Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Israeli omelet

I am not sure if this is an "authentic" recipe for an Israeli omelet or even if it is a recipe at all.  It is more a series of choices and  is just how we make what we call Israeli omelets.  My son asserts that it is nothing like the omelets that he ate in Israel, but no matter.   It is related to a variety of Middle Eastern omelets and pancakes, but I think that this is by far the simplest and the best.  It leaves out the flour and other vegetables that sometimes find their way in, and is better as a result.  It is similar to an Italian frittata or Spanish tortilla, but thinner, crisper, and altogether more fun and makes a super-quick light dinner.  It is great served with pita bread, chopped Israeli salad,   and either a tahini or yogurt sauce-- recipes for both follow.  I have given directions to serve two, but you can easily halve or double it as needed. 

Israeli omelet

Scramble some eggs, or a combination of eggs and whites.  Mix in a handful of washed chopped flat-leaf parsley and a few chopped scallions, the whites and some of the greens. Season with salt and pepper.  Spray a non-stick skillet with some olive oil spray and heat on high.  Add a little olive oil if you want.  (The more oil you use, the crisper but more fattening the omelet.)  Make either many small pancakes (use a 6 inch skillet for this), with a scant ladleful of egg mixture for each, or one large one in a 10-12 inch skillet.  Cook about 3-5 minutes until the bottom is set and the edges a bit crisp.  Flip the small omelets, or put the large one under the broiler until the top is set and a bit brown.  Serve either whole or cut into wedges, hot, warm, or room temperature, with warm pita, chopped salad, and yogurt or tahini sauce. 

What about quantities?:  They are really very approximate, but for two people, two eggs and two whites, or three eggs will do it.  About 1/2 cup chopped parsley and 3 scallions.

Yogurt sauce:  Basically, any plain yogurt that you like will do it here.  If you want it a little more interesting, smash a clove of garlic with the side of a broad knife and peel.  Sprinkle with coarse salt and puree the garlic by working it with the side of the knife and the edge as well.  Put it in a bowl and stir in 1/2 cup to 1 cup of yogurt.  Add more salt if needed, and if you feel like it, some ground dried spearmint and either Aleppo or cayenne pepper (a 1/2 teaspoon of the former, a small pinch of the latter).

Tahini sauce:  Puree the garlic as above.  Put in a bowl and add 1 tablespoon tahini and the juice of 1/2 lemon.  Stir and drizzle in a little water.  The ingredients will seize up.  Slowly drizzle in between 1/2 cup and a cup of water, stirring all the while with a fork..  The tahini will thin out to a smooth sauce.  Stop adding water when it is the texture you want, which should be somewhere between a bechamel and heavy cream

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Persian green beans, and dried limes

This recipe is a modified version of an Iranian pilaf filling that appeared in Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian which is one of those rare cookbooks where every recipe seems to be good.  I have modified the method and the seasonings, but retain the use of dried limes as a key ingredient.  Dried limes have an interesting flavor, something that I would describe as low citrus with the aroma of a musty cathedral. This analogy is meant to be complimentary and it is not original though I can't trace its sources. They bring a powerful funky citrus aroma without sourness.  While limes generally have a way of brightening a food, dried limes darken it and add considerable depth of flavor.

They are most widely used in Persian cooking and are available in Middle Eastern and Indian markets.  Generally, you can only buy the whole ones, which you can use in one of two ways: you can puncture the limes in a few places and add to liquidy soups or stews, or you can crack them, pick out the seeds and add the debris to a sauce.  If you are really lucky however, you can buy them already ground.  This is available under the Sadaf label, a kosher company from California that distributes a wide range of Middle Eastern spices. They call them ground lemons, but don't believe it, they are limes.
They go beautifully in tomato sauces, so try them in:

Persian Green Beans

  • 2 teaspoons to 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 medium red onion, cut into quarters and sliced (you can substitute the equivalent amount of shallots, about 1/2 cup sliced)
  • 2 pounds green beans, trimmed and cut in half
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper, or more to taste (you can substitute a teaspoon of paprika and a large pinch of cayenne)
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon ground dried lime
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup boiling water or a little more

  1. Heat the oil on medium high in a large nonstick skillet.  Add the onions and saute, shaking the pan or stirring occasionally, until soft but not brown, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the green beans and salt and saute, stirring or shaking occasionally  until the beans are glossy.
  3. Ad the spices and saute for another minute until they lose some of their raw aroma.
  4. Push the beans aside and the tomato paste.  Heat a bit, and then add the water to the paste, stirring until you have a sauce.  Mix together well until incorporated into the green beans.  The amount of water will depend largely on the shape of your skillet, but the sauce should almost but not quite cover the beans.
  5. Cook 10-15 minutes on high, stirring from time to time,  until most of the liquid is evaporated, the sauce is thick, and the green beans are done.  I like the beans in this dish on the tender side.  If you want them crisper, use less water and be careful not to scorch the beans and sauce.  If you want them them really soft, add more water and cook for as long as a half hour.  Taste for salt.
  6. Serves 8 generously as a side dish.  Best with rice or bulgur, and also good cold with yogurt. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Roasted cauliflower and tomato soup

This soup is easy (by my standards), low-carb, low-fat, vegan, and pareve.  You can gussy it up if you want -- some suggestions are below -- but it is fine just as it is.

Roasted cauliflower and tomato soup

  • 1 large cauliflower
  • vegetable oil spray
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 white onion, finely chopped
  • 1 15 ounce can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon each ground chitpotle chile, thyme,  smoked Spanish paprika, and cumin
  • handful washed chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 quart boiling vegetable stock (I actually used 4 teaspoons of Osem powder in boiling water)

  1. Roast the cauliflower according to my recipe for Roasted Cauliflower with Eggs.
  2. Meanwhile, saute the onion in the canola oil in a medium (3-4 quart) pot on high heat until it is soft and starting to brown on the edges.  
  3. Add the spices and give a few stirs.
  4. Add the tomatoes and cook down on high heat until it looks like a sauce, about 5-10 minutes.
  5. Add half the cilantro and stir a bit
  6. Add the stock and bring to the boil.
  7. When the cauliflower is done, set aside a few of the smaller florets for a garnish, and add the remainder to the soup, and simmer for about 15 minutes.
  8. Puree the soup using a hand-held immersion blender. (You could use a conventional blender, but then you have to let it cool down and the recipe would not longer be fast and easy.)
  9. Reheat the soup, stir in the remaining coriander, and serve with a few roasted florets in each bowl.
  10. Serves 6 as a first course.
Other accompaniments:  Although this soup is fine as it is, we had it with a little goat's milk yogurt stirred in.  I am not being precious, it is widely available now.  The sweetness of the goat yogurt counteracted the acidity of the tomatoes very nicely.  You could also serve the soup with a variety of traditional Mexican garnishes:  diced chili, white onion, tortilla strips, cheese, avocado, lime and more cilantro.  This could turn the soup into a main dish for up to four people, especially at lunch.  For more on these garnishes, and on preparing the tortilla strips, see my recipe for Mexican vegetable soup. If you were going to use a lot of garnishes, I would eliminate the roasted cauliflower garnish and just puree it all with the soup.