Sunday, July 7, 2013

Beet and Carrot Slaw and Baba Ghanoush

I like traditional foods - but not necessarily for a picnic. I'm just not big on cole slaw, potato salad, etc.  I understand liking these things but if I'm bringing something to someone's house, I want it to be "different".

For the picnic we went to today, I made two different things.  The first is a slaw - just not a cole slaw. It's made with beets, carrots, cilantro and other goodness and has the added benefit of simply looking great on a plate! 

The second is baba ghanoush (pronounced: BAH buh  guh NOOSH), which is a middle eastern dish.  Even if you don't like it, it's fun to say (I always wonder what would have happened if the Beach Boys had been born somewhere in the middle east instead of in the U.S.  Instead of "Barbara Ann", would we have the song, "Ba Ba Ba, Ba Ba Ga Noush"?  Such is the way my mind works.  I know, scary isn't it?).  

We happen to love baba ghanoush in our house and there's nothing better than the homemade kind.  If you've never had it, it's very similar to hummus - hummus is made with chickpeas and baba ghanoush is made with grilled eggplant, but they have a similar flavor and consistency.  Even if you don't care for eggplant it's worth trying - grilling it adds a very different, smoky flavor that is not usually associated with eggplant.  It's typically served with pita bread triangles or a thinly sliced baguette.  We like it with baked pita chips as well.

So, let's get started with the Beet and Carrot Slaw

Beet and Carrot Slaw
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 small red onion, finely diced (about 1/2 cup)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • Pinch cayenne
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large carrots, julienned*
  • 1 large beet, julienned*
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
  1. Put the lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, onions, salt and pepper to taste in a large bowl. 
  2. Set aside for 5 minutes. 
  3. In a small skillet, toast the cumin seeds until fragrant, about 3 minutes, then grind in a spice grinder until fine. 
  4. Add the honey, ground cumin, paprika and cayenne to the bowl. 
  5. Whisk in the olive oil in a thin stream. 
  6. Add the carrots, beets and cilantro to the dressing and toss. 
  7. Taste and add more salt and pepper if desired.
*julienned or shredded work equally well.  I generally do everything by hand with my knife but because there was so much to do, I started this with my mandoline.  I quickly found out that the beets and mandoline don't really work that well together and were more of a pain than anything.  My wife suggested using the food processor.  I VERY rarely use it and when I do it's really just to combine things rather than shred but I have to admit she was definitely right.  It reduced the time from what would have been half an hour by hand to about three minutes (twice that if you include cleaning up).

    Baba Ghanoush!

    Baba Ghanoush topped with a sprinkle of paprika and
    olive oil.  Served with baguette slices and pita triangles.
    • 2 large eggplants
    • 6 tbsp tahini (if you've never used it before, tahini is similar to peanut butter but made with sesame seeds)  Tahini can (and frequently does) separate just like natural peanut butter.  If this is the case, mix the oil and solid together before using
    • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
    • 1/4 cup lemon juice
    • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (good quality)
    • 1/3 cup fresh parsley, minced
    1. IMPORTANT: Prick the surface of each eggplant several times with the tines of a fork.
    2. On the grill, on a grill pan or under the broiler (set to high) blacken/char the eggplant for 25 minutes or so. You want the skin to be completely shriveled and dark, and the eggplant almost fall-apart tender.  I prefer the grill if possible - it seems to add a smokier flavor than the other methods.
    3. Set them aside to cool slightly.
    4. When cool, slit the length of the eggplant and peel skin back.  Use a spoon and scrape out as much of the flesh as you can into a bowl - even the stuff that's stuck to the inside of the skin (yes, it's messy!)
    5. Two choices for this part - either mix the eggplant manually or in a food processor.  I've done both and prefer to do it manually.  There's nothing wrong with the food processor method but I've found that the texture gets TOO smooth.  If you choose to do it by hand, try to get it to a relatively smooth texture without being totally pureed.
    6. Add in all other ingredients, stirring and tasting before adjusting seasonings or other ingredients. In other words, if you really like lemon (or garlic, or parsley, etc), add more than the amount suggested.  Likewise if you don't like an ingredient as much, use less or even none.  There's no science here - just your palate and your tastes.  The one suggestion I would make though is not to skimp on the salt in this particular dish - it does make a huge difference and seems to bring out the other flavors.
    7. Serve with pita triangles, baguette slices or pita chips (or all of the above!)
    8. Enjoy!

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