Friday, March 26, 2010

Hamine Eggs, for Grandma Olga

We had been planning since last Passover to post this recipe around now, reasoning that you'd be most interested in Seder recipe ideas right before the big day. Now that it's finally posting time, we want to dedicate this post to Hannah's Grandma Olga, an amazing cook and a fabulous lady who passed away earlier this month. While she never used the internet and thus never read the blog, she has been such an inspiration for our work: Grandma Olga was all about making things from scratch with the best produce she could find, and her recipes are behind many of our posts, like date charoset, mjeddra and fried eggplant. We feel so lucky to have inherited her recipe journal, a 1964 date book packed with her own handwritten recipes, recipe cards from relatives, recipes clipped from the newspaper, recipes from the back of a Quaker Oats box. There is no time of the year I associate with Grandma Olga more so than Passover, when she would to make jars of her famous date charoset for all the households in our family, lemony-minty hamud that perfumed the whole house, and perfectly-tanned hamine eggs. So Grandma Olga, this one's for you.

Hard-boiled eggs are a traditional fixture on the Passover Seder plate. The Syrian-Jewish version, hamine eggs, involves slowly cooking the eggs overnight with onion skins and coffee grounds, which turns the flesh a beautiful tan color. Last year, we started to make hamine eggs for Passover and realized that while we had plenty of onion skins, the tiny bag of 2-year-old coffee in the freezer had vanished. We did, however, have a box of lapsang souchong tea bags and decided to try them instead. Lapsang souchong is a smoked black tea with an amazing flavor, and our finished eggs were deliciously rich and smoky. Throw these on your Seder plate and everyone will be hooked!

This does take a while, but nearly all of the time is inactive and you can either do this overnight or try it in a Crock-Pot if you don't feel like being confined to your house for 6-8 hours.

12 eggs
Skins from 3-5 onions
10 Lapsang Souchong tea bags
1 teaspoon canola oil

Place eggs in a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Add the onion skins, tea bags and oil and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to very low. Simmer, partially covered, for 6-8 hours. Any cracks in the eggshells will create beautiful dark veins on the egg whites. Drain the eggs, discard the tea bags and onion skins, and peel the eggs once they've cooled.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Nettle Frittata (not to be confused with Nelly Furtado)

Our outdoorsy friend Tanya makes an annual pilgrimage into the wilds to pick nettles. Then she makes some of them into a savory pie for her yearly Pi Day party. This year, we went along for the nettle harvest and made a frittata variation on her delicious pie. If you would like to try Tanya's version, she uses a mashed potato crust from Mollie Katzen's Enchanted Broccoli Forest, and a spinach pie recipe from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.

Why nettles? They're full of iron, calcium and antioxidants. They taste like sort of like spinach, but with more integrity and less sliminess. You can substitute spinach if nettles are inaccessible in your area. If you do get your hands on some nettles, make sure those hands are gloved--nettles, when raw, are covered in stinging hairs.

A big bunch of nettles (two cups, once steamed and chopped)
1 tablespoon ghee (or butter or oil)
1/2 an onion, chopped fine
3 scallions, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped dill
2 eggs
1 tablespoon sour cream
2 cups small curd cottage cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
black pepper
zest of one lemon
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put on some heavy gardening gloves and remove the stems from the nettles. Steam the leaves until wilted. (This will kill their stingers.) Rinse and drain well, then chop.

Meanwhile, melt the ghee in a 10-inch cast-iron pan on medium heat. Saute the onion until softened, then add the scallions and saute for two more minutes. Remove from heat; stir in the nettles and dill.

Combine the eggs, sour cream, cottage cheese, salt, pepper and lemon zest in a separate bowl. Once the cast-iron pan has cooled for a few minutes (enough to keep the eggs from cooking on contact), fold the egg mixture into the nettle mixture. Sprinkle the top with Parmesan.

Bake at 350 until the eggs are set and the top is browned (about 30 minutes).

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Paprika, Green Bean and Potato Stew

Phoebe was a pretty picky eater as a kid, but always made an exception for her mom's paprika-flavored potato stew. The recipe, which originally included chunks of hot dog or sausage, was passed on to Phoebe's mom by a Hungarian girl back in the 70's and Phoebe's mom started using green beans instead of hot dog chunks. Phoebe's family always called this dish paprikash, but a little wikipedia research revealed that paprikash is a chicken and sour cream sauce over noodles, while this dish is actually called paprikás krumpli.

3 tablespoons butter or olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons paprika
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon cayenne (optional)
4 cups green beans, chopped into 1" pieces
4 cups Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1" cubes
2 cups canned tomatoes (diced or pureed)
3/4 teaspoon salt

Melt the butter in a sauce pan, then saute the onions until softened. Remove from the heat and immediately stir in the paprika and cayenne. Add the rest of the ingredients and enough water to cover the vegetables. Return to the heat and simmer until the potatoes and green beans are cooked, but still tender.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Syrian Orange Salad

It's still citrus season in Berkeley, which means we can't get enough of the mandarins, pomelos and sweet limes overflowing at the farmers' market. Alongside these more exotic offerings, we're adoring the navel oranges and wanted to share this simple preparation we've been enjoying for years. It can be breakfast, dessert, a snack or a palate cleanser. What we love about this dish is how easily it transforms a plain old fruit snack into something special; we even used to make this in our dining hall in college with nothing but an orange, a knife, a bowl and some honey. But if you have or can seek out the orange blossom water (you can find it in Middle Eastern grocery stores), the extra citrus perfume elevates the entire experience to something pretty heavenly.

We've blathered about the elegant potential of supreming citrus before, and once again refer you to this helpful tutorial if you need a visual to go with our instructions.

Per person:
1 navel orange (the slightly reddish one pictured above is a cara cara)
Honey or agave nectar to taste, depending on how sweet the orange is
A pinch of cinnamon
A few drops of orange blossom water (optional)

Slice off the top and bottom of each orange. Carve off the peel from the sides and then cut out the orange sections over a bowl, leaving the membranes behind. Squeeze the extra juice from the membranes into the bowl with the oranges. Stir in honey or agave, cinnamon and optional orange blossom water.