Eggplant with Lamb, Tomato and Pine Nuts

This is from a great new cookbook called Rose Water and Orange Blossoms that has wonderful recipes for Lebanese food. I love that the author is from Michigan, where I am from and also all of the joy she imparts about the family meals and sharing food with friends. You can make this recipe ahead and then reheat it for dinner to serve with rice. There is a great recipe for rice that goes with the eggplant but you should buy the book and make it. I am also making her mothers Romaine Salad! A perfect party menu! I love the combinations of flavors in the lamb and eggplant dishes, especially the toasted pine nuts!
Lamb and Pinenuts
2 large firm eggplants, cut into 1/2-inch slices
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt, more as needed
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound ground lamb or beef (80 percent lean)
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Black pepper
½ tablespoon unsalted butter
½ cup pine nuts
1 (28-ounce) can tomato sauce
12 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced
1 1/2 c. warm water for bain marie to cook casserole
Rosewater and Orange Blossom meal

Heat broiler and line a baking sheet with foil or parchment.
Brush both sides of eggplant slices with 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt. Arrange slices on prepared baking sheet and broil in batches until they are deep mahogany brown, turning once halfway through, 5 to 7 minutes per side.
Adjust the oven to 375 degrees with rack positioned in the center.
In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the remaining olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent, but not browned, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add ground lamb or beef, stirring frequently and breaking up meat into very small pieces with the side of a metal spoon. Season with remaining teaspoon salt, cinnamon and pepper. Sauté until meat is just cooked through. Taste and add more salt or pepper, or both, as needed.
In a medium skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add pine nuts and reduce heat to medium-low. Stir nuts to coat them with butter and continue stirring constantly until nuts are golden brown, 2 to 4 minutes. Keep a close watch over the nuts; they can burn quickly once they begin to brown. Transfer nuts to a bowl while still warm and salt them lightly.
Coat a 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking dish with remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Spread 1/2 cup of tomato sauce in the bottom of the dish. Lay 1/3 of the eggplant slices in a single layer over the sauce, covering as much surface area of the bottom of the dish as possible. Spoon half the meat evenly over eggplant. Pour 1/3 of the remaining tomato sauce evenly over meat. Sprinkle with 1/3 of the pine nuts. Layer again with eggplant, meat, tomato sauce and pine nuts. Finish with a layer of eggplant and cover with more tomato sauce, sprinkling top with pine nuts.
Pour 1 cup warm water around the perimeter of the baking dish. (Sauce will thicken as it bakes.) Cover pan with foil and bake for 90 minutes. Remove foil and top eggplant evenly with mozzarella. Bake for 15 minutes longer, uncovered, or until the cheese is bubbling and golden. Serve eggplant warm, over rice.

Chocolate Silk

This recipe comes from Emily Luchetti, a famous pastry chef from San Francisco who I originally discovered at Stars, the incredible restaurant in SF in the 80’s. She has written numerous cookbooks and this recipe comes from Stars Desserts. I used to have a bakery and made almost every recipe in the book. The chocolate silk pie was a regular at my bakery and once it was returned for being ‘too chocolatey”!. It is decadent and rich and serve only to those that love chocolate. A thin slice goes a long way! You can vary the nuts in the crust-I tried hazelnuts and pecans today although the recipe calls for walnuts and pecans. The recipe calls for a 9″ springform but I make it in a 10″ as it is such a rich dessert, it can take the extra room.
Chocolate silk
Crust
3 oz. walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
4 oz. pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
1/2 c. firmly packed brown sugar
pinch of ground cinnamon
4 oz. sweet butter, melted
9 or 10″ springform pan, (lined with parchment if desired)
Mousse Cake
20 oz. bittersweet or extra bittersweet chocolate (I used 60% Ghirardelli)
1/2-3/4 c. sugar (I use 1/2 c. would use 3/4 if extra bittersweet)
6 large eggs
1/4 c. heavy cream
1/2 t. vanilla
Topping
1 c. heavy cream
2 T. sugar

Combine the walnuts and pecans with the brown sugar and cinnamon in a large bowl. Stir in the melted butter. Press into the bottom of the springform pan. Refrigerate for 1/2 hour, until firm.
Melt the chopped chocolate in the top of a double boiler over simmering water. While chocolate is melting, combine the butter and sugar in a mixer with the paddle attachment and cream on medium speed until light and fluffy. Switch to the whisk attachment and add the eggs 2 at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape the sides of the bowl increase to medium high speed for 2 minutes, until the egg mixture increases in volume. Whisk the melted chocolate until it has cooled slightly. It should be warm but not hot. Whisk the chocolate into the egg mixture on medium low speed. Scrape the sides and bottom of bowl until the chocolate is fully incorporated. Stir in the cream and vanilla. Spread into springform on top of crust and refrigerate until firm, 6 hours or overnight.
Cover with the topping (or serve on the side)
Whip cream and sugar in mixer on high speed until soft peaks form. Spread on top of cake. Unmold cake by running a hot dry knife around the inside edge of pan and release the latch from the springform. Slice cake with a hot dry knife, dipping in hot water in between slices and drying the knife off.

Pizza

We used to have the most fun pizza parties where we would roll out a dozen pizzas and assemble lots of wonderful ingredients and invite friends to design their own pizzas. I had forgotten about Wolfgang Puck’s easy pizza dough until yesterday when I made it again. It is the nicest dough.You can make it in a mixer or in the food processor. I always make sure my yeast mixture has bloomed and is active (5 minutes) before adding it to the flour.
Raw pizza
1 package of yeast
1 1/2 c. lukewarm water (105-115 degrees)
1 T. honey
2 T. olive oil
3-4 c. unbleached flour
1 t. salt
Proof yeast in warm water and let stand 5 minutes. Add honey and olive oil.
Combine flour and salt-start with 3 c. flour. In a mixer with the paddle, mix the flour and yeast mixture until combined. Switch to the dough hook and mix for 5 minutes until the dough comes cleanly away from the sides of the bowl (you may need to add more flour). Turn the dough on to a lightly floured surface and knead for 2-3 minutes. The dough should be smooth and elastic. When you press it with your finger, it should slowly spring back and it should not feel tacky. Using a food processor: Mix together the yeast, honey, water and olive oil in a small bowl or measuring cup. Place the flour and salt in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse once or twice. Then, with the machine running, pour in the yeast mixture. Process until the dough forms a ball on the blades. Remove the dough from the processor and knead it on a lightly floured surface for a couple of minutes, adding flour as necessary, until it is smooth and elastic. Transfer the dough to a clean, lightly oiled bowl, rounded side down first and then rounded side up. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and leave in a warm spot for 30 minutes (you can leave it up to one hour). Divide the dough into 4 equal balls. Shape each ball by gently pulling down the sides of the dough and tucking each under the bottom of the ball. Roll the ball on a smooth surface under your palm until the ball feels smooth and firm, about 1 minute. Put the balls on a tray and covered with lightly oiled plastic wrap or a damp towel and let rise 30 minutes. At this point the dough balls can be refrigerated covered with lightly oiled plastic wrap and refrigerated for 1-2 days. You will need to pull the dough out at least an hour before baking, punch down and reform the balls. Let rise, covered for 1 hour before rolling into the pizza shape of your choice. There are endless toppings you can choose from!
Cooked pizza

Plated-a dinner delivery service

I recently tried an online mail order dinner service called Plated. My sister discovered it and sent meals to her daughter when she had a baby. I sent another sister three vegetarian meals and they enjoyed them. I was excited to try the service and ordered four meals. I was impressed! The packaging is amazing and everything is included except for canola oil, salt and pepper. Instant Mis en place! It was amazing how fast the meals came together. There were new and interesting combinations and it was all delicious! Here are the meals we tried-
-Soy sriracha beef bowls with brown rice and avocado-including a carrot edamame salad
-Fennel roasted pork with apricot, almond, blue cheese arugula salad
-Cornish hen with creamy morel sauce and oven roasted potatoes and asparagus
-Seared strip steak with olive chimichurri, blistered shishito peppers and roasted wild mushrooms
Plated meals

Blueberry and Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

This recipe is originally from Alice Waters Simple Food II and I found it on valleybrinkroad.com by a woman in LA who has a wonderful blog and is a caterer in LA and makes the most beautiful boxes of fabulous things to send to friends in LA.
The glaze was very thin, I did not add the milk but the cake is delicious!

1 egg, at room temperature
2 meyer lemons, zested (or regular lemons are fine)
2 cups blueberries, washed, dried, stems removed
2 tablespoons + 1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 1/2 cups + 1 tablespoon unbleached flour
2 tablespoons poppyseeds, must be fresh!
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup creme fraiche
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), softened
1/3 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons meyer lemon juice
1 tablespoon whole milk
Lemon Poppyseed Blueberry Cake
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and dust with flour.
In a medium bowl, gently stir together the blueberries, 2 tablespoons sugar, and the nutmeg. Set aside.

In another bowl, mix together the flour, poppyseeds, baking soda, and sea salt. Set aside.

In a stand mixture, beat butter and 1/2 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and lemon zest. Beat on medium speed to combine. Slowly add the flour mixture and creme fraiche, alternating, until both have been completely added to the mixing bowl. Mix just until the flour is incorporated and then remove the mixing bowl. The batter is quite thick, so don’t be alarmed. Spread the batter into the springform pan, creating a depression in the center and pressing the batter up a little higher around the sides.

Add 1 tablespoon of flour to the blueberry mixture and stir. Pour the blueberries into the center of the batter. Bake for 45 -50 minutes. Remove from the oven to cool slightly.

While the cake is baking, make the glaze. In a small bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, meyer lemon juice, and milk.

Drizzle the glaze over the warm cake. When the cake is cool, run a knife around the edge of the pan and lift it out of the form.

Lemon Chocolate Olive Oil Cake

Another winner from the Williams Sonoma blog. The texture of this cake is so nice-you do not miss the butter. Use an olive oil that is not too peppery and be sure to beat the egg/sugar mixture for a good three minutes.

Lemon-Chocolate Olive Oil Cake

4 oz. (125 g) bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 cups (10 oz./315 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
1 cup (8 oz./250 g) granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup (6 oz./185 g) full-fat Greek-style yogurt
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon, plus 2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup (6 fl. oz./180 ml) extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
Lemon Chocolate OO Cake
Preheat an oven to 350°F (180°C).

Put the chocolate in the top of a double boiler and set over (but not touching) barely simmering water. Heat, stirring, until the chocolate has melted. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer set on high speed, beat together the granulated sugar and eggs until pale in color. Beat in the vanilla. Add half of the flour mixture, beating until just incorporated. Beat in the yogurt and lemon juice, and then the remaining flour mixture. With the motor running, beat in the olive oil just until smooth. Scoop about one-third of the batter into a clean bowl and gently fold in the chocolate. Stir the lemon zest into the rest of the batter.

Lightly oil a 9-by-5-inch (23-by-13-cm) loaf pan. Fill the pan with alternating spoonfuls of the lemon and chocolate batters. Swirl a large, thin-bladed knife in an S pattern through the batters to create the marbled effect. Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for 20 minutes. Carefully invert the cake onto the rack, then place upright on a cutting board. Cut the cake into thick slices and arrange, slightly overlapping, on a platter. Dust with the confectioners’ sugar and serve. Serves 8.

Italian Wedding Soup

This is the most amazing soup! I have wanted to try it forever and am so happy that I finally did! The Barefoot Contessa rarely disappoints! I love that you bake the meatballs and by the time they are baked, the soup is done! I used the little star shaped pasta that is so festive! I am not sure a photo would give this soup justice but I assure you, everyone will love it!
For the meatballs:
¾ pound ground chicken
½ pound chicken sausage, casings removed
2/3 cup fresh white bread crumbs
2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
¼ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
3 tablespoons milk
1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the soup:
2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 cup minced yellow onion
1 cup ¼-inch diced carrots (3 carrots)
¾ cup (¼-inch diced celery (2 stalks)
10 cups homemade chicken stock
½ cup dry white wine
1 cup small pasta such as tubetini or stars
¼ cup minced fresh dill
12 ounces baby spinach, washed and trimmed
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

For the meatballs, place the ground chicken, sausage, bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, Pecorino, Parmesan, milk, egg, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper in a bowl and combine gently with a fork. With a teaspoon, drop 1- to 1¼-inch meatballs onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. (You should have about 40 meatballs. They don’t have to be perfectly round.) Bake for 30 minutes, until cooked through and lightly browned. Set aside.

In the meantime, for the soup, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat in a large heavy-bottomed soup pot. Add the onion, carrots, and celery and sauté until softened, 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken stock and wine and bring to a boil. Add the pasta to the simmering broth and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the pasta is tender. Add the fresh dill and then the meatballs to the soup and simmer for 1 minute. Taste for salt and pepper. Stir in the fresh spinach and cook for 1 minute, until the spinach is just wilted. Ladle into soup bowls and sprinkle each serving with extra grated Parmesan cheese.

Caramel Pretzel Bars

This recipe is from Saveur I love the combination of the shortbread base, sweet caramel and salty pretzels.
Caramel Pretzel Bars
FOR THE SHORTBREAD:
1¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. salt
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
⅓ cup brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

FOR THE CARAMEL TOPPING:
¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter
1¼ cups light brown sugar
¼ cup honey
¼ cup maple syrup
½ tsp. salt
1 cup heavy cream

6 cups (about 9 oz.) small pretzel twists, lightly broken up

INSTRUCTIONS
1. Make the shortbread: Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°. Line a 9″ x 13″ baking pan with parchment paper, folding paper up and over the sides of the pan. In a small bowl, whisk together flour and salt, and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and brown sugar at medium speed until combined, about 1 minute. Beat in the vanilla, change speed to low, and add the flour-salt mixture. Mix until crumbly, 10-15 seconds. Pat the dough evenly into the bottom of the parchment-lined pan, and prick dough all over with a fork. Bake 15-18 minutes, until just golden brown around the edges. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.

2. Make the caramel: In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine the butter, brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, and salt. Stir regularly until mixture is foamy and slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Add cream and cook, stirring occasionally, until a candy thermometer inserted into the caramel registers 240°F (soft ball stage), about 11 minutes. Add the crushed pretzels and quickly incorporate into the caramel.

3. Pour the pretzel-caramel mixture over the baked shortbread, spreading the mixture evenly. Return to the oven until the topping is bubbling, 12-15 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Remove from the baking pan by lifting the edges of the parchment paper; unfold the paper and slice into bars. Serve immediately, or bars will keep for up to 1 week in an airtight container.

Ultimate Nutty Granola Clusters

My Canadian friend, Jen, gave me The Oh She Glows Cookbook, vegan recipes, that she claimed is the hottest cookbook in Canada! This is an easy and delicious granola recipe.
Granola
1 c. whole raw almonds
1/2 c. raw walnut halves or pieces
3/4 c. rolled oats
1/2 c. raw buckwheat groats or rolled oats
2/3 c. mixed dried fruit-apricots, cherries, cranberries etc.
1/2 c. raw pepita seeds
1/4 c. raw sunflower seeds
1/3 c. shredded unsweetened coconut
2 t. ground cinnamon ** I only used 1/4 t.
1/4 t. sea salt
1/4 c.+ 2T. maple syrup or other liquid sweetener
1/4 c. coconut oil, melted
2 t. pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 275. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Place 1/2 c. almonds in food processor and process for 10 seconds-until a fine meal forms. Transfer to a large bowl. Add remaining 1/2 c. almonds and the walnuts to processor and process for 5 seconds-you want some larger pieces and some finer meal. Add to bowl. Add remaining ingredients through the coconut and stir to combine. Add maple syrup, melted oil and vanilla and stir well. Spread onto the sheet pan and gently press it down to compact it slightly. Bake for 20 minutes. Rotate pan and bake 18-25 minutes-until golden brown on the bottom and firm to the touch. Cool for one hour before breaking apart. Store in glass jar in refrigerator or freeze for 4-5 weeks.

Meyer Lemon Raspberry Squares

I could not resist a beautiful bag of Meyer lemons at the store. Dorie Greenspan is a famous baker and I was very interested in trying this recipe.I made the Meyer lemon curd a day before I made the squares so it could cool. The curd recipe is very easy-you must stay with it for 8-10 minutes but it is very fast. The crust did not totally come together for me but I patted the 2/3 in the parchment lined (a must!) pan and it worked out fine. I baked the filling 8 extra minutes as it was very loose. Also, I cut the pan into 24 squares, which is a perfect size as they are quite rich!
Meyer Lemon Raspberry Sq.
Crust and Crumbs
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 packages (6 ounces each) Driscoll’s Raspberries (3 1/2 to 4 cups)
2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons (9 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup almond flour

Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting (optional)
Lemon Curd Filling
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
Finely grated zest of 2 lemons
2/3 cup freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice (from 8-10 lemons)
2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons (9 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into small chunks

Filling
Working in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan, whisk the eggs and sugar together until well blended. Whisk in the zest and lemon juice, then drop in the chunks of butter. Put the saucepan over medium heat and start whisking, taking care to work the whisk into the edges of the pan. If your whisk is too big to clean the edges, switch to a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula. Whisk without stop, and, in 8 to 10 minutes, the buttery curd will thicken. It won’t get terribly thick–it thickens more as it chills–but you’ll notice that your whisk leaves tracks. The sign that the curd is ready is a bubble or two burbling to the surface, then popping. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and scrape the curd into a heatproof bowl. Place a piece of plastic film against the surface and refrigerate the curd until it’s cold all the way through. (Packed airtight, the curd can stay in the fridge for a couple of weeks.)

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a 9-x-13-inch baking pan. Cut a piece of parchment paper to about 13 x 17 inches or so that about 2 inches hang over the edge of each side of the pan. Place the parchment paper inside the pan and butter the paper.

To Make the Crust and Crumbs
Put the butter, sugar, salt and vanilla in a food processor and whir until the mixture is blended. Add the almond flour and blend until smooth. Add the flour and pulse, stopping as needed to scrape the bowl, until you’ve worked the flour into the other ingredients and have moist, bumpy curds of dough. Reach in–if the dough holds together when you pinch it, it’s ready.

Turn the dough out onto the counter and knead it gently to gather it together. Cut off one third of the dough, cover it and set it aside. Press the rest of the dough evenly over the bottom of the lined pan. Prick the dough all over with a fork.

Bake the crust for 15 – 18 minutes, or until it’s pale golden all over. It will puff a bit and still feel soft to the touch, so judge its readiness by its color. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let the crust cool to room temperature.

If you’ve turned off the oven, heat it to 375 degrees F again.

Scatter 1 package (1 3/4 to 2 cups) of raspberries over the crust. Stir the chilled curd to get it moving then, using a long offset spatula or the back of a spoon, spread the filling evenly over the berries. Pinch off small pieces of the reserved dough and scatter them over the filling – you’ll have enough dough to almost completely cover the curd.

Bake the lemon squares 30 minutes, rotating the pan after about 20 minutes. Working quickly, remove the pan from the oven and scatter the remaining raspberries over the crumbs, gently and lightly pressing them into the topping. Return the pan to the oven and bake for another 10 to 13 minutes. The filling will puff – and it should puff all the way to the center – the lemon curd will caramelize around the edges (my favorite part) and the crumbs will be golden brown. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let stand for at least 2 hours (and up to 6 hours) before cutting.

Use the edges of the parchment paper to carefully lift the lemon squares out of the pan and set on the counter or rack. Invert a plate over the lemon squares and turn the plate and lemon squares over and then peel away the parchment paper. Using a long, slender knife, cut the cake into 12 squares, about 3 inches on a side. Serve now or chill – the bars are delicious at room temperature, when the crust is almost as tender as the filling, and just as good chilled, when all the elements are firm but the filling melts in your mouth.

Dust with confectioners’ sugar, if you’d like, just before serving.

Storing: Well wrapped, the squares will keep in the refrigerator for about 5 days; wrapped airtight, they can be frozen for up to 2 months. Defrost the squares, still wrapped, overnight in the refrigerator.