28 July 2008

A few failures in Middle Eastern cuisine

The weather has been, if not swelteringly hot, at least somewhat hot and humid here. This is unfortunate, as the time when the most fresh produce is available at the Farmer's Market as well as in the grocery store is also the time when I can't bring myself to turn heating appliances on. My window air unit is in the bedroom, which shares a wall with the kitchen, so essentially the cold air would have to do a U-turn to make it in there, and I'm not willing to blast it to the level required to achieve that effect. This means that the beautiful fruit pie recipes that have been appearing on my Google Reader so often are out of my reach until a couple of years from now when I can afford central air (or fruit in the off season).

What I have been trying to do is find unique recipes for cold, cook-free food. No, quinoa salad that involves cooking the quinoa for forty minutes first doesn't count. These two recipes have been loitering around in my recipe file for a while, and neither was super satisfying. Still, I think Middle Eastern recipes have a lot going for them when it comes to interesting summer foods, so I may try some more. The first actually was pretty tasty - just not quite what I was expecting. Claudia Roden translates cacik as "yoghurt and cucumber salad," which had me picturing a pile of cucumbers with a bit of yoghurt. Really it's the other way around. I think strained yoghurt would be an improvement, and I would still up the cucumber to yoghurt ratio. The other is eggplant caviar, which I don't have a source for, but I'm pretty sure it's one of my Daddy's healthy cookbooks. It was pretty much a failure. I did find it very weird that it called for two tablespoons of salt and a tablespoon of pepper. I used about half a tablespoon each salt and pepper, and it was still far too salty and peppery. I've included the recipe below, because I think would make a tasty spread with far less salt and pepper. It also could have been that my eggplant wasn't big enough.

adapted from Claudia Roden

3 medium cucumbers
2-1/2 cups plain yoghurt
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 dill sprigs, finely chopped
plenty of salt
white pepper to taste

Peel and dice the cucumber and let sit in a colander, sprinkled with lots of salt, for an hour to drain. Combine all the other ingredients and then rinse and add the cucumber.

Eggplant Caviar

1 large eggplant
1/3 cup sweet onion, chopped
3 T olive oil
2 T chopped fresh dill
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven broiler (or in the summertime, use a toaster oven!) Wash the eggplant and pierce several times with a fork. Broil 8-10 minutes on each side (it should be soft and wrinkly). Remove from oven, slice in half, and scoop out into a bowl. The easiest way to do this while it's hot is to hold the skin with a potholder and make slices in a grid with a sharp knife almost down to the skin, then scrape out with a fork. Mix in the remaining ingredients and serve hot or cold with bread, pita, or on its own.


LisaRene said...

I have an idea for you. No need to wait for a cool day to bake a pie, instead consider a variation on an "English Summer Pudding". I (kinda) made one on my blog, check out the link below.

Basically, you prep the fresh fruit as you would for a pie but instead of mixing it with sugar and lemon and baking it in a crust, you mix the fruit with sugar and lemon and simmer it in a pot!

For a traditional English Summer Pudding you pour the stewed fruit into a mold lined with day old bread (I know, sounds kind of unappealing) and then top the stewed fruit with more day old bread, place a weight on top of it (to compress it) and refrigerate it over night. The next day you un-mold it and eat! It must be good as a whole country enjoys it.

The day old bread part didn't appeal to me so for my version I used leftover frozen and thawed scones that I crumbled and pressed into the bottom and sides of a small bowl (as you would a graham cracker crust) then added my stewed berries and topped it with more crumbled scones. The result was very nice! I bet it would be great in a graham cracker crust or you could use crumbled cookies or maybe even crumbled cake, I don't see why not? Topping it with granola would be a good idea as well.

Might be something you would enjoy experimenting with. Also, you can make any amount you wish, even a single serving Summer Pudding.


LisaRene said...

Woops, the link got cut off. I'll try again.


If it breaks again, you can find it on my blog under "Categories" then under "Dessert".

Michelle said...

You're right, don't cook quinoa in this heat. Sprout it! http://doesabodygood.blogspot.com/2008/04/with-silver-bells-and-cockle-shells.html

Carver said...

Those recipes sound good. I won't complain about the heat and humidity since I have central air. I wish you did or at least had a unit one in your kitchen. Love, Mom