplant

You probably won't hear from me again until the new year, so ¡feliz año nuevo! I'll be in New Hampshire for Christmas festivities, then in Wisconsin for more holiday festivities before returning to Chicago. I'll probably be asleep for most of break, because that's what vacation is for, but I'll at least be awake to eat too many cookies (is there such a thing?), play games (SCRABBLE YAS), and do the gifting thing. Let the holiday food coma begin!

Chermoula Eggplant
from Jerusalem

2 medium eggplants, sliced in half lengthwise
2 tablespoons preserved lemon peel
2 garlic cloves
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon chili flakes
1/4 c olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Score the flesh of each eggplant half with deep, diagonal cuts without piercing the skin. Mix together the rest of the ingredients, lemon peel through olive oil, for the chermoula. Spread the chermoula over each half, and place on a baking sheet with the cut side up. Roast for 40 minutes, or until the eggplants are completely soft.

Meanwhile, make the bulgur salad.

Bulgur Salad
slightly adapted from Jerusalem

1 c bulgur (you can substitute rice if you prefer)
1/4 c olive oil
1 handful cilantro
10-15 leaves mint
1/3 c golden raisins
1/3 c green olives
1/3 c sliced almonds, toasted
1 handful green beans
Kosher salt
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 c Greek yogurt

Soak the raisins in a little hot water to reconstitute them. After 10 minutes, drain and set aside. Cook the bulgur or rice, adding in the green beans in the last minute or so, then add the olive oil and salt. Finish with the herbs, olives, almonds, and lemon juice.

Once the eggplants have cooked, serve with the bulgur salad, a spoonful of yogurt, and a drizzle of olive oil.


Thanksgiving Turkey + Leftovers

Friends, Thanksgiving was excellent. The turkey, cider cranberry sauce, sage and onion stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potato biscuits, roasted root vegetables and brussel sprouts, and berry pie all turned out as planned (although there was a slight debacle with the meat thermometer). Snaps all around to my lovely sous chef and amazing apartment cleaner Tor, and to my parents for buying wine and champagne (and the turkey). The parental units didn't make it to my dinner this year unfortunately, but I had 14 people, and everyone left well-fed and happy, with leftovers to spare.

Dropped the ball on the photography again, but certainly didn't drop the ball in the food department.

I made sure that the turkey carcass wasn't discarded this year (Papa Z got an ear full from me last year when he threw it away in the chaos of post-dinner clean up) so I could make stock and turn it into some delicious chili. This recipe is fabulous, and I've been eating it over swiss chard and mashed potatoes for lunch for the past couple days (I made even more mashed potatoes this week after my leftovers ran out, no shame). Of course, I also made a glorious post-Thanksgiving sandwich with brie and mustard, because that's the point of making Thanksgiving dinner.


Now it's tenth week, which means finals the next. I'm so, so excited for this quarter to be over. Until then, I will be playing The RiverCooler than Latch (remix of Latch), and Blank Space basically on loop.

In other news, happy second birthday today to this blog! Time for those terrible twos.

Roast Turkey
from Alton Brown

1 cup Kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 gallon vegetable stock
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1/2 tablespoon allspice berries
1/2 tablespoon chopped crystalized ginger
1 gallon heavily iced water
1 apple, sliced
1/2 onion, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup water
4 sprigs rosemary
6 leaves sage
Canola oil

2-3 days before you want to roast the turkey:

Thaw the turkey in the refrigerator. Once thawed, combine the vegetable stock, salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, allspice berries, and candied ginger in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to dissolve the sugar and salt, and bring to a boil. Remove the brine from the heat, then refrigerate until cold.

1 day before you want to roast the turkey:

Combine the brine, water and ice in a 5-gallon bucket (or thoroughly cleaned cooler). Place the thawed turkey (with innards removed) breast side down in brine. If necessary, weigh down the bird to ensure it is fully immersed, cover, and refrigerate or set in cool area for 8 to 16 hours, turning the bird once half way through brining.

On the day you want to eat:

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Remove the bird from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard the brine. Place the bird on roasting rack inside a half sheet pan and pat dry with paper towels.

Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick, and 1 cup of water in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Add steeped aromatics to the turkey's cavity along with the rosemary and sage. Tuck the wings underneath the bird and coat the skin liberally with canola oil.

Roast the turkey on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees F for 30 minutes. Insert a probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Set the thermometer alarm (if available) to 161 degrees F. Let the turkey rest, loosely covered with foil for at least 15 minutes before carving (I let mine sit for almost an hour and it was still hot).

Whole Wheat Pita Bread

Apologies for the crappy iPhone photo, friends. It's been a rough few weeks, and I didn't quite have time to take pretty photos of my food before eating it. But I started playing volleyball intensely again last week, which has improved my quality of life tremendously.

I used to practice with the men's club team my first year (since there's no women's club team at UChicago), when they didn't usually have enough guys to run a full practice; but as I got more involved in crew, and then kept getting injured, I stopped going. Now they have plenty of guys on the team, so women who want to practice with them have to try out. Another woman, who's a graduate student in biochemistry from Poland and a really sweet person all around, and I both go regularly now, and it's been excellent. I somehow forgot how much I loved the sport, even though I started playing 9 years ago, and how fun sports in general can actually be. How did I forget that? Stupid, right?

Don't get me wrong, I do love rowing, especially sculling I've found (even though I'm still very much in the learning stages for that), but not racing. The anxiety around racing, coupled with all of the interpersonal drama and stress of being on the board, made rowing more of a stressor than a stress reliever. Even though I fully separated myself from crew this quarter, I've been feeling unmoored, in a stressed and chaotic state without any satisfying sense of purpose. I do my schoolwork because I have to graduate, I go to work because I have the responsibility to go, I work on my honors thesis because I have committed to writing one.

Salsa practice on Tuesdays became the other consistent little light in my week, after my FaceTime calls with Jimmy on Sundays -- but in between was just this frenetic energy, relaxed every once in a while by the quiet moments when my roommates and I stopped to cuddle and eat ice cream together. Going back to volleyball has given me a consistent, calm sense of purpose, and a culturally acceptable forum for me to hit things really hard. My anxiety is lower, I've been sleeping better, and looking forward to practice gets me through the week. Now if I could not have to spend so much time doing case studies to prepare for job interviews that would be sweet. Until then, there will be pita bread and hummus for me to make and devour.


Whole Wheat Pita Bread

2 1/4 teaspoons (1 package) active dry yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons honey
1 1/4 cups warm water, divided (about 115 degrees F)
1 1/2 cups bread flour, divided
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour, divided
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
Cornmeal

In a large bowl combine yeast, honey and 1/2 cup warm water until the yeast dissolves. Let the mixture stand 5 minutes until puffy (if it doesn’t puff up, discard the whole mixture and start over). Add 1/2 cup bread flour and 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, and stir until smooth. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 45 minutes.

When yeast mixture is doubled, add remaining warm water, flours, olive oil and salt. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until a smooth, elastic and only slightly sticky dough forms, about 10 minutes. Shape dough into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl, and turn once to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

Punch down the dough. Divide it into 8 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a ball, then stretch each dough ball into a 7-inch wide circle. Transfer the discs of dough to baking sheets lightly dusted in cornmeal. Cover the dough with tea towels and let rise them until puffy, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat oven to 500 degrees F with one rack in the lower third of the oven. Carefully place 4 pitas at a time directly on top of oven racks. Bake 2-3 minutes or until puffy and golden. Using tongs, flip pitas and bake 1 minute more. Transfer pitas to a cooling rack to cool 2 minutes, then place in a kitchen towel to stay warm and pliable. Repeat with remaining pitas.

Concord Grape + Red Wine Jam

Hi friends. In lieu of the usual prose, I've got some little bits of fun for you from around the Internets, and a recipe for jam with red wine in it, because I'm a grown up now and you ain't gonna stop me. I also made lavender-orange biscuits as a jam-delivery-vehicle, because stress baking season has begun (I added 1/2 teaspoon of dried lavender and the zest of 1 orange to Smitten Kitchen's buttermilk biscuit recipe). Coming down the pipeline: soba noodles with tahini-sriracha sauce (i.e. today's lunch), red wine-stewed lentils with red kale (are you sensing a theme in my diet lately?), and Finnish cinnamon rolls. Come at me fourth week.


Links on links on links:

This song is life-changing. Seriously. Shouts out to the Usagi-bae (otherwise known as Ariel) for enriching my morning shower butter + jam playlist (get it, it's my jam-out playlist? yes? such witty, wow?).

My friend Addie just started her own cooking blog -- she's only in middle school, and she's wicked talented!! Check it out here.

I read a fabulous analysis of Diego Rivera's mural in the National Palace of Mexico City for my Modern Latin American Art class. If you're a college student with free access to academic journals, I highly suggest that you read Leonard Folgarait's Revolution as Ritual: Diego Rivera's National Palace Mural.

Don't mind me drooling over everything on QUITOKEETO. This shop is just luscious, oh my.

Culinary Bro-Down is one of my favorite food blogs to read, not really because I want to make his food but because his writing is actually fabulous, and never fails to make me laugh. This post in particular is pretty spot-on.

In terms of blogs that make me want to stop whatever I'm doing and cook something, my name is yeh is one of the best. Like, brownies with matcha glaze? OK.


Concord Grape + Red Wine Jam
guided by Grow It Cook It Can It and lots of Google searches

9 c stemmed concord grapes, washed (if you can find seedless ones, thank your lucky stars)
1/2 c maple syrup
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 c pinot noir

Ok, this is the worst part. Send all 9 cups of grapes through a ricer in order to remove the skins and seeds. If you don't have a ricer, you're gonna have a bad time (i.e. you will need to skin each grape by hand, cook them with the wine, then squish them through a fine-mesh strainer to remove the seeds, and proceed with the rest of the instructions). If you want the skins to be in the final product, skin them by hand, then put them through the ricer to remove the seeds. You can add the skins in the pot for cooking.

Once your grapes are nekkid, cook them in a non-reactive pot over medium-high heat with the wine for 10-15 minutes, until things are getting good and syrupy (this is not super technical, I apologize -- just use your good judgment). Add in the maple syrup and cook on high until the mixture reaches 220 degrees F on a candy thermometer.

Meanwhile, clean your jars, lids, and rings in hot, soapy water. Bring a large pot of water for canning to a boil, making sure you have enough water to cover the jars by 1 inch. Once it's at a boil, sterilize everything (utensils, jars, lids, rings) for at least 5 minutes. You want to have hot jam go into hot jars.

Remove the hot jars and fill with jam, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace. Place on the lids, tighten the rings, and process in the boiling water for 10 minutes. After they've been processed, let the jars cool to room temperature.

Pastel de Choclo

Feeling both chilly and devilish on the beach in La Serena

Feelings of normalcy are sliding back into place as I return to class, to work, to my what-shall-I-call-other-than home in Chicago. I don't know how I managed to develop homesickness for a place I only lived for a month, but here I am, making borracho beans with rice, empanadas de pino, and pastel de choclo within the span of a week, trying to create a sense of being in a place more than five thousand miles away from here. It helps that I love the people I live with and have an amazingly supportive work environment, but of course it's not the same. How could it be? I've already started planning my travels for next summer -- which will [hopefully] include London, Oaxaca, Mexico City, and several cities in Greece -- and this year's Thanksgiving meal, so I have ample material for daydreams and spreadsheets.


And so, a lesson on corn is in order instead of my musings about being home. First of all, choclo refers to a specific kind of corn. It's a variety that is much starchier than the sweet corn we can find en los Estados Unidos, so that when you cook it, it turns into a wonderfully thick pudding. Pastel de choclo is akin to shepherd's pie, with a bottom layer of pino (a term for the mixture of beef and onions cooked with salt, pepper, cumin, and sometimes paprika, along with golden raisins, slices of hard-boiled egg, and olives: it's a classic Chilean filling for empanadas), covered by chicken, which is then covered by a mixture of cooked choclo, basil, and salt. It's usually baked and served in individual clay bowls, but since I bought a clay pot when I was in Pomaire, a town an hour away from Santiago famous for their clay works, I baked mine into one casserole of sorts. 

After removing the kernels of corn from the cobs, I simmered the cobs with some salt and water to make a corn broth -- which is fabulous to drink if you have a cold by the way (trust me, I've had a gross cold for the past few days) -- that I'll turn into soup later this week. You can also steep the corn silks (after removing the black ends) in hot water to make tea that's supposed to heal all sorts of ailments, and you could dry out the husks for tamales. I didn't manage to do either of those this time around, but if you're feeling ambitious, make use of all that late summer produce has to offer before the midwest becomes a tundra once more. 

Pastel de Choclo
adapted from Viva Chile!

8 large ears of corn, silks and husks removed
8 leaves fresh basil, finely chopped
3 tablespoons butter
0.5-1 c half-and-half
1 large onion, chopped
3 tablespoons oil
1 pound lean ground beef
Kosher salt
Black pepper
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
2 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
0.5-1 c black olives, pitted
3 c golden raisins
4 chicken thighs or 2 chicken breasts

Over a large bowl, use the largest holes of a box grater to remove the corn kernels from the cobs. You want to keep both the liquid and the pieces of corn (use the cobs to make stock, trust me, it's delicious). In a medium saucepan, heat the corn with the basil, salt to taste, and butter. Once the butter has melted, add the half-and-half a little at a time until the mixture has thickened and become custard-like.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a pan with high sides. Sweat the onions for a few minutes until translucent, then push to the side and add in another tablespoon of oil and the ground beef. Season the beef with salt, pepper, 1 teaspoon cumin, and paprika, then cook until browned. Stir the onions into the beef once it's browned, then add in the raisins and olives.

Meanwhile, in another pan, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil. Season the chicken with salt, pepper, and the other teaspoon of cumin, then sear skin-side down. Cook the chicken through, then either remove the meat from the bones, saving the bones for stock, or proceed to the next step.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In individual oven-proof bowls (or in one large vessel), layer the beef mixture with the egg, then the chicken, and lastly the corn mixture. Bake for 25-30 minutes if in individual bowls, or 1+ hour for one pan/pot (depending on your oven), until the top is golden brown and the edges are bubbling.

Merluza à la Gallega

Pisco de Elqui en el Valle del Elqui

I've been in Santiago, Chile, for nearly four weeks now. Jimmy and I have travelled together to Buenos Aires, Argentina, and to El Valle del Elqui, a region north of Santiago. Now we're gearing up for the country's Independence Day celebrations, called Fiestas Patrias, this Thursday (the festivities have already begun and will last throughout the weekend, but the country's birthday is technically September 18).

La Casa Rosada en Buenos Aires

The days have been so full, even the quiet and lazy ones when I finally roll out of bed late in the morning, hang around La Moneda (the presidential palace) reading, and make dinner in the twilight hours with Jimmy when he comes home from class. They're full in a simple, satisfying way, like lying out in the sun in springtime. We've trekked up Cerro San Cristóbal in Santiago, wandered the streets of Barrio San Telmo (where the night is filled with spontaneous parties on the street corners, with a band of musicians and a throng of happy dancers) in Buenos Aires, biked all around El Valle del Elqui in search of artisanal pisco, and learned how to salsa.  We've eaten well, drunk lots of Chilean (and Argentinian) wine, and rowed together in a double in Laguna Aculeo, which is the most beautiful place I have ever rowed.

Happy rower, taken by her happy doubles partner

It's an adventure each day when I explore on my own too, using my limited Spanish to find my way around the city on its excellent metro system, have my fill of empanadas from my favorite hole-in-the-wall place near La Moneda, and try my best not to be afraid of interacting with shopkeepers and waiters. Sometimes I pass by a store two or three times before I gather myself and walk in. But if there's anything I've gained from my solo wanderings, it's that I've gotten over being embarrassed. I've had some great interactions with people, when they're surprised to discover that I can tell them what I'm looking for and ask them questions in decent, albeit slow, Spanish, but I've also had ones that have ended with me pointing at things and them speaking broken English. I can't win them all, but I do try.

On my first morning in South America, Jimmy took me grocery shopping at La Vega. The sprawling market just over the Mapocho River, in the central part of the city, is a series of open-air warehouses, with stalls full of produce, meat, and dry goods like loose tea and beans, and small restaurants crammed with Santiago locals and their rolling shopping bags. It's surrounded by a ring of vendors selling cookware, clothing, and kitsch, and where stray dogs wander with the shoppers. The avocados are always excellent, and there is a really interestingly-shaped kind of kiwi that Jimmy, and now I, really enjoy. Today we also got around to buying some zapallo, a popular squash here with bright orange flesh, sold in huge chunks that the vendors saw off for you. La Vega is certainly not what I would call a farmer's market -- there is nothing quiet or bucolic about it (in fact it feels much more like an auction floor) -- but the hands of the men and women at their stalls are caked with dirt as they strip the outer leaves from bunches of spinach and twist carrots away from their stems. They are not far from the land where these were first planted.

A block away is another smaller market called Tirso de Molina that has two floors, the first with several more produce vendors and some great fresh juice counters (protip: ask for mango and orange together), and the second with fast food stalls. If you take the footbridge back over the river, lined with people selling Peruvian ceviche (over pasta, something I hadn't seen before), freshly fried sopapillas (that are excellent smothered with spicy tomato and pepper salsa, slaw, and mustard, which sounds weird together but is delicious, trust me), and all kinds of housewares (that often appear to have been gently used already), there's a great fish market in Mercado Central where the mongers will clean, debone, and fillet whole fish right in front of you. The tile floors are slick from the bowlfuls of water they splash across their cutting boards to wash away the blood and tiny bones, and the air is thick with the smell of the ocean, reminding you that the Pacific is not so far away.


Merluza à la Gallega
from BBC Food

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, sliced thinly
6 garlic cloves, sliced
2 teaspoons paprika
85 grams cured chorizo sausage, cut into cubes
1/4 of a pimiento de padron
1 kilo new potatoes, cleaned and cut into cubes
100 milliliters dry white wine
300 milliliters water
1/2 kilo hake/merluza steaks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a cast iron skillet. Cook the onions and garlic over medium heat until soft, then add the paprika and fry for 2-3 minutes. Add the chorizo sausage and peppers and fry for another 3-4 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the wine before adding the potatoes and water and seasoning with salt and pepper. Simmer for about 10 minutes, until the potatoes are just tender and the liquid has reduced a little.

Season the hake steaks well on both sides. Put them on top of the potatoes, cover and simmer for 8-10 minutes, until the hake is cooked through.

Chili Vinegar Hot Sauce + Lime-Cured Tilapia Tostadas

I had all these grand plans for the food projects I was going to tackle this summer: limoncello, raspberry jam (round 2 bigger-and-better after my initial trial last summer), canned tomatoes, pickled stuff (dill pickles + pickled hot peppers), brioche, sourdough bread -- but, I did successfully make Sriracha (i.e. what we're calling Chili Vinegar Hot Sauce here because that's what the recipe said), so there's that. This batch was not as spicy as I would've liked, but it was a tasty experiment -- the only hard part was finding the chilies (I ended up using serranos because Fresnos were nowhere to be found). It was also delicious on the tostadas I made for lunch yesterday. I wish I had discovered this lime-curing business earlier in the summer when I would come home starving from work every day, because the whole meal takes like 15 minutes tops. The original recipe was for summer rolls with lime-cured shrimp and peaches (the link is below), but tilapia is like half the price of shrimp around here, and I didn't feel like going all the way across Hyde Park to find rice paper wrappers. Necessity is the mother of invention, friends.

ALSO this will be the last post before I leave for Chile (!!!!!). I might send a picture-filled update sans recipe while I'm there, but you never know how lazy I'm going to be... But you also never know what kinds of awesome food we'll be cooking up that I'll want to share with you (with bacon probably not gonna lie). It's crazy, I feel like I just posted the espinacas con garbanzos recipe with 129 days to go. Well actually it feels like forever ago but also like it just happened, you know? No? I might be losing it, but I'm happy and have a full belly, so it's not so bad.


Chili Vinegar Hot Sauce

1 dried Anaheim chile
1 fresh red Fresno chile, sliced ¼-inch thick
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced ¼-inch thick
2 tablespoons roughly chopped garlic
1/4 cup finely diced shallot
1 cup white vinegar
2 tablespoons salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Roast the Anaheim chile on a sheet tray until lightly toasted, about a minute.

Combine all of the ingredients in a non-reactive mixing bowl (I used plastic) and marinate for an hour.

Transfer the chile mixture to a blender and purée on high speed until smooth. Place the purée in a nonreactive bowl and cover tightly with one layer of cheesecloth. Allow the sauce to sit at room temperature for 3 to 5 days until the sauce takes on a natural fermented aroma. Once finished, transfer the sauce to an airtight container. Keep chilled in the refrigerator. The vinegar will last for a few months.

Lime-Cured Tilapia Tostadas
inspired by Tasting Table

1 tilapia filet
4-ish limes
1 small shallot
1/3 small daikon radish
1/2 big peach
1 baby cucumber
Splash rice wine vinegar
Kosher salt
Handful cilantro
2 tostadas (I may or may not have had more than 2...)

Cut the fish into small, bite-sized cubes and throw them into a bowl. Mince the shallot finely, and add them to the fish. Squeeze the juice of the limes over the fish and shallots, and let everything hang out for 10 minutes. Bring 1/2 c of water to a boil, pour it over the fish and lime mixture, then stash that in the fridge until the fish has cooked, only 5 minutes or so.

In the meantime, julienne the radish, peach, and cucumber (I didn't exactly julienne mine because I was so flippin hungry). Let the radish soak in a bowl of cold water for a few minutes until crisp. After the radish is crisp, toss all your veg together with a pinch of salt, a splash of vinegar, and some chopped cilantro.

Drain the cooked tilapia, then pile your tostadas high with fish + slaw + chili sauce. Devour.