Cooking Tip: Baba Ghanouj

June 2, 2007

I made Baba Ghanouj last night with two less-than-one-pound eggplants. One microwaved perfectly. The other, even though I cooked it an extra three minutes, didn’t soften enough to be fluffed with a fork. I didn’t want to overcook it, so I pureed it slightly with an immersion blender. The texture wasn’t quite like fork texture, but it tasted great. EMILY

Steak Salad Pita

May 27, 2007


In 1762, so the story goes, James Montagu, fourth Earl of Sandwich, had his cook stuff meat and cheese between two slices of bread so he wouldn’t have to leave the gaming table. It was one of those Eureka moments in history. It’s always seemed curious to me, though, that a notorious 18th century English gambler had to invent the sandwich. Everyone knows cooks in the mid-East had been stuffing food inside bread since at least the Pharaohs. One day when you’re on a roll, try this handy pita lunch. But grab some extra napkins. You wouldn’t want to drip on the cards. SAM

1 (1 to 1 1/2-pound) flank steak
2 medium red onions, finely chopped (1 cup)
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
Juice of 1 lemon (2 tablespoons)
2 teaspoons capers
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
4 pita rounds
2 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and cut into thin wedges
4 Romaine lettuce leaves, shredded

Broil the steak 3 inches from the heat until done (5 to 6 minutes per side for rare). Cut in half lengthwise, then across the grain into very thin, slanting slices. Cool briefly and combine with the onion, oil, sour cream, horseradish, salt, and pepper. Cover and chill 2 to 3 hours. Roughly mash the avocado with the mayonnaise and lemon juice. Add the capers and parsley, stirring until just blended. To serve, cut the pita rounds in half and fill each with 1/8 of the steak mixture, avocado mixture, tomato, and lettuce.
Makes 4 servings.

Corn-Lima Bean Pasta

May 26, 2007


If you’re on one of those dreary no-carb diets, don’t even bother to read this recipe. It’s carbohydrate heaven, and it’s divine! Use a good quality frozen corn and tiny baby limas, not those big, starchy things. Trust me on this one. You wouldn’t think that with corn and lima beans you’d need pasta—but you would be wrong. SAM

1 (16-ounce) package frozen sweet white corn
1 (16-ounce) package frozen tiny baby lima beans
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 medium sweet onion, finely chopped (2 tablespoons)
1/3 cup black olives, pitted and halved
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon prepared mustard
1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
2 teaspoons dried dill weed
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
12 ounces linguine
Yogurt or sour cream for garnish

Steam the corn and lima beans according to the directions on the packages, being careful not to overcook. Drain well, set aside, and keep warm. In a large salad bowl, combine 4 tablespoons oil, the feta, onion, olives, mayonnaise, mustard, horseradish, dill, and parsley. Add the corn and limas, stirring gently. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package. Drain and dress with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Make a bed of pasta on each plate and fill with Corn-Lima Bean Salad topped with yogurt or sour cream.
Makes 6 servings.

Baba Ghanouj

May 25, 2007


A young friend of mine told me awhile back she had never bought an eggplant because she didn’t know what to do with it. Well, here’s what you do with it. SAM

PS For an additional microwaving tip, click here.

1 large globe eggplant (1 1/2 pounds)
1 tablespoon water
2 cloves garlic, pressed
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 tablespoons tahini
Juice of 1 small lemon (2 tablespoons)
1/2 teaspoon toasted ground cumin, or more to taste
Sea salt to taste

Cut the eggplant in half and place cut-side down in a glass baking dish. Add the water, cover with plastic wrap leaving one corner open, and microwave on high for 8 to 9 minutes or until the skin is slightly wrinkled and begins to collapse. Microwave longer in 1- or 2-minute intervals, if necessary. Still under the plastic, cool for half an hour, then gently squeeze out any excess juice and scrap the flesh into a medium mixing bowl. Beat with a pastry fork until light. Add the garlic, olive oil, tahini, lemon juice, cumin, and salt. Beat until well blended. Drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Serve with pita bread.
Makes 2 cups.

Curried Black Bean Hummus

May 24, 2007


If you have beans, garlic, lemon, olive oil, and tahini, you have hummus. This variation calls for black beans and roasted red peppers, and your friends will eat it with a spoon. Season it to taste—as much curry as you want, more tahini, lemon, or olive oil, if you like. But, again, let the flavors meld for a few minutes before your final tasting. SAM

2(15-ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 large roasted red pepper, drained and seeded
2 medium cloves garlic, pressed
1/4 cup tahini
Juice of 1 lemon (2 tablespoons)
1/4 cup olive oil, plus additional for serving
1 teaspoon hot curry powder or to taste
Sea salt to taste

Combine the beans, pepper, garlic, tahini, lemon juice, oil, curry powder, and salt. Blend until smooth with an immersion blender or food processor fitted with a metal blade. Drizzle with additional oil and serve with flatbread or chips.
Makes 3 cups.


May 23, 2007



Hummus is one of those ancient mysteries of food and chemistry. Every recipe calls for basically the same ingredients—and every dish is different. This one is easy because you use canned chick peas. The better the olive oil, the richer it will be. Cumin is a nontraditional twist, but don’t be stingy with it if you like a spicy kick. However you make your hummus, though, let it sit for while before you commit to the final seasonings. It needs time for the flavors to meld. SAM

2 (15-ounce) cans chick peas, drained and rinsed
Juice of 2 small lemons (4 tablespoons)
1/2 cup olive oil, plus additional for serving
1/2 cup tahini
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 teaspoon toasted, ground cumin, or to taste
Sea salt to taste
1/8 to 1/4 cup water (as needed)
Pita bread for serving

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the chick peas, lemon juice, 1/2 cup olive oil, tahini, garlic, cumin, and salt. Process with an immersion blender until smooth, thinning with water as necessary until the hummus is the consistency of ricotta cheese. To serve, place a small amount of hummus on a plate and fill a well in the center with additional olive oil. Serve with pita bread.
Makes 3 cups.

Pimiento Cheese

May 22, 2007


As long as we’re stuffing things into celery … Pimiento Cheese is right up there on my Comfort Food list with meatloaf and lemon chess pie. The celery seeds make the difference in this one. SAM

1/2 pound sharp Cheddar cheese, grated (2 cups)
1 small white onion, grated (1/3 cup)
1 (2-ounce) jar pimientos, drained and finely chopped
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon celery seed
Freshly ground pepper to taste

In a medium bowl, combine the Cheddar, onion, pimientos, mayonnaise, celery seed, and pepper. Mix thoroughly. Serve on crackers, as a sandwich spread, or stuff into celery sticks.
Makes 2 1/2 cups.

Dilled Cream Cheese

May 21, 2007



Sometimes the things we love the most we take the most for granted. Take Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese. It’s been around since 1880. It’s cheap. It’s everywhere. Add a shredded cucumber or a handful of chopped green olives and you have an elegant sandwich. You can melt it into spicy tomato aspic or whip it with confectioner’s sugar and lemon juice for a killer cake icing. My grandmother—who never cooked a day in her life—used to mix it with heavy cream and chopped pecans and stuff it into celery sticks. Cream cheese is something you should keep in your fridge at all times. That way, when the unexpected guest wanders in at cocktail time, you can conjure up the ghost of my grandmother’s celery or make this snappy dill spread. SAM

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 teaspoon dried dill weed
1/4 medium red onion, finely grated (2 tablespoons)
Juice of 1 small lemon (2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Celery sticks, crackers, or country bread

In a small bowl, mash the cream cheese with a pastry fork and stir in the dill, onion, lemon juice, olive oil, and pepper. Serve on crackers or country bread or stuff into celery sticks.
Makes 1 cup.