This recipe is no recipe at all, it’s merely a suggestion. In other words, if you like to ad-lib in the kitchen and subscribe to the “cooking isn’t rocket science philosophy”, this non-recipe is for you.
Are you finding your food has become less presentable the longer you’re cooking every single night? Dinner no longer arrives at the table in a serving bowl, it’s left in the pan on a hot pad. Cutting boards serve double duty as platters. But, even if we aren’t getting out the “good china”, don’t forget this simple rule: we eat with our eyes.
So, here are a couple of accompaniments to spruce up what you’re leaving on the cutting board and bringing to the table.
I know what you’re thinking, something to the tune of “you want me to make more food?” But trust me, whatever gets the kids happier at mealtime is a win-win.
More from the quarantine kitchen:
► Quarantine kitchen: Chef Dero’s no-rules ramp pesto ‘recipe’
► Quarantine Kitchen: Chef Dero’s no-rules breakfast biscuit sandwich ‘recipe’
► Quarantine kitchen: Chef Dero’s no-rules ultimate pantry mac & cheese
One trimming that can spruce up a meal or snack is baba ghanoush. My biggest struggle is making a large enough batch to survive my initial “taste testing” of the stuff. Aside from the eggplant, you might even have most of what you need on hand. For two people you will only need one eggplant; but for larger families or baba ghanoush fanatics, consider doubling or even tripling this recipe. Once made, it will keep for the week.
Start by piercing the skin around the whole eggplant with the tines of a fork or a thin sharp knife. Give the outside a good char with a flame from a grill, the gas burners on your range or, as a last resort, the torch in your garage. Just don’t expect much left of the eggplant for that latter method.
Once charred, slide on a sheet pan and into a 375-degree oven for 10-15 minutes, until it feels very soft. Let it cool briefly, then peel off the char and mash the flesh in a bowl. Toss in roughly a ¼ cup of tahini, a few garlic cloves (roast optional), a couple of ounces of lemon juice a good pinch of salt. I also add a solid pinch of cumin, but you can forgo. If you like your final product a little smoother, give it a whirl in the food processor until you’re happy.
Serve it with grilled lamb, salmon or chicken at dinner. For lunch, an open face sandwich with tomatoes and cucumbers is mouthwatering. Think you won’t like it with eggs and toast, just try it. Anytime you would use hummus, sub baba ghanoush and you might never go back.
The only thing you will use more than baba ghanoush is pickled red onion and it’s one of the easiest garnishments to make.
Thinly crosswise slice a red onion and drop it into a mason jar. Boil a half cup of sugar, half cup of cider vinegar (or white vinegar), a little over a teaspoon of salt and the same for black peppercorns, if I have them. I toss in a cinnamon stick and stop there, but you can throw in juniper, clove, bay leaf, …you get the idea.
Once the sugar has dissolved, pour the mixture over the onions, cool, screw on the cap, give it a couple of swirls and put it in the fridge overnight. You’ll have a decent pickled onion by the next day. By day two, they are even better.
You will use them pretty quickly even though they will last at least a couple of weeks. Add them to your tacos and you will never eat tacos without them. Toss in your sandwich, in your scrambled eggs, on your avocado toast, top your salad, your braised meats and even your bagel and cream cheese will thank you. In other words, make them now because nothing livens up a meal served on a cutting board like some pickled onion.
More no-rules “recipes”:
► Quarantine kitchen: Chef Dero’s no-rules grilled lasagna ‘recipe’
► Quarantine kitchen: Chef Dero’s no-rules Instant Pot taco ‘recipe’
► Quarantine kitchen: Chef Dero’s no-rules grilled pizza ‘recipe’
Matthew DeRobertis is a chef, writer and father to a kid who loves food more than her dog. Contact him at [email protected]
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