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Posts tagged ‘Ottolenghi’

possibly the best spinach salad

As good as your pita may be, occasionally your pita will grow stale. Once you’ve tasted this salad, you’ll make sure that occurs regularly! Pita, past its prime (which happens quite quickly) makes delicious croutons!

BabySpinachSaladOttolenghi-5

Today’s will be a very quick post, on an extraordinary salad. (Another recipe from chef Ottolenghi. Forgive me, I can’t help myself.) This ranks amongst the best salads I’ve eaten, anywhere, ever. In flavor and texture, perfectly balanced. Sweet, tart, spicy heat, soft and crunch. The onions, macerated in vinegar with the dates, now softened and sweetened. The pita & almonds, browned together until crispy, then scattered with spice. The spinach, crisp, green, fresh. Dressed simply in olive oil & lemon.

A salad greater even than the sum of its parts.

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NOTE on Sumac: If you don’t have Sumac (get some!) you can find it on line. It’s red like paprika or chili powder, tart like a lemon or cranberries. It sits on many Middle Eastern tables like salt and pepper do on ours. After you’ve made that depression in the middle of your hummus, and filled it with olive oil, sprinkle sumac! You’ll find other uses for it too…it brightens up so many dishes,  but if nothing other than to use in this salad, you’ll be happy you and sumac met!

baby spinach salad with dates & almonds & pita croutons

from Yotam Ottolengthi

serves 4 (or so) as a first course 

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1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar

½ medium red onion, thinly sliced

3.5 ounces (100 g) pitted Medjool dates, quartered lengthwise

2 Tablespoons (30 g) unsalted butter

2 Tablespoons olive oil (separated)

1/2 cup (75 g) whole, unsalted almonds, coarsely chopped

2 teaspoons sumac (see NOTE)

½ teaspoon chili flakes

5 ounces (150 g) baby spinach leaves

2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

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Into a small bowl measure the vinegar and drop in the onion and dates. Allow to marinate for 20 minutes, then discard the vinegar and set aside the rest.

In the meantime, heat the butter and 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, drop in the broken pieces of pita and the chopped almonds. Cook, stirring all the while, until the pita is golden brown and crunchy. Remove from the heat and scatter with the sumac and chili flakes. Stir and set aside to cool.

BabySpinachSaladOttolenghi-1When you’re ready to serve, toss the pita/almond mix and the spinach into a large bowl.

BabySpinachSaladOttolenghi-2Add the marinated dates and red onion, the last tablespoon of olive oil, the lemon juice and another pinch of salt.

BabySpinachSaladOttolenghi-3

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Hummus – stuffing our pockets

Hummus was one of the first things I learned to make as a 20-something year old bent on eating well, while not making life difficult on relatives of cows I’d grown to love as a girl. The hummus of those days has morphed a number of times over, as we ourselves tend to do.

Back then I used canned chickpeas. I prefer to cook my own these days, but I’d much rather use canned chickpeas than face the dreadful plight of hummus-lessness when the mood for hummus-in-a-hurry strikes. I’m not at all a fanatic about cooking my own and  always have canned chickpeas on hand. BUT, I do think home-cooked beans are noticably better-textured and flavored and if you want to consider giving it a gohere are some reasons why you might consider it too -

You’ll cook them with no preservatives, no gross amounts of salt in the canning liquid – (though not all canned beans come loaded this way.) You can use some of your own cooking liquid to puree in with the beans. (Much better than plain water.) I won’t use the liquid if they’re canned. A batch of your own fresh-cooked chickpeas is a fraction of the cost of canned. There’s less to throw away (or recycle.) And then, there’s the taste.

One of the changes to my hummus has come about quite recently – only since developing a mad crush on Ottolenghi (I mean, his recipes!) It would seem that the skins of the chickpeas, even when the beans are cooked to softness, retain a bit of their toughness unless measures are taken to further soften them. Ottolenghi adds baking soda to both the soaking water, and then again to the cooking pot. This addition and sufficient cooking time are  probably THE keys to THE creamiest, most velvety hummus your mouth will ever taste. I’d like to compare it to ambrosia’s savory cousin, but having never tasted ambrosia…Anyway…

Another measure which I’ve read about recently – in several places – seems awfully tedious at first. – but perhaps especially in the case when canned beans are used, worth the extra effort. You squeeze each and every little chickpea between thumb and forefinger, easily slipping them out of their filmy skins. This happens all the more easily with the addition of baking soda to the cooking water. (It’s as if they were itching to shed them, and you came along, right place, right time.) What’s left, once these naked beans are pureed with garlic and fresh lemon juice and tahini (the “butter” of sesame seeds”) is exquisitely smooth.

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The pita-pocket sandwich is just about whatever you’d like it to be. What I’d like it to be goes something like this:

Home-baked pita, sliced in half. A good slathering of lemony hummus, topped with thinly-sliced tomatoes and English cucumbers (the kind with the very small seeds); perhaps some sprouts or pea-shoots or micro-greens; maybe some delicate leaves of Spring lettuce, or any other lettuce shredded; perhaps some shredded carrot; a little feta; thin slices of red onion; perhaps some marinated & grilled kabobs of fish or chicken (or you decide); definitely some Greek-style yogurt or tzatziki. And maybe an extra drizzle of olive oil. And because each half is fairly small and because life comes with SO many choices, and choosing is sometimes very hard, make them every which way.

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But DO start with the hummus:

PitaHummus-2

The Hummus

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1¼ cups dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight (See NOTE)

1½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)

Juice of 2 to 2½ lemons, or to taste

2 or 3 cloves garlic, crushed

salt to taste

4 – 5 Tablespoons tahini (sesame paste)

a pinch (or several) of ground cumin

extra virgin olive oil

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OPTIONAL: see below for optional garnishes & serving suggestions

Hummus becomes a personal thing over the years. You find what you like – more garlicky or lemony, or less? – more tahini, less tahini? – more herbs or none at all? It pays to taste a little as you go. Taste your tahini before you start. Is it bitter? Then go with far less than what’s shown above. (I ruined a batch once with tahini far different than what I was used to.) Add most of the lemon and 2 cloves of garlic to start. It won’t be the right consistency yet, but Taste. If it’s tasting about right, don’t add the rest until closer to the end if at all. You’ll develop your own perfect proportions. With that out of the way, here’s the method -

NOTE: 1¼ cups dried chickpeas will equal about 3¾ cups cooked - if you use canned chickpeas you can give them a little extra cooking time in fresh water to soften them further, and then if you like, remove the skins from them as well.

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roasted cauliflower & hazelnut salad

Another vegetable dish, fit for a feast, made before the rush ~ and one that likes the temperature of the room, right where you set it.

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In the fall, my mum buys big burlap bags of nuts and over the course of the winter she shells them, roasts them then puts them away, mostly for baking. Her house still smelled of an alder wood fire and roasting hazelnuts when I showed up. It was a very lucky day for me to have a sweet long visit with my mom and to walk away with my pockets bulging nuts. My luck didn’t end there because I’d just bought a beautiful organic cauliflower and (several) pomegranates without a plan. And in my newest cookbook, a dish that paired them all together. Kismet! Somedays, things just can’t get much better.

One more recipe from the sumptuous new cookbook of Yotam Ottolenghi (Jerusalem) and then we’ll give the poor man a rest.

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Roasted Cauliflower & Hazelnut Salad

(serves 4 as a small side)

1 head Cauliflower, broken into small florets (1½ lb, 660 g)

5 Tablespoons Olive Oil – divided

1 large Celery Stalk, cut on an angle in ¼-inch slices

5 Tablespoons Hazelnuts, their skins on (30 g)

1/3 cup Parsley Leaves, picked

1/3 cup Pomegranate seeds (from about ½ medium pomegranate)

generous ¼ teaspoon ground Cinnamon

generous ¼ teaspoon ground Allspice

1 Tablespoon Sherry Vinegar

1½ teaspoons Maple Syrup

Salt & Pepper to taste

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Preheat the oven to 425°F 220ºC

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roasted sweet potatoes & fresh figs

You thought I’d forgotten Wegetable Vednesdays?  I’ve taken quite the break – but all along the way I’ve been gathering inspiration. I’ll try to make up for a little lost time with the next two installments. And then we’re back on track…

New things to do with the same old vegetables every Wednesday around here.

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It’s nearly Thanksgiving so let’s talk turkey. So to speak. 

You’ve noticed…getting a feast on the table is no small fete.  The most challenging part of the entire undertaking is getting all things to the table either as steamy hot or icy cold as you want them.

Maybe you’ve got your own methods for ensuring this happens as we idealize it should – maybe it’s one well-orchestrated movement at your house, with ten experienced helping hands, moving seamlessly in your commercial-sized kitchen while your great uncle plays Mozart on the concertina and your kids play board games on the rug. But if that’s not you (and it sure isn’t me)…

here’s a thought…

What if a couple delicious side dishes were meant to appear

- utterly perfect -

at room temperature?

“room temperature, on purpose!”

that is a thought…

One such dish might look like this:

And with the next post (tomorrow or Friday) I’ll show you another. (No feast will get the best of us!)

I’ve spoken raved about Yotam Ottolenghi before. (See Marinated Turkey Breast,  Cauliflower & Cumin Fritters… or a favorite Roasted Chicken with Sumac, Za’atar & Lemon, or  Roasted Eggplant with Pomegranates & a Buttermilk Sauce …. if you missed the raves.) This dish comes straight out of his latest (and glorious) cookbook, Jerusalem.

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~ serves 4 ~

~ or 8 if two or more vegetable side dishes are served ~

Roasted Sweet Potatoes & Fresh Figs

4 small Sweet Potatoes (2¼ lbs. 1 kg)

5 T. Olive Oil

scant 3 T. Balsamic Vinegar *

1½ T. Superfine Sugar

12 Green Onions, sliced in half lengthwise, then 1½” segments

1 Red Chile, thinly sliced

6 Ripe Figs, quartered **

5 oz. (150 g) soft Goat’s Milk Cheese (optional)

Flaky Sea Salt & Freshly-ground Pepper

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*no need to use a premium grade balsamic for this one

**A note on the figs – Ottolenghi suggests here to go for a plump fruit with an irregular shape and a slightly split bottom…some resistance but not much…

Try to smell the sweetness. 

(How to pick a fig, or how to live a life?)

Preheat the oven to 475°F (240°C) – yes very hot – not a typo.

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some new flavors for an old favorite – marinated turkey breast

Marinate a turkey breast for 24 hours in the flavors of the Mediterranean, and you no longer have our pilgrims’ roasted turkey. You have instead something that feels like it was infused with sun, bright and fresh and right for Spring.

Marinated Turkey Breast with Cumin, Coriander & White Wine

serves 4 to 6

  • 4 Tablespoon mint leaves
  • 4 Tablespoons parsley leaves
  • 4 Tablespoon cilantro (fresh coriander leaves)
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 2 ounces (60 ml) lemon juice
  • 2 ounces (60 ml) olive oil
  • 4 ounces (125 ml) white wine
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ small organic or free-range turkey breast (about 2 pounds or 1 kg)

Put all the ingredients except the turkey breast in a food processor or blender (of course, YOU knew not to put your turkey in the blender!) and process for 1 to 2 minutes to get a smooth marinade. Put the turkey in a non-metallic container and pour the marinade over it. (My preferred method is to put the turkey in a zip lock freezer bag – gallon size – and pour marinade over top. Zip tight!) Refrigerate for 24 hours. Be sure that the turkey is immersed in the sauce.

Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). Remove the turkey from its marinade (but reserving the marinade for later. Put the turkey on a roasting tray. Place in the oven and roast for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 390°F (200°C). Continue to cook for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature again to 355°F (180°C). Cook until the turkey is done – another 30 to 45 minutes. To check for doneness, you have a couple options – insert instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the breast ~ ~ ~ 165°F ( 74.5°C) indicates done. Or insert a small knife all the way into the center; it should come out hot.) If the meat browns too far in advance of doneness, cover with a tent of aluminum foil and continue cooking.

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more questions than answers & tasty little fritters

Change it up. Keep it fresh. Variety’s the spice of life. So clichéd, but the same can be said of many of our food choices.

Are we guided by some intention around food and nutrition or do we fall into the habits that we developed growing up? Do we “fear” change, and is that evidenced by what we eat, and refuse to eat, as well? What would it look like if we ate “outside” the boxes we tend to create for ourselves? What would our dinner table feel like if we decided to be adventuresome spirits when it came to food? What if our dinner table became a place we had fun, played, experimented, made a bit of “art”, didn’t fear making “mistakes”? I hope you know, I’m not preaching…just pondering possibilities.

At least once a week we’re trying something very new to us. It’s not always “successful”, but we rarely regret having tried something new. And at least once a week around our house, it’s vegetarian meals only. Do we feel deprived when those days come, like we’re sacrificing something? Oh not one bit!  So long as food is full of flavor and easy on the eyes, it satisfies. (Satisfaction turns out to be an important principle, and not just from a pleasure standpoint. Studies have  shown that we actually tend to eat less when the foods we eat are flavor-full as opposed to bland or one-dimensional, because they satisfy more quickly. If we’re battling our weight, there’s something to consider.)

These tasty little fritters showed up on our vegetarian menu the other night with cumin-roasted carrots and beautiful green salad…(and then again the next morning for breakfast – can you believe it?) and we were smackin’ our smiling lips…both times.

This recipe comes from Ottolenghi…one can hardly go wrong…

Cauliflower & Cumin Fritters with Lime Yogurt Dipping Sauce

  • 1 small cauliflower (about ¾ lb. or 320 g.)
  • about ¾ cup flour (4 oz. or 120 g)
  • 3 Tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus more to garnish
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 4 eggs
  • 1½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • 1½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • neutral (high-heat) oil for frying – canola, sunflower or grapeseed – about 2 cups (500 ml. or 16 oz.)

Yogurt Lime Sauce

  • 10 ounces (300 g.) Greek yogurt
  • 2 Tablespoons finely chopped cilantro (fresh coriander)
  • grated zest of 1 lime
  • 2 Tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • salt & pepper

Combine all the sauce ingredients in a bowl and whisk well. Taste – you’re looking for a vibrant, tart, citrusy flavor. Adjust the seasonings accordingly. Chill or leave at room temperature for up to an hour.

To prepare the cauliflower, trim off any leaves and use a small knife to divide into little florets. Add them to a large pan of boiling salted water and simmer for 15 minutes or until very soft. Drain into a colander.

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roasted chicken with sumac, za’atar and lemon

I’ve made some promises to you recently and thought with this post I might make good on a few of them at once. I’ve promised bright and fragrant dishes from sunny climates to chase the winter doldrums; I’ve promised a special Sunday dinner, and a wonderful recipe for roasted chicken.  And you clever readers might have guessed too that you’d be seeing still more of Ottolenghi here. And you are. And because we’ve talked so much of onions with the last couple spreenkles, we might as well throw them into the mix as well. This is a veritable shrmorgasbord (how in the world do you spell that word? I’ll google it!) a veritable  smörgâsbord  of promises kept.

I’ve spoken before (in the roasted eggplant with yogurt sauce and pomegranates recipe) of two spices essential in Middle Eastern cooking – you won’t find them at Safeway or Krogers. But I hope you won’t let that deter you! You can find them on line easily (google!) or at a Middle Eastern market if you have one near you. They are Sumac (powdered deep red, tart like a lemon, or cranberries, wonderful!) and a spice blend called za’atar, fragrant and delicious!  Neither is expensive at all and they’ll last you for some time. (You’ll be thinking of sending thank-you notes and possibly even flowers – I love tulips! – for suggesting you add them to your spice cupboard.)

More familiar though to your nose and palate are cinnamon and allspice. Those too become part of the amazing perfume of this dish.

I want you to know – just as an aside – that I never ever put him up to it, but sprees-grateful -guinea-pig may be chiming in on this dish. He’s positively wild for it.

The recipe is very straight-forward and simple to prepare (once you have the right ingredients.) The chicken (free-range, vegetarian-fed is best) will marinate for several hours to over-night. The flavors, other-worldly-good, and the onions, of my gosh, the onions! (You expect this from me now, right? If I love something, you won’t have a moment’s doubt about it.  I   l o v e    t h i s   d i s h !  It’s from Ottolenghi, and he’s an artist and a genius in the kitchen!  Cooking is all about a celebration of ingredients for Ottolenghi, and lucky for us, we’re invited to the party.)

Let’s start with just a little celebration of the red onion, so humble, so under-appreciated and so crazy good when prepared right…

This recipe calls for two red-onions, thinly sliced…

even their mess manages to be pretty...click on the image & you'll see

Roasted Chicken with Sumac, Za’atar and Lemon

  • 1 large organic or free-range chicken, divided into quarters – breast & wing, and leg & thigh
  • 2 red onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 4 Tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 1½ teaspoons ground allspice
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tablespoon sumac
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • 200 ml (almost 7 ounces) chicken stock
  • 1½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons za-atar
  • 1 generous Tablespoon (20 grams) unsalted butter
  • 1¾ ounces (50 grams) pine nuts – a generous ½ cup
  • 4 Tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

In a large bowl, or ceramic baking dish, mix the chicken with the onions, garlic, olive oil, spices (except for za’atar), lemon slices, stock, salt and pepper. Cover with plastic wrap. Leave in the fridge to marinate for a few hours or overnight. Read more

a fork with a taste for adventure

When I was a newly-turned teen, my mother suddenly (and inexplicably) turned adventuresome in the kitchen. She’d always been a good cook, and our meals never lacked for flavor, but they never ventured beyond our borders either (unless you count England, and I’m sorry, I just can’t. Meaning no disrespect at all!) Meals at our house had followed along very traditional lines, until…around the time she married the man who was to become Dad to us.

Dad was Greek and maybe it was just his colorful character alone, or the foods he’d bring home from Foti’s (very Greek) deli; or the influence of Dad’s mom Yaya, who’d make us Sunday dinners of Greek roasted chicken doused in fresh lemon and filled with whole heads of garlic and her plump handful of oregano from the garden, and her zucchini and okra in a skillet, and her brilliant yellow-orange zucchini blossoms, dipped in egg batter and fried. Or maybe too, it was that Dad insisted for special outings we drop into Poncho’s Mexican restaurant, which was, strange to say, our family’s first introduction to south of the border. Maybe it was a combination of these things – or maybe it was that Mom enrolled in college for the first time  – Mom was herself becoming more adventuresome and her new spirit found its way onto our table.

In any event, whatever the cause, dinner became, more and more, an exotic experience. That’s not to say it became the norm for us to eat things beyond the familiar, or that we came to the table dressed in saris.  Just that we gradually came to be more curious, more daring, more open to new things, until gradually we’d developed a real appetite for the gorgeously exotic on our plates, a hunger for something not yet tasted.

I don’t eat many “meats”. Poultry and seafood’s about it for me. But vegetables, and fruits, and grains and beans and spices from all over the planet, those I find endlessly enticing. And so it is, that when I first set eyes on Yotam Ottolenghi’s newest book Plenty, I was smitten! This dish that I’m about to fix and share is the very dish that graces the cover. It sucked me in with a rush like a door just opened onto a wind storm. I was a goner.

Ottolenghi, chef and co-owner of several restaurants called by his name (including one in London) writes a weekly column for the London Guardian on vegetarian cooking, though he himself is not vegetarian. From Israel, he draws on a wealth of culinary traditions, with a strong focus on the Mediterranean basin. His dishes may very well scratch every culinary itch I have, one by one.

So here – with a thankful nod to my mom who grew this wild love of food in me, and to my Dad who might have grown it in her -

from the cover of Plenty -

Eggplant with Buttermilk Sauce

(serves 4 as starter – or 2 for dinner with a salad & bread) large and long eggplants

  • 2 large and long eggplants
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1½ teaspoon lemon thyme leaves, plus a few whole sprigs to garnish
  • Maldon sea salt (or any flaky sea salt) and black pepper
  • 1 pomegranate
  • 1 teaspoon za’atar (see NOTE)

Sauce

  • 9 Tablespoons buttermilk (just over ½ cup)
  • ½ cup Greek yogurt
  • 1½ Tablespoons olive oil, plus a drizzle to finish
  • 1 small garlic clove, crushed
  • pinch of salt

NOTE: Za’atar – here is one thing that may be a bit of an obstacle in Ottolenghi’s book(s)…because he’s drawing on his (and other) heritages, some ingredients – in particular the spices and spice blends – will be very unfamiliar, and not always easily obtained. I ordered my little bottle of za’atar from the Spice House on-line. $4.99. Za’atar is a spice blend, and like others, the ingredient list and proportions can vary. One recipe for it that I found on-line included sumac, thyme, roasted sesame seeds, marjoram, oregano and salt. Sumac is acidic, quite tart, much like a lemon, and is considered an essential culinary ingredient in much of the Middle East. It’s by far the predominant  ingredient in this blend. Since sumac isn’t on my grocery shelf either, I decided just to go ahead and order the za’atar on line. You could read more on sumac or order it, here. If you’re feeling particularly adventuresome, simply add the herbs called for in the za’atar ingredient list along with lemon for something approximating this dish. Or wait, as I did, for the za’atar to arrive on your welcome mat.)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise, cutting straight through the green stalk – which stays intact just for the looks of it. Using a small sharp knife, make three or four parallel incisions in the cut side of each eggplant half as deeply as possible but being careful not to cut through to the skin. Repeat at a 45° angle to create a diamond-shaped pattern.

Place the eggplant halves, cut-side up, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush them with olive oil and continue brushing until all the oil has been absorbed. Sprinkle with the lemon thyme leaves and salt and pepper.

Roast for 45 minutes up to an hour, depending on size of eggplant. The flesh should be soft, flavorful and nicely browned. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

Removing pomegranate seeds: While the eggplants are in the oven, cut the pomegranate into two horizontal halves. Holding one half, cut side down, in the palm of your hand, place over a deep bowl and begin smacking the top-side of the fruit with a wooden spoon. Smack harder as you go to release the deepest of the pomegranate seeds into the bowl. Remove any white pitch that fell in along with. (Illustrated here.) Read more

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