28 December 2012

Pumpkin and Chickpea Salad with Tahini


This is one of those recipes that I make all the time and somehow manage to never put on the blog. However, recently several people have asked me for the recipe, and since I was already cooking with pumpkin and chickpeas recently, I can finally share it here.


This originally came from the second Moro Cookbook, (where we just had lunch last week) but I've been making it so long that it's transformed into it's own sort of thing. Sometimes I make it with only tahini sauce, whereas other times I layer the dish with both tahini sauce and yogurt. Other time I change up the vegetables, making this with fried eggplant rounds or sauteed spinach. Someone commented to me recently that the eggplant version  reminded them of fetteh with eggplant, only lighter and not so glopped with yogurt (don't get me wrong, I love fetteh, but sometimes something more elegant is in order). This is a really great thing to feed a crowd and looks beautiful on a buffet table or as part of a dinner party.


Pumpkin and Chickpea Salad with Tahini
Pumpkin can sometimes be watery, and if you think that may be the case with yours, I like to deep fry instead of roast the pumpkin. The measurements given are just a rough guideline, you can make as much or as little as you want. See below for several variations on this salad.

2 cups cooked chickpeas
2 cups of 1/2-inch cubed pumpkin
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
salt to taste
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
chopped cilantro and parsley for serving
1 small container plain yogurt (optional)
For tahini sauce:
1/2 cup tahini
2 tablespoons lemon juice
pinch salt

1.  Mix the tahini, lemon, and salt in a bowl. The mixture should get very thick. Slowly add water to the mixture until it reaches a pourable consistency again. (If you accidentally add too much water, pop it in the fridge and it will thicken up again.)
2. Preheat the oven 400 F. Toss the cubed pumpkin with olive oil to coat, and cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Spread the pumpkin out onto a baking sheet and roast until just tender. About 15-20 minutes with a regular oven and less if using convection. The pumpkin should be just tender when poked with a knife.
3. While the pumpkin is cooking, place the chickpeas in a saucepan with a pinch of salt and place them over medium heat, just to warm them up a bit.
4. Artfully arrange the chickpeas and pumpkin in a serving dish. If I am making a particularly large quantity of this dish, I will drizzle a layer of tahini sauce and yogurt over the dish when I'm about half way through, then pile on the remaining pumpkin and chickpea.
5. Using a spoon, drizzle the tahini sauce generously over the dish, then drizzle some of the yogurt over if using. Top with the pine nuts and sprinkle with herbs. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Eggplant and Chickpea Salad: Substitute sliced eggplant rounds for pumpkin. Salt the eggplant rounds, let sit twenty minutes, pat eggplant dry then fry the rounds in a large saucepan in an inch of oil until browned and tender. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle the eggplant with Aleppo pepper then proceed with the recipe as usual. You'll definitely want the yogurt here.

Try another variation with roasted cauliflower. Or make it with sauteed spinach. If you want to dress this up, try adding pomegranate seeds or dried fruit (currants, golden raisins).

25 December 2012

Merry Christmas!

From our kitchen to yours!


21 December 2012

Quince Thumbprint Cookies


Before we dash off for the holidays, I wanted to leave you with one last holiday cookie recipe. It's a bit of an unusual one, these quince thumbprint cookies, but that amount of cornstarch is not a typo. It makes the cookies extra soft and tender.I haven't quite sorted out a recipe for quince jam yet, but basically you poach quinces in wine and sugar (like in this recipe), and just cook them until the quince completely falls apart and becomes jam like.The ruby red jams makes for beautiful cookies.


Quince Thumbprint Cookies
Adapted from The Last Course by Claudia Fleming.

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks, 12 oz) butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup confectioners sugar, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cornstarch
pinch salt
1 cup finely ground toasted hazlenuts (walnuts also work)
1 cup quince jam (perhaps from a failed quince poaching experiment, or purchased)

1. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add in the vanilla. Sift the flour, salt, and cornstarch into the butter mixture. Fold in the walnuts. Cover the dough and chill for at least 4 hours.
2. Preheat the oven to 325 F. Form heaping teaspoonfuls of cookie dough balls and spacing them evenly on a greased or lined cookie sheet. Press an indent with your thumb into each cookie. Bake 13-15 minutes, until very lightly golden.
3. Transfer to a rack, then immediately scoop the jam into the indents of the still-warm cookies. Let cool completely, dust with powdered sugar.

14 December 2012

Rosemary Pine Nut Brittle


I really don't like making brittle. It's true, there's just something fussy and sticky about. I am not intimidated by the use of a candy thermometer, rather it's brittle's tendency to stick aggressively to your teeth, to be impossibly hard or too sticky soft, to carry the burned reminiscence of sugar gone wrong.


But what if I told you there was a brittle that avoided all of these things? One that turned out perfectly sweet and salty and crunchy, one that you didn't even need to use a thermometer for? For years I thought this was impossible, but in baking for the holidays last year, I was lucky to find just such a recipe. I had the idea to make a Mediterranean-themed cookie box, and pine nuts fit the bill perfectly, along with pistachio shortbread, quince thumbprints, and of course apricot ma'amoul. This recipe comes together super quickly, and only requires your concentration to watch the sugar. And of course, you can still use a thermometer if you like.


Rosemary Pine Nut Brittle
I do not recommend packing these in a cookie tin with other cookies, the relative humidity will cause the brittle to soften. But who am I kidding, this stuff's not lasting that long anyway. Adapted from Food52.

2 cups sugar 
2 1/2 cups pine nuts 
8 tablespoons (4 oz) unsalted butter 
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary 
1 tablespoon finely ground sea salt

1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and have all your ingredients at the ready, mise-en-place style.
2. Place the sugar in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan and heat over medium-high heat until the sugar melts, stirring occaisionally with a wooden spoon. Once the sugar has melted, stop stirring and watch the mixture carefully as the sugar turns a medium caramel color. You can swirl the pan a bit to even out the texture, and keep a very close eye to avoid burning the mixture.
3. Once you've reached medium caramel color, add in the pine nuts and butter and stir for two minutes. Stir in all the rosemary and half the sea salt.
4. Immediately spread out onto your sheet pan, spreading the mixture evenly. Sprinkle with the remaining sea salt. Allow to cool at least one hour.
5. Break brittle into pieces and store in an airtight tin.

08 December 2012


(Algerian Pumpkin, Chickpea, and Chicken Stew Served over Bread)


First of all, just to confuse you, this dish is sometimes also called shakshouka (I know, I don't understand how poached eggs in tomato sauce and chicken stew served over bread can have the same name either). However, we're going to stick with the more unique name of charchoura. I was served a version of this recently and I loved it for many reasons, it gave me a new use for our favorite messemen bread, not to mention a good use of now-in-season pumpkin, and overall it was something uniquely Algerian and new to me.

Charchoura is an Algerian Kabyle dish, and it consists in its most basic form of a stew served over torn up flat bread. Traditionally the stew will involve meat or chicken, stewed in a tomato base with chickpeas and seasonal vegetables. Spices and harissa go into the broth, and for a bit of extra kick you can add preserved lemons or hard boiled eggs.

Charchoura is also traditionally associated with the Algerian town of Biskra (bet you didn't know Bela Bartok performed research there), so you'll often find recipes for charchoura biskria. I found this great video of a woman making charchoura with what looks like eggplant and lamb. Most recipes for charchoura call for making the messemen bread yourself, but luckily I buy mine at the market here. The preserved lemon really makes this dish, so be sure not to skip it.

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Charchoura (Algerian Pumpkin, Chickpea, and Chicken Stew Served over Bread)
Some versions of this call for adding one cup of tomato sauce along with the water for a slightly thicker broth. I bought a whole pumpkin, chopped some and then roasted the rest to make pumpkin puree, which I've stashed in the freezer.

1 tablespoon butter or ghee (smen)
4 chicken legs, skin-on, drumsticks and thighs separated, trimmed of excess fat
1/2 a red onion, diced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon harissa or other spicy pepper paste
3 cups of cubed pumpkin
2 cups of cooked chickpeas
1 preserved lemon, inside and seeds discarded, diced*
cilantro, for serving
messemen bread (or substitute Lebanese markouk bread or another very thin flat bread)

1. Sprinkle chicken all over with salt. In a large dutch oven, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add the chicken and sear until browned on both sides. Remove the chicken to a plate.
2. If there is a lot of excess fat in the pan, drain off all but 1 tablespoon of it. Saute the onion in the pan until softened, then add the tomato paste, harissa, and spices and let them toast for a minute. Pour about three cups of water into the pan, then add all the chicken and any accumulated juices back into the pan. Add enough water so that the chicken is just covered and a pinch of salt. Place a lid on the pan and let simmer on low heat for 40 minutes.
3. While you're waiting, tear up the bread into very thin bits.
4. Add the chickpeas, pumpkin, and preserved lemon to the pot, cover and let simmer until the pumpkin is tender. Pumpkin cooks surprisingly quickly, so it may only take 5-10 minutes, test a piece with a knife. Turn off the heat on the stew when the pumpkin is done.
5. When ready to serve, arrange the torn bread on the bottom of each plate. Laddle the stew over the bread. Top with cilantro.

* See this page for a quick version of preserved lemons.

04 December 2012

Brown Sugar Cookies


Did you know that this blog turned 6 years old this week? Six years! I can't believe I even have a blog, much less have had one for so long, not to mention the fact that sometimes I think about how young I was when I started this thing and shudder. (Kids! beware the internets, lest one of your coworkers come into work one day and tell you that their wife found your blog and read the deep thoughts of your early twenties!)

This blog has certainly changed over the years, after all I no longer have time to spend an entire month making different kinds of homemade ice creams. I decided long ago that I wouldn't feel bad for not always posting regularly here, that this wasn't my job or an obligation. But the truth is, I'm often happier when I'm posting here, when I'm cooking and taking pictures and nerding-out by scouring Algerian cooking sites for all the different versions of shakshouka or couscous. It means that I've carved out a little time each day to do things that I love, read poems, chop vegetables, listen to podcasts, taste new things, see things through a different lens.

I've thought a lot recently about the fact that some of the posts on here are difficult or awkward to read. Someone asked me for my biscuit recipe the other day and I pulled it up to find, with some amount of horror, that it was a post about sitting in the chemo room with my mom. It feels awkward to refer someone to a simple recipe while throwing them an emotional hit-and-run. But then I thought about my mom's iPhone, and how she had bookmarked the page where I talked about her first diagnosis, and how she would bring it up while waiting in doctor's office's specifically to read all the wonderful supportive comments YOU, dear readers, left for me and for her. I never thanked you for that.

So, ultimately, this blog isn't just about recipes but about the journeys we all take through the lens of the kitchen. Which means that sometimes a post about bread or about veal is really about something much more. In fact some of my favorite posts on here barely contain recipes at all (like this and this). But since we're celebrating our anniversary together, I'll leave you with a few of the most popular posts on this blog, along with a cookie recipe for the holidays.

Most Popular:
Hummus, Cupcakes, Umm Ali, Pink Grapefruit Marmalade, Duck with Apples


Brown Sugar Cookies
This is a simple sugar cookie recipe tweaked with the use of brown sugar and spices. Much like my favorite molasses-ginger cookie, it's great for this time of year. I think these cookies are best when underdone and soft. They are great for ice cream sandwiches which, in my opinion, is one of the best cookie distinctions there is.

12 tablespoons (6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C). Mix the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices in a small bowl.
2. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Slowly add in the flour mixture to the wet mixture, stirring to combine.
3. Trop teaspoonfuls of the dough into greased or lined baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Bake until tops are just set and insides are still moist, about 8-9 minutes. Let cool on a rack.