In my kitchen: roasted eggplant with garlic yogurt & pomegranate

Cook with your hands. I’m convinced that there’s an invisible pipe that goes straight from your heart directly into your fingers, and there’s nothing better than eating a dish that has a little love running through it.

Using your hands teaches you about your ingredients – how things should feel when they’re raw, cooked, and combined. Having said that, there’s probably no food that I manhandle more than the eggplant, or aubergine as many refer to it. No matter what you call it, eggplant is something that I love, and has become somewhat of a staple in my kitchen. Grilled, roasted, baked, or all sauced up – there’s so much you can do with this plump, purple-skinned fruit, yes, its actually a fruit. I am talking about the dark shaded eggplant here as I have yet to try the white variety.

With a bitter taste and flesh that absorbs oil faster than moisturizer on cracked dry skin, cooking with eggplant can be tricky. Fortunately, there are ways to circumvent its challenges by learning how to choose your fruit wisely.

Look for eggplant that is light in weight, with shiny, smooth skin free of bruises and blemishes. It should be firm but not hard with a round brown mark on the fat, bottom end – a brown slit on the bottom might mean more seeds.

Some say that you have to salt the eggplant to remove bitterness. If I have the extra time, I’ll add this step, but more often than not, I skip it. I don’t find salting it makes that much of a difference. If you want to try it, cut your eggplant into slices, salt it generously and let it hang out in a colander for 30 minutes to an hour. Rinse it and pat it dry before cooking.

Add your oil right before cooking so that that it coats the surface of the flesh – that will help give your eggplant that beautiful brown finish.

Roasted Eggplant with Garlic Yogurt and Pomegranate

Serves 4 to 6

For the eggplant:

  • 2 to 3 medium eggplant, washed, dried, and cut into 1 ½ inch slices (salted, drained, and rinsed if desired)
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1 & 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

For the garlic yogurt:

  • 400 grams plain yogurt
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

To garnish:

  • 1 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts (optional), lightly toasted

Preheat your oven to 210 Celcius, 410 Farenheit. Position your rack in the lower third of your oven.

Cut eggplant into slices and toss generously with olive oil.

slicing eggplant

Add salt, pepper, lemon, and oregano.

Place on a large baking tray, and bake for approximately 15 to 20 minutes or until the bottom of the eggplant has started to turn brown.

eggplant on sheetpan

Turn the eggplant over and cook for another 15 minutes or until brown and soft. At this stage, you can eat the eggplant as they are (great as a vegetarian side dish). If you want to add the garlic yogurt, keep reading.

oven roasted eggplant slices

For the garlic yogurt:

Combine yogurt with garlic and salt. Taste and adjust salt if necessary.

Place eggplant on a large dish or platter. Spoon and scatter the garlic yogurt over the eggplant and garnish with pomegranate seeds and pine nuts (if using).

roasted eggplant with garlic yogurt sauce and fresh pomegranite

Serve warm or cold.

eggplant with yogurt sauce and pomegranite with pine nuts

Bon appétit!

Photos by: Tara Atkinson Photography

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An easy fall recipe: Pumpkin soup with carrot and ginger

With cooler temperatures finally gracing Dubai’s weather forecasts, it almost feels like a North American autumn – ok, more like a North American spring. There are no falling leaves and the air isn’t crisp, but the change of season in Dubai come November means we can spend days on the beach, have picnics in the park, and enjoy countless outdoor activities that are next to impossible during the summer.

Still, I miss my Montreal days when the city transitioned from a t-shirt-clad concrete jungle into one where heavy jackets and winter boots ruled the snow-covered streets. Comfort food was king in my kitchen during these colder months – and I always made sure to keep my freezer armed and ready with soups and stews whenever I needed a soul-satisfying meal.

For me, pumpkin and winter squash are the very definition of cool weather foods, and this butternut, carrot, and ginger soup is one that I’ve been making for years. It really highlights the natural richness of vibrant-fleshed vegetables. The ginger adds a little bit of heat, while carrots and onions add sweetness and depth. It is so incredibly simple, there are only five ingredients required to make it. Double the batch and freeze half in individual containers for impromptu lunches and dinners.

I typically use chicken stock as the base for this soup, but you can easily substitute with a good vegetable stock, or even water. As the salt content varies depending on the type of stock you are using (commercial or homemade), you’ll have to give it a couple of good tastes at the blending stage to make sure you season it well. Make sure to cut the carrots into smaller pieces than the squash as they take longer to cook.  Feel free to swap the butternut for other varieties of squash or pumpkin – the taste and texture will change slightly.

carrots-butternut-squash-onions-ginger

Pumpkin, carrot and ginger soup

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 ½ tablespoons freshly grated ginger
  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed and cut into 2 inch cubes (about 600 grams)
  • 3 to 4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1 cm dice (about 300 grams)
  • 1 ½ liters chicken stock, vegetable stock or water
  • 1 teaspoon salt (quantity will vary depending on the saltiness of your stock)
  • Fresh black pepper
  • Plain yogurt as a garnish (optional)

Directions:

Heat the butter and olive oil in a large pot. Add the onion and sprinkle with a tiny bit of salt to prevent them from burning. Sauté until soft, about 6 minutes. Add the ginger and sauté for an additional two minutes or until fragrant.

Add the butternut squash, carrots, and stir to combine with the onions.

vegetable-sautee

Add stock or water. Make sure the liquid is just enough to cover all the vegetables. If using only water, you will need to add a teaspoon of salt at this stage.

Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover, reduce the heat to medium low, and let simmer until all the vegetables are soft.

pumkin carrot ginger.JPG

Remove the pot from heat. Either with a hand blender, food processor, or standing blender, blend the soup until completely puréed. It is really worth it to be patient here so you end up with a silky, lump-free textured soup. Taste, add more salt if necessary.

butternut-squash-soup-puree

*Be careful during the puréeing stage, the soup is hot, and if you’re using a blender or food processor, the heat can cause it to seep out of the top of the lid.

Divide the soup among serving bowls and add a spoonful of plain natural yogurt and some freshly ground pepper if desired.

butternut-pumkin-soup

easy-soup-recipe

Bon appetite!

 

 

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Herbed fish cakes with cumin-thyme aioli

I have a thing for crab cakes. When made correctly, a great crab cake is everything you would want in a single, ravenous bite! The lightly browned exterior that contrasts with its delicate, buttery, sweet flesh gets me every time. So when I moved to Dubai and found a shortage of lump crab meat at fish markets across town, I had to think of something fast to give me a quick hit of crab cake love.

After a lot of experimenting and playing with every ingredient under the Dubai sun, the recipe for my fish cake was born. And what a discovery – it is equally as tempting and holds it’s own beside it’s crimson-clawed counterpart. I use a local filet of sole in this recipe, but you can easily substitute any firm white fish. Fresh tuna and salmon work beautifully as well.

The cumin thyme aioli can be used with either home-made mayo or a good quality, store bought one (recipe below). This dish goes beautifully with roasted potatoes, and a fresh green salad.

sole-fishcakes-with-cumin-aioli

Special equipment:

  • 4 to 6 ramekins
  • Plastic wrap

Ingredients:

  • 500 grams filet of sole or any firm white fish
  • 1 small egg
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cumin powder
  • ½ teaspoon Maldon salt (or sea salt)
  • ¼ small red chili (optional), seeds removed and finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon red onion, minced
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil and 2 teaspoons of butter for cooking the fish cakes

Instructions:

Line your ramekins with plastic wrap, making sure that you have enough plastic hanging over the side to wrap the fish cakes.

Dice your fish filet into ½ cm cubes and put in a large bowl. Set aside.

fresh-gulf-sole

In another bowl, whisk together egg, mustard, olive oil, and sesame oil. Pour this mixture over the fish.

Add the cumin, red onion, green onion, chili, and fresh thyme (if using). Gently combine all of the ingredients together until well incorporated.

herbed-fish-cakes-ingredients

Carefully divide the mixture between ramekins, filling each one to the top. Cover with the plastic wrap hanging over the sides, and slightly pat the fish cake down.

Place the ramekins into the freezer for 30 minutes to firm up (do not freeze, you just want them to be firm). It is very important that the fish cakes are very cold so that all of the ingredients adhere to each other. This is a critical step in making this recipe; otherwise the fish cakes could fall apart if you cook them when they are not cold.

Heat a large frying pan over high heat. Add butter and olive oil, and very carefully remove the fishcakes from the ramekins and plastic wrap. Using a spatula, gently place each fishcake on the pan, and reduce the heat to medium. Cook the fish cake, undisturbed, for three minutes or until the bottom is brown. Carefully flip it over to the other side, and cook until browned and cooked through.

Ingredients for the cumin aioli:

  • 2 tablespoons homemade or good quality store bough mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • A splash of extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon cumin powder
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • Fresh thyme leaves

Instructions:

Whisk all of the ingredients together and serve alongside the fishcakes.

fishcakes-with-cumin-aioli

 

 

 

 

 

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