Friday, August 8, 2014

Not eggplant parmesan

We had some beautiful, small eggplants fro the farmers market that, after cooking, turned out to be some of the sweetest and least bitter that I have ever had. I wanted to make a dish of Marcella Hazan's where you pan-cook eggplants with breadcrumbs, garlic and parsley and then melt on some fresh mozzarella.  However, Amy is (very successfully) following a low-carb diet, so I try to be a supportive spouse.  Breadcrumbs were out.  She doesn't even like to eat too much tomato sauce.  So working with what we had around -- mushrooms, miso, parsley and fresh mozzarella, I came up with this.  The mushrooms are delicious on their own since the miso heightens their innate umami-ness, but I think that they are even better in this dish.

Eggplants with mozzarella, mushrooms and miso

  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1.5 pounds eggplant, more or less (I used four small light purple ones.  Use whatever you can get, preferring ones at the market that are firm and heavy in the hand.)
  • 1 pound cremini (or your favorite) mushrooms, washed, stemmed and sliced -- see below for a quick washing technique
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon sweet white miso (I love Two Rivers brand)
  • 1/4 cup washed, chopped Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine.
  • 1/2 pound fresh mozzarella (we always use salted), shredded or diced
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. If you are using small eggplants, cut them in half lengthwise and place in a lightly oiled (or sprayed) shallow casserole that will accommodate them in one layer.  If you use large eggplants, cut them in about 3/4 inch slices.  In any case, the eggplants should fit in your baking dish in a single layer. 
  3. Drizzle the eggplant with oil (or spray them) and sprinkle with salt and bake them for 20 minutes, until the eggplant is tender when tested with a fork.  The time will vary widely depending on how you cut the eggplant.
  4. Meanwhile, make the mushrooms.  Put about 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet, add the mushrooms and sprinkle  them lightly with salt.  Cook them on high heat until they give off their liquid and it evaporates and the mushrooms begin to brown in the oil.  Turn the heat down and add the garlic and parsley and cook gently for about 2-3 minutes until the garlic looses some of its raw aroma.  (Adding the garlic late rather than early both prevents it from burning and preserves some of its pungency.)
  5. Add the miso and stir to distribute evenly and blend with the mushrooms. 
  6. Add the wine and boil down until the miso dissolves and the liquid reduces and thickens, about 2 minutes.  
  7. Broil the eggplant for 2-5 minutes until nicely browned.  They can go from brown to burned quickly, so don't leave the oven and check frequently. If you are using eggplant slices rather than halves, turn them over if you want to brown the other side.  
  8. Return the oven to 425 degrees.
  9. Spread the mushrooms over the eggplant in the casserole, season with pepper and salt if needed (taste the mushrooms, which may already be quite salty) and sprinkle the top with the mozzarella.  Bake until the cheese melts, about 10 minutes.
  10. Broil until the cheese browns lightly. (Again watch this carefully.)
  11. Let rest a minute or two before serving.
Serves 4 with other dishes. 

Washing mushrooms: The conventional wisdom used to be to scrub each mushroom individually with a light damp paper towel.  This was said to prevent them from getting waterlogged, but life is too short. Try this instead: dump them into a bowl that will hold them comfortably, cover them with cold water, and swish them around for about 15 seconds.  Lift out the mushrooms and pour out the dirty water and rinse the bowl.  Repeat.  The mushrooms will now be pretty clean.  Dry them quickly with a paper towel, rubbing off any dirt that may remain.  If you are cleaning more than a few ounces of mushrooms, this is far faster than wiping them individually.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Haloumi salad

This is another recipe that isn't quite a recipe. It doesn't have to be. The quantities that I give are very imprecise.  It will come out good whatever you do.  Haloumi is a Cypriot cheese, usually made from goat or sheep's milk and looks and tastes something like feta, with less funk. Because it is low in acid, it behaves very differently from most cheeses under heat.  Its melting temperature is very high, so that you can fry or grill it and it will hold its shape and brown.  It is very popular in Israel and elsewhere in the Middle East. Now that it is available in lots of supermarkets, even Trader Joe's, there is no excuse not to make it.

It is good fried by itself, added to shakshuka, or on a sandwich with grilled vegetables.  My favorite way toeat it however is in this simple salad.  Tomatoes, basil, haloumi, olive oil.  No vinegar.  The Catalans never add vinegar to tomatoes,  because they think that they already have sufficient acid. They are onto something.

Haloumi Salad

  • Dice about 3/4 pound ripe tomatoes.  If you are using cherry tomatoes, halve them. Place on a platter and salt very lightly.
  • Wash and chop a large handful of basil. You should have a half cup or so. Scatter it over the tomatoes and drizzle with olive oil.
  • Slice a block of haloumi, about 1/2 pound, and fry on high heat in a nonstick skillet until browned, about 3 minutes on a side.
  • Put the haloumi on top of the tomatoes and basil, grind a little pepper on it, and serve at once.  Your first forkful will be significantly better than your second, so don't leave it around.
  • You can add avocado or cucumber if you want, but why mess with perfection?
  • Serves four as an appetizer or side salad, 2 for lunch.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Apricot almond cake -- make it while they're still in season

Make this cake now, while apricots are in season.  You don't have much time.  Later in the summer, you can try it with peaches, nectarines or plums.  It is a wonderful addition to a Friday night dinner or a 4th of July picnic.  If you are in need of comfort food, this is comfort cake -- it reminds me of things that my mother-in-law used to make.

I am not much of a baker, and am just getting to tinkering with some of the few things that I actually do bake.   One of my goals is to increase my repertory of pareve (non-dairy) cakes to serve after meat meals.  Also, under the influence of Nancy Sinkoff, master of modern Jewish history and much else, I try to eschew margarine.  Various oil cakes may not be as good as butter cakes, but they can be good on their own terms.

One of the few cakes that I have been baking for several years is the  Ukranian apple baba from Anya von Bremzen's Please to the Table, her first cookbook devoted to the food of the former Soviet Union.  (This is one of those cookbooks that is not only fun to read, but every recipe in it seems to come out well.)  I have been playing with the baba for a few months, mostly adding nuts and dried fruits.  Once I substituted some pears for half the apples, and it was quite good but not what I would call a daring variation.

Recently, we found ourselves with a box of apricots that weren't getting eaten by anyone but me, so I decided to use them in a dessert and hit upon this cake.  I added some toasted slivered almonds to the filling and substituted almond flour for some of the regular flour.  It worked quite well since almonds and apricot have a particular affinity for each other and, in fact, Amaretto almond liqueur is often made with apricot pits.  For spicing, rather than cinnamon doing a solo, I combined it with
cardamom,which also went well with the almonds.

I was very pleased with the results.  The apricots are tart so the cake makes a great ending to heavy mean.  You could make this with other stone fruits as well, after the brief apricot season is over.

Apricot Almond Cake

  • 3 cups unbleached white flour
  • 1 cup almond meal or ground blanched almonds
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (ideally Ceylon, or true cinnamon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds, lightly toasted in a skillet (be careful not to burn)
  • 10-12 fresh apricots, quartered and pitted
  • confectioner's sugar to dust before serving


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine flour, ground almonds, baking powder and spices in a bowl and stir vigorously with a fork to combine.
  3. Whisk the eggs, stir in the sugar and whisk for about a minute.  Add the juice, oil, and extracts in order, whisking well after each addition to combine.
  4. Add the flour mixture, about one cup at a time, stirring with a large spoon to combine but trying not to overmix.
  5. Spray a 10-inch bundt pan with baking spray, and your cake will pop out beautifully.  Otherwise, oil the pan, sprinkle with a bit of flour and rotate the pan to coat it lightly with flour, shaking out the excess.
  6. Pour in about 1/3 of the batter and distribute with a rubber spatula.  Sprinkle in the tasted almonds and arrange the apricots over them and the batter.  Pour the remaining batter over, smoothing it with a spatula to distribute it evenly.
  7. Place the cake in the oven and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Test after about 1 hour and 10 minutes with a skewer -- it it comes out clean, the cake is done.  It may take up to an hour and a half, depending on the precise temperature of your oven and the ingredients.
  8. Remove the cake from the oven and cool on a rack for about 15 minutes.  Turn the pan over and remove the cake, and let it cool on a rack.
  9. When cool, dust with confectioner's sugar (put about 2 tablespoons of sugar in a sieve and shake it over the cake).  Serves 12.  It keeps for several days if covered.

Variations:  Substitute underripe peaches or nectarines for the apricots.  Depending on size, you will need 6-8.  You can also use plums, but I would omit the cardamom and use 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, use substitute ground walnuts for almond flour and toasted chopped walnuts for the almonds and use 2teaspoons vanilla extract and no almond extract.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Halvah cake with chocolate tahini glaze

This cake is for sesame lovers.  I call it halvah cake since it tastes like halvah, which should not be surprising given that they share their principal ingredients: sesame, eggs and sweetener.

 It is simple and pareve (dairy-free).  It contains no pareve margarine. (Nancy Sinkoff has finally convinced me that this is an abomination.)  It is so good that you should not save it for occasions when you don't want to serve dairy. It is adapted from a cake in Jennifer Abadi's wonderful book of Syrian-Jewish cooking, A Fistful of Lentils.  However, I found her  cake too dry, almost like a cookie or mandelbrot, but not quite.  My version is much moister, but equally simple.  I also love the combination of chocolate and sesame, so I added this glaze.

I am a cook much more than a baker, in part because I like to tinker and improvise and cooking allows much more latitude than baking.  My other attempts to improvise with baked goods have been less than successful. (I have been working on a chocolate-ancho chili cake for years, to no avail.) This experiment came together easily and I was surprised at how good the results were.  I am tempted to tinker further, and add some spices like cardamom or cinnamon, but the purity of the sesame flavor is really nice.  Sometimes it is best to leave well enough alone.

Halvah cake with chocolate tahini glaze:


For the cake:
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup honey (a lighter honey is better here, not a dark one like buckwheat which is usually my go-to honey for bread and apples)
  • 2/3 cup tahini
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil (I used canola, but a light-- not oriental style -- sesame oil would be good too)
  • 1 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch salt

For the glaze:
  • 4 ounces chocolate (I use Scharfenberger 70%)
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons tahini
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoons sesame seeds (approximately -- hulled raw will be prettier, but roasted with the hull will be tastier)
  1. Preheat oven to 350. 
  2. Beat the eggs in a large mixing bowl. Nothing fancy here, a fork is ok.  Beat in the honey, tahini, oil, and vanilla.  
  3. In another bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt with a fork.  Stir into the wet ingredients until you have a smooth batter.  It will be fairly thick and stiff.
  4. Oil a 9-inch springform pan. (Or, even better, spray with baking spray, which is emulsified oil and flour  -- your cakes will jump out of the pan. I owe this life-changing tip to Navah Frost.)
  5. Pour the batter into the pan, and smooth the top with a rubber spatula.   It won't be perfect since the batter is somewhat stiff, but if you oil the spatula lightly it be easier to spread.
  6. Bake for 25-35 minutes.  The exact time will depend on the precise heat of your oven and the temperature of your ingredients.  Test for doneness by inserting a skewer, which should come out clean.  I find that 30 minutes is about right in my oven. The cake will not be smooth on top, but you can even this out whey you glaze it later. 
  7. Leave the cake to cool on a rack and let cool for about 30 minutes, than remove it from the pan and let stand until cool. 
  8. To make the glaze, combine all of the ingredients in a small pot, and whisk over low heat until smooth, about 5 minutes.  
  9. Let the glaze cool for about 5 minutes, and then spread on the top of the cake with a rubber spatula.  Sprinkle with the sesame seeds and leave for a few hours until the glaze is set.  This cake keeps well at room temperature, do not refrigerate. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Not cassoulet, just lamb and beans

This isn't cassoulet.  It may be better.  It isn't cholent either. It takes time but not much effort and no hard-to-find ingredients.  It is perfect for a Sunday evening meal, or even a Friday evening. You can leave it to cook while you are toodling around the house.  It can sit in the oven for hours on low either before or after you do the bread crumb topping.

The inspiration for this was twofold.  One is the pre-Pesach purge.  We had some presoaked frozen limas in the fridge, as well as some lamb neck, and I couldn't think of anything better to do with them, perhaps because there isn't.  The other is my father reminiscing about how his mother used to stew limas with meat bones.  You could also use other beans, but the lima was my grandmother's preferred bean.  She also rarely cooked lamb, and I am pretty sure that she never cooked with rosemary, but this dish still tastes like someone's grandmother made it.

What this dish is is REALLY good.  There is something about he combination of meat fat and gelatin and tender beans that is deeply satisfying, particularly on a chilly day accompanied by some red wine.  The quantities below will serve 4-6, though the recipe could be halved or doubled. You could also cook it on 325 for a total of 90 minutes to 2 hours, but slow and steady is  better.

Lamb with Beans

  • 1 pound large white lima beans or gingantes, washed and soaked overnight (see below)
  • 1-2 pounds meaty lamb bones, like neck
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large or 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 anchovy filets (optional but desirable)
  • 1/4  to 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (optional but desirable)
  • 4 sprigs rosemary
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees and bring some water to the boil.
  2. Heat olive oil, reserving about 2 teaspoons,  in  a 4-quart oven safe casserole, dry the lamb, and saute on all sides until nicely browned.  Remove lamb to a dish.
  3. Saute the onions in the oil until they begin to brown, then chop the garlic coarsely, add to the pot and saute on low about a minute.  Add the anchovy filets and the Aleppo pepper and mash the anchovy until it becomes a paste.  
  4. Add about a cup of water to the pot and deglaze until the brown bits on the pot have dissolved.
  5. Return the lamb to the pot, add the beans, and barely cover with boiling water.  Tuck the rosemary sprigs into the pot and season with salt and pepper. 
  6. Bring to the simmer, cover and put in the oven for two hours.
  7. Uncover, correct salt and pepper, and put it back for another one or two hours, depending on how tender the lamb and beans are and how much liquid you want.  If you leave it for the full two hours much of the liquid will evaporate and the beans on top will begin to become crusty.
  8. Mix together the bread crumbs, parsley, and the remaining cloves of garlic, chopped fine.  Spring on top of the meat and beans, and return to the oven for 15 minutes to a half hour or even more.  If the bread crumbs are not brown, turn on the broiler for a few minutes, but watch it carefully, since you do not want to burn the bread crumbs or the garlic.  
  9. Serves 4 - 6 with a nice red wine, some salad and maybe some bread.  
The beans: As I mention above, in my grandmother's house it was almost always limas, unless it was cholent and some red kidney beans might sneak in.  You could also make this with another white bean such as great northern or navy.  Gigantes, the giant Greek limas, would be excellent, though they are more expensive.  Beans really don't need to be soaked overnight.  As Barbara Kafka has remarked, beans are legumes, and not phantoms, and there is nothing magical about the nighttime.  (Well, maybe there is, but not as far as beans are concerned.)  Just rinse them and soak them in water for 4-8 hours.  Time does not necessarily equal effort.  Once you have soaked beans, you can drain and freeze them so that they are ready on shorter notice.  

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Zapped banana

I should probably tweet this rather than blog it, but here goes:

Take one banana and microwave for 30-45 seconds on high, depending on the power of the ovens. (Newer and larger ovens are more powerful, and use less time.)

Peel and eat.

The results are actually rather comforting.  Sort of like a warm banana pudding.  Perfect for a rainy day.



Pasta with preserved lemons, garlic and chili

This is not a healthy dish.  I never thought that the pasta would be a concern and the quantity of butter no big deal, but this is apparently where we stand in terms of today's health wisdom.  But it is real good.  So enjoy it from time to time.

The recipe is based on a combination mentioned by Mario Batali in an interview once, and I took it for a few test drives and came up with that lies beneath.  The quantities of salty ingredients are variable.  The larger quantity makes for a more hard-hitting, assertive dish.  It is considerably milder but still quite tasty.  Serve this with an acidic wine.  I think it is better with red, so my first choice would be a Pinot Noir or  an Austrian Blaufrankisch.  It would  also go well with an dry Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc.  If the wine lacks acidity, it will come off as sweet, heavy and syrupy in combination with the preserved lemons, while the high acid wines are mellowed and compliment the dish perfectly.

This recipe serves four, and could easily be called Pasta with Forty Cloves of Garlic.  I find that it is easier to cook the garlic in a larger quanitity, but you can adjust the proportions for one or two servings.

Pasta with Preserved Lemons, Garlic and Chili


  • 1 pound tubular pasta such as penne
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 40 cloves of garlic, peeled (pre-peeled garlic is fine)
  • 2-4 large preserved lemons (preferably homemade, store-bought acceptable)
  • 2-4 anchovies 
  • 2-8 pickled chilis (these vary widely, I use Roland, which are about 2 inches long and  1/4 inch wide)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan or grana Padano


  1. Bring a large (4-6 quart) pot of water to boil  (This is the first thing you should do when you get home if you are even contemplating making past, not that people do this much anymore.)  Salt the water more lightly than you might for pasta ordinarily since it will be dressed with salty ingredients, about 2 tablespoons for this quantity of water.
  2. Put the garlic and seven tablespoons of butter in a small pot on medium heat.  When the butter melts, turn heat down to medium low and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes.  You want the garlic to brown very lightly, but be careful that it does not burn.
  3. Pour the garlic  and butter through a coarse strainer into a medium skillet.  Transfer the garlic to a cutting board. It will crisp up a bit as it cools.  
  4. Remove the pulp from the preserved lemons, and sliver the peel.
  5. Put the pasta into the boiling water.  Depending on more variables than I can list here, it will probably take between 8 and 10 minutes.  
  6.  Put the slivered preserved lemon into the skillet with the butter and saute on medium heat until lightly brown.  Be careful that the butter, which will contain some brown residue, does not burn.
  7. Add the chopped chili to the pan and saute a minute.
  8. Add the anchovy filets and mash into a paste.
  9. Slice the garlic. and add to the pan with the other ingredients.  Add the parsley and cook for about 30 seconds.  You don't want to cook it but you don't want it to be quite raw either.
  10. Scoop out a coffee cup of pasta water and set aside. 
  11. Drain the pasta and put it into a warmed serving bowl.  Add the remaining  tablespoon of butter and half of the grated cheese.  Dump on the ingredients from the skillet and mix into the pasta.
  12. Serve quickly in warmed pasta bowls with the remaining grated cheese. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Roast chicken with pomegranate and za'atar

This is so easy that it almost does not qualify as a recipe.  I must have eaten or seen this somewhere before, but I am not sure where.  It takes about 10 minutes to prepare, 45 to roast.  The pomegranate seeds at the end are optional, but add a nice texture and a burst of flavor.  You can leave it to sit before you cook it but don't have to.  It is good enough for company or a Shabbat dinner and easy enough for a weeknight.  All you need is a well-stocked pantry:

Roast chicken with pomegranate and za'atar


  • 1 chicken, 3.5-4 pounds, cut into 4-8 serving pieces
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
  • 2 tablespoons za'atar (I used Galil brand)
  • 1 teaspoon sumac
  • 1-2 teaspoons Turkish red pepper (Aleppo, Maras or Kirmiz)
  • 1-3 tablespoons olive oil (more will taste better, but I used a scant tablespoon)
  • 1 large onion, quartered and sliced
  • 1/4 cup fresh pomegranate seeds


  1. Crush the garlic with the salt to form a paste.
  2. Mix in the next 4 ingredients.
  3. Drizzle in the oil to form a more or less uniform paste.
  4. Spread lightly all over the chicken pieces.
  5. Put the onion in a baking pan large enough to hold the chicken with a little room around it.  (It the  chicken is packed to close it will take longer to cook, may not brown well, and will produce too much juice.
  6. You may bake the chicken immediately, or leave it up to two hours outside of the fridge or overnight inside.  
  7. Roast in a preheated 425 degree oven for 45 minutes to an hour until done to your taste.  (The precise time will depend on many variables, including the temperature of the chicken, the size of the pieces, the real as opposed to the presumed temperature of your oven, and the size of the pan.)
  8. After removing from the oven, scatter pomegranate seeds over the top.
  9. Serves 4 along with rice or bulgur (see below) for the onions and juice from the pan.

Bulgur:  Since bulgur is precooked and dried wheat, it cooks incredibly quickly.  There are many more elaborate recipes for bulgur pilaf, and many are good, but you don't need to bother since it really doesn't need cooking, just soaking and heating.  It is very healthy and easy and I am really surprised that people don't make it more often.  To serve 4, put one cup coarse bulgur in a heat proof bowl.  Sprinkle the top with 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  Pour one cup boiling water over it, cover the dish, and leave it sit for about 20 minutes.  Heat it by covering the dish with foil and putting it in the oven for the last 20 minutes of cooking, or covering it with paper towel and zapping in the microwave for 2-3 minutes.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Uighur-style lamb stew, fartaytsht und farbessert

Regular readers of this blog (there must be at least 5 of you) will have seen the expression "fartaytsht und farbessert "  before.  I means translated into Yiddish (a Taytsh or German tongue) and improved, as in "Shakespeare, vartaytsht und farbessert."  (Readers of Kaaterskill Falls may recall the wonderful scene when an ambulance driver quotes Shakespeare to the Breuer-esque rabbi while driving him to the hospital, to have the rabbi respond, "Ach it is so much better in German.)

I have been blogging recipes for over four years and I feel like I am still getting the hang of it.  The real problem for me is what to do when I change how I cook a dish?  This happens often.  Many of the recipes of this blog are my personal favorites, and I modify them often until I get them right.   I have never really figured out if it is more appropriate to tinker with the original posting, which is what I usually seem to do, or writing a new post, which is what I am doing now.

I first posted on Uighur-style lamb stew in December 2009.  This recipe was adapted from the cookbook Beyond the Great Wall largely to make it a stew rather than a saute.  Over the years I have tinkered with it further   -- reducing the tomato, eliminating some vegetables, and modifying the technique to get this version.  It is truly farbessert.  It is also, for such an exotic sounding dish,  very straightforward and accessible.  It is not fast, but very easy -- you don't even have to brown the meat.  It requires no special techniques, ingredients or equipment, and will appeal to anyone who enjoys lamb, onions and garlic and who can appreciate the joys of meat cooked slowly on the bone.  I am minimizing the variations, notes choices and digressions that I usually include, and just giving to you how I think you should make:

Uighur-style Lamb Stew


  • 2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, quartered and cut into thin slices
  • 8-10 cloves garlic (more if you want), peeled and sliced thin
  • 3-4 pounds lamb stew on the bone (I use neck)
  • 15 ounce can crushed or diced tomatoes (I use Muir's Glen fire-roasted, which are not particularly smokey but have a wonderful rich flavor)
  • 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce (or 1 tablespoon of soy, 1 of Bragg's aminos)
  • 2 sweet red peppers, cored and shredded lengthwise
  • 1 sweet green pepper, cored and shredded lengthwise
  • 8 ounces - 1 pound daikon, peeled and cut into 1/2 -3/4 inch cubes
  • 1 large or 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-3/4 inch cubes
  • 1 medium yellow or russet potato, washed and cut into eighths
  • 1/2 pound green beans, trimmed and halved
  • salt
  • chopped cilantro, Chinese black vinegar and Sriracha to serve (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  
  2. Saute the onion with the  oil in a large 5-6 quart pot that you can use on the stovetop and in the oven. Salt it lightly to draw out the moisture. Cook on medium stirring occasionally until the onions are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.  (It will go faster on higher heat, but you have to be careful not to scorch the onions.
  3. Add the garlic and saute gently for a few more minutes but do not let the onions or garlic brown.
  4. Add the lamb, and saute until it looses its red color, between 5-10 minutes.
  5. Add the tomatoes and the soy sauce, bring to a simmer, cover and put in the oven and cook for about 2 hours, testing after 90 minutes to see if the lamb is tender.
  6. Remove lamb from the oven, turn the temperature down to 200 degrees and bring the pot to a simmer on the stove, add the peppers and the daikon and cook for 15 minutes uncovered.
  7. Add the potatoes and carrots and cook for another 10 minutes.
  8. Pick the lamb out of the stew, put in a dish, cover  and keep warm in the oven.  Add the green beans to the stew and bring it to a boil.
  9. The green beans should be tender in about 5 minutes.  Once they are tender, remove all of the vegetables from the pot put them in a large serving dish, arrange the lamb pieces on top, cover and keep warm in the oven.
  10. Bring the heat up to very high and boil until the sauce is very thick.  Pour over the lamb and vegetables in the serving dish.  
  11. Taste for salt and add salt or soy sauce to correct seasonings. I find, esp. with kosher meat, it is plenty salty.
  12. Although best served at once, it can be kept warm, covered in the oven for up to two hours.
  13. Serve at the table with a dish of fresh chopped cilantro for people to add, and bottles of Chinese Jingiang black vinegar (you can substitute Worcestershire sauce if you must) and hot sauce.  I used to add them all, but now only use a little cilantro.
  14. Serve with or on top of some rice or some kind of noodle. We have found artisanal pasta like orrechiette (Pugliese ear-shaped pasta) or capunte to be the perfect accompaniment!  It is also good with Turkish pide or Bukharan lepeshka breads.
  15. Serves about 6, depending on the rest of the menu.
Slightly easier : You can just leave the lamb in the pot as you add all the vegetables, and not bother to boil down the sauce.  This will be soupier and should be served on top of a pasta in a Chinese soup bowl.

Degreasing:  Don't bother.  I am not even going to give this variation.  You don't eat like this so often so you won't be doing much damage.  Also, because of the bone, your actual meat consumptions in this dish won't be that large.  The lamb fat has lots of flavor.  

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Tuna salad with tahini

Slate, the online magazine, recently published an article called Mayo-phobia: Why Do Some People Hate Mayonnaise So Much?  Even more compelling was the tagline on their home page:  "Why do Jews have a problem with mayonnaise?  It begins with Milton Berle."  As this article makes clear, aversion to mayonnaise is not confined to Jews.  About 10 years ago, an article in The New Yorker discussing Pret-a-Manger  (subscriber access only) thought it was an American phenomenon, and noted that sandwiches sold in the chains British stores were far more mayo-heavy than what would sell in the US.

Be that as it may, my son, Harry, hates mayonnaise and avoids most foods that contain it.  This meant that he would not eat tuna salad or sandwiches.  While this is not necessarily a great tragedy, given the state of the fisheries and levels of mercury in tuna it is still a convenient quick lunch on occasion.  Fortunately, he discovered an acceptable way to eat tuna while spending much of the winter of 2010-2011 hiking in the Negev -- tahini.  Tahini is relatively indestructible, so it is better and safer to hike with container of tahini than an open jar of mayonnaise.  With canned tuna, some water and lemon, you have a pretty good sandwich filling.  I have adapted it a bit more, and we have it all the time now:

Tuna salad with tahini


  • 1 generous tablespoon tahini paste
  • 1/2 small lemon
  • water, about 1/4 cup
  • 2 cans tuna, preferably packed in olive oil and drained well (or even vegetable oil;  oil packed tuna is less fishy and dry than water packed)
  • optional additions: 1-2 hard boiled eggs, chopped; 1 rib celery,  chopped fine; 1/4 green pepper, chopped fine; chopped scallion or 1 tablespoon finely chopped red onion; tablespoon capers well rinsed; 1/2 preserved lemon peel, rinsed well and chopped
  • salt and pepper (white, red or black) to taste 


  1. To make the tahini dressing, put the tahini in a one quart or larger bowl; squeeze the lemon through a sieve or your fingers into the tahini.  Stir together with a fork, and you will notice that the tahini will stiffen.
  2. Begin to dribble in the water very slowly, stirring all the while.  The tahini will continue to stiffen, and will then loosen and turn into a creamy texture.  You will use about 1/4 cup of water, though the quantity varies with the tahini and the solid/oil ratio in what you scooped out.  The texture should be like a thick sauce.  (If you have ever had prepared tahini, you will know what to expect.)  The process will probably take less than a minute.
  3. Mix in the tuna, add whatever optional ingredients you want, bearing in mind that you will need less salt if you use things like capers. We generally make it with eggs, celery, red onion and green pepper.  I also like it with parsley.  The capers and preserved lemon make for a more special salad.
  4. Serves about 4 -- use as you would any standard tuna salad, but you will probably enjoy this a lot more.