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Salad time again!

I made a nifty salad this weekend.

I started with Dole’s Sassy Baby Blend (not from brand loyalty, but because that was the clamshell salad mix on sale that week. Aside from some (not too many) awkwardly non-baby radicchio bits clearly there to same money, it was a good blend).

Then I tossed in some curly parsley left over from making lasagne.

And I sliced in two round radishes.

Then I wen to work on the dressing –

I tossed in the lemon zest left over from making Smitten Kitchen’s Raspberry Buttermilk Cake (note: both the lasagne & the cake were creations of my friend, so I’m not taking credit for them – but they were both very tasty).

Then I added 2 teaspoons of ginger spread (which I loved so much that I will not have to seek it out and buy my own jar) and some apple cider vinegar. Popped that in the microwave for 30 seconds to liquefy it.

I tasted it, and it needed some sweetness and acidity – So I squeezed in a lemon, and it was just about perfect.

Only then, I thought that the dressing and the salad would go well with apples, so I quartered and cored and apple and then sliced it into some remaining lemon juice.

conclusion: I really liked it, but I probably could have added another apple or two (they were small). It had many sharp tastes of early green Spring, but it tied together well and was mellowed a bit by the ginger and sweet lemon juice.

Imam Bayildi

So I had eggplants and a lot of time to kill last night, so I started looking though my cookbooks for something exciting. So I ended up attempting Imam Bayildi for the first time.

I’ve never ordered this is a restaurant, so I have no idea how authentic the taste ended up being, but I liked it.

I used the recipe from Tess Mallos’ Complete Middle East Cookbook. Only I didn’t have any parsley, and I had leeks to use up, so I swapped them for the onions and parsley both. And I added the juice of half a lime because I had already used its zest in popcorn, so it was just going to dry out if I didn’t use it quickly.

So here’s how I made it –

Imam Bayildi

1 leek
2 chinese eggplants
roughly 3 Tablespoons of olive oil, YMMV
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
juice of 1 lemon (+ half a lime – optional)
1/4 tsp sugar
1/2 cup water

Cut off the root bit of the leek, slice it in half lengthwise, and then cut into strips that range from 1/2″ where it is white to 1mm where it is dark green and tough. Dump all of the slices into a large bowl of water and rub them through your fingers to make sure they are as clean as possible. Wash the cutting board, and let the leeks sit in the water while you prepare the eggplants. Then rub them through your fingers some more and lift the floaters out of the water and let drain. Don’t try to get every piece of leek out of the bottom because you’ll stir up the sediment.

Wash 2 long chinese eggplants. Remove the stem, and peel off strips of the skin so that it looks striped (I accidentally peeled 4 stripes consistently, and that really helped to make them nice and square for turning evenly – worth doing again on purpose). Then, so they’d fit in my pot, I sliced them in half widthwise. Cut a deep slit lengthwise in each piece, stopping short of each end.

In a pan (I used my soup pot because I don’t have a lid for any of my deep saute pans), pour enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pot (the recipe called for 1/2 cup for 8 medium eggplants – I used more like 2 Tablespoons). Turn the burner on to medium high, and once the oil gets up to temperature, add the eggplant sections. While doing the next step, check in with the eggplants occasionally to turn them and make sure that the brown (lightly) evenly – but you want them still a bit firm.

In a saute pan, add another 2 teaspoons of olive oil and fry down the leeks with a sprinkle of salt. Once they start to brown, add 3 chopped cloves of garlic. Cook 1 more minute, and then pour the leeks and garlic into a bowl with the peeled and diced tomatoes. Mix that together with pepper (since you already salted the leeks, take a taste before adding more salt to the mixture).

Squeeze the citrus into a cup, and mix in the sugar and water so the sugar dissolves.

By now, your eggplants are probable nicely golden. Turn them so the slits are up and wiggle the slits open with a spoon. Now spoon in the tomato/leek mixture (or tomato/onion/parsley mixture, if you were following the real recipe). Any filling that does not fit inside can be piled on top, but all of mine pretty much fit. Add the lemon juice/sugar/water mixture and cover the pan/pot tightly. Cook on gently heat for 45 minutes.

And then, even though it is supposed to be served cool or room temperature, I ate two pieces right away – on bread to sop up the juice. And I put away the other two pieces to have later (maybe with a salad).

Carrot and Ginger Soup & Mediterranean Lemon Chicken

I made two tasty things this weekend, and I don’t think I have posted these recipes before. Both were inspired by fairly different dishes at restaurants.

Carrot and Ginger Soup
based on the Carrot and Ginger Soup at the Hershey Hotel buffet lunch… their soup was smooth and creamy and the sort of thing where the directions tell you after cooking to put everything through a processor and strain it. I so don’t understand why people think it is such a good idea to transfer boiling hot soup through several different containers and processes, so this one all went into a Cuisinart (because the kitchen I was using had one!) before being added to the soup.

Step 1: Soak a cube of Knorr’s vegetable bouillon in 2 cups of hot water. (Or have real stock available, but we didn’t at the time.)

Step 2: Melt butter in stockpot (minimum of 2oz, but feel free to add a lot more). Chop 2 medium onions in Cuisinart and 1 clove of garlic (only 1 because I don’t think the original soup had any, but I found myself unable to make savoury food without any garlic). Dump onions into pot and rinse the Cuisinart.

Step 3: Peel carrots (7? A bagful? A bunch o’carrots) and put them in the processor (ETA: in retrospect, it would be better to precess the carrots after. There were tiny grainy bits (that weren’t a bit deal but could be improved) in the final product). Peel ginger (1.5-2 inches), slice it against the grain to break up the fibers, and put that in the processor. Dump into the pot. Stir around to just fry it all in fat a bit and then add the stock/bouillon.

Step 4: peel half a normal-sized sweet potato (or one small one), put it in the processor, and then add it to the soup for smoothness. Peel, process, and add one apple, too.

Step 5: Let cook covered until there is no resistance on your tongue.

Step 6: Reduce heat, and finish off with whole milk and/or cream until it looks sexy to you.


Mediterranean Lemon Chicken
inspired by those Moroccan nine-course dinner places with belly dancers… usually one course is really sexy chicken, and this is the closest I can get to the flavour.

Garlic – as much as will – a minimum of 3 pods, but one of those large jars of peeled garlic cloves will be very useful here
3-5 lemons
chicken parts
white wine
(olive oil)
8-10 olives (not in vinegar, not in cans, and not in jars either – go somewhere with a fancy olive bar and look for wrinkly black olives in oil that smell dark and musky – they should add a nice flavour to the chicken without making it olivey)
optional fresh herbs (rosemary works well, and you only get to pick one herb and stick with it for the dish)

Choose a casserole dish that will fit your chicken pieces laid out flat – and deep enough to hold juices.

Cover the bottom of the casserole dish with peeled garlic cloves. No, that’s not enough, I said *cover* the bottom – 1 solid layer.

Put chicken in dish. If you are using both dark and white meat, but the white meat to the center and the dark meat around the outside (and, I have a theory that if you are doing both, the dark meat should be pulled from the fridge and the breasts from the freezer, but I haven’t tested that theory yet).

Scatter olives evenly among the meat.

Slice the lemons into slices of any thickness, leaving the ends chunky. cover the surface with lemon slices and put the ends around the edges of the dish.

If you want, take some herbs, still on the stems, and just lay them over the chicken and tuck them under some of the lemon slices.

Add a little white wine to give it some juice as it starts cooking, but no more than will cover the layer of garlic.

If your meat is predominantly white meat, then drizzle some olive oil over the top as well.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake until it is cooked. If you have all thighs, then you might need to check it halfway through and see how the level of liquid is doing… you might need to drain some. After it is cooked though, uncover it, and let it go a few more minutes to get some color.

Furthermore, these dishes have been given the AprilKat seal of approval.