Tag Archives: eggplant

Daring Cooks: Mezze

My husband and I are fortunate enough to have good friends that live just a few miles from us. Lately, we’ve been enjoying one another’s company by cooking together. We wanted to have a “Greek night” together, so it was perfect that the Daring Cooks challenge for February was to create a mezze. Michele of Veggie Num Nums was our host for this month’s challenge, and what a great job she did! A mezze is perfect food for a crowd – everyone can pick at every component of the meal, munch, and customize as they please. We were required to create pita breads and hummus, and we could add any additional recipes we chose. I went with falafel and cucumber raita, (two recipes Michele also shared with us) baba ganoush, and lamb kofte with muhammara. It was a feast!

Unfortunately, my gluten-free pitas did not turn out as beautifully as hoped. They were edible, but the texture was so different from what I remember from wheat pitas. Even more unfortunate – I saved the recipe I created on my hard drive. That very same hard drive that went “kaput” that night. So I did my best to re-create my steps below – but follow this recipe at your own risk! It was touchy even if I’ve documented it correctly, and could use some tweaking. I did eat my pitas, however, dipping in baba ganoush and hummus. Yum.

Everything else, however, was delicious. I’d never cooked dried chickpeas before (yes, I realize that might be weird.). Honestly, I’m not much of a chickpea fan (except in hummus), so if I buy them at all, I opt for the canned variety. Soaking and cooking from dried is MUCH better! The peas are much more tender, but not at all mushy. And they blended beautifully in the hummus, which was silky smooth. My personal favorite of the night, however, was the baba ganoush. I’ve made that baba ganoush several times over the past few months, and I fall more in love with it each time. With a large plate of baby carrots, I could finish off a bowl of it by myself. It’s that good. My second favorite was the muhammara that went with the meatballs. I could envision using that on other cuts of meat – muhammara-glazed skirt steak, maybe? It was so easy to make, I definitely need to consider future uses for it.

Overall, this was a great Daring Cooks challenge. We enjoyed preparing everything, and finished the evening with a considerable amount of Wii playing with the kids, chatting, and a bit of foosball and air hockey. Definitely a night worthy of repeating.

Gluten-Free Pita Bread, adapted from Flatbreads & Flavors by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid

(this recipe may not be exact – the recipe I created was lost)

1 T dry yeast

2 1/4 c warm water (110-115 degrees F)

1 t agave nectar

2 c quinoa flour

2 c amaranth flour

2 c tapioca starch

1 t gelatine

1 t xanthan gum

1 T kosher salt

2 T olive oil

In a large bowl, combine yeast, water, and agave nectar. Stir to combine and allow to sit for about 10 minutes, until foamy.

In a separate bowl, combine the flours, gelatine, and xanthan gum. Add the flour mixture, a cup at a time, to the water/yeast mixture, stirring with each addition. Add in the salt and olive oil and stir or knead thoroughly until well-mixed. The dough should be somewhat sticky but firm. Cover with a towel and allow to rise for 2 hours. With wet hands, gently punch down the dough and separate into about 8 rounds, placing each on parchment-lined baking sheets, flattening into circles, about 1/2 inch thick. Cover and allow to rise for another 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the pitas, one baking sheet at a time, on the lower rack in the oven. Bake for 5-6 minutes or until no longer gummy in the center. Repeat with remaining pitas. Wrap in foil to keep soft. If desired, toast on a dry skillet for a few minutes before serving.

Makes about 9 pitas.

Red Pepper Hummus, adapted from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden

1.5 c dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight (or substitute well drained canned chickpeas and omit the cooking)

2 – 2.5 lemons, juiced

2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

a big pinch of salt

4 T tahini (sesame paste)

1/3 c jarred red peppers

Drain and boil the chickpeas in fresh water for about 1 1/2 hours or until tender. Drain, but reserve the cooking liquid.

Puree the beans in a food processor (or mash by hand), adding the cooking water as needed until you have a smooth paste. Add the remaining ingredients and continue to puree in food processor until incorporated. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Cucumber Raita, adapted from The Indian Grocery Store Demystified by Linda Bladholm

1 t cumin seeds

2 c plain yogurt

1 garlic clove, peeled and minced

fresh cilantro

fresh mint

1 cucumber, peeled and seeds removed

paprika, just a pinch, to use as garnish

Toast cumin seeds for a few seconds in a small frying pan. Crush with mortar and pestle or spice grinder.

In a bowl, stir yogurt along with cumin, garlic, cilantro and mint. Stir in cucumber and sprinkle with paprika. Chill before serving.

 

Gluten-Free Falafel, adapted from Joan Nathan and Epicurious.com

1 c dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight (or well drained canned chickpeas)

1/2 large onion, roughly chopped

2 T fresh parsley

2 T fresh cilantro

1 t kosher salt

1 t chile powder (not “chili” powder – you want the kind that only has chiles in it)

4 garlic cloves, peeled

1 t ground cumin

1 t baking powder

4 T sweet rice flour

1 egg, beaten

canola oil for frying

Place the drained chickpeas and the onions in the food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the parsley, cilantro, salt, chile powder, garlic, and cumin. Process until blended but not pureed. You want it to look like crumbs. Sprinkle in the baking powder and flour and pulse and stir. Add the egg and stir in. You want the falafel to form into a ball and no longer stick to your hands – if it does, add a bit more flour. Place in a bowl and refrigerate for several hours, covered.

Form the falafel mixture into balls about the size of walnuts. Heat 3 inches of oil to 375 degrees and fry each ball for about a minute, or just until golden. Drain on paper towels. Serve with cucumber raita.

Baba Ganoush, adapted from David Lebovitz

3 eggplants

1/2 c tahini (sesame seed paste)

1 t kosher salt

3 T lemon juice

3 cloves garlic, mashed

1/8 t chile powder

1/8 t cumin powder

1/4 t smoked paprika

a half-bunch of flat-leaf parsley

Preheat broiler of oven (or grill). Prick each eggplant with a fork several times. Char the outside of the eggplants all over under the broiler or on the grill until they look wilted, turning every few minutes.

Turn the oven down to 375 degrees. Place eggplants on a foil-lined baking sheet and roast for about 20 minutes. The eggplants should be completely soft.

Remove from oven and let cool. Split the eggplant and with a spoon, scrape out the pulp. Puree in a food processor, along with the remaining ingredients, until smooth. Adjust seasonings as necessary. Serve with carrots and celery (as I did) or with gluten-free pitas.

Lamb Kofte with Muhammara, adapted from Bon Appetit

For the kofte:

2 lbs ground lamb

1/2 c minced fresh mint leaves

1/4 c finely minced onion

4 garlic cloves, minced

3 T paprika

1 t ground cumin

2 t ground coriander

1 1/2 t kosher salt

1 t black pepper

1/2 t cayenne pepper

2 T olive oil, divided

2 large onions, sliced

For the muhammara:

1/2 c finely chopped jarred red peppers

1/2 c pomegranate juice

2 T chopped flat-leaf parsley

In a large bowl, mix the lamb, mint, onion, garlic, paprika, cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Form into meatballs about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onions and saute until golden brown, about 8-10 minutes. Remove and keep warm. Add the second tablespoon of oil to skillet. Working in batches, saute the meatballs until just cooked through, 8 minutes. Keep warm. Reserve skillet when meatballs are cooked.

Add red peppers to skillet and stir for 1 minutes. Add pomegranate juice and bring to a simmer, scraping up browned bites. Cook until reduced to 2/3 c, stirring occasionally, about 3-4 minutes. Mix in parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a small bowl.

Serve meatballs and onions in pitas with muhammara sauce spooned over.

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Filed under Appetizers, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Healthy Meals, Lamb, Main Dishes, Side Dishes

Lamb Moussaka

A month ago, if anyone were to inquire whether I liked moussaka, I likely would have responded with a “Moose-a-what?” Generally, I enjoy learning about various popular dishes from all around the globe, but this dish must have slipped past my radar. So when one of our Thanksgiving dinner guests (who wishes to remain anonymous) mentioned that she was bringing moussaka as her contribution, I immediately “googled” the dish to learn about it.

The exact origin of moussaka is unclear. Some claim it as a Greek dish (it is quite popular in Greek cuisine), but there are variations throughout the Mediterranean, including Turkey and the Balkans. (according to Wikipedia and other sites) Despite the countless variations, most recipes include a handful of principal ingredients: eggplant (aubergine), tomatoes, onions, and a crusty, creamy layer on top, usually comprised of a bechemel sauce.  (Bechemel is a white sauce, usually made of a flour/butter roux and milk or cream.) Unfortunately for me (and a great deal of other celiacs), bechemel sauce is a deal-breaker.

So when the moussaka arrived at Thanksgiving, I grilled (as politely as I could, of course, but a gluten-free girl’s gotta know whether she can dig in!) the “cook” about the ingredients she used. As she rattled off the (rather short) list of ingredients, (eggplant, tomatoes, onion, parsley, lamb, yogurt, egg…) I quickly discovered that I would be able to try this delicious-sounding dish! And delicious it was – bursting with savory and rich flavors. It seemed impossible how tasty it was – the dish was indeed more than the sum of its parts. I immediately cast aside all class and grace – I begged for the recipe.

I brought up the subject more than once during the remainder of the evening. Not that I really needed to – she already agreed to send it to me. In retrospect, I probably annoyed the hell out of her. In any case, she emailed me the recipe, so my shameless begging did the trick. I jotted down the ingredients needed on my grocery list for this week, and in spite of the lengthy time to prepare the dish (it takes a little more than an hour, which is usually more than I’ll tackle on a weeknight), I made plans to make this last night.

Let me tell you, it was so worth the wait! The yogurt-egg-cheese topping was beautifully browned with just a bit of a crunchy edge. The eggplant layers melded flavors with the lamb and tomato mixture to create a savory, luscious, satisfying filling. I couldn’t help myself – I had to have seconds. And some more for lunch the following day. This was one of those times where I wasn’t too sad that my husband isn’t a fan of eggplant or tomatoes – it just meant there was more for me!

This is the perfect dish for company. If you wish, you can prepare it up to 3-4 hours ahead of time, waiting only to bake it when your guests arrive. It will make the house smell heavenly. You can always round out the meal by adding a garden salad or a potato dish, if you choose.

Now, how to break the news to this guest that she will be asked to bring this dish next year…

 

Lamb Moussaka

2 large eggplants, thinly sliced

1-2 T olive oil

1 lb lean ground lamb (can substitute beef, turkey, or pork)

Salt and pepper

1 large or 2 small yellow onions, thinly sliced (should be about 2 cups)

1 t finely chopped garlic

1 14 oz can diced tomatoes, undrained

2-3 T chopped fresh parsley

2 eggs

10 fl oz lowfat plain yogurt, drained (see below for instructions on how to drain yogurt)

1 1/2 c finely grated Parmesan cheese

Lay the eggplant slices in a single layer over paper towels. Lightly salt both sides of eggplant slices and allow to sit for 20-30 minutes. Pat dry. Heat a skillet to medium-high heat. Brush a very thin layer of olive oil on each side of each eggplant slice. Add eggplant slices in a single layer in the skillet and brown on both sides. Set aside. (You will have to do this in batches) Repeat with remaining slices.

Add lamb to skillet and brown for 5 minutes, crumbling with spatula and stirring as needed. Season with salt and pepper. Add the onion slices and garlic and saute for another 7-8 minutes or until onion softens. Add tomatoes and parsley and bring to a boil. Quickly reduce to a simmer and allow to cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until everything is completely tender. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

Arrange half of the eggplant slices in a single laer in an oven-proof 13X9 baking dish. Add the lamb-tomato mixture, and then layer the remaining eggplant slices on top.

Beat the eggs in a bowl until doubled in size and foamy (I used my stand mixer for this). Add yogurt and continue beating until the entire mixture is fluffy. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour egg mixture over the eggplant slices, spreading out in an even layer. Sprinkle Parmesan on top.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown on top. Serves 4.

How to drain yogurt:

Draining yogurt results in a thicker consistency, much like Greek-style yogurt. Line a large bowl with several thicknesses of cheesecloth. Place the yogurt into the cheesecloth, then gather the ends and fasten them tightly with a rubber band. Hang the cheesecloth over the bowl, allowing it to drip the excess water into the bowl. (I suspended mine over the bowl by wrapping the ends of the cheesecloth around a chopstick and placing a binder clip to secure. You can also hang the cheesecloth over a cupboard knob and place the bowl underneath.) Allow to drip for at least 30 minutes, or longer if you want an even thicker yogurt.

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Filed under Gluten-Free, Healthy Meals, Lamb, Main Dishes