My life is pretty busy.
Three four-year-olds, two schools, one house. I don't have a lot of space in my
life for much more.
Then my husband bought me Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. One look at that cookbook changed things. Suddenly I had time to cook. And cook. And cook.
Now I am obsessed. In the few months that cookbook has been in my possession, I have tried only one recipe from another source. That is because the recipes in Jerusalem are that good. Interesting flavors abound. Simple preparations predominate. Gorgeous photos entice. It is cookbook nirvana.
With Yotam and Sami, I have done things in the kitchen I never imagined doing. Like cooking chicken with skin and bones. And ground beef. I have ventured outside my comfort zone. And I won't be turning back.
Valentine's Day is around the corner. Sure, chocolates and flowers are nice. But why stop there? Make it extraordinary. Visit Jerusalem.
Eggplant Stuffed with Beef and Pine Nuts
Adapted from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi (the original recipe calls for lamb, but I was unable to get it so I substituted beef, which worked out beautifully)
4 medium eggplants (about 2 ½ pounds), halved lengthwise and scored
6 Tbsp olive oil
1 ½ tsp ground cumin
1 ½ Tbsp sweet paprika
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 pound ground beef, lamb, or turkey (a less lean meat is preferable)
½ cup pine nuts
¼ cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2 tsp tomato paste
3 tsp superfine sugar
2/3 cup water
1 ½ Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp tamarind paste
4 cinnamon sticks
salt and freshly-ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Place the eggplant halves, skin side down, in a roasting pan large enough to accommodate them snugly. Brush the flesh with 4 tablespoons of the olive oil and season with 1 teaspoon salt and plenty of black pepper. Roast for about 20 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.
While the eggplants are cooking, start making the stuffing by heating the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large frying pan. Mix together the cumin, paprika, and ground cinnamon and add half of this spice mix to the pan, along with the onions. Cook over medium-high heat for about 8 minutes, stirring often, before adding the meat, pine nuts, parsley, tomato paste, 1 teaspoon sugar, and some black pepper. Continue to cook and stir for another 8 minutes, until the meat is cooked.
Place the remaining spice mix in a bowl and add the water, lemon juice, tamarind, the remaining 2 teaspoons of sugar, the cinnamon sticks, and ½ teaspoon of salt. Mix well.
Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees. Pour the spice mix into the bottom of the eggplant roasting pan. Spoon the meat mixture on top of each eggplant. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil, return to the oven, and roast for 1 ½ hours, by which point the eggplants should be completely soft and the sauce thick. Twice during the cooking, remove the foil and baste the eggplants with the sauce, adding some water if the sauce dries out. Serve warm, not hot, or at room temperature.
The preparation is actually quite easy—don't let the length fool you.
Your house will smell amazingly delicious…even if the preschoolers in said house tell you otherwise.
Tamarind paste can be found at Whole Foods or Middle Eastern, Asian, Indian, or Latin American grocers.