Week in Review

This week’s highlight was that candied lemon salad. Sounds odd, I know, but the mild sweetness of the lemon is tamed by the strong mustard and briny olives in the vinaigrette. It’s a beautiful, bright salad and one that I have already made three times this week.

Candied lemon salad. I added a bit more mustard, but I can eat the stuff with a spoon.

Composed candied lemon salad

Everything we ate this week gets put in the “Remake Category.” On the good side, everything we had this week I would actually make again. On the down side, everything we had this week I would actually make again — ack! Too many recipes, too many food combinations, not enough time!

The roast chicken with plums was surprisingly delicious. My dear husband (who has a thing about dry chicken) claimed it a juicy birdie, even when re-heated as leftovers. Just be sure to turn the oven down to 325 or 350 after the first 20 minutes or you risk burned plums.

A juicy, spiced chicken pairs beautifully with roasted plums. Who knew?

A juicy, spiced chicken pairs beautifully with roasted plums. Who knew?

Grilled Rockfish with Charred Eggplant and Peppers

Grilled Rockfish with Charred Eggplant and Peppers (topped with toasted pepitas)

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Vietnamese Roasted Chile Paste

Roasted chile paste

Note: recipe adapted from “Vietnamese Home Cooking” by Charles Phan. 

1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns

1 tablespoon annatto seeds

1/2 cup finely chopped shallots

1/2 cup canola oil

1/4 cup finely minced garlic (about 8 cloves)

1/4 cup red pepper flakes

1/3 cup ground bean paste

2 tablespoons rice wine

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons light soy sauce

1. Combine the peppercorns and annatto seeds in a spice grinder (or use a mortar and pestle) and grind coarsely. Set aside.

2. In a small saucepan, combine the shallots and oil over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, about 6 minutes, until the shallots are light gold. Add the garlic and cook, stirring frequently, for about 4 minutes longer, until the garlic and shallots are lightly browned.

3. Stir in the red pepper flakes and the peppercorn-annatto mixture, mixing well. Add the ground bean paste, wine, sugar and soy sauce, and continue cooking, stirring, for 1 minute longer. Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely. This makes about 1½ cups of paste. Keep refrigerated in an airtight container, up to 3 months.

When Your Israeli Husband Craves Falafel …

My husband will happily eat chicken out of a can.

He likes kokoretsi — squiggly lamb intestines roped around a melded mush of  lamb heart, lung and brain.

He has slurped down not one duck testicle, but two.

Needless to say, the man is not a picky eater. But when it comes to his beloved falafel, he is almost impossible to please.

But I think I managed to woo him!

Falafel Fixings

Falafel Fixings

 

Nothing, he says, compares to the falafel he grew up eating in Israel. And he’s right. He’s taken me to eat falafel in Tel Aviv and Netanya, and I have yet to find a match in the states. It’s not the actual falafel itself that is such a standout, it’s the smorgasbord of gorgeous salads that accompany the meal. I was not prepared for the onslaught of salads that were placed on our table during our first meal in Tel Aviv. I was so surprised by the sheer number that I actually counted them up. We were served 23 different salads. Yes, 23.  Twenty three different ways to prepare eggplants, peppers, cucumbers, lemons, avocados, beets, cabbages, carrots and greens. We stuffed our pitas full of the salads, ate some off the top, and re-stuffed. And re-stuffed. And re-stuffed. It was healthy and delightfully satisfying — “fast” food at its best.

Sizzling Falafel

Sizzling Falafel

So, that was my challenge last week — to make falafel and an array of salads to please our palates. I certainly didn’t create 23 different salads, but I did manage to turn out 5 salads plus a tahini sauce, not to mention softly-boiled eggs and freshly fried falafel. It was quite a bit of work the first time, but the salads kept beautifully so turning out leftovers on a weeknight was easy. Not much beats a delicious meal and a happy husband.

The Falafel Bar

The Falafel Bar

 

Recipes:

Falafel

Beet Salad

Roasted red pepper salad with harissa

Israeli salad: Finely chop the following and mix with lemon juice and salt and pepper: red onion, avocado, cucumber, tomatoes, fresh mint and/or parsley

Eggplant salad: thinly slice and grill eggplants. Stuff into pita with everything else

Onion salad: thinly slice red onions. Toss with mint, lemon juice, salt and sumac

Tahini sauce: whisk tahini with lemon juice and warm water. Salt and pepper to taste

 

Homemade Bread & Cheese

 

Warm, crusty and right out of the oven -- heavenly

Warm, crusty and right out of the oven — heavenly

 

Although I would love to make homemade bread and cheese weekly, it’s the kind of thing I have to make sparingly. Both are just too deliciously warm and fresh when first made, so will-power is just about non-existent. I rarely bake bread, but this was the easiest, most low-maintenance bread recipe I have ever prepared. And yet it tastes as if I spent hours kneading, punching and coddling the dough. No kneading even required!

As for the homemade cheese, well, this does take a bit of attention and time, but it’s so worth it. Freshly pulled mozzarella resembles the store-bought version only in color. When it’s first pulled, it’s warm, gooey, oozy and delightfully creamy. Slabs of this cheese served with the crusty warm bread, olive oil and a crunch of sea-salt made for the perfect dinner. Tomato soup and salad were supposed to follow, but we were too full …

fresh cheese

 

 

 

 

Coq au Vin

There is nothing like a birdie bathed in red wine to usher in the fall season. This. Dish. Is. Spectacular. It’s homey and cozy and complex and redolent of all good things that simply take time — the perfect marriage of meat and mushrooms and herbs and wine.

Not only is this dish just delightful to savor, but it makes the house smell wonderful. If I was trying to sell my home, I would have a pot of this bubbling away — sell your house AND have a long-simmered classic French dish to enjoy. Bonus!

Yes, Coq au Vin does take some time, but it’s well worth it. I followed the recipe almost exactly (yes, it’s important to stand there and brown every piece of chicken), but I did decrease the fat content without skimping on flavor. I poured off the fat after browning all the chicken and also poured off all the bacon fat after rendering. The result was a silky rich sauce without all the oil and grease.

So, get yourself a fresh baguette and get to dunking. What are you waiting for?

DDcoqauvinplated