Feels Like Home: My Mom’s Gazpacho

Summer in a bowl

Summer in a bowl

I have a post about fish tacos in the works but it is detailed and there are lots of accoutrements and it was taking me awhile, so I am going with this instead. I wanted to get a post out before I go away for the weekend AND I wanted to make sure I got this out while there are still delicious tomatoes to be had at the farmers’ market. If there is ever a time for using good tomatoes, this is it.

This is also the first installment in what will hopefully be another new feature on this here blog, which I will call Feels Like Home. I may have mentioned that we ate well growing up. Not fancy, necessarily – there were four of us kids, and two of us were not super adventurous, so I’m not talking about wild, fussy, earth shattering stuff, but very delicious, nonetheless. My plan is to share some of that with you all, if for no other reason than because that means that I get to make and eat them all again myself. They are all things that make me think of home…

This first one, ironically, is not really ever something I was particularly interested in eating when I was younger. I have realized, despite my insistence that I eat everything, that I actually have a fair number of weird food hangups. Every time I turn around on here I feel like I am telling you about something I don’t really love, or didn’t used to like, but whatever, I’m evolving. Gazpacho is a cold soup. Weird, and usually no thank you, especially since people looooooove to serve it in a shot glass, and in case you missed it, I DO NOT DRINK FOODS. I drink drinks, and I eat foods. I need a spoon with my soup. It is a food. BUT, as it turns out, my mom makes a really good, really crowd pleasing gazpacho. And she serves it in a bowl with a spoon. And with croutons. I think the croutons are what actually won me over.

This is so very easy. Essentially, most everything goes in the food processor, and that is the end of that. The only extra step is to blanch the tomatoes first to remove the skins, which takes less than a minute, and to make the croutons, which while technically are “optional” they are not at all optional and you definitely need to make them. Get some bread, it doesn’t even have to be good bread, any bread will do. Slice it about an inch thick, then cut it into cubes. Brown them in olive oil on top of the stove, or toss them with the oil and stick them in the oven until they get brown. Sprinkle them with salt – croutons! Make a bunch and keep them in tupperware for salads or soup or snacks. It will be the best thing you’ve ever done.

In addition to the croutons, I added avocado as a garnish and I do not regret it. I also added some Sun Gold cherry tomatoes because I had them. I hope Mom approves. The avocado in particular was top notch.

Basically, this is super easy. Make it while the tomatoes are still good. Hurry.

Mom’s Gazpacho (serves at least 6)

2 large tomatoes (about two pounds) (I actually used three medium Brandywines to get two pounds worth.)

One cucumber, peeled and roughly chopped

One green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and roughly chopped

One roasted red pepper (from a jar is fine!) roughly chopped

One medium onion, roughly chopped

1 1/2 cups tomato juice

1 1/2 tsp hot sauce (or more to taste)

1/3 cup olive oil

1/3 cup red wine vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste (be generous with both!)

Croutons for garnish (and avocado, if you have it.)

Cut an X into the base of each tomato, and blanch in boiling water for about 15 seconds. The skins will peel off very easily. Remove the skins and the cores of each tomato.

In a food processor (you will likely need to do it in a couple batches, unless you have a giant, industrial sized food processor) combine all ingredients through the hot sauce, and process until almost smooth. (This is a matter of preference. I like it to be almost a purée, but if you like it a little chunkier, that’s fine! Run it through the processor for less time.)

Combine the vegetable mixture in a large bowl and add the olive oil, vinegar and the salt and pepper. Taste for additional salt, pepper or hot sauce to your liking. Chill well and serve very cold with croutons to garnish. Enjoy!!

All the thoughts…

1. I just finished reading Cassandra at the Wedding by Dorothy Baker and it was amazing. It was remarkably funny considering it is a book about a mentally ill, suicidal woman that goes home with the intention of ruining her identical twin sister’s wedding. It was witty, exhausting and really really lovely. I got it from Emily Books, an independent bookstore that sells e-books. They pick one book a month, often unknown books by women, that they feel very strongly about. It’s kind of great. And this book is so good. Read it.

2. Have I mentioned how I feel about Candy Crush yet? Basically it’s good that you have a limit five lives before they have to refuel, because without that break I could probably play Candy Crush for ever and ever nonstop, amen.

3. FOOTBALL. It’s back, and I am watching, and Wes Welker is a Bronco. That’s weird. He just dropped a fair catch kick return though. Oops. Good thing he’s not on my team.

4. This is wonderful.

Be good to one another.

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Homemade Ranch Dressing: The food of kings.

Let them eat ranch

Let them eat ranch

I like to think I am a lady of sophisticated tastes. I have eaten at the French Laundry, I will spend $15 on a tiny jar of crushed French red pepper, I like anchovies in things, you know, très chic. But there is one place where I can’t keep up my fancy pretenses; where my refined palate is too embarrassed to show its face; where my eight year old self takes charge; a magical place called the salad bar. I love a good salad bar, which means, for me, that there are croutons and ranch dressing available. I know vinaigrette has a place, there is a wonderful ginger dressing on here that I adore, and there is a yogurt miso one from 101 cookbooks that is divine, but my first love is ranch. My salad tastes skew towards that of a picky kid. Creamy dressings, basic vegetables, eggs, bacon, lots of croutons, you know, the really good stuff.

Back in the day, ranch dressing was from a packet (way better than the bottle.) Add a little mayo and milk and voila – covering up the taste of vegetables in households with small children everywhere. But I have discovered something. When you make it yourself, like from SCRATCH, it really only takes about three minutes longer than the packet does, and you get to pick the herbs you put in, which means you can punch up the best flavors (i.e. dill) to your liking. Start with two parts buttermilk to one part mayo and work your way out from there. I added garlic, Worcestershire sauce, and chives, dill and chervil, because that’s what I had. I would say the chives are standard, but everything else can be just the way you want it. I add dill because it is my absolute favorite, but if you are not a fan of dill, use parsley. Tarragon would be interesting, thyme would be interesting and basil would add a great twist, I think. It truly takes about five minutes and is so much better than the packet or bottle. Much more sophisticated, for sure. Impressive AND crowd-pleasing.

So sophisticated

So sophisticated

What I am reading: Almost finished with Beautiful Ruins and I am loving it. Not sure what I am going to read next, but it may have to be Furious Love.

What I am listening to: I am all over the map. Yesterday it was Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros in the morning and Top 40 for my run.

I got nothing else today. I am really tired and there are currently no sheets on my bed. How is it only Tuesday?

Homemade Ranch Dressing (makes about 1.5 cups)

1 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 clove garlic, minced to paste

1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

2 tbl minced chives

1 tbl minced dill

1 tbl minced chervil or parsely

salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients in a jar or container with a tight-fitting lid. Close the top and shake like mad to mix. (You could also mix it in a bowl with a whisk, but it’s way less fun.) Feel free to mix up the herbs it whatever combo suits you best!

Serve over your favorite salad. (Or just dip random vegetables right in it. I won’t tell.)

Cooking the Books: Smothered Cauliflower with Yellow Tomatoes

Guess what, Nerds! I am starting something new around here…let me introduce Cooking the Books, a new feature? series? (what am I, fancy?) on this here blog. I have a bit of a cookbook collection. I also get food mags, A LOT of food mags. I tend to read my cookbooks like novels for inspiration, and I dutifully read through my magazines every month and tear out the recipes that I think look delicious. (Except for Fine Cooking, I don’t tear anything out of my Fine Cookings, they stay intact and go right into my bookshelf.) But then I rarely actually USE them. I will go back through the cookbooks for more inspiration, and I will look for recipes for things I am craving on the interwebs, and then promptly modify it to my tastes. I thought it might be fun at least once a month or so, to find a recipe that looks good and cook it EXACTLY as presented (to the best of my ability) and report back to you all. There you have it, Cooking the Books (my other job is in finance, “cooking the books”, GET IT?!?!)

I knew immediately what my first one would be, because this is one of the most gorgeous things I have ever seen. I mean look at it.

Photo courtesy of Food & Wine

Photo courtesy of Food & Wine, August 2013

Gorgeous. And it sounded intriguing. Cauliflower dredged in flour and caramelized and then cooked with yellow tomatoes? OK! Topped with runny eggs? Heck yes.

The plan for these is to cook them exactly as directed. I will set a timer if an estimated time is given, and I will try to follow the directions and cooking times exactly as they are presented. Here goes…

Recipe: Smothered Cauliflower with Eggs (recipe here)

Source: Heidi Swanson in the Food & Wine Magazine August 2013 issue

Time required: 40 minutes

Servings: 4

Right off the bat, I do not have marjoram leaves or herb flowers for the optional garnish. Good thing it’s optional. I DO have chervil. I do not think this is the most appropriate substitution, but it’s green, so it will look pretty! Additionally, I suspect the one pound of yellow tomatoes they call for were intended to be the size and heft of your standard field tomatoes, but my little farmers’ market didn’t have those. They had these:

Yellow

Yellow

They apparently ALSO had a faulty scale, because they told me that I had just over a pound, and my scale told a different story. Luckily, I had little yellow cherry tomatoes in the house, so I could supplement. I ended up with EXACTLY a pound.

See? Exact.

See? Exact.

Also, oddly enough, this recipe called for a 10 ounce head of cauliflower. That would be a really tiny head of cauliflower. I got one of the smaller ones (at Whole Foods, none of the stalls at my little farmers’ market had cauliflower either, I am going to have to start going to the bigger market) and it was THIRTY ounces. Easy enough to fix I guess, but none the less, not exact.

OK, now that that’s out of the way, let’s do this.

First, I set the timer for 40 minutes.

I then started a medium sized saucepan of water with a good dose of salt to boil.

As the water boiled I sliced the cauliflower and chopped the tomatoes. They referred to cutting the cauliflower in slabs. I took that to mean cutting it vertically into steaks. I got two good steaks and the rest of it kind of fell apart. No matter, I just used the smaller pieces. I also chopped the tomatoes. It calls for 1 pound with 3 cups in parentheses.  I did not get three cups, maybe 2 and a quarter?

Not three cups

Not three cups

Once the water boiled I added the cauliflower and timed it for three minutes. I drained it and patted it dry and tossed with the flour. I heated the olive oil over medium high heat in my 12-inch frying pan, and browned the cauliflower. It didn’t recommend a length of time, but it was probably eight or ten minutes total to get it browned on both sides, like so:

browned

browned

While the cauliflower was browning I grated the lemon peel on my microplane grater. When the cauliflower was browned and caramelized, I added the tomatoes, red pepper, lemon peel and a good pinch of salt, turned the heat down to medium and cooked for five minutes as directed. It was pretty clear at this point that I did not have enough tomatoes. I get the impression the tomatoes were supposed to completely cover the cauliflower, and when the cooked down a bit, they were supposed to be really saucy with a fair amount of liquid in the pan. There were definitely not enough tomatoes to do that.

I toasted two tablespoons of sliced almonds over low heat while the tomatoes were cooking down. I kept the heat low and it took about five minutes.

After the tomatoes cooked down, I cracked four eggs over the tomatoes and cauliflower. The instructions said to make four wells in the tomatoes to crack the eggs into, but there was not enough tomato sauce to make wells in, so I just cracked them over the top, turned the heat down to medium low and covered to cook until the eggs set. Instructions said it would take about 3 minutes, but it probably took closer to six or eight before the eggs set completely. Once they had, I took the pan off the heat, sprinkled on the almonds and chopped chervil for garnish, and voila.

my version

my version

Verdict: The timing was right on, the 40 minute timer went off just as I finished photographing the final dish, which was great. This dish grew on me, actually. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I wasn’t sure about the first bite. By the end, I was sad it was gone. And I had it for breakfast the other day and it actually reheated pretty well, even with the runny egg, and it was delicious. It absolutely needed more tomatoes. I think I will double the amount next time, because it would have been really really great with more “sauce.” Yellow tomatoes are really sweet and not as acidic as red tomatoes. The cauliflower had really good flavor. The lemon seemed kind of random but was actually really nice. I couldn’t really taste the red pepper, so I may add a touch more next time. And a runny egg makes everything amazing. The almonds added some good texture. It was really nice. Not as pretty, but delicious. I will make this again, I suspect.

In other news…

What I am reading: Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

What I am listening to: El Camino by The Black Keys. I somehow missed out on The Black Keys being a thing until recently. A friend reminded me of them this weekend and I put the album on my phone and have been listening to it quite a bit. (That and Neko Case, which is good for headphones at my desk listening. The Black Keys are great for walking to work or cooking listening.)

Things that have captured my attention this week:

The Quotable Jane Austen for Evil People from The Toast made me laugh a lot.

That Zillow commercial where the woman and man are looking for a house and chatting via Skype and then she  and the kid walk into their new home and he is there in uniform to surprise them? AH MAH GAHD, I cry EVERY time. And it’s on a lot.

Do you guys watch Scandal? You should totally be watching Scandal. I cannot wait until it comes back. First season is streaming on Netflix, Season Two is streaming on Hulu. Watch Scandal.

“Guess what day it is?!” This commercial best be on every Wednesday for the rest of the time that I am on this earth.

I had a fried chicken throwdown at my house the other night. And by throwdown I just mean that I used two different methods to prep the chicken and then a couple of my besties and I tried to decide which one we liked better. I used a recipe that Bon Appetit called the best fried chicken ever about 18 months ago, which is tossed with spices the night before, then dipped in buttermilk and egg and dredged in flour and cornstarch the day of, and then a more basic, chicken in buttermilk overnight and then dredged in flour the day of. We actually came out somewhere in between. I liked the extra flavor that the spices gave the chicken but it was a lot of extra kick, and there is something to be said for the simplicity and purity of your basic buttermilk brine. I think maybe next time I will try to split the difference. Use the spice combo from Bon Appetit and temper it by combining that with buttermilk to marinate overnight. I guess I’ll just have to make it again soon, so I can tell you about it. The thing that I don’t have to try again, but will definitely be making again??? A corn salad based on the very famous and VERY delicious Mexican street corn from Toro. Not to worry, I will be telling you about that soon. Very soon.

Football is back in our lives. Football has its issues for sure, but there is just something about Sundays in the fall and winter, football on the tv, people in my house and something delicious on the stove that is absolute perfection.

Grown ass classy lady moment of the week: I gave myself a stomach ache twice because I ate too many fried chicken leftovers for lunch. Congratulations Meghan, you are a puppy.

Cleaning Out the Fridge: Quinoa Zucchini Cakes with Feta and Red Onion

A happy accident

A happy accident

This was a fluke. It was my first day back from vacation and my grocery situation was bleak. A few things had unexpectedly survived in the crisper drawer, including a zucchini and a red onion, and I randomly had some feta cheese in the cheese drawer. I don’t generally care for feta cheese all that much, so I rarely buy it. I have no idea how or when it got in there, but I went with it.

I have made these thrice since.

You guys. These were so good. Stupid good. There was so much flavor here. They were way more than the sum of their parts. They tasted rich, like it took a long time for the flavors to develop. They were filling but still light. They were really really good leftover. Remember how I like to say I could NEVER be a vegetarian? These could sway me. (Though, full disclosure, the first time I made these I did cook the quinoa in chicken stock. It was goooood.) I pretty much ate these three or four times a week for three weeks AND I WOULD MAKE THEM AGAIN RIGHT NOW. I don’t know, I really don’t. It’s inexplicable.

Basically, make these as soon as possible. Next time you have leftover cooked quinoa? Make them. Next time you have a zucchini hanging out in your fridge without purpose? Make them. Next time you just feel like it? Make them. Just make them, basically. Don’t be alarmed if they don’t hold together quite as well as you were expecting when you form the cakes. The crispiness from the frying is what ultimately keeps them together. And the crispy crust is the best part.

In other news…

1. I have purchased EIGHT BOOKS in the last month. EIGHT. I have read two, and they are not even two of the eight that I bought. But I can not say no to a Kindle Daily Deal. Actually, that’s not true. I can say no, UNLESS it is a book that is already on my list, or one by an author whose name I recognize. My purchases: People Who Eat Darkness, The Sisters Brothers, The Fifties (this was super random but got good reviews? I don’t know.) Bring Up the Bodies, Furious Love, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, A Clash of Kings, and Beautiful Ruins. There’s a job somewhere that entails reading books and cooking all day right? Because I want it. I am IMMENSELY qualified. I will always be on time and I will read faster and cook more than you can possibly imagine. Salary negotiable. Thank you for your consideration.

2. I read A Game of Thrones. I held out a long time. I haven’t gotten into the show because I know it is really violent and I have a really hard time with violence and scary stuff. I am a wimp. I was (still am??) afraid of Large Marge in Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. Remember when he is in the truck and the driver turns around and says “Tell ’em Large Marge sent ya” and turns into a scary cartoon…zombie face? Ghost? Ghoul? I don’t actually know BECAUSE I’VE NEVER ACTUALLY SEEN IT. I close my eyes. IT’S A CARTOON. I told you. I will be avoiding Game of Thrones the show thankyouverymuch. BUT, I was feeling left out, and I was assured that even though fantasy is not really my bag, so I thought, that I would really enjoy it. So I bought it. I read 800 pages in EIGHT DAYS. Eight work days. I couldn’t stop. It was awesome. (I actually hated the end. Just like the last paragraph, so literally, just the end. But I am sure it will redeem itself in the next book. Which I just bought.) It was great. It made me realize a couple of things: 1.) I would be a terrible fiction writer because I HATE bad guys. Mean people? Get rid of them. If I was a writer my protagonists would have literally no enemies. I can do life obstacles, I can totally get behind a good life obstacle story, but mean, evil people? No thanks, not into it.  My books would be Lannister-free. It would be all rainbows and friendship and happiness. 2.) I missed reading. Like really reading, and getting into a book and wanting to do nothing but that, and actually letting myself do nothing but that. I have to read more. It’s the best.

3. Neko Case’s new album is streaming on NPR prior to its September 3rd release. And that is what I will be listening to for the next couple of weeks. I just bought tickets for my mom and I to see her in November. I am very excited.

4. I just spoke to some of my favorite West Coast people, whom I miss terribly, and found out I will be heading to Nantucket with them at the end of September. Yay!

Ok, that’s all for tonight. I have to get up early and run. There are not enough hours in my day. Blerg.

White quinoa, round two.

White quinoa, round two.

Quinoa Zucchini Cakes (serves 4 for lunch or a light dinner)

2 cups cooked quinoa (I’ve used red or white, doesn’t matter a bit.)

1 medium zucchini, shredded in the food processor or with a cheese grater (about two cups)

Generous 1/2 cup red onion, sliced into 1 inch pieces (to mimic the size of the zucchini shreds)

Generous 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

1 cup panko bread crumbs

2-3 large eggs

Salt and pepper to taste (don’t be stingy with either)

Oil (of your choice) for frying

Place the shredded zucchini in a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and salt generously. Let sit for 20 minute or so and then press on the zucchini to extract excess liquid.

Combine quinoa, zucchini, red onion and feta cheese in a large bowl and salt and pepper generously. Stir to combine well. Add the panko and two of the eggs and stir to combine again. Test the mixture to see how well it holds together. It should not hold together firmly, but if it doesn’t stick together at all, add the third egg and stir well to combine.

Heat a bit of oil, enough to nicely cover the bottom of the pan, in a frying pan over medium heat until hot. Form the mixture into cakes (About a third of a cup for each works nicely) and fry until deep golden brown and then flip and repeat on the second side. (About five minutes a side? The crispier and browner the better.) Repeat with remaining mixture. Serve with a salad or wilted spinach or just by themselves. THEY DON’T EVEN NEED A SAUCE.

Get ready for your mind to be blown.

Pressed Sandwiches are the best sandwiches…

Perfect picnic food

Perfect picnic food

Sandwiches are perfect.

They are portable, they include bread, the filling can be anything you want, they are usually pretty easy to put together, and in this case, they are made ahead of time, so they are great for adventures or weeknight dinners or bag lunches or picnics. And they are really great for summer.

Sandwiches are perfect. These sandwiches are even perfecter.

I have made these a couple different times, most recently for a fundraising meeting at my house on a Tuesday night. I work later than most of the rest of the ladies, and needed something that I could do ahead of time so I wouldn’t spend the whole meeting cooking instead of, you know, meeting. Plus it was hot as blazes that week, and we needed to be able to stay in the living room with the AC.

These can be done with mostly meat or mostly vegetables. They could be completely vegetarian and would be delicious, and I suppose they could be all meat and cheese, though I think they might be a bit one note done that way. I recently did them with various cured meats, some pesto, some provolone and roasted peppers, and they were great. This version included grilled eggplant and squash, pesto, roasted red peppers, fresh mozzarella, and sweet capicola on a really good ciabatta that I can get at a bakery in my neighborhood. Next time I might try tapenade or olive spread of some sort. Maybe another meat or cheese or both. You can really do anything your heart desires, but don’t leave out the pesto, because that might be the best part. All the work is done the day or night before, and then the sandwiches get wrapped up and pressed under bricks in the fridge. All you have to do the day you eat them is slice them up.

Plan a picnic, or a boat ride, or a night a roof deck or even a meeting. Invite your friends. Make these sandwiches. Bask in their thanks and awe. Pack them leftovers if you have them. Bask in their thanks once more. And do it in August. It’s national sandwich month!

What I am thinking about when I am not thinking about food:

1. ALL THE BOOKS. I just finished Canada by Richard Ford. It was beautifully written. I have about eleventy hundred still on my list. The problem is they keep publishing more. Someday I am going to find a job that involves copious reading, cooking food, and writing about stuff. And then I will be happy.

2. I, like the rest of humanity, can’t stop listening to Blurred Lines. This is my new favorite version.

3.  I just spent a week with 50 of the loveliest humans I know. They are fun, funny, smart, musical, kind and generous, and I am lucky that they are also my family. We have good times.

Pressed Sandwiches (makes 8 big sandwiches)

One large loaf ciabatta (two smaller would work just fine too. The ones I get are 16 or 18 inches long and about 8 inches wide. You may not be able to find them that big. Two smaller ones would work just fine!)

three large red peppers

two medium summer squash, sliced lengthwise in 1/4 inch slices

two medium zucchini, sliced lengthwise in 1/4 inch slices

one large globe eggplant, sliced lengthwise in 1/4 inch slices

1 cup of your favorite pesto

12 oz fresh mozzarella sliced in 1/4 inch slices

1/2 lb thinly sliced sweet capicola or prosciutto

olive oil for grilling

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Roast the peppers in a 400 degree oven for about an hour, turning every 15 minutes or so, until the skins are charred and the peppers are soft. Remove the peppers to a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap to steam. Set aside for 20 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, salt the eggplant slices and let sit on paper towels for 20 minutes or so to remove the bitter liquid. At the same time, heat a grill pan over medium high heat (or an actual grill is even better!) and rub lightly with olive oil. Grill the squash, zucchini, and eggplant when they are finished salting, in batches until cooked through and soft. Set aside.

Remove the roasted peppers from the bowl and peel, stem and seed them. Slice them into wide slices and set aside.

Slice the bread in half lengthwise, and spread the pesto on the bottom half. Layer the cheese over the pesto, followed by a layer of meat. Follow that with the grilled vegetables, then the peppers, then another layer of meat. Put the second piece of bread on top and wrap tightly in plastic wrap.  Find a spot in the fridge and use bricks, cans or cast iron pans to press the sandwich down overnight.

Slice the day you plan to eat it and enjoy!

layers of goodness

layers of goodness

Meatless Monday: Eggplant Involtini

So good you’ll forget it’s meatless

I spent most of last year saying “I can’t believe it’s [fill in the blank] already” and now I am saying it again. It’s February 2013 already. Remember when you were little and the school year dragged on for eternity, and the summer was so blissfully long that you were actually a little bit excited to go back to school, and waiting for Santa/birthdays/summer camp/whatever was so agonizing you almost couldn’t take it? That was grand…

I made this months ago. MONTHS. And I have been wanting to tell you about it since the moment I tried it, because it is just so good. I don’t even know what it is about it that makes it so delicious, but trust…it’s delicious. Eggplant is pretty much the greatest. Whenever I eat eggplant I think, for a brief shining moment, that I could manage being a vegetarian. Just for a moment, mind you, but still, that is the power of eggplant.

This is from the Tartine Bread cookbook. I made a couple of changes, most notably that I totally forgot to add the breadcrumbs when I made it, but it was still so good that I didn’t realize I forgot to add the breadcrumbs until I went back and looked at the recipe again. I also used a different tomato sauce, because this one is so easy and delicious, I may never make another sauce again…but other than that, exactly the same! Mostly.

The Tartine Bread cookbook, by the way, is absolutely gorgeous. And obviously, not just about bread. The pictures are beautiful, I love the binding, and the recipes are great…if you are still not sure, see if they have it in your library and check it out, I bet you end up picking up your own copy.

Anyhoodle, this involtini is really, really delicious. It takes a little bit of time to salt and fry the eggplant before you are able to put it all together, so it may not be the best option if you need to complete the whole process after work and you still want to eat at a reasonable hour, but I suspect it would be no worse for the wear if you put it all together the night before. Perhaps one of these days I will give that a try and report back.

This would be a great dish anytime, really, but is very lovely for a meatless Monday (or meatless any day of the week.) Since I left out the breadcrumbs and was none the wiser, it could also be a really delicious gluten free option. I am also guessing it could be doubled, tripled or sextupled without blinking an eye.

Have I convinced you yet? Seriously. This is delicious…go forth and cook with eggplant.

The answer to your vegetarian prayers...

The answer to your vegetarian prayers…

Things I’ve thought since last time:

The internet is the most amazing rabbit hole that I fall into pretty much every day. I think back to my days in college and how productive I was back then and it is always such a mystery that I can’t seem to get anything done these days…I have come to the realization that the internet might be the problem…

What I am reading: Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward. It is really good. And I read Gone Girl, which was an excellent page-turner. I both loved and hated the ending.

I mentioned it last time, but if you can, please give to a cause that is near and dear.

I didn’t really have a horse in the race, but I still wish the Superbowl turned out differently. The halftime show was the best I’ve ever seen though. Does Beyonce have a fan club? I’ve started one before, and I can do it again.

My 2013 goals are not off to a very good start. And it’s already February…

For those of you in the Boston area, IGNITE the NITE is going to be an excellent time…another good cause that I am very excited to be a part of.

It’s 31 days of Oscar on Turner Classic Movies. It’s pretty much the best thing about the month of February.

Downton Abbey is JUST SO GOOD. And I bawled my eyes out last week…this will come as a surprise to approximately no one who is familiar with me and the episode I am referring to. On the flip side, The Mindy Project and The New Girl make me laugh out loud by myself on the couch multiple times an episode. And I am going to miss the heck out of Liz Lemon. Good thing I still have Leslie Knope.

I have a girls weekend on the Cape coming up in two weeks and I can’t wait. I’d love to say how much I am looking forward to relaxing with my ladies, but I suspect relaxing will be secondary to ridiculousness…

Singles Awareness Day is the 14th! Be sure to acknowledge all the Singles in your life. Much like Administrative Assistant’s Day, the people generally responsible for reminding you of of Singles Awareness Day are the Singles themselves, and that’s just awkward; so don’t forget people, remember your Singles!

Until next time…

prepped

prepped

Eggplant Involtini (serves 3-4)

adapted from Tartine Bread Cookbook

Tomato Sauce of your choice (don’t use store bought – throw a can of whole peeled tomatoes crushed in your hands, a peeled onion and a stick of butter in a pan with salt. Turn on the heat to medium, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes – thanks Marcella!)

2 or 3 medium globe eggplants

1 cup fresh bread crumbs (optional) – don’t use the seasoned italian breadcrumbs, use panko if you don’t have any stale bread to make your own.

2 cups whole milk ricotta (or make your own!)

Zest and juice from one lemon

1 tsp fresh thyme leaves

1/4 tsp salt, plus additional for salting the eggplant

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

chiffonade of basil for garnish (optional)

olive oil for frying

Slice the eggplants lengthwise into 1/4 inch slices (you should have about 12.) Salt the slices generously on both sides and layer them in a colander or on paper towels. Let the eggplant stand for one hour to pull out the liquid.

Blot the slices dry with a towel and fry them over medium heat in a heavy skillet in approximately an inch of olive oil for three to four minutes until lightly brown on both sides. Let cool in the colander or on paper towels.

Meanwhile, mix together the breadcrumbs, ricotta cheese, lemon zest and juice, thyme leaves and 1/4 tsp salt.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Put the tomato sauce in the bottom of a medium sized baking dish. Place a spoonful of filling on each eggplant slice, and roll the slice around the filling. Put each roll seam-side down on top of the sauce and drizzle the cream on top. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the rolls are golden and the sauce starts to darken around the edges. Sprinkle with parmesan and basil and enjoy!

roll 'em up

roll ’em up

Stocking up for the New Year…Chicken, Beef and Vegetable Stock

Essentials for the new year...

Essentials for the new year…

Hola nerds!

How I have missed you! It has been a busy fall and winter, blah blah blah, excuses, blah, blah, travel, blah, unitentional hiatus…

Now that I have cleared that up, what’s new with you? I hope all has been well!

My brother recently said that I needed to post something asap, because he was really tired of looking at wings. I did not know that my brother was actually visiting the blog, but since he is, I certainly don’t want to cause fatigue and lose him as a reader, so here I am with a new post. This may not actually be what he had in mind, but beggars can’t be choosers.

This one is really more about technique, as there are myriad ways to make stock and pretty much all of them have already been documented on the interwebs, so instead of considering this a recipe, consider it a friendly reminder/suggestion. Make stock, put it in the freezer, use it until you run out, make stock again. Repeat ad infinitum. The work involved is minimal and the payoff is HUGE. The flavor is better than what you get in the store, your house will smell good while you make it, and people will be impressed. Actually, those three reasons pretty much make up the sum total of my rationale for cooking at all…

I value my “stock”pile (ahahahaha) so much that it is the only frozen item that made the move to my new place with me. I make the stock and let it cool and then measure two cup quantities in to quart-sized ziploc bags. Then each stock bag goes into a second ziploc bag to prevent freezer burn. Label with the type of stock, the quantity and the date, and there you go. This is not the most environmentally friendly storage method, but it is the best storage method, and if you label the INSIDE bag, you can use the outside bag again. (Label the bag before you add the stock. This is probably obvious to most, but in case it’s not, take it from me…) (Also, I know you are looking at the photo and saying “but Meghan, those don’t look like ziploc bags…” and you would be correct, but ziploc bags don’t photograph particularly well, so I dirtied some extra dishes for you. You are welcome…) Freezer bags are the best storage because they can be laid flat and stacked on top of each other in the freezer to maximize space. Two cups is a good amount because if you are making soup or risotto, two bags will typically do the trick, and if you need less than that, you will likely be able to use the rest of what you defrosted without it getting lost in the back of your refrigerator for many moons and going to waste…though maybe that kind of thing never happens to you, in which case, carry on.

the beginnings of beef stock

the beginnings of beef stock

Stock is pretty much the same regardless of type – the main ingredients, the aromatics and water get simmered together for enough time that the water becomes rich flavorful stock rather than boring, flavorless water. Which aromatics and vegetables you choose can depend on the stock you are making, but for the most part, if you have the holy trinity of cooking: onions, carrots and celery, and perhaps some garlic and herbs, you have what it takes. For chicken stock I like to make sure I add thyme, bay leaves, lots of peppercorns and, sometimes, ginger, to brighten it up. For lobster stock I like to add fennel and some tomato paste because they are so suited to lobster, and for vegetable stock I like to add mushrooms, because they deepen the flavor and add the umami-ness that is important when you aren’t including meat. The rules are the same: bring everything to a gentle boil, then reduce the temperature and let the goodness simmer for a couple hours until it’s stock. In the case of beef stock, you want to avoid boiling at all – you just want to bring it to and keep it at a simmer instead – but otherwise, the process is the same.

Make stock my darlings, if you’ve never done it before, it will revolutionize your cooking.

In other news…my 10 things:

I don’t like asking for things, but this one’s for Shania – I am so lucky to call her my homie: http://www.fundraiseforbcrf.org/faf/search/searchTeamPart.asp?ievent=1021963&team=5354081

BostonGLOW: an amazing organization that I am proud to be a part of…small now, but I’m certain it won’t be small for long…

My album of the moment is really not an album at all, just a playlist of ridiculous Top 40 amazingness.

What I am reading: I just finished Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo. Amazing and heartbreaking.

I want Tina and Amy to be my best friends. http://tv.yahoo.com/blogs/2013-golden-globes/tina-fey-amy-poehler-dazzle-hilarious-golden-globes-014640389.html

Pitch Perfect might be my new favorite movie. Best. Ever.

I guess I have to root for the 49ers in the Super Bowl? Not how I hoped that would go.

Resolutions are tricky, so I am setting goals instead. Because those will totally be easier. Financial, Work, Personal, Fitness, B&G, they’re all covered…we’ll see how it goes. Happy New Year!

It’s the beginning of free week at the casa! If you are new around here, free week is when I decide not to buy any groceries, and just fashion dinners out of what I have in the house. I did cheat and buy eggs today, but I figured that didn’t count, because you can practically buy eggs with pocket change. The menu for free week includes: Penne with fennel, tomatoes and olives inspired by this, cowboy beans from here, spaghetti carbonara (I think I might have figured out how to make this work every time! I will share) meatloaf, soy sesame noodles and sweet pea ravioli with pecorino romano. As you can see, it was high time for a free week. It will not be much of a sacrifice.

I guess that was only nine things…until next time, my lovelies…

Here’s to 2013. I have high hopes.

Be good to one another.

And to the recipes we go…

Beef Stock

Vegetable Stock

Basic Chicken Stock (makes about 3 quarts)

4-5 lbs chicken wings

2 medium onions, quartered

2 large carrots, peeled and roughly chopped

2 celery stalks, peeled and roughly chopped

6 cloves garlic, unpeeled

Handful of fresh parsley

2 dried bay leaves

1 tsp peppercorns

Add all ingredients to a large pot with 4 quarts of water. Bring to a gentle boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for two or two and a half hours. Strain the stock through cheese cloth, and store for future use.

Feel free to add leeks if you have them, ginger if you would like to add a little zip and bright flavor or thyme if you want a more herby flavor.

Meatless Monday: Eggplant and Tofu Stir-fry with Farro

Look how healthy I am!

Tofu never impressed me. It doesn’t look like it has much flavor. The texture looks weird. It’s “health food.” I eat meat, so I have never needed it for protein. It was easy to avoid, so I did. When the reaction from people who do eat it always seems to be “it’s alright, it tastes like whatever it’s cooked with” I never saw any reason to stop avoiding it. Tofu and me? Strangers. I was fine with that.

I have a favorite food truck that is parked a couple blocks from my office. It serves sandwiches (they admit they are not totally “authentic” banh mi, but they are really delicious) rice bowls and noodle salads. They are all so good. And it is cheap. Like $6 cheap (plus an additional $2 for the deviled tea egg that I have to get EVERY TIME and am trying my damndest to replicate. Stay tuned.) So I was eating there a lot. They offer a couple of different meat/topping options, one of which is tofu and shiitake mushroom, and there was one week that I ate there a couple of times and was starting to feel guilty about pork (my typical fave) for lunch three times in one week, so I decided to go healthy and try the tofu and shitake. And then I doubled down on the health and got brown rice. I know. I don’t know what happened. I figured the worst that could happen was that I wasted six bones and had to get something else. But I suspect you know where this is going…I liked it. And I didn’t just like it a little. I actually liked it. I liked the texture, I liked how it soaked up the flavor of what it was cooked in, I even liked the taste of the actual tofu! I have gotten it again! More than once! So there you go.

Buying lunch every day is expensive though, so I decided to take matters into my own hands. My complaint about their tofu/mushroom combo is not enough mushrooms, so I decided when I made it myself I was adding more mushrooms. Also eggplant because it is delicious and I love it.

So what to serve it over? I had white rice, glass noodles, and farro in the cabinet. Farro is having it’s day, man…I am not sure why it has suddenly been discovered, because it is certainly not a new invention. And I am sure there are plenty of people who have been eating it for years that think the recent “discovery” is hilarious, but whatever…put a sock in it farro-ites, nobody likes a know-it-all…but it is the new big thing, and it is very healthy and I succumbed to the allure and bought some from one of the bins at Whole Foods, but then it just sat and sat in the cupboard looking forlorn. Until now. It was time for it to shine.

And so there you have the winding round-about anatomy of this dish. I went looking for a good blueprint for my stir-fry, and came across pretty much exactly what I was going for in a recipe from Mark Bittman. I modified it a bit and I love the results. Not surprising at all, since Mark Bittman is the best. NY Times food section people…make it a part of your life.

This recipe takes a little bit of easy prep. I used dried shiitakes and had to soak them first. (I actually often prefer the dried to the fresh because I like the chewiness and they crisp right up when cooked, this is one of those times for sure.) I pressed the tofu for about an hour, and I cut and salted the eggplant about 20-30 minutes to remove the bitterness before I was ready to cook. But the cooking part was easy and pretty quick. Shiitakes into the wok first with salt and pepper. They get brown and a little crisp, and then come out of the wok, to be replaced with ginger, garlic and eggplant. This is the longest part of the cooking, as the eggplant needs to get nice and tender. Once that happens, the tofu gets added, and then the shiitakes go back in at the end. That’s it! The only liquid is some of the shiitake soaking liquid that gets added partway through the eggplant cooking time, and soy sauce and rice wine with the tofu. This is not super saucy, and honestly, if I eat it over farro again, I may try to adjust that a little, because  it’s a little drier than rice or noodles would be. But it was still delicious. Lack of sauce didn’t stop me from eating every bite. So there you go! Tofu and me…BFFs.

Also, since I’ve mentioned my new apartment which I absolutely love a couple of times…a preview.

My kitchen…

my “office”

my living room (please disregard the mismatched rug and pillows, that will be fixed.)

my view…

I love it. I have big plans for the decor, still to come, but I love it.

It’s nice to be back home in blog-land…

Really delish

Eggplant Tofu and Shiitake Stir-fry over Farro (serves 2)

adapted from Mark Bittman

1 cup farro

2-3 tbl grapeseed or other neutral oil for cooking.

10-12 dried shiitakes, soaked in just barely boiling water, until softened – soaking water reserved, mushrooms sliced thin

1/2 lb extra firm tofu, pressed and drained, and cut in a 1/2 inch dice (I pressed the tofu in a colander with an appetizer plate and two cans of beans…seems to have gotten the job done.)

1 large Japanese eggplant, cut in 1/2 inch dice and salted for 20 minutes

1 tbl minced fresh ginger

1 tbl minced garlic

2 tbl soy sauce (plus extra for drizzle at the end if you’d like)

1 tbl Chinese rice wine

salt and pepper to taste

1-2 Scallions, green parts sliced for garnish

Cook farro according to the package instructions until cooked through.

Meanwhile, heat one tablespoon of the oil over medium high heat in a wok or saute pan. Add mushrooms and cook until they start to get brown and crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the rest of the oil to the pan and when it gets hot, add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring for a minute until the mixture starts to sizzle and smell delicious. Add the eggplant and cook, stirring frequently, until the eggplant starts to caramelize. Add 1/4 cup of the shiitake soaking liquid and continue to cook, stirring often, until the eggplant is tender and cooked through, 5-10 more minutes. (You may need to add a bit more of the liquid if the pan gets too dry.) When the eggplant is cooked through, add the tofu, soy sauce and rice wine and cook for 4-5 more minutes until the tofu is warmed through. Add the shiitakes back in, and you are finished! Serve over farro and garnish with scallions (and sriracha for spice if you’re feeling it) and enjoy your healthy deliciousness! (This can obviously be served over rice or noodles or just about anything you’d like…)

Ginger Scallion Sauce

Oh hello. It’s been awhile…

What’s new? Not much here. Except apparently time travel, because suddenly I looked at the calendar and it’s April, which doesn’t seem possible. Oh also? Apparently Chrissy Teigen – gorgeous lady blogger, SI swimsuit model, fiancee of John Legend – somehow discovered the recipe for Spicy Sesame Noodles with Chicken on here and made them and loved them and then posted about them and linked back to here, so B&G blew up today. So many thanks to her. One of her tweets earlier was that she was packing for a trip to Australia with Erin Andrews and Brooklyn Decker and the background photo on her account is a gorgeous picture of her in her unders – our lives are exactly the same, but opposite – but we can clearly both enjoy the hell out of some noodles! (update: mystery solved – my awesome cousin Danny and his gorgeous girlfriend Kellie brought these to a party that Chrissy attended – my family is fancy…)

Um, so the last couple of weeks (months?)  have involved a trip to Denver to see the littlest, a trip to NYC for a birthday, quality time with my tiny boyfriends Baby L and Baby Dubs, working, the gym, and the other usual stuff. I have been thinking about the blog a lot, but have not actually been cooking all that much because it’s been so busy, so even had I not been suffering from some serious writers’ block (or a serious case of the lazies, not sure which…) I wouldn’t have had much to write about. But things are turning around! And B&G got a bit of a facelift, in case you haven’t noticed…it is making some of the formatting a little wonky but I’ll work on that…

I want to tell you about Ginger Scallion Sauce because it is the greatest thing ever, but in order to do that, I need to start with an apology for my one true chef/celebrity love, Dave Chang…

Oh my heavens.

David, I need to confess something. I’ve been unfaithful. I wanted to make this sauce the minute I first saw it, lo those several Christmases ago when I got your book. And I did, almost immediately. And it was fine, but not great, and I was sad, but wasn’t going to let it turn me away from you. It had to have been my fault right? I couldn’t blame you, I must have executed incorrectly, and you were likely as disappointed in me as I was in you. But it was ok, we would get through it. But then…my eye wandered, and THIS caught my attention. Deep down in my heart I knew it would be Francis. I’ve always had a wee bit of a crush on him too. And so I made his version. David, I’m sorry. It’s better. It’s heaven. But I hope you can forgive me the transgression. You’re still first in my heart. But I can’t promise it will be just that one time. This stuff is too good.

The ingredients

This is a condiment. One of the most flavorful condiments ever. I have mixed it with plain noodles and fried rice, and I’ve eaten it with steak and I’ve eaten it with fish. It would be awesome in soup, and I will add it to the ramen I plan to make later in the month. It is so good that I plan never to be without it again. It is equal parts minced scallions and minced ginger, both of which I did in about 30 seconds in the food processor. Then it gets an almost ungodly amount of salt, and hot oil is poured over it so it sizzles and removes some of the bitterness that ginger and scallions can have raw. It mellows them a little. That is where this version is better than the Momofuku version. I actually finished mine with a splash of light soy sauce as a nod to the version that inspired me, and it is perfection.

With steak and noodles.

Really I can’t say enough good things about this. Just make it and you’ll see.

With noodles and tuna.

Before we go on…

First things first. Please check out my awesome cousin Sam…wish I was half as talented and adventurous!

How come I’m not dating Seth Davis? How have I missed this guy? Anyone know anything about him? Like, for instance, his phone number? Now that March Madness is over he must have some free time, right?

I accidentally saw Tiffany in concert last weekend in New York. It was awesome. I love New York.

What I am reading right now: I am actually too embarrassed to tell you the trash book I’m reading, so let’s just leave it at The New Yorker…

What I am listening to right now: Portraits by The Wheeler Brothers – the band of a guy that studied with my sister in Spain…they are very good.

Craftiness of the week: pillow covers for Al and Dyl and their new apartment…pictures later.

I am in for a few nights of revelry over the next couple of days. It’s my birthday, and I decided drinking is a better option than crawling in a hole and crying. See you on the flip side.

Ginger Scallion Sauce (makes about 1.5 cups)

adapted from Francis Lam and Momofuku

1 ounce ginger, peeled and cut into one inch pieces

1 bunch scallions, roots and ends trimmed, both white and green parts cut into one inch pieces

1/2 cup peanut or grapeseed oil

Splash of light soy sauce

More kosher salt than you think you need

Pulse ginger in a food processor until finely minced. You do not want to puree it, so pay close attention as you are doing it. Put ginger into a large heat proof bowl. Not kidding about the large part or the heat proof part. Do both of those things for real. Pulse the scallions in the food processor (no need to wash it in between) until they are finely minced and add them to the ginger. Throw a good pinch of salt in the bowl and set aside while you heat the oil.

Heat the oil over medium heat just until you see the first wisp of smoke. Be careful. It will be quite hot at this point. Pour the oil over the ginger scallion mixture and step back because it will splatter and smell awesome. Stir the mixture together and add a splash of soy sauce and more salt and let it cool. Add it to everything in the world because it is so delicious.

 

Meatless Monday for any day of the week: Spanish Chickpea and Spinach Stew

comfort food - veggie style

We have previously discussed my thoughts on being a vegetarian (lovely for many, not for me) and my thoughts on meat (try to make good decisions about where it comes from, etc. I don’t have guilt about eating something that had a good life) but there is this thing that happens in the food blogging world called Meatless Monday, and today, I am contributing.

I am not sure how Meatless Monday came about, but I think the theory behind it is to go a day without meat because it is good for our human selves and the earth. I can get behind that. The funny thing is I actually eat vegetarian plenty of the time. I probably only eat red meat a couple of times a month, maybe once a week, if you count cured meats and the like. I eat a lot of chicken for sure. But I eat meat free meals fairly regularly, especially if I am allowed to count eggs as meat free. My pasta is almost always meat free and I eat that all the time. I just rarely make the connection that what I am eating is vegetarian. I like the idea of Meatless Monday as a broad idea for the betterment of humanity. My only issue with it is maybe the Monday part. As my good friend M said “umm, Meatless Monday drives me crazy because Monday is the day after I grocery shop and when I am most likely to have meat.” Touché M.

This is a long way of saying that this recipe would be an excellent addition to a Meatless Monday repertoire, even if you choose to make it a Meatless Thursday instead.

chickpea and spinach stew

I discovered I like chickpeas fairly recently (I think I have mentioned the deep dark secret I carried around with me for the entirety of my youth and into my adult years as a cooking and food obsessed human – there are plenty of things I did not like at all, but I just never really discussed it, so I don’t think anyone knew…curries, and “Indian Food” more broadly, chickpeas, sauces with yogurt in them, feta cheese (still HATE this one) game meats, sun-dried tomatoes (still not sold) roe of various things, roasted red peppers, smoked salmon (STILL, blech) avocados(?!?!?)) but I am coming around. My palate is expanding. I think my distaste for chickpeas comes from their customary spot in a salad bar. When chickpeas are on a salad bar they look rubbery and shiny and weird and generally unappetizing, so I assumed I did not like them. I still do not like chickpeas from a salad bar, but chickpeas in food are something I can get behind. I started with Chana Masala, and fried chickpeas, and one of my regular “I just got home and I am already so hungry I could eat my hand” thrown together dinners is chickpeas fried for a moment, spiced with ras el-hanout or curry powder, with red onions thrown in the pan to wilt, and then tossed with olive oil, lemon juice and shaved parmesan cheese – so random and really quite good. So when I saw, in my meander through old Food & Wine mags, a recipe for Spanish tapas inspired chickpea stew I decided to give it a go. I am quite pleased that I did. I have already made it a couple of times, it reheats really well for lunches, and it is very comforting while still feeling healthy. And it’s quick!

And now, I bid you adieu. Many apologies if this sounds like it was written by a crazy person, I worked 13 hours today and I am a little punchy…

Before we get to the actual recipe…so many things!

Downton Downton Downton Downton. Oh Downton Abbey how I love thee…

Yo soy fiesta.

One month til Denver to visit the littlest…I can’t wait.

Portlandia? Supposed to be the funniest thing ever? Am I doing it wrong?

I hope you are reading the City Kitchen columns by David Tanis in the New York Times. I want to make everything immediately.

Remember the ginger chicken soup I had on the stove? Umm, I think it might cure colds. I have a sample of one so far, but it definitely worked. If I get another cold I will try it again and let you know.

Chickpea and Spinach Stew (serves 4)

Adapted from Food & Wine

2 large garlic cloves, crushed

Kosher salt

Pinch of saffron threads

2 teaspoons sweet paprika

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

Pinch of ground cloves

Pinch of freshly ground pepper

Two 15-ounce cans chickpeas with their liquid

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 14 oz can diced tomatoes

1/4 cup golden raisins

10 oz baby spinach

Use the flat side of a large knife and mash the garlic to a paste with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and the saffron. Transfer the garlic paste to a small bowl. Add the paprika, cumin, cloves and black pepper and mash until combined. Stir in 1/4 cup of the chickpea liquid.

Wipe out the skillet. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil to the skillet and heat until shimmering. Add the onion and tomato and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until they are softened, about 3 minutes. Add the spiced garlic sauce to the onion and tomato in the skillet and cook for 1 minute.

Add the chickpeas and the remaining liquid to the skillet. Add the raisins and bring to a boil over moderately high heat. Add the spinach, reduce the heat to moderate, and simmer for 15 minutes. Transfer the chickpea stew to 4 deep bowls, drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil on top, and serve.