Thursday, September 17, 2009

Cooking again

I know, I haven't posted here since February. What can I say? I've been busy. But a little time has opened up again, and I'm thinking a lot about food and cooking these days.

I've been clearing out books I don't need, including cookbooks, which has made me think about which cookbooks are the ones I really like and use. One of those is called Ottolenghi, a cookbook I had to order from abroad. It's the cookbook from a café in London run by an Israeli and Palestinian, with vegetarian-friendly (but not exclusively veg) dishes and an emphasis on Mediterranean cuisine= lots of lemon and garlic. It took forever to get it, but it's worth it. Pictured above is a dish I've made a few times from it.

It's Israeli couscous, which is the large-grained kind, with tomatoes that have been roasted for a couple of hours with olive oil and a sprinkling of balsamic vinegar. You would be astounded at how sweet tomatoes get when you roast them like this. Then, they are tossed with herbs (here tarragon) and slabs of goat cheese, and add more olive oil. You can get the Israeli couscous in the bulk section at Honest Weight Coop. These tomatoes are from the Troy Farmer's Market. Something magical happens to the oils and juice: they meld, creating a tomatoey, orange oil that coats the grains of couscous. By the way, the Ottolenghi recipe tells you to put in regular couscous, too, but I think it's better without.

Something else I made lately: pickled turnip, which sounds awful, but is addictively good. I got the idea for it because I love the bright pink pickled turnips they have at the Lebanese restaurant in Troy, Al-Baraki, now called Beirut, reviewed recently in the TU by Celina Bean. By the way, if you read Celina Bean's reviews, you will get very very hungry! She makes me want to go out and eat food. Anyway, these turnips "torshi left," are typically served with felafel, hummus, or baba ghanouj. They get their color from beets, which are part of the pickle recipe.

Anyway, I had a ton of turnips (not to mention beets) from this year's garden, and thought it would make a great experiment. It's easy because you don't have to seal the pickles: they are your basic refrigerator pickle, which will last a month or so. I used a basic recipe from online (this one from the Palm Beach Daily News is similar). The fuschia-colored pickles are garlicky and tangy and are *amazing* with a sandwich (I put them on a salmon burger), or just by themselves as an appetizer with olives and a glass of wine. What makes them great with humus is that they are piquant and slick where humus is heavy and dry.