Bites & Pieces (Saturday Night Food Edition)

We’re having our usual slightly schizophrenic fall weather here in Salt Lake City. . . it was in the mid-to-upper 60s Thursday and Friday, and then I awoke to snow this morning. Not too bad–nothing what like Scott and Brent got last weekend–but enough to actually break out the shovel and get rid of it from the driveway and front walk. I live in a neighborhood called “SugarHouse” here in SLC, so called because one of the first things that the Mormon pioneers did when they started to settle the valley was to designate a site for a sugar mill and this is the neighborhood that sprang up around it. One of the things about SugarHouse that makes it stick out is the trees–since the sugar mill was sited here there is, of course, a stream that runs year-round running through this general area of the city, and we have some beautiful mature trees that line every street of the area. Unfortunately, many of them are non-native horse chestnut trees (otherwise known as, ahem, buckeyes)(yes, quarterback, buckeyes) that don’t drop their leaves until after there is a serious frost and several below-freezing nights. . . which don’t happen until well after the first snow here at altitude. Luckily today’s snow was “shovel-able” but not terribly heavy, so no limbs have come down yet.

Whenever the weather really starts to turn like this (many of you will remember that we had our first snow here over a month ago) I start thinking of stews, and even though lamb is traditionally a spring dish, it makes a lovely fall stew also. Plus, the eggplant puree has enough heft to it that, if you’re serving a mixture of carnivores and (non-fussy) vegetarians you can serve them both this dish and everyone will feel full. Score!
Lamb Stew with Eggplant Puree
(Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Mediterranean Cooking by Michigoose
Serves 4 – 6, and both the stew and the puree are even better the next day (just don’t combine before storing)
For the eggplant puree:
4 – 5 lb Eggplant
4 T Unsalted butter
4 T Flour
2 c Heavy cream, warmed
1 t Nutmeg (freshly ground)
1 c Parmesan cheese, grated
Preheat an oven to 450. Prick each eggplant all over to vent, then place in a baking pan and bake, turning occasionally so they cook evenly, until very soft (45 – 60 minutes). Remove from the oven, place in a colander to cool, and, when cool enough to handle, peel them and leave the flesh and seeds in the colander. Let stand for 15 minutes to drain off the bitter juices, then transfer the flesh to a food processor fitted with the metal blade and process until smooth. Set aside.
In a saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly (i.e., make a roux) until thickened but not browned (i.e., a blond roux). Add the warm cream and whisk until thickened, 3 – 5 minutes. Season the cream sauce to taste with salt and pepper and add the nutmeg. Add the pureed eggplant and Parmesan cheese to the cream sauce, mixing well. Heat through before serving.
For the lamb stew:
2 T Unsalted butter
1 T Olive oil
3 lb Boneless lamb shoulder, cubed
2 ea Yellow onions, chopped
1 t Allspice, ground
4 t Thyme, chopped (fresh, preferably from your herb garden [it survives under the snow here in SLC])
4 cl Garlic, minced (I really like garlic)
2 c Tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced–I use two cans of good quality peeled tomatoes for this, rather than fresh, and break them apart with my fingers
1 c Chicken stock
In a heavy pot with a lid over medium-high heat, melt the butter with the oil. Divide the allspice and thyme in half and toss the lamb with the spices. Add the lamb and brown well on all sides (working in batches if necessary). Add the onions and salt and pepper to taste and saute, stirring, until the onions are soft and pale gold.
Add the remainder of the allspice and thyme, garlic and tomatoes to the pot and cook for about five minutes to combine. Add the stock, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the lamb is tender, 45 – 60 minutes. Stir from time to time and add more stock (or water) if needed; when the lamb is done, there should be enough sauce to coat the meat and spill over onto the eggplant. Taste and adjust seasonings.
To serve, place a mound of eggplant puree in the middle of a bowl and heap around with the lamb stew for the carnivores, or just drizzle with some of the juice from the lamb stew for the vegetarians who aren’t fussy about it. This is about twice the ratio of puree:lamb stew than the original recipe (along with a fiddling of the original spices) since I’ve discovered that it is virtually impossible to have too much of the eggplant puree. . . even for those who think they don’t like eggplant. Enjoy, and stay warm!

Update: Post renamed per okie’s suggestion. Why didn’t I think of that???

43 Responses

  1. Michi,Response to you on the previous thread.

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  2. Ooohh….Lamb and eggplant. Two of my favorite things to eat. Together at last. It's like a Reese's Peanut Butter cup for foodies. I'll check it out.BB

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  3. FB, I finally got around to ordering the rice to make your risotto. (I had to order online to get arborio). I'll let you know if I manage not to mangle the recipe.Michi, I have never acquired a taste for lamb, but I might try this recipe with pork. Have you ever made it with anything else?We have had a cold snap here in OK for about the past week, not super cold but down into the 30's at night and highs in the 60's during the day. Went all week being quite chilly at home because I had no heat but due to press of work deadlines no time to deal with it. In the back of my mind, I was worried all week about coming up with money for new heating system right now. When I finally got to looking at it yesterday evening, $3 of batteries for the programmable thermostat and I magically had heat. LOL. Who knew?

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  4. P.S. I have rather enjoyed the various take-offs on "Bits and Pieces" for the evening titles. Maybe rename this one "Bites and Pieces"?

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  5. I haven't made it with any other meat, okie, but I don't think that pork has the taste to stand up to the puree's flavor. If it was me, and you don't object to red meat in general, I'd try it with beef if you don't like lamb. Rabbit might work well if you can get it, or a game bird. If you really want to use pork, go for a cut like pork butt that has the most flavor.

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  6. FB–I think I've hit a home run given your comment. Woohoo!!!!

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  7. Good point, michi. I'll try it with beef, and I look forward to it. I'm primarily looking for a vehicle for that yummy sounding eggplant puree. 🙂

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  8. A definite homer. Possibly inside the park.I might look into picking up one of the legs of lamb (leg of lambs sounds a bit human centipedish) from Costco for this recipe.I made an eggplant based curry this week. In essence, roast eggplant on the stove top (if you have gas), on the grill or in the oven. Scoop everything out and mash it. Cooking a big sliced onion in some vegetable oil or clarified butter along with some chiles and minced ginger. Garlic too if you like it. Once it's browned, toss in a can of coconut milk, a few tablespoons of vinegar (malt or cider is best in this recipe), and the mashed eggplant. Serve over rice. Delish!Incidentally, this recipe taught me a lesson 6 years ago. Prick the eggplant all over with a fork or knife unless you want exploding eggplant surprise. Fortunately, it exploded in an oven we were planning to replace. BB

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  9. Mmmmm, Fairlington, gonna try that curry next. Yum!I think your recipe is an example of why I'm a good cook but a bad baker: I tend to just throw things together without really terribly measuring. I do too much of that at work (very precise measuring, down to the nanogram and microliter), and like to just wing it when I'm home. Curries are great for that kind of cooking! 🙂

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  10. FB, now I have two eggplant recipes to try . . . thanks! Is there no curry in your eggplant curry? Anybody have a curry they are particularly fond of? I find it varies more than most spices.

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  11. Wow, some pretty good football games this evening. I'm wearing out the clicker.

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  12. Curries are as individual as the person making them, okie. As far as pre-made curry spice mixes, Penzey's has several good ones but my favorite is their Majarajah curry. I haven't come up with one of my own to top that one (yet), and they've got at least a dozen so that you can find out what heat range your taste buds enjoy. Once you do, you can try buying the individual spices and mix/matching to your heart's content!

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  13. Oh, and actually more to your point, okie, curry is a method of cooking as much as it is a spice. FB's recipe is a curry given the method and end result.

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  14. Thanks, Michi (and apology to FB). I did not know curry is a method and am happy to know that tidbit. I got spoiled by a friend who made regular trips to Hong Kong and always brought back pounds of curry and shared. I like mine a bit spicier (which was easily remedied), but it had a wonderful flavor. I have experimented with making my own but have not been wowed by any of them.

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  15. okie–that's what I love about this blog: I can post something as a snotty little know-it-all and have you be so gracious at the same time that I'm slugging it out with Scott and McWing on another thread about the scientific publishing process. If you like spicier curries, I still recommend Penzey's. I'm forgetting the names, but they have several curry blends and I've liked all of them to one extent or another. You should check online; I have to order mine, but they may have a brick-and-mortar store in OKC.

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  16. Michi, I'm following you on the other thread. Glad you are undertaking that. ("snotty little know-it-all"? Huh? Didn't read anything that way.)

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  17. Wow, I felt this 5.6 earthquake here tonight. It rattled my windows and lasted several minutes. Every single one of my 4 animals was at my side instantly and all "on point." We aren't used to those.

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  18. 5.6 is about as strong as they had in northern Virginia last year this year and I felt it up in Baltimore. I hope all is well okiegirl and there is no damage.

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  19. Did it really last several minutes, or just seem like it? That is a long, long time.'Goose, how would you suggest altering the spice mix for beef? Would you hazard a guess? I think I would cut out the allspice, and I might replace the thyme with a little basil.

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  20. Of course, I grow two kinds of basil and no kinds of thyme.Okie will tell you that in the SW we grow rosemary as a hedge-like ornamental, b/c it is so drought tolerant.

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  21. Thanks, yjkt. No damage for me. It occurred about 60 miles from me (about halfway between OKC and Tulsa). We have lots of very small quakes around here, but oddly enough this is the first time I have ever felt one and it was just weird for us. Freaked out my little menagerie. I'm not sure yet about any damage that might have occurred closer to the center.

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  22. Mark, I am sure the rattling lasted several minutes (although it seemed longer).Thanks for your question about changing the spice mix for beef. I had the same reticence about allspice with the beef. I too grow different kinds of basil here (it's an annual for me) but I always seem to prefer the regular old garden basil for cooking, and I grow some different thymes as well but not all culinary. Rosemary is one of my most reliable here and without doubt my favorite to grow. It is decorative as well as evergreen but I grow it for the scent. I'm surprised how many people don't know it's a shrub and can get quite large. Mine went absolutely growth-crazy this past summer in all the heat and drought.

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  23. The rosemary also covers the smell of fertilizer and compost. Good stuff.I'm also thinking beef stock and a littlered wine rather than chicken stock, for the beef substitution. Or will this begin to overpower the eggplant? I use stock I make without salt – steakbones cracked and simmered, onions, garlic, pepper, and yes, thyme.

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  24. What we think of as curry powder is a spice blend that incorporates many spices that we associate with Indian cooking. Curry for short-hand. It's somewhat flippant to call it Indian cooking as we're talking about a subcontinent with many cuisines. I had a chance to give a talk at a conference in India a few years ago, but travel wasn't approved. Nuts.Incidentally, Indians have their own version of "curry powder"–Garam Massala. There are a number of varieties. Preferably, one makes it fresh by roasting spices and grinding them together. It tends to have a lot more heat than "curry powder". I once subbed garam masala for curry powder in a butternut squash soup. It was good, but oh did it pack a punch.OK. Here's the full recipe. This is adapted from the Art of Indian Cooking, by Rocky Mohan.2 Eggplants1/2 cup ghee1 tablespoon grated coconut3/4 cup onion, sliced (1 med. large will do)4 green chiles, chopped1 cup coconut milk3 tablespoons vinegar1 teaspoon red chili powderNotes:The recipe calls for big eggplant. Indian eggplants are tiny, so I don't think that's what they mean. I'd say use one big one (2 – 3 lb.) or a couple of medium sized ones (1 – 1 1/2 lbs. each). You could even use a few Italian eggplants, but I don't think it's worth the extra cost for this recipe.Nearly every recipe in this book calls for 1/2 – 3/4 cup of ghee (clarified butter). I generally cut the amount of fat by half and cut the butter 50/50 with canola oil. You could cut the saturated fat by using all vegetable oil, but you'll lose some flavor.For the chiles, I like to use serrano peppers and adjust the amount of red pepper accordingly. I generally use cayenne pepper when cooking, which I think has more heat than the red pepper used in Indian cooking. I tend to use about half the amount called for by the recipe and adjust. For this particular recipe, I go for spicier chiles and reduce the amount of red pepper.My preferred vinegars for this recipe are malt or cider. You want something with some flavor to stand up to the heat and the richness of the ghee and coconut milk.MethodPrick the skins of the eggplant with a fork and roast until thoroughly cooked. Doing this on a grill gives you a wonderful, smoky flavor. I've found a good substitute is to roast on a gas stovetop until the skin is charred and then toss in a heated oven until cooked through. Take the eggplants out, cool, and then scoop out the flesh.Heat the ghee in a med. – lg. pot and fry the coconut, onions, green chiles and ginger until brown. Add the eggplant, coconut milk, vinegar, chili powder and salt (to taste). Cook until well blended.Serve over rice. This works great if you have some grilled meat on the side. Chicken or lamb tikka is very nice with this recipe.BB

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  25. Mark and okie–good question about the spices, I hadn't thought of that. Given the plethora of rosemary, I'd substitute some fresh rosemary for the thyme and maybe cardamom for the allspice. . . that might be a little strong, but try smelling the two of them together in your hand and if they smell good give it a shot. Anise or ground fennel seed might work also in place of the allspice.Up until this last year I had three rosemary bushes in my back yard: I used wall-o-waters the first two winters to keep them warm (I'd planted them against a south-facing cement wall in a raised bed) and after that they seemed to be perfectly happy to winter over even though they aren't supposed to like the cold–I suspect it's because it's usually sunny here even in the winter, so they never got too cold–but alas, last winter we got a HUGE snowstorm for our first dump (around 18 inches) and I hadn't tied them up for the winter yet, so it broke all their limbs off. They were seven years old, and I'm going to find a spot in my next house to try it again.Mark–I'm jealous about the basil. Didn't grow any this year since things were in such flux, but I think that basil with the beef might give it more a Thai flavor than a Mediterranean one so I'm not sure I'd go with that.

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  26. Oh, and okie: Yikes! Glad all is well with you!!!

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  27. Michi, we think too much alike! I had already decided to sub a tiny bit of rosemary for the allspice, but plan to also use some thyme. Still toying with the idea of throwing in some allspice berries though. I just got back from grocery shopping and got some chuck I would typically use for vegetable-beef stew (probably means I will need to cook the stew a bit longer). Have to say though, that this bothers me a bit. I usually go straight by the recipe first time I try a new one, and then start changing it to my tastes.Mark, I'm impressed that you make your own beef stock! I had to buy some but plan to sub it in this recipe. I make my own salt-free chicken stock, but do not eat enough red meat or have bones with which to make stock. I used to make it back when the butcher would give you bones for free, but now they want you to pay $3/lb for them. I probably will not be buying bones during this lifetime.

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  28. I jump on them whenever I see beef marrow bones at the grocery store. They're usually about a buck or so a pound here. I like to add in short ribs to the stock for extra flavor. The stock isn't cheap to make, though less expensive than the canned variety.When not using my own, I always go with Swansons organic stocks. They're pretty good. Avoid the pastes. It always settles.BB

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  29. FB, agree with you about the Swansons stocks; not bad (and what I got for this purpose). Maybe I'll start checking the bones at the store and see if they go on sale or something. But the principle of it still annoys me. My chicken stock is very inexpensive to make as I use leg quarters and have the bonus of some cooked chicken I can throw in the freezer for pastas or whatever.I had to laugh today — my store has now started stocking arborio rice. Don't know if this is in response to my recent inquiry. They should since they carry a wide variety of rice anyway.

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  30. I know what you mean about chicken quarters. Harris Tweeter (heh) had them on sale for 60 cents a pound. I bought four big packages. I removed the skin and took the meat off the bone to be frozen in one pound packages. The bones went into the oven for roasting and then a big pot of stock.Arborio is good rice. I use California short grain rice as I can use it for sushi or risotto. I try to keep some carnoli rice around for special occasions. It's a fat, long grain rice preferred by some (including me) for risotto. My preferred long grain rice is basmati. You can tell I'm a rice hound as we tend to have 3 – 5 kinds of rice on hand.BB

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  31. Yeah, michi, but I sure do wish we could find a way to do that besides horrific weather or a bombing. I have now read a couple of articles that mention the statistics that OK "typically" has about 50 quakes/year, but last year we had 1,047 for a "sharp increase." (Can you say understatement?) And here I always thought it would be CA that would fall off into the ocean. I hope we don't get set adrift as one chunk with TX (nothing personal, mark). Seriously, I didn't even know what it was and was looking out both front and back trying to figure out if there had been an explosion. It was eerily similar. Have not felt any of the aftershocks.

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  32. Ugh, double-ugh. I just went out to snip some rosemary for my big cooking adventure and found a rabbit's head deposited in the herb garden. I guess I should not be upset. We have a surprising number of wild critters considering I'm smack in the middle of town, and the wild rabbits have been multiplying like, well, rabbits. (Although I actually reward my dogs when they get a squirrel, and they get their fair share.)

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  33. Do you have some kind of strange mafia in your neighborhood? BB

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  34. Double ugh, indeed, okie! At least it wasn't a horse's head. . . bad Godfather humor. . .I bet I know what's responsible for the increase in earthquakes in OK! Wait for it. . .Wait for it. . . Global Warming!!!!

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  35. D'oh! Corked by FB!!

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  36. I'm a good part Irish, so maybe it's the little people's (leprechaun's) mafia? LOL and LOL again.Michi, global warming and earthquakes? I really do wonder what this is about.

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  37. Thanx for the hints on the spice substitutions, all.

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  38. Okie – No, but hope to do so. As soon as we make it past all the peer review stuff.Cheers!

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  39. okie: Michi, global warming and earthquakes? I really do wonder what this is about.The same people behind the global warming hoax (not the environmental left, BTW, but a coordinated effort of the CIA and MI6) are also the folks with the earthquake machine. And the weather-control machines being deployed, worldwide.HAARP waves. Chem trails. The truth is all around you!

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  40. That's what I'm talking about, Kevin!

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  41. YUM!!! Michi, home run indeed! I made this with beef using half the thyme in the recipe and half rosemary. (I made a half recipe, so I used 1t thyme and 1t rosemary.) Also threw in about 3 whole allspice berries but not sure what they contributed, and used beef stock instead of chicken. And I must confess, I cut back significantly on the beef (by almost half) without otherwise reducing ingredients, so I had more broth. I had to cook the stew quite a bit longer than recipe stated due to the cut I chose; next time I will use a more tender cut or try pork (I do think pork would stand up to the flavors). Finally, I try hard to cut back significantly on saturated fat, so used lowfat buttermilk in the eggplant rather than heavy cream. I know I sacrificed some flavor and consistency, but seeing 6T butter in the recipe was almost enough to clog my arteries just reading it. All in all, I'm happy to have this in my playbook now! Michi, would you object if I put this in my family's annual cookbook update?

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  42. okie, I'd be most flattered! Go for it, and glad you enjoyed it (and altered it to be more to your liking, as all great cooks do!).

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