I first met Ruth Daniels via an e-mail sent to me by my foodie friend, Renee Unger of Toronto. Renee was searching for a recipe for roast tongue and discovered Daniels’ website and blog, along with the desired recipe.
There was also a picture of a tattered, food-stained copy of Second Helpings Please.
Daniels wrote on her blog: “Second Helpings Please is the first book my mother bought me. It’s filled with traditional Jewish recipes and I still thumb through it around Jewish holidays. I have to be careful, though, it no longer has a spine. Although many people have offered to buy me a new copy, I wouldn’t part with this one.
It’s filled with history along with the smudges and globs of batter. This is the only recipe for challah that my family uses. Stain factor: 11.” (Daniels gives each of her favourite cookbooks a stain factor on a scale of 0 – “hardly used,” to 10 – “filthy and always open in the kitchen.”)
That was the beginning of our e-mail friendship. Although we still haven’t met face-to-face (Daniels moved to Halifax from Toronto several months ago), we keep in touch on a regular basis. Distance is not a problem – we are connected by a culinary cord that reaches across the miles!
I recently decided to start a food blog, but since I’m technically challenged, Daniels kindly offered to become my food-blog coach. She knows all about blogging – she has several food-related blogs, including http://askruth.blogspot.com/ where she answers pesky kitchen questions and http://recipefrom4everykitchen.blogspot.com/ which is recipes, recipes and more recipes!
I asked Daniels to share a favourite vegetarian dish for your eating enjoyment. These scrumptious recipes come from her cookbook Every Kitchen Tells Its Stories: Recipes to Warm the Heart. It’s available only through her blog/website in either CD version or an e-book version. A kosher version is available on request. Visit htttp://onceuponafeast.blogspot.com for more information, recipes, food photography and whatever else food-related that hits her fancy. There’s more food than you can shake a fork at!
Hands-on time: 15 minutes; baking time: 20 minutes; plus puree time: 45 minutes.
4 medium red/yellow bell peppers
2 cups shitake mushrooms
2 cups button or cremini mushrooms
1 box red and yellow grape or cherry tomatoes (2 cups)
1 shallot, thinly sliced
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
2 cups Chickpea & Eggplant Puree (see recipe below)
1 tbsp. pine nuts, toasted
garnish: finely chopped Italian parsley or thinly sliced, rolled fresh basil leaves (also know as chiffonade or ribbons)
Preheat oven to 425. Halve peppers lengthwise and discard seeds. Bake peppers cut side down in top third of oven on baking sheet for 10 minutes.
In the meantime: quarter mushrooms and halve tomatoes. In a large skillet, sauté the shallot in oil until soft, add garlic and continue to cook 20 seconds, just to get the aroma going. Add mushrooms and cook 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and season with salt & pepper and set aside.
Spoon 1/4 cup of Chickpea & Eggplant Puree into each pepper half and pack down, making a well for the mushroom tomato mixture. Mound mushroom, tomato mixture on top and sprinkle with pine nuts. For the extra mixture, just allow it to fall on the baking tray surrounding the peppers. Bake in upper third of oven for 15-20 minutes.
Garnish with chopped basil or parsley. Serves 4 as main dish or 8 as side/appetizer.
Tips & variations:
• If you cut the peppers horizontally, the top half will have a hard stalk or a hole. Neither works well for stuffing.
• Grape tomatoes are smaller than cherry tomatoes and are sweeter. Daniels likes the flavour better, but both work well.
• Daniels usually makes this as part of a buffet supper or brunch, choosing smaller peppers so people can have a little of everything.
• This dish looks impressive when you use a variety of coloured peppers – red, yellow, orange and even purple, if you can find them.
Hands-on time: 40 minutes; broil time: 10 minutes.
1 small eggplant
2 tbsp. kosher salt
1 cup chickpeas, cooked, drained and rinsed (see Tips below)
1/4 cup Italian (flat leaf) parsley (packed)
1/4 cup fresh basil (packed)
11/2 tbsp. lime juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp water
Preheat oven to broil. Cut eggplant into 3/4-inch thick slices. Place them in a colander, sprinkle with salt and let them rest for 30 minutes to drain excess moisture.
Rinse the eggplant and pat dry. Broil or grill until golden (5-6 minutes per side). Cool, peel skin off and chop the eggplant.
In food processor, combine eggplant and the rest of ingredients and pulse until coarsely chopped. Makes enough to stuff 8-10 peppers halves (above).
Tips & variations:
• You can soak dried chickpeas overnight in water or use canned.
• This also makes a great spread for wraps and sandwiches.
• Just add your favourite veggies (Ruth loves marinated red peppers) or cheese (feta is great here) and you have a great lunch.
• Think picnic on a sunny summer day, or easy to pack lunch for busy days the rest of the year.
• This puree also works well as a dip with crudités or crackers.
Norene Gilletz is a cookbook author, teacher and food consultant. For information, call 416-226-2466 or visit her website at http://www.gourmania.com.