Last week you heard all about our fabulous feast at Helmand in Cambridge followed by a night with the Moor, or Othello in the park. What great timing for me to see Paul Levy’s post on the Running A Hospital blog about gazpacho without tomatoes! I never did like gazpacho much. Tastes like V-8, which I also don’t like. But no tomatoes? THIS I could try. I soaked bread in water and threw the soggy mess into the food processor. I blanched almonds and stood at the counter for what seemed like FOREVER peeling them. Note my pile of almond skins! I blended, I seasoned, I tasted. I had to transfer it out and use my immersion blender. And . . . and . . . and . . . EWWW. I was so disappointed. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it tasted kind of like almond milk with garlic. Which is what it is, I guess. I think I could envision this served as an amuse bouche or starter, maybe served in a shot glass. But it wasn’t what I was expecting when I made it as “soup” for dinner.
Well, at least I still had the eggplant side dish I had made. From Bon Appetit – Israeli couscous with roasted eggplant and cinnamon-cumin dressing. It is available online.
Recipe by the Bon Appetit Test Kitchen
- Nonstick vegetable oil spray
- 2 3/4-pound unpeeled eggplants, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (8 to 9 cups)
- 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 cup Israeli couscous
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
- 1/3 cup golden raisins
- 1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
INGREDIENT TIPIsraeli couscous (used in the couscous with roasted eggplant) is sold at specialty markets like Whole Foods. If unavailable, substitute an Italian soup pasta like acini di pepe or orzo, which can be found in supermarkets, and cook the pasta according to the directions.
Preheat oven to 450°F. Coat rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray. Place eggplant cubes on sheet; drizzle with 3 tablespoons oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss to coat. Roast until tender, turning occasionally, about 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook couscous in boiling salted water until just tender, about 8 minutes. Drain. Rinse under cold water until cool; drain again. Place in large bowl.
Toast cumin seeds in small skillet over medium-high heat until slightly darkened, about 4 minutes. Grind seeds in spice mill; place in small bowl. Add vinegar, cinnamon, and 2 tablespoons oil. Whisk to blend; season with salt and pepper. Mix in onion.
Add raisins, cilantro, eggplant cubes, and dressing to couscous. Toss to coat.
My advice: Go VERY VERY light on the cinnamon. I don’t know what I did wrong. In theory this recipe would be an absolute winner in my book. I’ve been making various Israeli couscous dishes over the past month since buying a huge bulk bin bag of it. So far the best was with caramelized onions, diced dried apricots and feta. Anyway – in this particular attempt the eggplant was bitter, the cinnamon was overpowering and it just didn’t work. Maybe it was the mood set by the gazpacho. Anyway, the night ended with a trip to the dairy stand for a double scoop. I might make this again and tweak it somehow. I’ll let you know. Your input is welcome!