Caviar d’Aubergines

Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 January 2012 03:13 Written by Flax Wednesday, 18 January 2012 01:28

Caviar d’Aubergines, or in simple English, Grilled Eggplant, is a rather uncomplicated and inexpensive dish.  None- the-less, it has received this rather bombastic title as a result of its delicate flavor and its elegant appearance.  When properly prepared, the white seeds glow with a luminescence that is reminiscent of caviar, and the smoky flavor brings to mind a variety of rather pricey delicacies.

The eggplant belong to a very special group of vegetables called the nightshades.  Nightshades vegetables belong to  a group of plants that flower at night.  Nightshade plants are primarily toxic, the exceptions being the potato, tomato, eggplant, and pepper (other than the black pepper).  The nightshades as a group, especially the potato and the tomato,  are craved by Western society.  Perhaps the reason why the fast paced Westerner enjoys these foods so much is that they induce a feeling or relaxation and expansion (think of the term, “couch potato”, eating potatoes, perhaps even one coated in tomatoes,  makes you want to sit on the couch and relax).  Additionally, nightshade vegetables are also useful in providing a balance for a meat based diet as they help to clear the stagnancy of eating excess animal products.   While it is quite enjoyable to feel relaxed and expansive, this action can exacerbate certain health conditions.   It is recommended to avoid nightshade vegetables in instances of swelling or pain in the joints, muscles, tendons, or nerves.  Such conditions as arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, bursitis, neuritis, and sciatica are negatively affected by nightshades.  People who suffer from skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis would also benefit from abstaining from nightshades.

To reflect upon their good nature, the nightshades as a group, and the eggplant specifically, possess many healing powers as well.  The eggplant is beneficial in clearing stagnant blood and it has a homostatic action which helps to reduce bleeding.  A pack of raw eggplant is useful in case of a scorpion bite, and grilled eggplant (see the recipe below) has the miraculous ability to heal bleeding hemorrhoids.  A word of caution however, pregnant women are advised not to over indulge in eggplant as they can cause miscarriage.

Ingredients:

  • 1 firm eggplant
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • salt

Use a high flame to grill the eggplant. The grilling can be done on an outdoor grill, a stove top, or in an oven.  If it is done on an open flame, the smoke will enhance the flavor of the eggplant.  As the skin of the eggplant blackens and cracks open, turn the eggplant so as to grill it on all sides.  To know when the eggplant is ready push down to feel if it is fully soft inside.

Remove from the flame, cut down the center and scoop out the insides.  Place the grilled eggplant meat into a bowl and immediately pour on the lemon juice.   Add the pressed garlic and salt.

Alternatives:  For a delicious creamy spread, add three tablespoons of tehina.

Serve as a first course, accompanied by bread.  Kept refrigerated this salad can be kept for up to a week.

Note:  To retain the white color of the eggplant, the lemon juice needs to be applied while the eggplant is still hot, freshly removed from the flame.

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Cream Of Jerusalem

Last Updated on Thursday, 12 January 2012 05:27 Written by Flax Wednesday, 11 January 2012 01:31

Yesterday, in Mahane Yehuda, I was excited to see the most beautiful jerusalem artichokes.  The jerusalem artichoke is a member of the thistle family and is a cousin to the artichoke. The jerusalem artichoke also has the distinction of being one of the few tubers, a type of root vegetable whose members include the potato, taro root, and radish.  Other than the fact that this delicious vegetable is  available in Jerusalem, this North American native has really has nothing to do with our holy city. The title “Jerusalem” stems from a mispronunciation of the word gersimol, which means ‘sun’ in Italian. The  Italians, who originally titled them  “sun artichokes”,  did so because, they are the root of the sunflower and taste like the artichoke.

My only problem with the Jerusalem Artichoke is deciding which way to cook them.  They are so wonderfully delicious in so very many ways.  They make a delicious stew, complimenting lamb and fava beans perfectly.  Try tossing them in olive oil and salt and roasting them as  a healthier alternative to potato chips, or follow the recipe below for a wonderfully warming winter soup.

Health-wise,   the Jerusalem Artichoke, sweet in flavor and white in color is beneficial to both the lungs and the spleen. They nourish the lungs, relieve asthma, and they contain inulin which helps reduce insulin needs (excellent for diabetics).

Ingredients:

  • olive oil
  • 6 shallots, chopped
  • 1 kilo Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 parsnip, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 liters water
  • 2 cups soy/oat milk
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 chives, finely chopped, for garnishing

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot and saute the shallots until they become translucent. Add   the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.  Lower the flame and allow to simmer for 3-4 hours. Use a hand immerser to puree the soup,  garnish with the chives and serve hot.

Sima Herzfeld Navon is a Nutritional Healer and teaches Healthy Cooking Classes.

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Crock-pot Split-Pea Soup

Last Updated on Tuesday, 3 January 2012 02:00 Written by Flax Tuesday, 3 January 2012 01:54

Seasonal cooking calls for heavy winter soups and stews. The longer you cook a food, the more warming it is, and no soup needs to cook for longer than a split pea soup. My favorite way to cook split pea soup is in a crock pot. I toss in the peas  first thing in the morning, add some water and then forget about it for the rest of the day. The all day cooking makes the peas incredibly soft, and I think just the smell of the soup heats up the house.
If you happen to have more time in the morning then add the remaining ingredients first thing, otherwise add the rest of the ingredients at various times of the day when you have a few moments.  I find that the remaining ingredients work well on only 3-4 hours of cooking time.

Every crock pot cooks differently, I will tell you my method but keep in mind that your crock pot might cook faster or slower than mine. One of my favorite crock pot tricks  is to start off with boiling water. Using already boiling water cuts hours off of crock pot cooking time. When preparing split peas, I find it important to make sure that the peas cook for long enough (otherwise, pop out those pepto-bismols). Since this is a soup recipe and extra cooking time will only help, it’s preferable to have it cook for longer, so I advise starting out with boiling water.

Notice that I use an interesting combination of spices in this soup. The spices are part North African and part Germanic. Turmeric and cumin are more North African, while bay leaf and caraway seed are more German. While it is a strange combination, I find that they work well together. What is interesting for me is the similar and yet different roles these spices play.
Turmeric and bay leaf are very common spices used in foods as they both help with the digestion. They are used when cooking legumes to prevent flatulence and to promote proper digestion.
Turmeric, one of the most important spices, functions as a a liver cleanser.  Turmeric helps with the digestion of fats and oils and should be eaten every day.  Turmeric has been shown to prevent Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. It is also a natural anti-viral and anti-biotic and it keeps our food as well as our bodies healthy by eliminating pathogens.
Bay leaf, while also a digestive aid, works primarily on the lungs. It is a pulmonary antiseptic and an expectorant and is a wonderful remedy for someone who has a cold or who is congested.

Ingredients:

  • olive oil
  • 1/2 kilo split peas, (soaked overnight)
  • 4 liters boiling water
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 4 carrots, sliced into rounds
  • 1 kohlrabi or turnip, chopped
  • 4 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1 cup beer (optional)
  • 1 marrow bone (optional)
  • salt and pepper

Croutons and/or hot dog slices for garnish.

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan, saute the onions for 2 minutes and then add to the crock pot.  Discard the soaking water and add the peas to the crock pot as well.  Add the remaining ingredients, other than the salt.  Cook on high for a minimum of eight hours. Add the salt only after the peas have slightly softened.
If you prefer to cook the soup in two stages than put half of the water and all of the peas in the crock pot.  Cook on high for around 4 hours. At a convenient point mid-day, saute the onion and add them, along with the remaining ingredients, to the crock pot. Continue to cook on high for at least 4 more hours.

Garnish with croutons and hot dog slices (big hit with the kids!)

Sima Herzfeld Navon is a Cooking Instructor and a Nutritional Healer.

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