Cooking Myself Sane

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Sometimes when I’m busy and overwhelmed, I elect to do more, not less. Say what you will about this, but you should bite your tongue if you have ever reaped the gifts of my overwhelmed oven!

I’ll post a few of my recent exploits here, but I’ve had to omit a few recipes because I’ve been cooking so much. For proper recording purposes (and just to impress my readership) I’ll list some “side” projects below.

Roll Call of Un-blogged Recipes:

Peach, Nectarine Sour Cream Ice Cream
Apricot sorbet
Strawberry Sour Cream Ice Cream
Chocolate Ice Cream
Rocky Road Ice Cream
Roasted Halibut in Chimichurri Sauce
Ottolenghi’s Babaghanouj

Momma’s Comin’ to Town Eggplant Soup

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When folks come to visit me, I like to play innkeeper. I like to stock all of their favorite things and cook for them while they relax on the porch with a book. And folks aren’t too surprise when there’s a chocolate or something welcoming them on their pillow…

Since my mom loves eggplant and I love smoky things and soupy things, I made this simple and kind of glorious eggplant soup from the Ottolenghi book, Jerusalem. The most important part of the recipe is that you properly char the eggplant on your stovetop to achieve that lovely smoky flavor. Guess who has a STUPID electric stove. So. I discovered a new, awesome method for charring eggplant. I built a mediocre fire in my grill (something I’m already BRILLIANT at doing!), got the coals moderately hot, wrapped a few eggplants entirely in foil and tossed ’em in and left the house for the day. When I came back, the eggplants were so tender, so perfectly smoky and fragrant that I knew this was gonna be good. It was.

Ingredients:
3 small to medium eggplants
Sunflower oil, for flying [I used olive oil]
1 onion, sliced [I like shallots]
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons tomato paste
2 large tomatoes, skinned and diced
1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 2/3 cups water
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 1/2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/3 cup mograbieh, or alternative such as maftoul, fregola or giant couscous [I used Israeli couscous]
2 tablespoons shredded basil or 1 tablespoon chopped dill, [I used fresh mint from my garden
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
*I added smoked paprika for garnish

Method [modified from Ottolenghi’s original]:
Char eggplants on warm grill coals according to the method above. Scrape out insides into a bowl. Using a large stock pot with about 1 tablespoon of oil, saute onion and cumin for a few minutes, stirring often. Add the tomato paste and cook for another minute before adding the tomatoes, stock, water, garlic, sugar, lemon juice, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and some black pepper. Simmer gently for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, bring a small saucepan of salted water to a boil and add mograbieh or alternative (I used Israeli couscous). Cook according to directions until al dente. Drain and refresh under cold water. Transfer the burnt eggplant flesh to the soup and blend using an immersion blender. After the soup is blended, top each serving with couscous and garnish with herbs and paprika.

Turkish-Spiced Meatballs and Yogurt Sauce

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*Note: I took the easy way out on the spices below. I didn't toast whole spices and grind them by hand. No harm in just adding ground, bottles spices! This recipe comes from my meat bible aka Bruce Aidell's Great Meat Cookbook.

Ingredients:
Cilantro-Yogurt Sauce:
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup Greek-style yogurt
3 green onions, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
1 teaspoon sugar

Meatballs:
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 cup finely chopped onion
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon whole milk
2 tablespoons Greek-style yogurt
1 1/4 pounds ground bison (often labeled buffalo)
1 large egg, beaten to blend
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

Method:
For cilantro-yogurt sauce:
Toast all seeds in small skillet over medium heat until aromatic and slightly darker in color, stirring often, about 2 minutes. Cool. Finely grind seeds in spice mill or coffee grinder. Place cilantro and all remaining ingredients in blender. Add 1 teaspoon ground seeds and process until smooth sauce forms, scraping down sides frequently. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover sauce and chill. Reserve remaining ground seeds for meatballs. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep refrigerated. Store remaining ground seeds in airtight container at room temperature.
For meatballs:
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in heavy small skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté until soft, stirring frequently, about 7 minutes (do not brown). Cool. Toss breadcrumbs with milk in small bowl to moisten. Place cooled onion mixture, breadcrumb mixture, reserved ground seeds from cilantro-yogurt sauce, jalapeno, and yogurt in processor. Using on/off turns, process until coarse puree forms. Transfer mixture to medium bowl. Add bison, egg, cilantro, sage, 1 teaspoon coarse salt, pepper, and allspice. Using hands or fork, mix until just blended. Using damp hands, form bison mixture into 1 1/4-inch balls.

Turkish Stuffed Peppers by Gourmet

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You might be picking up on a theme here. I make Turkish food for my mom when she’s in town. There’s lots of family history in these kinds of recipes, even when I don’t use the exact ones I received from my grandmother. This one especially. This is an absolute classic in Turkish cooking and everyone makes it. My grandmother always swore by the method where you don’t pre-cook the rice, but you know what kills a lovely meal pretty quickly? Crunching into a bite of undercooked rice. I’ll take Gourmet’s recommendation, thanks.

Method:
I just followed the recipe here, but again I used the bison I had handy and also finished it with a drizzle of yogurt sauce from the meatballs above.

Teeny Tiny Small Batch Grape Jelly
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There’s no reason not to make just a wee bit of jam. You don’t have to can it or properly seal the jar. It’s a much more manageable project than people presume.

In this case, a co-worker’s mum had just passed away. I wanted to make her a little something to show I cared and I had left over grapes from an event. So there you go. Very small batch grape jelly.

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