Occasionally, you have the greatest friend in the world who will ask you, “Seriously, what do you want for your birthday?” And without even remotely attempting to censor yourself, you blurt out, “FOOD PROCESSOR. BLERGH. Sorry.” And she just nods like, “Yeah, I can do that.” And then voila, there’s giant box with Giada Laurentis’s vowelly name all over it containing this…thing! And you can now fulfill your fantasy of eating nothing but baba ganoush for the rest of your days!
(Someone pointed out to me last night: Why is it that we must always be given a food processor, never scrounge up the, like forty bucks and get it ourselves? Just me and/or the people I know?)
Anyway, quick rundown, here is to make an extra spicey-garlicky-lemony baba ganoush. (Ooooh, and girl, if you already have a jar of tahini sitting around, maybe you’ve even moved it a few times? Total cost is less than $5.)
If you don’t have a food processor (I was one of you! Just a few weeks ago!) I’ve included the manual steps.
1. Preheat your oven to 375. Puncture a large eggplant all over with a fork and place in a roasting pan (it leaks juices while roasting so nix on the flat cookie sheet) and let it cook in there for about 45 minutes abouts.
2. While it’s cooking and you’re not, I don’t know, watching Battlestar Gallactica (phhht, more like Battlestar Galcraptica, am I right? I kid, I kid, I’m totally obsessed with it. Sorry.) why don’t you halve two lemons and squeeze all their juices into a strainer over the bowl of the food processor (or regular bowl)? Then add a couple of garlic cloves - I used five, but you can use whatever your palette can handle - and 1/4 cup of tahini. Throw about a tablespoon of ground cumin in there. Now go back to whatever non-cooking thing you want to do.
3. When the eggplant is roastified and leaking juices all over the pan, take it out and for the love of god, let it cool for like 20 minutes. Remove the skin either really stupidly and slowly with a serrated knife or intelligently with a peeler (guess which way I tried?) and let the golden-brown insides plop into the food processor bowl. THIS IS ALL THE INGREDIENTS THIS REALLY REQURES!
4. Now you can either mash it all together with a potato masher, fork or
4a. So you’ve put all the ingredients in your brand new, just out of the box-food processor and you are stoked and everything is in it’s place and you Pulse! so excitedly, waiting for it all to be come One. And then. Nothing. Fucking. Happens. You unplug it, stick your hand in the bowl and fiddle with the blade, like a dummy. Plug it back in, nothing happens. Try a different outlet. Nada. Get angry (hey, you have low blood sugar) decide to take a bike ride around the block so your angry brain doesn’t leak out of your ears.
While biking, you pass a lady riding a recumbant cycle, and y’know, has like a bunch of flags sticking off of it and you think, my god, can recumbant cyclists EVER not look like the biggest goofballs in the world? But they also always look happy too, so they’re kind of untouchable.
(Example 1: A Goofball.)
Keep biking a few minutes longer, wonder if ALIGNMENT might have something to do with it? Like the lid? Aaaahhh. Go home, align lid with Giada Laurentis knob, BAZOOM! 15 seconds later, baba ganoush. Hopefully, it’s even still a little warm from all that previous roasting.
5. Stick some pita in the oven at 250 for five minutes. While waiting those agonizing five minutes, pull out some other lovely dippins! Garnish with parsley and olive oil, or dot with kalamata olives or baby carrots sticks or pickled okra (truuuuust me). Pull pita out, rip into quarters with your hands and eat. Brag to everyone you know that you can now feasibly make this every single day.
For the record: YES, that photo is of the pie I made last night. The pie I want you to make right now while strawberries are still cheap and then you can photograph it and post on Facebook and feel overall very glowy.
If your two sticks of butter aren’t already in the freezer, PUT THEM IN THERE. After you cube the butter, put them in the freezer again. Store yor flour in the freezer. Once you mix the flour with sugar and salt, put the bowl in the freezer. Cold cold cold. IF the butter melts, you won’t get agonizingly flaky crust and that is worth all the hassle.
FOR THE PIE:
1lb strawberries, hulled. Don’t halve if small, halve if big. Discretion! Use it!
1 1/2 lb rhubarb, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces (Rhubarb is pricey down here in Texas anyway. Weirdly enough, Whole Foods sells it cheaper than regular grocery stores but if you got a local supplier, well, then, yeah, go for it)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon citrus juice (supposed to be lemon, I used all mine for preserves so I used a wedge of lime left over from the evening’s micheladas)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup instant tapioca
A few shakes of some orange peel if, for reasons you don’t remember, you have that on hand
2 tablespoons butter all cut up into dabs
Two wads of pie crust, wrapped in saran wrap and if you just made it, IN YOUR FREEZER FOR AT LEAST ONE HOUR UNTIL NEEDED.
A small bowl of egg glaze (1 yolk + water)
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
Cover your counter top, put one of the wads of pie dough on the floured top, then dump some more flour on top of it. Roll it out (last night, my rolling pin of choice was a bottle of Mint-Honey Sweet Leaf Tea bottle) to a 12 inch disc. Lay in your pie plate and trim.
Heap all the fruit, sugar, tapioca, citrus juice and salt into bowl and mix. Pile that into a mound in the pie crust. Dab the filling all over with bits of butter.
Roll out the second pie crust to about 11 inches. Make some decorative slits into the crust - latticing is for people who don’t know better. Put it on top of the filling, trim and pinch and crimp the crust so it looks, y’know, pie like.
Baste the top crust with your egg glaze. This is what makes a pie like this look as good as it tastes, trust.
Shakshuka aka Tel Aviv Rancheros aka An Anti-Hangover
I need to make this, poached eggs in spicy tomato sauce, more often I guess, because as someone who really likes hugs but doesn’t like to initiate them (What if I do it wrong? WHAT IF I’M REALLY A CREEP AND EVERYONE HAS BEEN TOO POLITE TO TELL ME??? Whatever, I’m sure there’s something wrong with you, too.) this dish sure does bring them in.
How solid gold is shakshuka you ask? I once made it out of town on vacation for a casual dinner party (everyone ate it on porch and drank Tecate so does it still count as a dinner party?) for mostly strangers, and yes, people got seconds, I got hugs and shots of bourbon. It makes every one’s insides feel all warm and happy, but it’s not heavy enough to induce a nap/glazed eye marathon on the couch to St. Elsewhere.
(PS: Variations of Shakshuka are found all over the Middle East, Mediterranean and North Africa. If you say it’s an Israli dish, for pretty obvious reasons, it gets some folks backs up. I’ve heard it’s Tunisian, Libyan, Persian, etc. It’s a very basic dish using good ingredients that historically go fantastic together. I use jalapeno peppers in mine, so let’s just say this one is Texasfied and leave it at that.)
1/4 cup of olive oil
1 diced medium yellow onion
3 diced jalapeno peppers (you can a handful of Anaheims instead or if you’re a real wuss/making this for a picky, screamy kid like I was, a regular green pepper is fine.)
6 cloves of garlic, smashed or minced depending on if you forgot to prep in advance or not
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
Cayenne powder to taste (optional)
1 28oz can of no-salt whole tomatoes
Optional but strongly recommended toppings:
Crumbled feta cheese
Seriously, you need to prep for this one, make sure it’s all chopped up. Get your onions, jalapenos and garlic all in nice bits and put them in separate bowels. You’re welcome.
Heat olive oil in a large skillit until it’s not so viscousy. Put in chopped onions and jalpenos and move ‘em around with your spatula until the onions are golden and soft. Now put in garlic and wait for the same.
Add spices, sort of to my suggestions and sort of to taste. I have a habit of tossing whatever in, but don’t over-do it on the cumin, okay? Cumin is the very definition of ‘overpowering.’
Open can of tomatoes. I like to squish each one with my hand and put it in the skillet (what? I washed them!) but some people think that is “fucking disgusting” and prefer to give it a few pulses in a food processor. Hey brah, it’s your extra clean-up. Put half a cup of water in there and let it all cook together for 20 minutes with occasional stir.
While the sauce is cooking, and you’re just sitting there thinking “Is 20 minutes enough time to put away laundry? I don’t thiiink so! Oh, darn!” might I suggest you set your oven temp to as low as it can go and put in the pita to warm? Okay, great! Also, maybe chop that parsley, as clearly you won’t be getting around to sock sorting at this rate.
Once the tomato sauce is ready (I’m assuming you’ve spoon tested a few times and have adjusted spices to your particular needs, right? ::Looks other way::), crack those eggs in there and let it poach on top.
::A FEW WORDS ABOUT POACHING::
I am not great/patient about this, but here are a few things that have worked for me in the past:
The sauce shouldn’t be simmering, it should be just about to simmer, knowhattimean? You’ll feel it in your bones. If it’s too hot, the center will cook too quickly.
Break the egg in a small dish first and then slide that into the sauce.
Once in the sauce, swirl the egg white with a rubber spatula over and around the yolk, encompassing it.
::END OF EGG POACHING NOTES::
Or let your neurosis go and just let it cook on top of the liquid for five minutes.
Once eggs look done to you, scoop up a few with a large measuring cup with a bunch of sauce and pour it in a bowl. Throw some hot slices of pita in there, garnish with feta and parsley. If you still have sauce left over or doubled the recipe for company, you can just plop some more eggs in until you run out. Send me stories about all the memories you made throwing a dinner party with shakshuka and a few liters of wine.
Before we even start: Do you have a springform pan? I know, I’m normally loose on these things but making cheesecake sucks without one. But then you can make cheesecake all the time, so it all works out.
Gosh, I haven’t made cheesecake in years. The thing about cheesecake, using a regular 8” springform (I have a rule about never trusting desserts you have to buy a new pan for), you get a hell of a lot of crazy rich cake that’s made out of three packages of cream cheese. Think about 48 servings, at 1/4” inch each. Who the hell would eat all that?
Oh, well, add half a pan of brownies in it and a double chocolate cookie crust and it turns out I would!
This is loosely adapted from the ever-so-wonderful smittenkitchen - Deb (that goddamn GENIUS.) also tops hers with a rich chocolate ganache, wonderfully rich and over the top for holidays or birthdays, but a little too much for me to have such constant and easy access to.
Step ONE: Brownies:
4 Oz unsweetened chocolate (you will have enough sugar. GET UNSWEETENED.)
3/4 cups (1 1/2 stick butter)
1 1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 pinches of salt
1 1/4 cup flour
Preheat oven to 350. Line rectangle baking pan with foil (what? you only have square? How do you LIVE? Just kidding, proceed along, just increase your baking time by 10 minutes or so. Toothpick test accordingly.) GREASE THE FOIL, otherwise you don’t get brownie bites, you get smeared, globby (but delicious! still!) brownie crumbs.
Melt the unsweetened chocolate and butter over medium heat and stir until the two ingredients become one. Pour into large bowl and stir in sugar. Now add eggs, vanilla. Pretty globby, right? Okay, now flour and salt. Feel free to add a bit more or less of the sugar or the flour, these are going to be very low brownies. Pour into the prepared pan (OMG, DID YOU FORGET TO GREASE THE PAN? Do it now!) and put in over for 30-35 minutes. You can underbake these but lordy, do not overbake.
STEP TWO: Double Cookie Crust
(You could cut this in half, but I’d think you were a wuss and also, missing the point completely.)
3 Cups of dry chocolate cookie crumbles (Teddy Grahams or your local grocer’s off-brand equivalent works perfectly for this.)
10 Tablespoons melted butter
2/3 cup sugar
Bit a salt.
Crush the cookies/teddy bears by putting them in a ziplock bag, locking it shut and destroying that bag with a tin can of whatever (I recommend Busch’s Garbanzo beans)
(Did you know this is how you can crush things like pecans, cookies, whatever? Was it obvious to you? I figured this out when I was 23 and it was like I had discovered an element.)
Stir the cookies in together with all the other ingredients. Press into the bottom of the springform and up on the sides about an inch. Put aside.
Step THREE: Cheesecake in and of itself
3 packages cream cheese (or neufatchel. At this point, you’ve used 22 tablespoons of butter so clearly, it really doesn’t matter. Oh shit, did I just freak you out?)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sugar
2 cups brownie cups (that’s right, there’s totally extra brownies.)
Preheat oven to 350 again. Beat the cream cheese until fluffy. It really helps if you borrow your girlfriend’s electric mixer for this because it doesn’t matter how warm cream cheese is, it’s a bitch to whip (but not impossible). Add eggs, one at at time, then vanilla and sugar. Beat and scrape, beat and scrape (isn’t that a Dinosaur Jr. song?) Fold in the brownie cubes gently and pour all that into the springform. Place the springform on another baking sheet to catch any drips and bake for about 45 minutes. The center will be a little wobbly when it’s done and that is a good thing.
LET IT COOL COMPLETELY. Warm cheesecake is weird and plus it’ll ruin it’s integrity. Hopefully you’re drinking wine during this.
This does taste great. it really really does - go slather it on some biscuits or stick it on an avocado sandwich or dollop it on some mashed sweet potatoes. But you now what bacon jam is just about the best thing ever for?
Send it to your parents and they will tell all of their friends. Bring it to a barbecue and everyone will be talking about you. Steal everyones thunder because you are so novel and unique that you ground up a shitload of bacon, chocolate, peppers and spices and cooked it down until you made your own goddamn pulled-pork-pâté. All the attention will be on you and your bacon jam. You will always be the winner, #1 with a bullet.
Until some bitch brings in bacon cupcakes, anyway.
Juuuuust kidding! I promise, your ego will remain in check, even if you are holding a jar of everyone’s dream condiment. Here’s the general instructions, but this is such an “up to you, taste as you go” sort of thing that I don’t want to get too specific.
1lb center cut bacon (go fancy if it’s in your budget. This is not the time to get wussy, fatty budget strips.)
2-4 cloves of garlic
A few slivers of onion (like red onions for this)
3 chipotles in adobo (or more or less)
A nice spoonful of the adobo sauce from the chipotle can
About two teaspoons of ancho powder
1/2 teaspoon allspice
A little over a quarter of a disc of Abuelita Mexican hot chocolate (grind it on a microplane, fancy pants)
1 cup of brewed coffee (Don’t you always have cold coffee sitting around? Just me?)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
Black pepper (I put a ton in, this is not for everybody)
A touch o’ cayenne pepper or nutmeg, maybe
Cook all the bacon, but not to a crisp. Pour off most of the bacon fat into a glass jar and use it to grease your biscuit sheets or make your own caramels with later. Use what is left of the grease to cook the onion and the garlic in a medium-sized pot for a few minutes while you cut the bacon into bite-sized pieces. Now add the bacon back to the pot and and also add the spices, apple-cider vinegar and coffee (And here’s where you can hear my dad yell “AND TURN ON THE VENTLATON!” He is right.).
Let it cook and condense down for two hours. Go read a book or smoke or watch Cheers or make those biscuits I was talking about. Check and stir a few times. If the jam starts to get dry, add some water. Stir, stir, stir.
After two hours, pour the jam into a food processor (or in my case, the coffee grinder. Small batch cooking, yo!) and pulse for a few seconds. You want it a chunky, chili consistency, not smooth. Pour into a small, pretty jar and practice casually saying “Oh, hey, yeah, I forgot, I made some bacon jam. You want some?” Prepare to get kissed.
Guys, this goodness costs about $4 for a small container and that is total bullshit. You can gussy up any impromptu brunch with a container of this - dip it all over your french toast, dollop alongside your strawberry compote (how easy that is, is for another time), stick your melons all up in it (that IS what she said). The French use it in their soups instead of milk since it doesn’t curdle, so there’s that too.
Find a small glass jar
Fill it about halfway to two-thirds of the way full with half and half or whipping cream
Glug in some buttermilk (about two teaspoons, if you want exact figures)
Cover with cloth if you’re easily grossed out (you are creating your own bacteria culture, you know)
Let it sit out on a counter for 24 hours max (12 hours min)