Time for some creative thinking.
Tons of garlic, moldy tomatoes, one aging white eggplant, fresh chili peppers that won’t last forever, about three sprigs of green parsley hiding beneath a few yellowing ones… the list goes on. There are two kinds of cooking: 1) go out and buy ingredients for whatever strikes your fancy, or 2) start with what you have already in your fridge. In these conscientious times, we pride ourselves on efforts to not waste food, to not throw it away. So moldy tomatoes and aging white eggplant it is.
But first (and this will make sense in the end), harissa time.
My stab at Madhur Joffrey’s harissa was an epic fail. Hey, you know, when using a recipe that calls for a cup (a CUP) of dried fiery red chilies, DESEEDED, you deseed them, right? Well, yes, you probably should deseed them. I didn’t. And I’ve now invented New Jersey’s own Satan Hellfire sauce. I may market this soon. To be used with caution. About two drops per pizza slice.
I then watched a few youtube videos in arabic (I think) that called for harissa with a ton of fresh red chilies, boiled and then deseeded. But I didn’t have any fresh red chilies. I also didn’t have birds eye chilies as I’d made that incredibly useful (not) Satan Hellfire sauce with a whole cupful of them. But I DID have fresh jalapenos, poblanos and habaneros.
Presenting to you, green harissa.
8 cloves garlic
1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground
1/2 tsp coriander seeds, toasted and ground
1/2 tsp caraway seeds, toasted and ground
Plenty of salt and pepper
extra virgin olive oil
1) Boil the fresh chilies whole for a few minutes, then drain and cool.
2) Deseed the chilies and blend with the rest of the ingredients until you have a thick sauce.
3) Season with salt and pepper to taste
I’ve now gone through two garlic cloves. But I have some left, due to husband’s shopping adventures (the amount of ginger root he brought home is another story). This is about half of the garlic I have left:
It’s like they’re begging me to plant them
So I figure, I’ll make some salsa. That should take out a whole head at least. Also this is a great way to get through some tomatoes that are on their last legs. Don’t chuck them. Roast them.
Easy roasted salsa
4 ripe tomatoes, cut into chunks
1 small white or red onion, cut into chunks
about 6-8 cloves, or 1 head of garlic, divided, skins on
1 fresh jalapeno
fresh cilantro or parsley
squeeze of lime
salt and pepper
1) Dress the tomatoes, onion, garlic and jalapeno with olive oil and salt and pepper
2) Roast in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, until veggies are fairly soft. Make sure the garlic is not burned or over cooked. If it is brown and dry, it’s been cooked too long
3) Put all the ingredients in a blender and blitz. The garlic should squeeze easily out of it’s skin.
We’re having tacos tonight, with the leftover lentils I didn’t use from Monday’s lasagna, and both this salsa and green harissa will be served with the tacos. The green harissa has a distinctive tex mex flavor to it with the jalapeno, garlic and cumin. It’s wonderful in cheese quesadillas with chard. It can be added to finished soups for an amazing burst of fresh chili and garlic flavor. I’m going to try it as a seasoning for roasted vegetables and as a dip for tostones (fried green plantain).
To tide me over until dinner, I ate the salsa as a dip for my lunchtime snack of fried eggplant. One of my favorite recipes. What amazes me, a salt lover, is that they need no seasoning whatsoever. They are filling and meaty and delicious. They’d be great in a vegetarian open-faced sandwich with tomato sauce and mozzarella, or even on top of a green salad. They come from the fantastic cooking memoir Blood, Bones and Butter by the owner of Prune, Gabrielle Hamilton.
Fried eggplant (melanzane)
1 large purple or white eggplant (purple is better)
1/2 to 3/4 cup homemade bread crumbs
4 eggs, beaten
large frying pan
1) Keep your old stale bread. When it is rock hard, blitz it into fine breadcrumbs and store in an airtight container. I used to do this so I include myself in this judgment but buying breadcrumbs is a dumb thing to do.
2) Wash and slice the eggplant. No need to salt it.
3) Heat up plenty of olive oil for shallow frying (more olive oil than if you were sauteeing).
4) Dip the eggplant slices into the breadcrumbs and then the beaten egg mixture and place gently in the hot oil. It’s counterintuitive but this is how Gabrielle Hamilton describes her Italian mother in law doing it. I have tried both and she’s right! They are yummier this way.
5) Fry on a med-high heat until golden brown on both sides.
6) Drain on paper towel. Eggplant can absorb a lot of oil so press down to squeeze out a little more oil. These are even better after sitting for a while. Serve warm or cold.
I ate about five right away with some salsa.