Dukkah Fried Cauliflower with Fish Sauce

One of the more interesting dishes we ate at Momofuko Ma Peche last week was a vegetable side of fried cauliflower with fish sauce. Nicely golden brown, not greasy, and not even too salty, but with a delightful crispness and perfect even cook. I’d never tried to fry a cauliflower before, so looked for some guidance and ran across this recipe, which uses a magical substance from Egypt called “dukkah” that I’d also never heard of. So I did what I do, and smooshed the two together. They predictable weren’t quite as polished as the restaurant version, but had great flavor and made the normally bland and boring cauliflower quite lively and palatable.

Ingredients

    • 1/4 cup raw peanuts
    • 1 TB raw sesame seeds
    • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
    • 2 teaspoon caraway seeds
    • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
    • 1 tsp fennel seeds
    • 1/4 tsp whole peppercorns
    • 1/4 tsp cayenne
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 1 tsp sumac
    • 1/2 cup cornstarch
    • 1/2 tsp baking powder
    • 1 head cauliflower
    • oil for frying
    • 2 TB fish sauce, mild Filipino
    • 2 TB native vinegar, mild Filipino

 

Directions

  1. First, make the dukkah. Toast the peanuts and spices in a small dry pan over medium heat until they just start to color and release their fragrance.
  2. Finely chop or grind the peanuts, and pulverize the whole spices in a spice grinder, then mix together with the remaining spices. Adjust seasoning to taste, but go easy on the salt.
  3. Add the cornstarch, baking powder, and
  4. In a large frying pan with steep sides, heat 1″ of oil (preferably olive oil, but not the Good Stuff).
  5. Trim the cauliflower, and cut into even size florets. Toss well in the batter to coat evenly.
  6. Fry the cauliflower for 3 minutes, turning a couple of times to get it golden brown. Don’t overcrowd the pan, fry in two batches if necessary.
  7. Drain on a wire rack lined with paper towels.
  8. Mix the fish sauce and vinegar, and drizzle half of over the cauliflower, then use the remainder for dipping.

As you can see in the photo, the batter largely didn’t stick to the cauliflower. I think the oil wasn’t hot enough at first, and the batter was too watery. But it tasted just fine.

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Anthony Bourdain & Msabcha

I can’t say I was a huge fan of Bourdain, but I did enjoy eating at Les Halles, his book was entertaining, and I even saw a few episodes of one or more of his TV shows, which did seem a bit smarter than the typical informercial style travelogue.

One of the shows I caught was the one where he went to Israel. Which was referenced in this article in Haaretz, lamenting all of the food that he didn’t eat there, and in true Israeli fashion giving him posthumous advice on where he should have gone instead. Top of the last was the msabcha at Abu Hassan, which I have to agree is one of the most wondrous creations anywhere, and not to be missed.
The ingredients are roughly the same as the classic “hummus with tehina” but the texture is different, it’s served warm, and is a nice change of pace from the norm.

The recipe below is adapted from this post. As noted, this will be better if you start with dried chickpeas, but the shortcut using canned chickpeas is almost as good.

Ingredients

  • 2 cans chickpeas
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup tehina
  • 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley
  • 1 Serrano pepper
  • 1 lemon
  • olive oil
  • sumac
  • salt
  • pepper
  • hot paprika

Directions

  1. Make the tehina: Put 1/4 cup tehina and 1 minced clove of garlic in a mixing bowl, and slowly mix in 1/4 cup of water to make a smooth paste. Season with salt and the juice of 1/4 lemon.
  2. Make the hummus: drain and rinse 1 can of the chickpeas. Process in food processor, then add 2 cloves of garlic, the chili pepper (remove seeds for less heat or keep whole), 1/4 cup tehina, and the juice of 1/2 lemon. Slowly add water as needed (about 1/2 cup) to make a smooth paste, scraping down the sides of the bowl if necessary. Add salt and adjust seasonings to taste. It should be a bit thinner than normal.
  3. Make the chickpeas: drain and rinse the second can of chickpeas, season with sumac and black pepper, and heat in the microwave. Add a bit of water to keep them from drying out. They should be soft, so depending on how firm they were in the can, may need more cooking time.
  4. To serve, mix the hot chickpeas with the tehina and hummus, then drizzle with olive oil, the juice of the remaining 1/4 lemon, and garnish with some chopped parsley, sumac, and hot paprika. Scoop up with fresh pita and/or crudites.

 

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Mushroom Tomato Risotto

Last week I had an amazing risotto at Tocqueville, with intense earthy mushrooms and fresh ramps (“Ramp and Forest Mushroom Risotto, beurre noisette and parmigiano-reggiano“). It was super creamy and very rich, with a slick of brown butter lusciously floating on top, but a bit too salty. Today the NY Times posted a recipe for a tomato and basil risotto. Inspired by both, and using ingredients on hand, I made my own version.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 cup rice, preferably arborio
  • 2 cups Pomi chopped tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 2 TB fresh basil, chiffonaded
  • 2 small shallots
  • 1 package crimini “baby bella” mushrooms, 8 oz
  • 1 TB olive oil

Directions

  1. In a saucepan over medium high heat, warm the broth and tomatoes. Reduce heat to low to keep warm, but it shouldn’t boil.
  2. Chop finely the mushrooms and shallot. This is easily done in the food processor, pulse until there are no large chunks remaining.
  3. In a large nonstick frying pan, heat the olive oil. Add the rice and stir to coat with the oil. Cook for a minute to warm through and remove any remaining moisture.
  4. Add the mushrooms and shallots to the rice, and stir well to incorporate. Cook for a minute or two until the mushrooms start to release their moisture.
  5. Add the wine and cook for a minute to deglaze the pan.
  6. Add a ladle (about 1/2 cup) of the hot broth to the rice mixture, and stir well to incorporate. Repeat the process as necessary to keep the rice moist but not swimming in liquid.
  7. Continue to cook for about 20-25 minutes until the rice is just barely tender. If you run out of tomato broth, add some hot lightly salted water to keep the rice from drying out.
  8. Add one last ladle of broth, remove rice from heat, and stir in the Parmesan and basil.
  9. Serve spread in a thin layer, garnished with more Parmesan, a basil leaf, and freshly ground black pepper.

 

Waffle Sabich

A traditional Iraqi-Israeli breakfast on Shabbat, these have proliferated in recent years like avocado toast. Similar to a falafel sandwich, but with hard boiled eggs and fried eggplant instead of fried chickpea balls. There are a bunch of components, but they can be made in advance. Here I switched things up by using yeasted waffles instead of pita.

Ingredients

  • yeasted waffles: 2 cups flour, 2 cups milk, 2 TB butter, 2 eggs, 2.5 tsp yeast, 1 TB sugar, 1/4 tsp salt
  • eggs
  • 1 eggplant
  • olive oil
  • hummus
  • tehina sauce
  • eggs
  • amba sauce (see below)
  • Israeli salad, dressed with lemon juice, olive oil, za’atar

Directions

  1. First, make the waffles. This is easiest done by mixing up the batter the night before and letting it rise slowly in the fridge overnight. Melt the butter and warm the milk in the microwave. Add the sugar, yeast, and salt, and combine with flour until smooth. Cover the bowl and allow to rise at room temperature until double in bulk, or put in fridge. Then in the morning add the eggs and cook in waffle iron. They also freeze well and can be made in advance, then reheated in the waffle iron or a toaster.
  2. The eggs can be regular hard boiled, or cooked slowly overnight, but they come out fantastic in a 170F water bath. Use the sous vide heater in a large pot of water, no need to bag or vacuum seal, just put the eggs in whole and cook for 1 hour.
  3. Make the hummus in the usual way (chickpeas, garlic, lemon juice, tehina paste olive oil in food processor) or use a high quality store-bought version. Traditionally the tehina sauce is made separately and drizzled on at the end, but I’m lazy so just added a bit more tehina paste to the hummus. You can also add a handful of parsley or cilantro if you want it green.
  4. Wash and trim the eggplant, but do not peel. Slice into 1/2″ thick even slices, and sprinkle with kosher salt on both sides.
  5. Heat 2 TB of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat, and fry the eggplant slices in a single layer, turning after a few minutes until golden brown on both sides and cooked through. Don’t crowd the pan, will probably take 2 batches. Replenish the oil between batches, and drain on paper towels.
  6. To assemble, put a layer of eggplant on top of a waffle. Add slices of egg. Drizzle with amba sauce. Top with a large spoonful of salad, and drizzle with tehina sauce. Spread a second waffle with hummus and place on top of the other one to make a sandwich.

Amba is traditionally made with dried green mangoes, a process that takes days. I used amchoor powder as a shortcut. Start with a glass jar with a tight fitting lid and add 2 TB amchoor, 1 tsp each ground fenugreek and turmeric,  and 1/2 tsp each ground coriander, ground cumin, and sumac. Add 1/4 cup of cider vinegar and shake well to dissolve. If too thick, add a tablespoon or two or water, or some lemon juice if not tart enough. Adjust the seasonings, add salt and pepper if needed.

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