I came across this warm eggplant salad 10 years ago, when discovered harissa. Unfortunately, this salad is less know than zaalook, another Moroccan eggplant salad — with tomatoes. Or, let’s say there are fewer references to it available out there in English.
It is sweet and sour, refreshing and citrusy, mildly spicy, with very pronounced Middle Eastern flavors. Pairs well with crispy grilled flatbread.
This casserole is a celebration of vegetables! Look at the list of ingredients. Their variety is stunning! That’s why the complexity of this dish flavors conquers the taste buds of vegetarians and carnivores alike. Just like any other layered dish, benefits from being cooked in advance, set in a refrigerator for a few hours and reheated portioned right before serving. It helps to develop flavors and keep colorful layers presentable.
Saikyo Miso originated in Kyoto — a city that has been a center of politics, economics, and culture for more than a thousand years—and has been cultivated by the elegance of royalty. (Saikyo means “west city,” the former name for Kyoto.) Saikyo Miso has been a valuable part of the Imperial Palace’s hare (soul rejuvenation) ceremonies and has developed along with the food culture of the capital city. It is known for its generous amount of rice malt, its sweetness due to its low sodium content, and its beautiful light beige color.
The fermentation period for this miso is relatively short which contributes to the color and the buttery, smooth consistency. Compared with other miso, saikyo has the least amount of salt (5 percent to 10 percent) which minimizes the intense flavor to a naturally sweet, mild taste. Fish fillets are marinated in sweet miso for at least 2-3 days or up to 5-7 days for thicker slices before being grilled.
Tomahawk hypnotizes me. It enchants me. I go shopping for vegetables and shrimp but then see a tomahawk steak showcased at the meat department and come to a dead stop. I stand still and look at it for minutes. At its price. At its enormous useless bone, for which I will pay the price of meat. At its gorgeous marbling. At its 2 inches of thickness. I imagine how I carry it to the red hot grill and hold its bone with my two hands…
During my visits, I prefer eating food that is unique to the islands. Typically, I concentrate on seafood and tropical fruit. Four years ago, I saw Huli-Huli chicken on Maku’u Farmers Market and decided I have to try it next time. Since it is a signature dish for Hawaii, I assumed it should be served on every corner on the Big Island. I was wrong. During my recent hunt for Huli-Huli chicken, I found only two highly recommended businesses and both of them were open for a few hours one or two days a week. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a chance being at the right place at the right time to taste their food. Oh well, I had to make my Huli-style chicken at home in Texas then!
When on the island, at least one of my dinners is a grilled abalone. It’s a Big Island treat I must to have! I visit the farm with a cooler and ice to buy them. Once abalones get cold, they fell asleep and travel well for a few hours on ice. They are easy to cook if you have a grill or an oven where you stay. Just follow my instructions!
Pincho, or pinchito, means “little thorn” or “little skewer,” so pincho moruno roughly translates as Moorish kabobs and is a typical tapa of the Spanish autonomous communities of Andalusia and Extremadura. Being Muslims, the Moors made similar dishes with lamb. Christian Spain took their traditional spice mixes and applied them to preferred chicken and pork. During the summer, pinchitos are often served with bread, wedges of lemon, and wine. Usually, these skewers are made during the barbecue season. Steps 5 nd 6 of this recipe show how to make this delicious appetizer using the convenience of your indoor kitchen, rain or shine.
How authentic is this shashlyk? Well, let’s see. Instead of traditional mangal, I use shichirin and instead of grapevine — binchotan charcoals from Japan. While true Georgian shashlik is made of non-aged lamb, I choose conditioned lamb from New Zeland. Finally, the marinade is based on local herbs, vegetables, and spices. I couldn’t even find a good substitute for young Georgian wine and decided to use sake for its cleaner taste.
Charring eggplants on grill, open fire, under the broil/salamander, or inside special kitchen devices (e.g., Bulgarian chushkopek) is known and widely used around the world for a reason. Burning and peeling off skin definitely improves the texture of grilled vegetables, but more than anything we crave for that sweet smokiness added to the eggplant flavor. The beginning and the basics are the same — grill, peel, slice/chop/mash. Sauces, spices, herbs, seeds, nuts, and other added vegetables make the difference, turn grilled eggplants into a dish that belongs to a specific cuisine.
Nothing compares to our childhood food. Our mind recognizes it immediately no matter how old we are and brings back our sweetest memories. This recipe is Elena’s family recipe, from Odessa region. At first, I felt frustrated I don’t know English better to translate her story properly. But then, is it really possible not to loose in translation the beauty of Odessa flavorful way of storytelling?