Stuffed Eggplant Rolls

photo-16Nir and Guy arrived at my home early Sunday afternoon, carrying shopping bags filled with fresh groceries they had just purchased at the local Persian market.  Although we hadn’t met before, these young Israelis, full of personality and charm, quickly made themselves at home.  Promoting their company, Puzzle Israel,  (which provides a unique approach to touring) they come to the U.S several times a year offering cooking classes and demonstrations.

The class was hands-on, and with everyone participating we all had a good time. There was a station in the kitchen for the meat dishes and a station in the dining room for salads and dessert.  The menu included freshly baked Foccacia,  chicken liver stuffed mushrooms, salmon ceviche salad, cabbage salad, and eggplant rolls filled with ground beef.  Dessert was a dish of baked bananas with a biscuit Halvah topping.

When I asked Guy how he expanded from culinary arts to the touring industry, he said “cooking is the best way of making connections.”  How right he is. 

Stuffed Eggplant Rolls

2 globe eggplants

1 1/2 pounds ground beef, not too lean

1/3 pound Medjool dates, pitted and coarsely chopped

olive oil

1 purple onion, finely diced

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.   Slice the eggplants to a 1/4 inch thickness.  Layer slices on a greased cookie sheet and drizzle olive oil over both sides.  Bake for about 20 minutes until slices are golden brown and tender but do not overbake.  In a bowl, combine ground beef with dates, onion, salt and pepper.  After eggplant has cooled, place about 1 Tb of mixture on edge of each slice of eggplant, roll up and layer in greased baking dish. Place in 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes.  Serve hot.

Enjoy,

Irene

Jenny’s Eggplant Parmesan

photo-15As a child I was frightened of revolving doors, worried that they wouldn’t slow down long enough for me to get out.  Eventually I overcame my fear, (I must admit I still don’t like them) but in truth revolving doors are unavoidable, and have become somewhat of a metaphor.  People seem to come in and out of my life, particularly at work where young adults are often experiencing their first job in the non-profit world, moving on after several years.  I tend to “adopt” these 25-30 year olds that I call my ” work kids.”  

Jenny was one of those “kids,” arriving in L.A. from Michigan, eager to get started, a whirlwind of a girl, full of energy and spunk, and fun to have around.  After several years of searching for the right guy, Jenny was fortunate enough to meet Sean and joined him in Ohio.

What do you do when you miss someone?  Some people look at photos, others are good at reaching out, I cook something that reminds me of the person.  Eggplant Parmesan was Jenny’s signature dish.  By the way, the good thing about revolving doors is that they have no beginning and no end.

 

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Jenny’s Eggplant Parmesan
2 Globe Eggplants
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups of Italian bread crumbs
3 eggs, or more as needed
salt and pepper
3/4 cup shredded Parmesan
3 cups shredded mozzarella 
2 – 26 oz. jars of Marinara sauce or whatever sauce you prefer. Jenny likes 3 Cheese Tomato Sauce
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Slice eggplants about 1/2 inch thick.  Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Make an assembly line with three pie plates, one with flour, one with beaten eggs, and the last with bread crumbs seasoned with salt and pepper.  Lightly dredge each slice of eggplant in flour, dip in egg, and then in seasoned bread crumbs.  Lay coated slices of eggplant on cookie sheets and  bake for about 20 minutes.  Eggplant slices should be tender and golden when done.  Grease a baking dish with olive oil.  Spoon enough sauce to just cover the bottom of the pan and layer with eggplant, sauce,  sprinkling of Parmesan and then mozzarella.  Keep layering till you finish with mozzarella cheese on top.  Add more cheese as needed.  Bake for another 20 minutes or so until cheese is golden brown and bubbling.  Serves 6
Enjoy,
Irene

Vegetable Confetti

Certain rituals signaled that the holidays were approaching.  The parquet floors of our apartment were waxed, the silver Kiddush cups, candelabra, sugar bowl and prongs (used to pick up the sugar cubes) were polished , new dresses were bought, and shoes were purchased at Buster Brown.  I still remember walking up several stairs to the little platform in the middle of the store so that our feet could be x-rayed, insuring a proper fitting shoe.

On Rosh Hashana the four of us went to Shul, something we only did on the holidays.  Everyone got dressed up and when we returned home for the Yontif meal, the table was “dressed” as well.  My mother spared no expense during a holiday, it was her way of transmitting the significance of the day to her children.  As a child I loved it all, but only now do I understand that despite the hard work, my mother’s happiness stemmed from being able to take care of her family.  May your year be filled with abundance and beauty,  and the gift of having family to take care of.  Gut Yontif, Gut Yohr.

Vegetable Confetti (pretty enough for Rosh Hashana)

3 large eggplants, diced into 1” pieces

6 large peppers, two each of,  red, yellow and orange, cored and diced

1 red onion, peeled and diced

3 ears of corn, kernels removed

2/3 cup of olive oil

1 dozen cloves of fresh garlic, peeled and left whole

2 tsp salt

2 tsp pepper

2 Tb honey

Take two cookie sheets and line them with parchment paper.  Place diced eggplant on one sheet, peppers and onion on the other.  Divide remaining ingredients between the two trays of vegetables and toss to coat with seasonings and olive oil.  Roast vegetables at 425 degrees for about 30 minutes or till tender and caramelized, stirring occasionally.  Note: Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds for the holidays.

Enjoy,

Irene

 

Baby Eggplants with Plum Tomatoes

As the summer comes to an end, my thoughts are beginning to turn to Rosh Hashana.  These long, lazy days will soon be replaced with an onslaught of holidays and the frenzy of preparation.  I wonder if my Mother compiled lists in her head as I have already begun to do.  In some ways, even without the modern conveniences of food processors and dishwashers, things were simpler.  The menus were standard,  Yontif meals were at home or with family that lived close by, and although everything  was hand-made, her days were orderly and divided into tasks.  There was shopping, baking, cooking, and dealing with that carp in the bathtub.  Baking day meant the large wooden board and rolling-pin were placed on the dining room table where she would prepare homemade noodles, challahs, and roll out the thin dough for favorkes (something like wonton skins,  fried and served in the soup.)  The next day the Gefilte Fish, Kreplach, and Chicken Soup were prepared.   Just hours before Erev Rosh Hashana, the last details were given her fullest attention.  Garlic chicken and potatoes were roasted in the oven along with a sweet bread pudding.  On top of the stove was a pot of simmering sweet carrots with a knaidle in the middle.  A green salad was easily assembled and there was always an apple cake for dessert.

My life seems far less predictable in some ways.  As each holiday approaches, I now wonder if I will be at home in Los Angeles, or on the East Coast with my children.  The menus change from year to year, incorporating whatever the new food rage is, quinoa, kale chips, freekah, etc.  The number of vegetable dishes increase, and the brisket has lost its place as the centerpiece of the holiday meal.

As I step into my yard,  I see the changes that are taking place there as well.  My summer garden is coming to an end which means we are harvesting the last of the tomatoes and eggplants.  That leads me to think about fall, wondering which vegetables to plant in spite of the nagging uncertainty of how they will grow.  As I contemplate both the past and the future,  it is 25 years ago today that my youngest son was born.  A quarter of a century has passed and our hope is that his future be filled with love, health, and happiness, on his birthday and in the New Year.  For him,  for us, and for all of you.

The last of the garden tomatoes and eggplants

Sautéed Baby Eggplants ad Plum Tomatoes

12 baby eggplants, firm and unblemished, peeled and sliced into 1″ pieces

1 large onion, diced

12 plum or Roma tomatoes, diced

1 tsp Piment d’Espellete ( or substitute red chili powder)

1/3 cup olive oil

5 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp freshly ground pepper

cilantro

In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil and add the diced onion.  Saute onion till golden and then add minced garlic.  Saute for a minute and add sliced eggplant.  Add salt, pepper, and Piment d’Espellete.  Lower heat to a simmer, and cover pan, allowing eggplant to cook through.  This takes about 30 minutes. Then uncover and add diced tomatoes.  Cook eggplant for another 20 minutes, again over a low flame.  Serve hot or at room temperature with chopped fresh cilantro sprinkled on top.

Enjoy,

Irene

Coconut Macaroons and other favorite Passover recipes

It’s a busy time and cooking has taken a back seat, for now, but I am busy planning menus and hope to have some photos and recipes to share soon.  As requested, here are some links to my favorite Passover recipes.  Feel free to contact me with any questions or comments as I always enjoy hearing from you.  As my mother liked to say,  I wish all of you a sizn Pesach (a sweet Pesach).

 

 

Coconut Macaroons

4 large egg whites

1 cup sugar

3 cups shredded unsweetened coconut

1 Tbs cake meal

1 Tbs potato starch

6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate bar (for drizzling)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat whites till almost stiff and slowly add sugar and  finish beating till stiff.  Mix all dry ingredients and fold into whites.  Using a teaspoon drop on greased cookie sheet.  Bake for about 20 minutes and cool completely.  Melt chocolate bar in double boiler and drizzle over macaroons.

Additional Favorites

Persian Haroset

Appetizers

Marinated Eggplant

Tomato Basil Salad

Your Soup, my Matzoh Balls

Matzoh Balls

Mains and Sides

Garlic Chicken

Mushroom Kugel

Potato Nik (Kugel)

Desserts

Brownie Meringues

Chocolate Chip Mandelbroit

Enjoy,

Irene

Moussaka

My mother would hang the wet laundry on clothes lines that were strung across the rooftop of our building.  She carried it up the stairs in a laundry basket with her wooden clothespins resting on top.  On her way up she would pass the apartment of an Italian family with a daughter named Rosemary, who was a friend of mine.  Her grandmother, Rose, lived next door to them, and sometimes my mother would stop in to see her and share a small glass of wine.  Rose spoke very little English so I have no idea how she and my mother communicated but it didn’t seem to matter.  With people living in such close proximity language barriers didn’t stand in the way of relationships.

This past week we were invited to friends for Shabbat dinner and I was seated next to a lovely woman in her eighties.  Intrigued by her accent, I asked about her background.  We spent the next three hours talking, and during that time I learned a lot about her life.  An Egyptian Jew, she spoke of her experiences in Israel and the struggles of  Sephardic immigrants in a country governed by Ashkenazim.  She spoke of her husband and children and the ups and downs one has during a lifetime.  Throughout her story, she kept stating that no matter what challenges you are dealt in life, “somehow you adjust.”  As I stood up to leave, she took both of my hands in hers and asked me to please come and visit her.  On our way home, I told Norm all about this woman and then I realized that we never even learned each other’s names.

That interaction made me wonder about my mother and Rose, who I am sure learned less about each other’s lives in the thirteen years that they were neighbors than this woman revealed in the three hours we spent together.  It made me think of friendships and how we define them.  The glass of wine that Rose and my mother shared, was no less significant for them than friendships based on a more intimate knowledge of each other’s lives.  Sometimes, a glass of wine or a dish of Moussaka is enough.

This is the recipe for the Moussaka that we all shared on Shabbat.

Moussaka

4 globe eggplants

olive oil

4 onions, diced

2 pounds ground chicken or turkey

1 tsp each of ginger, turmeric, cumin and paprika

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 14 oz. can of tomato sauce

1 small can of tomato paste

1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped

6 eggs, beaten

Drizzle about 3 Tbs  of olive oil on a cookie sheet and pre-heat sheet in a 350 degree oven. Peel and slice eggplant,  1/2″  thick, sprinkle with salt, and bake in a single layer on cookie sheet till soft. Turn eggplant slices over and bake other side.  (you can fry the eggplant if you prefer but this is a much lighter version)  Heat 3 Tbs olive oil in a large heavy pot and add 4 finely diced onions. Saute till golden. Add ground chicken, ginger, garlic, turmeric, cumin, paprika, and salt and pepper.  With a wooden spoon, continue breaking up ground chicken till seasonings are incorporated and meat is lightly browned.  Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, and cilantro to chicken mixture and cook for about 20 minutes over a low flame, stirring frequently.

Grease a 9 x 13 dish and cover the bottom of the dish with half the meat sauce and add a layer of eggplant. Repeat this so that you end with the eggplant on top.  Beat 6 eggs and pour over dish.  Bake about one hour, uncovered, in a 350 degree oven.

Enjoy,

Irene

Rachel’s Eggplant Salad

Growing up, all of my parents’ friends were Polish Jews.  As immigrants, they wanted to surround themselves with people who had similar experiences and backgrounds, people who shared common customs, language, and food.  It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I met Jews who looked different, spoke Hebrew or Ladino (as opposed to Yiddish), and ate foods that I had never heard of, prepared with spices that had exotic names like turmeric, cardamom and fennel.

My children had a completely different experience growing up in Los Angeles.  A city with a strong Persian presence, Persian food was introduced into their diet early on.  They also have Jewish friends and acquaintances whose families were originally from Egypt, Iraq, Yemen and Morocco.  Our family has eaten Aloo-m-Kalla in the Sukkah of a friend who is from India, watched an Egyptian friend prepare Bamia, and have eaten many meals in my friend Rachel’s house, whose family immigrated to Israel from Afghanistan.  I am so proud of the fact that my daughter just prepared a traditional Ashkenazi Rosh Hashana dinner for her friends, but I love knowing that she can just as easily make Tabit or Shakshuka.

A great cook, my friend Rachel’s food is full of flavor, but her appetizers and salads are particularly outstanding.  Here is a recipe that she shared after returning from her most recent trip to Israel.

Rachel’s Eggplant Salad

2 eggplants, diced into 1/2 inch cubes

5 Tbs olive oil

5 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 small green chili pepper, thinly sliced

1 small red chili pepper, thinly sliced

1 32 oz. can of crushed tomatoes

2 Tbs red wine vinegar

1 Tbs sugar

Italian parsley

Take diced eggplant and toss with  3 Tbs of the olive oil, salt and pepper.  Roast on a cookie sheet in a 400 degree oven till tender, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  In a large pot, combine 2 Tbs olive oil, green and red chilis, crushed tomatoes, red wine vinegar and sugar.  Cook over low heat for about 20 minutes.  Add prepared eggplant and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes over a low flame.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve cold or at room temperature, with a handful of chopped parsley on top.

Enjoy,

Irene

Baladi Eggplant

My youngest son, Micah, just moved into a Moishe House in Los Angeles and Norm and I were thrilled to be invited for Shabbat dinner.  It was potluck and I decided to bring an appetizer, main course, and dessert.  I had just purchased three eggplants and Micah suggested that I make them Baladi style, a dish he ate in Israel.  Having never heard of it, I did a little bit of research and decided it was worth trying.  I can’t say how authentic this version is, but it was easy to make and delicious.  The eggplant was soft, with a great smoky flavor, and the addition of Tehina gave a creamy texture to the dish.

It is a perfect appetizer for a Memorial Day BBQ.

We wish the newest residents of the Los Angeles Moishe House great success!!

Baladi Eggplant

2 Eggplants

1/4 cup Tehina

1 lemon

3 cloves garlic

Wrap whole eggplants in foil and grill for about 15 minutes, turning every 5 minutes. Eggplant will collapse when tender.

Cool and drain off any liquid that has collected at the bottom of the eggplant.  Slit eggplants down the center with a sharp knife and spread open. Rake pulp with a fork to separate from skin.

Mix Tehina with minced garlic and lemon juice to taste.  Thin with a little bit of water if needed.  Drizzle over eggplants and serve with pita.

Serves 6-8 as an appetizer.

Enjoy,

Irene


Marinated Eggplant

Many years ago I was a volunteer on Kibbutz Usha in Northern Israel.  I asked to be assigned to the dairy and was given the morning shift, working side by side with an Arab named Hasan, a kind and willing teacher.  It was quite an experience for a girl from New York.  For me, the year I spent on Usha was filled with new experiences, but milking 300 cows a day was one of the highlights.  Another was that Norm and I got engaged that year!  The kibbutznikim were warm and friendly and we still have lifelong friends that we met that year.  One couple in particular, Amitai and Tovchik, became like family to us. Tovchik would marinade eggplants and keep them in a jar in her fridge, ready to serve if you ever stopped by for the typical Israeli 4 pm  meal.  It was a delicious snack, (although definitely not low-cal.) Sadly Tovchik passed away several years ago but it has become my tradition to make her eggplant dish every Passover.  It makes me think of Tovchik and my year at Usha with love and a smile.

Tovchik’s Eggplant
2 eggplants
1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled
red wine vinegar
vegetable oil

Lay sliced eggplants on a tray in a single layer and salt liberally.  Let them sit for half an hour and then pat off excess  moisture and salt with a paper towel.  Make sure both sides are dry.
Fill a frying pan with about 2″ of oil.  When oil is very hot, fry eggplant till brown, several minutes on each side.
Take a deep dish and cover with a layer of eggplant.  Then slice 2-3 cloves fresh garlic and toss slices over eggplants.  Lightly drizzle with red wine vinegar.  Add another layer of eggplant, more garlic and more vinegar and keep repeating till all eggplant is used.
Refrigerate and allow to marinate for at least 24 hours.  Serve at room temperature

Enjoy,
Irene