An Celebration of Spring. A simple dinner menu just for you!

Spring Picture

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I know that everyone has plans for Easter this weekend. Family, friends, children, Easter egg hunts, desserts, big dinners, etc. And by the way who’s going to cook, host and serve this year? Well may I offer a simple menu  that would create memories of enjoyment  family, friends, fellowship and great food.

 

The recipe below is my very own that I’ve prepared for my family during  Christmas 2012. I served this with roasted red potatoes, grilled asparagus with lemon zest with assorted artisan rolls.

sliced lamb

Sliced lamb presented on a wood cutting board

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grilled Boneless Leg of Lamb

1- 3-5 lbs boneless leg of lamb

3-5  meyer or regular lemons (halved)

6 oz. of extra virgin olive oil

3 oz. red wine vinegar

2 0z. honey

1 bunch each fresh rosemary,oregano and thyme ( deflower and chopped half, save rest )

2 to 3 tbsp  kosher salt

2 to 3 tbsp fresh cracked black pepper

2 yellow or sweet onions, quartered, whole without skin removed

 

  • While grille is getting hot, pat dry lamb with paper towel or clean dry kitchen towel
  • Using large grille steak fork, punch holes throughout the cavity and outside of lamb which would allow all the marinade  to be absorbed in the meat to enhance the flavor profile.
  • Drizzle olive oil,honey, red wine vinegar throughout the lamb inside and out. Add squeeze lemons and massage the liquids into the flesh.
  • Add chopped garlic, herb, salt and pepper and massage in for a few minutes.  Marinate for a few hours or overnight.
  • Prepare grille with charcoal or wood
  • Once coals are white. Add onion halves and a few strands of herbs over the coals. Quickly place oil grated on top.
  • Add lamb with flesh side down and turn every 10-12 minutes on each side. While lamb is cooking open top and add additional lemons and herbs to enhance the flavor. The aroma is fantastic!You may have a few extra people from the neighborhood that may arrive to find out what your cooking!
  • Continue this procedure 3-5 times until meat reach your desired temperature of medium rare to medium.
  • Remove lamb and sit on platter for 15-20 minutes to rest.
  • Garnish and serve.

 

Suggested Sides and Accompaniments

 

Red Bliss Mashed Potatoes with Onion & Garlic Puree

Blanched Fresh Green Beans with shredded Carrots and Orange oil

Assorted Artisan Rolls from local bakery

Triple Cream Brie served with fig preserved and Spanish Maracona Almonds

Seasonal Vegetable Crudite’ with buttermilk dressing with herbs

Italian Creme Lemon cake with fresh seasonal berries

Old Fashioned Jordan Almonds and chocolates for the kids

Homemade White Sangria, Shiraz and Chablis chilled

 

Until next time!

 

Chef Dondari

 

 

https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&docid=gEfJYfrVUl7grM&tbnid=Z1HzppZMPNA_aM:&ved=0CAQQjB0&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.huffingtonpost.com%2F2014%2F01%2F15%2Flamb-leg-recipe-photos_n_4598339.html&ei=ZZhRU9DjM5WysQSG-YHACw&bvm=bv.65058239,d.b2I&psig=AFQjCNHjL7BVdN-v2h7UwayYGhDlzi87GA&ust=1397942557939335

 

Advertisements

A day fit for some good ole soup!

 

rainy day in Atlanta

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, its raining here in Atlanta, Georgia and its a bit cold outside. The rain has taken away our first saturation of pollen which is a mess for us here with allergy season upon us. So today is a good day for a pot of soup, warm crusty bread and a good movie or show to top off your Monday and set the course for the week. Here’s a few recipes that you can use to make this happen.

 

french onion soup pic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

French Onion Soup Grantinee

Ingredients

Original recipe makes 4 serving
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
2 large red onions, thinly sliced
2 large sweet onions, thinly sliced
1 (48 fluid ounce) can chicken broth
1 (14 ounce) can beef broth
1/2 cup red wine
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 sprigs fresh parsley
1 sprig fresh thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 thick slices French or Italian bread
8 slices Gruyere or Swiss cheese slices, room temperature
1/2 cup shredded Asiago or mozzarella cheese, room temperature

Another great soup to try is a Tomato Basil with its rich and smooth texture.

tomato basil soup pic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients

makes 4 servings
4 tomatoes – peeled, seeded and diced
4 cups tomato juice
14 leaves fresh basil
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup butter
salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Place tomatoes and juice in a stock pot over medium heat. Simmer for 30 minutes. Puree the tomato mixture along with the basil leaves, and return the puree to the stock pot.
Place the pot over medium heat, and stir in the heavy cream and butter. Season with salt and pepper. Heat, stirring until the butter is melted. Do not boil.

Pick up some baguettes, brie and fig spread with a bottle of White Sangria or great Chardonnay and enjoy. Until next time!

Chef djc

fig spread pic

classic baguette bread

 

 

brie cheese pic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*recipes and photos taken from all recipes.com
http://allrecipes.com/recipe/french-onion-soup-gratinee/
http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Rich-and-Creamy-Tomato-Basil-Soup/Detail.aspx?event8=1&prop24=SR_Thumb&e11=tomato%20basil%20soup&e8=Quick%20Search&event10=1&e7=Recipe&soid=sr_results_p1i3

It’s all about the Ribs baby!

bbq ribs main photo

Today I want to write and discover the most relevant information about the American fascination with these grilled, savory, tender and notorious charcoalist  kingsfordius and hickoriuos (like the wording, lol)  aromatic smell of grilled, succulent pieces of meat with rib bones of the famous livestock animal  that has become a culinary celebrity of recent times serving culinary connoisseur as a favorable jam, a savory jerky, or fried rinds before a favorable broth. There are festivals in its name all across the country. It’s  even on a annual tour (cochon 555) throughout the US! I myself participated in the event in Atlanta a few years ago and its amazing I might add.  What am I talking about? The omnivore itself the pig. The popular animal has brought an awakening to the culinary world.  Because of it butcher shops have  has came back into the  neighborhoods, chefs have made it the highlight of their menus, and livestock farmers have went back into business with raising the popular breeds such as berkshire, iberian, yorkshire and the chestire white form Chester County, Pennsylvania.

pork cuts

Spare Ribs

Spare Ribs

Baby Back Ribs

Baby Back Ribs

Country Style Ribs

Country Style Ribs

Pork Loin Chop

Pork Loin Chop

Rib Tips

Rib Tips

For the past several months I’ve prepared family meals utilizing the various cuts of meat from this vicarious animal while applying different cooking methods like  pan searing, grilling, smoking and plain old bbqing. I’ve often used citrus, garlic, brown sugar, vinegars, rubs and marinades seeking to discover an unknown taste and texture that has loomed in my culinary mind and soul for days at end. I must the taste and flavor that pork ribs give are quite satisfying! I mean some good seasoned and marinated ribs grilled to perfection slathered with a simple concocted bbq sauce with some coleslaw or potato salad and some lite bread ( white bread to some) and Red’s Apple Ale and I’m happy as fat kid with his favorite cake! I must admit everyone has their favorite cut of ribs. The cuts are various. As a kid my Dad always purchased spare ribs which he seasoned up with his blend of spices and parboiled  for a few hours in hot water with onions and beer. Funny combination but after he slow cooked them over a medium heat charcoaled grill for several hours they were the best with kraft bbq sauce (I’m a 70’s kid, that’s what we had back in the day). Other cuts like I’ve come to enjoy like the St. Louis cut ( one of my favorite cuts) that I’ve worked with as a Food and Beverage Manager/Executive Chef at Emory Healthcare here in Atlanta that we seasoned and put on the rotisserie as well as the oven which the customers loved as we served 3 to 4 bone segments and draped them with some Sweet Ray’s BBQ Sauce. They were indeed the bomb with mac and cheese, collard green and fresh baked corn bread muffins. This will put you in the mood for an afternoon nap. Now the cut that everyone raves about are the one and only baby backs that made Chili’s restaurants famous with their barber quartet commercial and the amazing shots of bbq baby back ribs over an open flame. Applebee’s restaurants  also are known for their baby back as well. I imagine that both of this restaurant chains have sold millions upon millions of baby back ribs to their customers over the years. Some other well know restaurants that served these succulent and memorable ribs are Tony Roma’s, Corky’s,  Famous Dave’s, Dreamland BBQ, and JimnNick’s. The country style ribs are one of my favorites because its pretty much all meat with the exception of a little bone, but the tenderness of the meat you can’t beat.  Now let’s not forget the rib-tips. If your from Atlanta you’ve heard the famous commercial from This is It! BBQ & Seafood Restaurant where the owner Shelley Butch Anthony belts out his famous line ” Its the rib tips.” I became acquainted with rib tips while working at the Covington Highway location in Decatur, Georgia early in my culinary  career which I learned a lot about the cooking and smoking process. I didn’t know that these small, yet tender pieces of meat were so good. I tell you he has some good BBQ there which is addictive!

dreamland bbq logofamous dave's logotony  roma's restaurantchili's restaurant

jimnicks logo

sweet baby rays bbq sauce

corky's bbq logo

Slicing St. Louis Cut Ribs for lunch service at Emory University Hospital Midtown

Slicing St. Louis Cut Ribs for lunch service at Emory University Hospital Midtown

Shelley "Butch"Anthony and son Telley  Atlanta's own favorite BBQ Restaurant

Shelley “Butch”Anthony and son Telley Atlanta’s own favorite BBQ Restaurant This is It!

Now lets switch gears and talk about seasoning blends and cooking methods. Everyone and I do mean everyone has a special cut of meat that they go goo goo over or my kids term “Ham” ( an expression fitted for this blog I may add). As you know there are hundreds maybe thousands of bby seasoning blends, rubs (dry and wet), marinades and sauces that are on the market. Some local, regional, nationwide and some made right out of home kitchen ( they’re the best I found).  I’ve come to the conclusion that the simpliest blends and marinades produce the best flavor for you ribs. A rub of granulated garlic, onion, season salt, white pepper, cayenne, salt and cumin brings out the true flavor of pork. Or try a simple marinade of 1 part each of  light brown sugar, soy sauce, and yellow mustard does absolute justice on some ribs. Try and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Many chefs, grillers and home cooks perform murder on coming up with these complex and overdone rubs, marinades and seasoning blends  that has so many conflicting flavors and smells going off you can taste the meat at all. I hope you are not one of these individuals that I’m speaking of. If so there’s hope for you through this post. Keep reading because you’re going to learn today! Find spices and flavors that appeal to you the most. Build two or three flavor profiles that you like such as  sweet and sassy (honey, apple cider vinegar, pepper, salt, seasoned salt, granulated garlic)  or tropical (lime juice, pineapple, cumin, pimento seed, curry, granulated garlic, etc.) or  asian ( light soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, ground coriander, tomato paste, pepper, honey, orange juice). Learn to create your own special magic and perfect it, It will set you and your cooking style apart from the rest of the crowd and people will be drooling to have some your special prepared ribs!

Make your marinade simple with bold  flavors

Make your marinade simple with bold flavors

Find your balance between sweet and savory

Find your balance between sweet and savory

K.I.S.S. =Keep It Simple Stupid

K.I.S.S. =Keep It Simple Stupid

Cooking Methods

For the best method you must ask yourself the question “What type of taste or aroma do I want my ribs to have”? Smoky, charcoal or woodsy aroma and taste in my meat delicacies. Personally speaking nothing beats the aroma and flavor of charcoal (Kingsford is still the best in my experience). Charcoal provides the meat with an  sort of primitive but  simple characteristic of  cooking over an open flame that goes back to ancient times when basically everything that people ate was cooked over an open flame with grates to keep the wild game from falling into the fire. Some of the basic tools needed to start your grilling career or hobby is a decent kettle shaped grill (18or 22 inch will suffice), good charcoal, lighter fluid, charcoal chimney, grill tool set, basting brush,  water bottle ( to calm down flare ups) and some garlic bulbs, onion hulls and fresh rosemary to give your meat a nice aroma while it cooks. Now your on your way. As you get into the fine art of grilling you’ll pick up new items and gadgets along the way such as fancy thermometers, skewers, cedar planks, fruit tree wood chips, marinades, spices, etc. It’s an adventure so pack lightly and keep your eyes and you nose open to new techniques, preparation, and presentation. You will learn from all types of cooks, backyard weekend grillers, chefs, uncles and aunts, old school pit masters and the new school smokers with their fusion style marinades, sauces and flavor enhancers. You can’t possibly go wrong unless you leave your food on the grill and go inside and forgot about  and once you realize you were grilling all your meat has caught on fire and is charred to blackness because you forgot to put the top on and close the vents!!!!! Awg! How many times has that happen to you? It has happen to all of us at some point or another, especially the novices. It’s  a rites of passage for the bbq journeyman or woman. You must survive your learning curve.

Well, there you have it…. Ribs, the cuts, the eateries that made them famous to us, the seasoning and flavor techniques, equipment and products that will take your ribs to the next pigosphere or atmosphere of serene  utopia as you sit down at the table, role your sleeves up and partake of the most succulent, tender pieces of  sweet and savory protein morsels of meat that’s slathered in sweet tangy bbq sauce that makes your lips smack and your tongue form a circle eight as your brain tells you that man  this is it! Simply stated its the Ribs Baby! It’s all about the Ribs baby. Give me some more and pass the light bread and tata salad. You know the vernacular! Until next time!

The Payoff —the finished meat

The Results of Grillin: BBQ Country Style Ribs

The Results of Grillin: BBQ Country Style Ribs

Country Style BBQ Ribs cooked on a lazy Sunday afternoon in October

Country Style BBQ Ribs cooked on a lazy Sunday afternoon in October

h

http://www.amazingribs.com/recipes/porknography/pork_cuts.html

http://www.tonyromas.com/

http://www.thisisitbbq.com/index.html

Special Note:  I recently had dinner at JimnNicks in Conyers, GA (my favorite bbq spot) with my wife and  some friends earlier this week and the food and service was very very very good. Sorry I forgot to take pictures while dining on some cheese filled corn muffins, fried green tomatoes, BBQ beef brisket and some baby backs (of course), mac and cheese and collard greens like Grandma’s with some soothing sweet tea and to top it off the the best pecan pie with a flaky crust that’s to die for! We had some much food that we just finished our doggy bag two days ago. The food quality and service was outstanding thanks to our server Sir Zacahry that made it a great experience. Please check them out and tell them Donnell sent you! Until next time….GO GET SOME RIBS AND GETTA QQQQING HERE IN GEORGIA AND ALL AROUND THE COUNTRY!  ITTA MAKE YA FEEL REAL GOOD DOWN ON THE INSIDE !

djc

http://www.jimnnicks.com/

http://www.jimnnicks.com/menus/conyers/drive-thru-combo-meals/

Tabbouleh: To be or not to be: That is the question!

It’s been awhile since my last blog ( about 3 weeks) so I want to finish my Middle Eastern theme and share with you one of my favorite  Saturday afternoon  lunch or late night meal (if you will) that makes me feel whole and earthy at the same time. I enjoy it by itself stuffed in pita bread or on a plate with fresh prepared  hummus, Greek salad and grape leaves with spring or sparkling water infused with fresh squeezed lemon juice and pomegranate juice and I feel good. What am I talking about? The most simplest dish that you can make that’s cheap, healthy and you want gain 5 lbs. after consuming. It’s Tabbouleh to most  or Tabouli to others depending on the region Lebanon, Turkey or Armenia.

Tabbouleh (Arabic: تبولةtabūlah; also tabouleh or tab(b)ouli) is a Levantine Arab salad traditionally made of bulgur, tomatoes, cucumbers, finely chopped parsley, mint, onion, and garlic and seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt, although there are various other variations such as using couscous instead of bulgur.[1][2]

Traditionally served as part of a mezze in the Arab world, tabbouleh was adopted by Cypriots, variations of it are made by Turks and Armenians, and it has become a popular ethnic food in Western cultures.

                                                         

In Lebanon, tabbouleh is commonly scooped onto lettuce leaves from a large bowl and eaten. People in the United States may eat tabbouleh with a fork or spoon or use it as a dip for vegetables or pita bread. It also goes well with falafel, stuffed grape leaves, hummus, or any other Middle Eastern or Mediterranean menu items. The herbs included in tabbouleh frequently include scallions, mint, parsley, and tomato. Lemon juice, salt, and black pepper are the most traditional seasonings, sometimes supplemented with cinnamon, allspice, or other spices.

A basic recipe for tabbouleh can be found below, but the dish is amenable to creative variation. For example, though garlic is not a traditional ingredient, many cooks enjoy adding it to tabbouleh. Another interesting option is a bit of pepperoncini juice to add a little spice. The main ingredient, bulgur wheat, can usually be found at Middle Eastern or health food markets, and it is typically inexpensive. If more than one grade is available, go with the finest for the best tabouleh.

To feed four to six guests, begin with a cup of finely chopped bulgur wheat in a large glass dish. Pour a cup and a half of boiling water on it, and let the mixture sit for 30 minutes. Next, use a spoon to mix in 1/3 cup lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Chill covered in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

To finish up your tabbouleh, add two bunches of parsley, four scallions, two tomatoes, and about five mint leaves, all as finely chopped as possible. Return it to the refrigerator for another hour – not more – and it’s ready to serve. You can add extra lemon juice, a bit of olive oil, or anything else you like just before serving.

 

andronicos' market image

 

adronico's deli photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

I became acquainted with tabbouleh several years ago while working as a Store Chef at Andronico’s Market in Albany, California. As learned to make it from a fellow chef I was intrigued with the process of taking a simple grain like wheat bulgur, soaking it in water for  a couple of hours and chopping and dicing the fresh aromatic parsley, mint and diced tomatoes with there liquid and blending them with the  soft bulgur and adding lemon juice, olive oil with salt and pepper to taste it made me admire and respect this simple dish. And once you taste it after its properly made you fall in love with it instantly, hands down or up for surrender. Ethnic dishes such as this must be made the traditional way, no ifsn ands or buts. No spin offs, tweaks or off the wall version of culinary adventure. Just K.I.S.S. (keep it simple stupid) for those who don’t know the phrase. This drives my point. Ethic foods are to be celebrated, respected and most of all made in the simplest format according to traditional recipe and processes by the people and culture it represents. No american or gringo version, not adding ingredients that have nothing to do with the dish or the culture itself. With all the recipes and cookbooks on the internet and bookstore why do people only buy the latest or hottest culinary or foodie personality’s take on Italian, Greek,  Asian or African cuisine and have know roots, cultural understanding or respect to the people behind the cuisine? Its very puzzling to me. Why not go to a used book store or shop on-line for a real authentic cookbook on your favorite cuisine or a cuisine that you would like to explore and learn, Read through the pages and learn about the author and the world as it relates to food, history, culture and cooking. How it makes them feel, what inspires them when they think about food. The memories of family celebrations as a child, the importance of defining family, their heritage and their cultural traditions. You will then find yourself walking on the pages with them learning, relating and exploring the world of food, family and fellowship through their mind therefore relating to people on a higher level of love, acceptance and appreciation. It has been said when you dine with a person and their family you become a part of them forever. I don’t know who said that (or maybe it was my own I just thought of), but you become tied to them instantly and you will never forget the experience. An experience that gives you peace and the ability to be transparent.  If you don’t believe me go to a wedding or family festivity of someone you know whose ethnicity is different than yours. You will learn more about life in one evening than ten years of study of that family. Long lasting memories will be instilled in you for years to come. So let’s celebrate Tabbouleh. It is and will forever be the appetizer, dish, meal and detox salad to all who will take the time to savor it. And don’t forget the pita bread!

Until next time!

djc

Here’s a traditional recipe that you can try:

http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2011/06/tabbouleh-recipe-anissa-helou/

http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-tabbouleh.htm

From Wikipedia
By the way here’s some local places around Atlanta that has some great  tabbouleh:
Two  of my local favorites:
Loganville, GA
Emory/North Decatur location is well know amongst Emory college students
Midtown across from City Hall East

Babaganoush: The celebration of the Eggplant

Welcome again to the second post of my food blog. Today I will continue to highlight the food and cuisine of the Mediterranean culture that we discussed previously as we learned the historical significance of hummus. I hope that you learned the background, origin, cultural influences, preparation and nutritional aspects of chickpeas and how it influenced the world with this savory, yet savory spread that is know to all.

Image

Well today I will share and highlight some findings on another well known dip, appetizer or side dish that comes from the Middle East (originally Lebanese) which has smooth, smoky, creamy texture and by the way a  favorable dip. It  is comprised of pureed roasted eggplant (French name is aubergine),  garlic, olive oil and tahini, various spices (cumin, coriander) and other ingredients like onions, mint, parsley and cilantro. It’s Baba Ganoush. It hails from Lebanon and it’s early  history spans from North Africa, Turkey, Russia  and  India. Babaganoush presence is also in Southeastern Brazil of all places with its Arabic and Western African influence.

The History *

The name itself comes from the Arabic phrase baba gannuj,  in which baba can mean father or daddy and gannuj meaning pampered or spolied. The Oxford English dictionary  says it was named “perhaps with reference to its supposed invention by a member of a royal harem.” So the pampered daddy may have been a sultan. So some foods that we enjoy and know very little about seems to come from a royal nature. It’s amazing that humble and simple foods have great influence on history, culture and nobility which we don’t pay much attention to. In the world we live in today so much emphasis is on  ethnic prepared foods that for the food trends with no background or information on it’s origin, history or culture. We cannot rely on mass media and food companies to educate us. We must educate ourselves on what we eat, preparation and everyday use.

In Syria and Lebanon, baba ghanoush is a starter or appetizer; in Egypt it is mostly served as a side dish or salad. It is made of eggplant blended with finely diced onionstomatoes, and other vegetables. It is made of roasted, peeled, and mashed eggplant, blended with tahinigarlic, salt, white vinegar and lemon juice. Cumin and chili powder can be added. It is normally served with a dressing of olive oil and pomegranate concentrate. In the traditional method, the eggplant is first roasted in an oven for approximately 30 to 90 minutes (depending on the size of the eggplant) until the skin appears almost burnt and the eggplant begins to collapse. The softened flesh is scooped out, squeezed or salted to remove excess water, and is then pureed with the tahini. There are many variants of the recipe, especially the seasoning. Seasonings include garlic, lemon juice, ground cumin, salt, mint, and parsley. When served on a plate or bowl, it is traditional to drizzle the top with olive oil.[3]

It is eaten in Turkey, where a similar meze is called patlıcan salatası (meaning “eggplant salad”). In Turkey, patlıcan salatası is made with mashed eggplants while baba ghanoush is cut not mashed. The baba ghanoush can be found (with cut eggplants) in southern Turkey, especially in Antakya. Also as the name Baba means father in Arabic and Turkish, in the regions where Arab population is large, the other word used in Arabic for fatherAbu, is sometimes used and therefore it can be known as Abu-Gannoush. And, in Greece, it is called melitzanosalata(μελιτζανοσαλάτα; “eggplant salad”). In Israel, both the traditional version made with tahina and a variation made with mayonnaise is widely available.[4] There is also Bulgarian eggplant salad/spread called kyopolou кьополу.

In Palestinian homes, it is made with “wild” eggplants known as “baladi” (from Arabic ‘of the earth, indigenous’). It is made with tahini, olive oil, lemon and parsley.

In PakistaniIndian and Bangladeshi cuisines, Baingan ka Bhurta is a dish similar to baba ghanoush. It is similarly prepared by grilling eggplant over open charcoal flame to impart a smoky flavor to the flesh. It is then cooked with an assortment of spices, tomatoes, garlic, and onions. It is commonly served with breads like paratharoti, and naan. Baba ghanous however tastes different from Baingan Bartha because the two recipes use different spices.

In Punjab province of Pakistan and West India, tomatoes and chopped onion are added to roasted eggplant along with various seasonings. The dish, typically served with a naan bread or tandoori roti, is called Bharta. Another variant called ‘Badenjaan Borani’ is served in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This recipe uses yoghurt and onions.

In Romania, the eggplant spread is called “Salată de vinete” (eggplant salad). The eggplants are prepared and cooked the same as above (roasted over open-flame fire or oven). Then they are peeled, drained very well, and chopped with tocător de vinete, a special wide-blade wooden knife, which resembles a small meat cleaver. It is said that the eggplant is not to touch metal in the process; however, with the convenience of food processors for chopping and mixing, people nowadays stray from the old ways. After finely chopping the eggplants into a paste, seasonings are added and everything mixed together: salt, ground black pepper, (sunflower) oil, and traditionally, finely chopped (or grated) onion. A variant is replacing the onion with garlic “mujdei de usturoi.” It is served (spread) on a slice of bread. Traditionally, the chopped onion is served separately and mixed at the table by each guest. It may be served also accompanied by roasted (kapia)peppers salad (oil/vinnegar dressing).The light color of the spread and the absence of seeds are most appreciated.

It is somewhat popular in areas heavily influenced by the Middle Eastern diaspora, as in Southeastern Brazil (see Arab Brazilian), and its presence has made eggplant more popular in almost all countries, although it was first introduced by either Iberians or West African slaves.

The Influence of  the Eggplant

eggplant varieties

Eggplant is a wonderful fruit.  Yes a fruit like the tomato. Its a vegetable like no other  that many have not become accustomed to  it’s unique flavor as well as its various preparation in several cuisines throughout the world. It has been limited to a few well known recipes like parmesan, moussaka, caponata, pasta all norma, melanzanne fritte,  ratatouille, indian curries  and szechuan style just to name a few. But eggplant has can be prepared like french fries, as a cold and hot salads, a panini with roasted vegetables and as a side dish to an elegant yet simple meal amongst family and friends.

eggplant tree

Eggplant , or aubergine as it is called in France is a vegetable that is prized for its beauty as well as its unique taste and texture. Eggplant  belongs to the plant family known as the nightshades (Solanaceae) are are kin to the tomato, bell pepper and potato. Eggplant grow in the same manner of tomatoes hanging from a vine that grows several feet in the air. The skin is glossy and deep purple in color, while the flesh is cream colored and spongy. Eggplant  is also available in several different colors, shapes and sizes including lavender, jade green, orange and yellow white and range in sizes from a small tomato to a large zucchini. In recipes eggplant fulfills the role as a complimentary ingredients that balances the surrounding flavors of other pronounced ingredients.

Some scholars believe eggplant to be a native of North Africa and the Middle East, that developed first as a garden weed and then was selectively grown and developed in Southeast Asia. Others believe it was brought to the Middle East on the ancient Silk Road. We do know that it was cultivated a couple thousand years before Christ. The eggplant of ancient times was quite different that what we have today – it was smaller and very spiny to protect itself from being eaten by herbivores. Others  have also indicated that the eggplant grew wild in India and were first cultivated in China in the 5th century B.C. Eggplant was introduced to Africa before the Middle Ages and then into Italy, the country with which  it has been long associated with dating back to the 14th century. It later spread throughout Europe and the Middle East and centuries later was brought to the Western Hemisphere by European explorers. Today Italy, Turkey, Egypt, China and Japan are the leading growers of eggplant.

Nutritional Aspects

Eggplant is an excellent source of digestion supportive dietary fiber and magnesium. Its a food good source of vitamin K, copper, vitamin C, vitamin  B6, folate and niacin. It promotes heart health and bone building which we all need. Eggplant has one of the World’s Healthiest Food ratings. So we need to make this vegetable a part of our weekly consumption. Babaganoush here we come!

My Experience

I’ve always enjoyed eggplant since my teenage years. I was introduced to eggplant parmesan through a friend while dining at an Italian restaurant called Dartanyan’s in San Francisco near Embarcadero Square not far from the flagship Macy’s and the Jewerly Exchange district where I used to shop.  As I started my quest in the culinary arts to become a chef I began preparing and learning more about this vegetable.  While working as a Line Chef at Andronico’s Market in Albany, CA I prepared ratatouille then stuffing the baked hulled out shell of the eggplant with the filling and draping lattice pieces of mozarella cheese over it like a fruit pie lightly melting the cheese with a sprinkle of fresh chopped parsley, oregano and basil mixture. I also became a natural at making baba ganoush in which we baked the eggplant in the oven until it became pliable  like shoe leather, scooped out the filling and pureed it with garlic, tahini, cumin, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. What made it really shine was placing the smooth mixture in an oval bowl taking a knife and making  thin lines going across diagonally, then sprinkling fresh ground paprika  over it with small streams of olive oil going across in a zig zag line. Oh grab some pita bread because the taste was intoxicating!

baba ganoush 2

I love eggplant parmesan. I enjoy making it for my family, especially during the spring and winter months. The whole process and preparation is therapy to me. The peeling, slicing, salting, flouring, diping in the egg wash milk mixture, breading  and frying just makes me calm for I know that once its layered in the pyrex dish with a homemade zesty marinara in layers of fresh mozzarella, parmesan and asiago cheeses then baked quickly to a light caramel brown perfection its ready to be savored with a nice romaine salad with green olives, diced roma tomatoes, julienne red onion and thin sliced cucumbers with fresh baked artisan foccaica and bottle of chianti  you can ‘t get any better that that! Now I must admit my wife makes a eggplant parm better than I can ever make. I think it has to do with a woman’s touch, but I still consider mine okay compared to hers.

eggplant parm

A few years ago I had the opportunity to participate in a Culinary Challenge with the Atlanta Travel Show with Cuisine Noir (my fellow foodie V Sheree Williams of Oakland, CA) the first food and wine lifestyle magazine for African-Americans. I was asked to prepare an authentic recipe of  Baba Ganoush with a accompaniment relish  that was made with that was given to me by the Tourism board of Israel.  As I shopped for the ingredients at DeKalb’s Farmer’s Market here in Atlanta, I knew I had to prepare this with integrity and homage to the dish and the culture it represents. I was careful to make sure I had everything that I needed to make this the best baba ganoush that anyone from Israel would love. But I had one major problem. The recipe indicated that the eggplant had to be grilled and charred on a grill which I did not have. What could I do? I did what every true chef or culinarian or home cook would do: use what you have and be creative in the process. I pulled out my three large, well seasoned cast iron skillet and got them as hot as I could without burning my kitchen down with the kitchen fan on and my windows open and began my make shift grilling and it was a success. I charred the eggplant perfectly and it released such a smokiness after I let it cool a bit and peeled off the skins ( which took a while since I was preparing for 150 to 200 people to taste) it became so real to me that highest level that food should be prepared is according to an authentic recipe that is derived from its culture. No different versions, no extra ingredients, just plain and simple.

After my tedious work through the night  because I wanted to make it as fresh as possible for the event later that day it became apparent to me that I was onto something. I made this dish with the best and freshest ingredients available, I studied the recipe in and out, I prepared it with integrity and simplicity and bam!  the reward was amazing to me if no one else had the opportunity to enjoy it  I enjoyed the process for myself and it was worth it. When I arrived at the travel show and set up my display and demo area I knew I was ready for it. I was born to do this, this is what I live for. After my demo  the crowd came over for samples and it was a hit. Everyone enjoyed the creamy, smoky, textured of the babaganoush along with the spiciness of the fresh jalapeno-cilantro relish with fresh baked pita chips. This indeed was another culinary highlight in my life which I savored every moment.

So there you have it —-Eggplant.  Go pick a few and make some Babaganoush. Explore the cultures of the Middle East and North Africa.

** Here’s a authentic recipe to try:

http://homemade-recipes.blogspot.com/2008/08/baba-ghanoush.html

Easy and delicious Lebanese vegetarian recipe for Baba Ghanoush dip. Enjoy the Lebanese Cuisine and learn how to make the best Baba Ghanoush cold appetizer dish. It is also spelled baba ghanouj, baba ganoush, baba ganush which is a Middle eastern dip or spread made of roasted eggplant and tahini. Simply roast the eggplant, scoop out the softened pulp, and then puree with tahini and seasonings. The seasonings used in this recipe for Baba Ghanoush are garlic, lemon juice, parsley and salt. Dip fresh pita bread or cut vegetables into the Baba Ghanoush for a healthy snack. you may want to try using more tahini. Also, the amount of lemon juice and garlic is adjustable to personal taste; start small and add more as you go.

Ingredients
3 large eggplants
cloves garlic, or to taste
Salt
1/2 cup tahini or less, depending on size of eggplants
juice of 3 lemons, or more to taste
1/2 tsp ground cumin (optional)
2 tsp finely chopped parsley
few black olives or 1 tomato, thinly sliced, to garnish

Preparation

  1. Cook the eggplants over charcoal or under a gas or electric broiler (sear until skins are black and start to blister with the flesh soft and juicy, rub skins off under cold water taking care to remove any charred particles, then gently squeeze out as much of the bitter juice as possible).
  2. Crush the garlic cloves with salt. Mash the eggplants with a potato masher or fork, then add the crushed garlic and a little more salt, and pound to a smooth, creamy puree. Alternatively, use an electric blender to make the puree.
  3. Add the tahini and lemon juice alternatively, beating well or blending for a few seconds between each addition. Taste and add more salt, lemon juice, garlic, or tahini if you think it is necessary, and if you like, a little cumin.
  4. Pour the cream into a bowl or a few smaller serving dishes.
  5. Garnish with finely chopped parsley and black olives, or with a few tomato slices. Serve as a mezze (appetizer) with Arab or other bread, as a salad, or as a party dip.

Baba Ghanoush recipe a

I hope you have enjoyed this blog on the Babaganoush and the history of the eggplant. There are several great brands that you can purchase in your local grocery markets such as Sabra (my favorite) and  Sonny Joes’s. Other grocery store like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s have their own private label brands. Do yourself a favor and get two eggplant and the ingredients and whip up some. Your body will appreciate a natural dip instead of the normal chips and dip.

Look for my next blog on Tabaloueh. It will be awesome!

Donnell Jones-Craven

Chef, Culinarian, Food Blogger

* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baba_ghanoush

** http://homemade-recipes.blogspot.com/2008/08/baba-ghanoush.html

<a data-pin-do=”embedBoard” href=”http://www.pinterest.com/donnellj10/dondaris-culinary-food-blog-me-you-and-the-cuisine/”></a&gt;