So things have gotten weird since our last blog post. The novel coronavirus has caused a global pandemic, and we’re starting to see an uptick in COVID-19 cases in our area. The past week at work has been incredibly stressful, with a lot of confusion and worry. We actually are now on vacation for two weeks, though our trip to Istanbul was obviously cancelled. So we’re staycationing and are grateful to take a break from work while this is going on. We just found out this afternoon that the governor cancelled all school through the end of the school year and ordered all non-essential businesses to close for 30 days. What a crazy new reality we all are finding ourselves in. I have a lot of thoughts and worries about all of this, but as we’ve mentioned before, this blog is supposed to be light-hearted and an outlet, so we’ll skip those for now.
Tonight’s side dish is another from this month’s Cookbook Club selection – Deep Run Roots, by Vivian Howard. The first one we shared was Smoky Spiced Pecans from earlier this month! This is a different way to eat beets for us and is really an easy side dish option. She serves it with lamb kebabs, but we had ours with some steak and that was a nice accompaniment. We both liked this recipe and decided it’d be even better with a little feta on top!
Roasted Beets in Herb Yogurt
Adapted from Deep Run Roots, by Vivian Howard
- 2 medium beets, scrubbed
- 1/3 cup “Greek”-style yogurt
- 1 lemon, zested & juiced
- Zest of the whole lemon
- 1 tbsp juice
- 1 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 tsp sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 3 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
- 1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice the beets in half and place on a baking sheet. Roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
- Meanwhile, whisk together the remaining ingredients.
- Once beets are done, allow to cool enough to handle, then peel and slice into large chunks.
- Toss the beets in the yogurt sauce and serve.
Serves 4 as a side dish
Welcome to March! This month’s Cookbook Club selection is Deep Run Roots: Stories and Recipes from My Corner of the South, by Vivian Howard. If you’re a PBS watcher, Vivian is the chef at the center of the show A Chef’s Life. Selim loves that show, so this was a fun selection for us! Our first selection is a recipe she calls “Viv’s Addiction.” These spiced nuts really are addicting! We used slightly different spices than she does, but the addiction level is still there. I could not stop eating them as soon as they were cool enough to touch. I had to make myself save a few – I made them with the intention of them going in my work lunches! This recipe is clearly adaptable to essentially any spice you want, and we’re definitely planning to try a few variations.
Smoky Spiced Pecans
- 2 egg whites
- 2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tsp ancho chile powder
- 1 tsp coriander
- 1 tbsp cumin
- 1 tbsp paprika
- 1 tbsp smoked paprika
- 4 cups pecan halves
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Using a stand mixer with whisk attachment, whisk the egg whites until foamy. Then slowly add the salt and sugar while still whisking. Continue whisking until stiff peaks form. Then add the spices and whisk until combined.
- Add the pecans to the bowl and stir until well-coated.
- Spread the coated pecans in a single layer on a lined baking sheet.
- Bake for 10 minutes. Then remove from the oven and flip the nuts over, breaking up clumps as able.
- Repeat the steps above, stirring again at the 20 minute mark, and removing from the oven for good at the 30 minute mark.
- Once cool, break up any nut clusters that are stuck together.
Since having our baby girl, we realized that having friends and family over for dinner is a little more difficult than it once was. We love cooking and hosting, but given that she goes to bed in the 6 o’clock hour and lets be honest, most people are coming over to see her and not us anyway, dinners just weren’t that convenient. Instead of giving up, we decided to start having people over for brunch! Everyone loves brunch ,and the baby is super friendly and cute in the mornings! We call our brunches “Hedgehog Brunch,” because the baby’s nickname is Hedgehog. (Side note, I think that’s how we’ll start referring to her on here, since “the baby” is a little generic. We’re not comfortable sharing her name and face with the wild, wild west of the whole internet.)
And no, these Sour Beets are not on our brunch menu. That usually consists of Selim’s biscuits (recipe forthcoming…), fruit, sausage and/or bacon, and eggs. But because we eat such a big brunch in the late morning, we’re frequently not that hungry at dinnertime on those nights. We usually just want something lighter and frequently just eat some vegetables for dinner. Hence our dinner tonight of this beet dish! This recipe comes from February’s Cookbook Club selection – Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking, by Toni Tipton-Martin. This book is beautiful and educates the reader about African American culinary influence, a legacy that is often overlooked. I thought this particular recipe would be a great place to start because Selim loves beets, but only tolerates vinegar, while I love vinegar and only tolerate beets! Perfect right? As we were eating, Selim deemed this “hot beet slaw,” which is exactly what it is! He didn’t love it (too vinegary), but I really enjoyed it! We also thought next time we might add some carrots too.
(Adapted from Jubilee, by Toni Tipton-Martin)
- 2 tsp neutral oil
- 1 cup red onion, thinly sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- Black pepper
- 1 large beet or 2 medium beets, cut into matchsticks (~3 cups)
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1/2 cup cider vinegar
- 1 Granny Smith apple, sliced to similar thickness as the beets
- 1/4 tsp lemon zest
- 1/2 tsp lemon juice
- Heat the oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the onions to the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes. Then add the garlic and cook an additional 2 minutes. Season with a few turns of black pepper.
- Add the beets to the pan, stirring to combine with other ingredients. Cook for just another 1 minute.
- Then add the water, salt, sugar, and vinegar. Bring to a boil and then cover and lower the heat to so the liquid is simmering. Cook like this for 15 minutes. (If you like your beets a little softer, go for 20 minutes.)
- Remove the lid, add the apples, and cook at a vigorous simmer for another 5-10 minutes, until a lot of the liquid has evaporated and the beets are your desired texture!
- Stir in the lemon zest and juice prior to serving. Adjust salt and pepper if need be.
Serves 4 as a side
Tonight’s recipe is our second effort from Plenty, by Yotam Ottolenghi. Our first attempt was the super unique Eggplant & Mango Soba Noodles, which we loved! I love all things carbs, so a dish of not one, but two types of potatoes is right up my ally. We enjoyed cooking with curry leaves for the first time – so fresh and almost citrus-y! We got to explore a nearby Indian grocery a little more for some of these ingredients too, so that was fun! I expected this dish to be a little spicier (that’s what I think when I hear “vinadloo”), but it only has a mild spice to it. It is very spicED, but not spicY. So this lead me to research vindaloo a little bit. Turns out that ‘vindaloo’ comes from the Portuguese ‘carne de vinha d’alhos,’ which translates to ‘meat in garlic wine.’ This was a dish eaten by Portuguese sailors on the voyage to India because the meat was preserved. In India, the wine was replaced with vinegar, spices were added, and the name evolved to ‘vindaloo.’ So cool! I love the history of food!
We enjoyed this as a side dish (with scallops, so probably not a super common pairing 😂), but certainly it is meant to be a vegetarian main dish.
(Adapted from Plenty by Ottolenghi)
- 2 tbsp neutral oil
- 2 shallots, diced
- 1/2 tsp brown mustard seeds
- 1/2 tsp fenugreek
- 1 tsp cumin
- 2 tsp coriander
- 1 1/2 tsp cardamom
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 1 tsp paprika
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 dried red chilli
- 2 tbsp fresh ginger, grated or chopped
- 25 fresh curry leaves
- 3 medium tomatoes
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 large red bell pepper
- 1 large Russet potato, diced
- 1 large sweet potato, diced
- Fresh cilantro
- Heat the oil in a large heavy pan or a dutch oven. Cook the shallots, mustard seeds, and fenugreek over medium-high heat, for 4-5 minutes, until shallots are browned and seeds are popping.
- Add the next nine ingredients (spices through curry leaves) and cook for another 3 minutes.
- While those are cooking, blitz the tomatoes in a food processor. Next, add the tomatoes, along with the vinegar, stock, sugar, and salt to the dish. Bring to a boil.
- Lower heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Add the potatoes and peppers and continue cooking at a simmer, covered, for 45 minutes (or more, until potatoes are tender).
- Once the potatoes are tender, remove the lid and simmer for another 10 minutes so the sauce thickens.
- Remove the chili pepper and cinnamon sticks. Serve topped with fresh cilantro.
Serves 2 for dinner, 4 as a side
For Cookbook Club this month, we’re cooking Plenty, by Yotam Ottolenghi. I love Ottolenghi… he’s one of my favorite chefs to follow on social media and I find his recipes universally delicious! I was introduced to him several years back when my sister gave me the cookbook Jerusalem that he co-authored with Sami Tamimi. It remains one of my favorite cookbooks. The pictures are gorgeous and the recipes are wonderful. While most of Ottolenghi recipes fall squarely into my comfort zone (mmmm… Middle Eastern food!), Plenty is a little bit outside it. The entire cookbook is vegetable-based! We love veggies here, but it’s rare that we eat truly vegetarian – especially our main dishes. I’m looking forward to embracing the challenge!
This first recipe caught my eye right off the bat, because the combination of ingredients seemed so unique to me. Who ever heard of combining mango and eggplant?? But as a thought about it, I figured it would probably be delicious. So here we are. And I was right – it IS a delicious combo. The dressing and the mango are sweet & sour, the eggplant is earthy, and the pepper and onions give it just a little bite! It’s also very easy to make – definitely doable on a weeknight or for a lunch.
Eggplant & Mango Soba Noodles
(Adapted from Plenty, by Yotam Ottolenghi)
- 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp
- 1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/2 tsp sesame oil
- 1/4 cup onion, thinly sliced
- 1 lime, zested & juiced
- 1 cup oil (for frying)
- 1/2 of a large eggplant, chopped into bite-sized chunks
- 4 oz soba noodles
- 1 mango, chopped into bite-sized chunks
- 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
- 1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
- Warm the vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small pot, just for a minute or two, until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in the Aleppo pepper, garlic, and sesame oil.
- Once cool, add the onions, lime zest, and juice from about 1/2 the lime. Set aside.
- Heat the oil in a tall-sided pan. Shallow fry the eggplant pieces in batches, removing when golden-brown, about 3-4 minutes. Place in a colander, sprinkle with salt, and allow them to drain off excess oil and water.
- Meanwhile cook the soba noodles in a pot of salted water, for 6-8 minutes, until al dente. Once cooked, rinse under cold running water.
- Once all the ingredients are cooled and dried, combine everything (dressing, eggplant, noodles, mango, and herbs) in a large bowl. Toss well. Serve cool.
December’s cookbook of the month is a classic – Joy of Cooking. Originally written and self-published by Irma Rombauer in 1936, this quintessentially American cookbook has sold more than 18 MILLION copies. We don’t own it, but I knew someone in my family did, so we borrowed a copy of the 1997 edition from my aunt. I’ve never cooked out of it before… It’s quite the behemoth! The tiny font and the lack of pictures makes it hard to approach, but the sheer number of recipes in here is amazing. I’ve decided that the best way to cook through JoC is to pick an ingredient you want/need to cook with and see what recipes in the book use that ingredient. Chances are, there will be several! That’s exactly what I did here. We had leftover roast pumpkin from our Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie, so I decided to let that be my guiding ingredient for my first JoC foray.
The biggest modification I made to the book recipe is the addition of the chocolate chips. Selim thinks everything is better with chocolate chips, so we had to add some. It turned out well. It’s a perfect use of leftovers and a quick pathway to an easy treat!
Pumpkin Chip Bread
(Adapted from Joy of Cooking, 1997 edition)
- 1 1/2 cup AP flour
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp ginger
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 1/3 cup milk
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 stick (8 tbsp) butter, room temperature
- 1 cup turbinado sugar
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 small baking pumpkin (or 1 cup pumpkin puree)
- 3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Slice the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds and pulp. Place halves facedown on a cookie sheet. Roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the flesh is tender and skin easily peels back.
- Decrease oven heat to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 5 loaf pan.
- Sift together the first 8 dry ingredients (flour though baking powder).
- In a different bowl, whisk together the milk and vanilla.
- In a third bowl, cream the butter with the sugars. Now beat in the two eggs. Follow that with 1 cup of pumpkin.
- Now add the flour mixture and the milk mixture, alternating each, while beating on low speed.
- Once well-combined, fold in the chocolate chips.
- Pour the batter into the loaf pan. Bake for ~1 hour, until a toothpick comes out cleanly.
So it seems like our cookbook club is the only thing that’s keeping us blogging this fall… I guess that’s a good thing! We’re still really enjoying participating and are loving the variety of cookbooks selected. For November, we’re cooking (or baking as it were!) through Sister Pie, by Lisa Ludwinski. The selection is certainly appropriate, given how pies abound during November and December. Ask Selim about this; he feels VERY strongly about the necessity of pie on your Thanksgiving table! We’re still reluctant bakers over here, so it’s good we had the book selected for us. Maybe one day we’ll finally feel comfortable with baking. But until that day, we’ll keep following baking instructions to the letter! That’s a great thing about this book – there are very detailed instructions about all aspects of creating the pies and especially the dough. Which we definitely appreciated. So there’s very little that we changed about this recipe from the original.
So our first selection from this cookbook jumped out to both of us. Salted Maple Pie – how could we resist?! Selim loves maple, and I love anything sweet that’s salted. We spent a lovely but chilly weekend with some friends in the mountains and this was a perfect dessert! Decadently sweet, with great maple flavor and perfectly topped with salt! It’s a perfect dessert for these cool, late-fall, almost-the-holidays weekends. And it’d definitely be a welcome addition to your Thanksgiving spread. One big note though: making this pie is time-consuming, with several resting/cooling periods. So I’d advise reading the instructions all the way through before starting!
So after all this work, what’d we think? We all loved the flavor! The crust was nice and flaky – I think we were successful in not overworking it. A tough crust was a common complaint in the Cookbook Club Facebook group, and the consensus is that overworking the dough is the problem. The texture was not quite what we were expecting. We both thought it would be like a pumpkin pie, but it’s more custard-y than that. Selim kept describing it as “eggy,” and I think the texture through him off a little bit. Full confession though. We only let it cool for an hour (instead of the prescribed 4-6 hours) before digging into it. The filling definitely had set a little better by morning when we had some more for breakfast. Sooo… edible and delicious as soon as it’s cool, but better after sitting for awhile!
Salted Maple Pie
(Minimally adapted from Sister Pie)
- Crust dough:
- 1 1/4 cup AP flour
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup butter, very cold
- 3 tbsp cold water*
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar*
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted & cooled
- 1 cup maple syrup
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup fine yellow cornmeal
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 3 eggs
- 1 egg yolk
- 3/4 cup heavy cream, room temperature
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- Place your stick of butter in the freezer for ~20 minutes prior to getting started.
- *Take a 1/4 measuring cup and fill with just an inch or so water and place in the freezer too.
- In large bowl, combine dry ingredients – flour, sugar, and salt. Working quickly, use a box grater and grate the butter from the freezer into the bowl. Stop a few times and gently incorporate the butter with the dry ingredients.
- *Get that measuring cup with the now-frozen water. Add the apple cider vinegar and then fill up the rest of the way with water. Add this mixture to the bowl.
- Scrape the sides of the bowl, pushing dough from one side of the bowl to another, until there are no longer any pools of liquid. Now switch to your hands -“scoop up as much of the mixture as you can, and use the tips of your fingers… to press it back down onto the rest of the ingredients.” Keep doing this until you have a fairly combined dough ball. Don’t overwork it – stop when the ball is just holding itself together.
- Remove from the bowl and pat down into a thick disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
- Now it’s time to roll out the dough. Lightly flour the counter. Using your rolling pin, “press and roll along the edge of the [dough] round one single time, enlarging the circle. After each press of the edge, rotate the disc 45 degrees.” Now place the rolling pin in the center of the dough and rolling outwards. Keep rotating the dough disc and rolling outwards from the center until the dough reaches a diameter of 12-13 inches.
- Invert your pie pan in the center of the dough circle. Cut out a circle of dough with ~3 inches of dough outside of the pie dish. Flip the pie dish back right side up. Gently fold the dough in half, place in into the dish, and unfold.
- Next you should crimp the crust. Or don’t. We didn’t quite figure this out. You’re on your own for this step. Good luck!
- Place the crust in the freezer for at least 15 minutes.
- Ok, now we blind bake the crust. Preheat your oven 450 degrees. Place a large piece of aluminum foil inside the pie dough and fill it up with dry beans. Bake for 25-27 minutes on a cookie sheet. Allow to cool for a few minutes before removing the aluminum foil and beans.
- Decrease the oven temperature to 350 degrees.
- Now we’re moving on to the filling. Whisk together the melted butter, maple syrup, brown sugar, cornmeal, and salt. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolk, heavy cream, and vanilla. Then slowly pour the egg mixture in the maple mixture, stirring until just combined.
- Brush the pie crust with the beaten egg. Then fill it with the maple mixture.
- Bake for 45 minutes – 1 hour, until just the center jiggles slightly when the pie pan is shaken. (Ours took the full hour.)
- Place the pie on a wire rack to cool for 4-6 hours. Once cool, top with the flaky salt.
Direct quotes come from Sister Pie. I quoted where I thought her explicit directions were important or hard to paraphrase.