MADE A RECIPE FROM THE BLOG? Share your creations tagging @ashafsk on Instagram and hashtag #MadeFromFSK

tahini

Un-Shabbath-like

Shalom from Israel!

I feel not the slightest remorse in telling you that I am absolutely thrilled to be sitting beachside in 24 C weather and typing this out, even as I know that my home and most of the North-Western Hemisphere is being smothered by freezing cold. 

But, even if you are cursing me while snuggling into your fleeces, I have something warm for you in today's post in a spirit inspired by my location and my undying new-found love for tahini. So, if you are pissed off with me for being in  warm country and just want the recipe, scroll straight down. If not, let me regale you with what I saw in my first day in this interesting country.

To be specific, getting here is not easy. If anyone has ever traveled El Al Airlines, you must be painfully aware of the interrogation that you go through at check in. In my case, this almost-and-justifiably-paranoidal attitude began when I applied for a visa to travel. Nevertheless, since leaving India, I have had to put up and politely answer entirely intrusive, personal and politically incorrect, questions for the first time. It was rather amusing to be honest, as they were polite and apologetic to dig so much but yet persistent in the line of questioning. This entertaining bit of schizophreny I realized was to set the tone of the visit.

Let me start by saying that the people are amazing, in every way. Tel Aviv is a beautiful city! By that I mean, it is filled with stunning, gorgeous, sexy and amazingly fit people, of all ages. On a run along the promenade, I must say that I felt rather inadequate for the first time I can remember, watching all the nary-a-sweat-cracking toned Israelis happily running and chatting away. In perspective, I have never felt out-classed in fitness in NYC!

What makes this an interesting is that, the food is amazing! Or, perhaps that is the contributor to the above. While I find it hard to resist eating it all up because I don't think I am going get it all again, I feel people here true connoisseurs of moderation as, well, they have it everyday. Every morsel I have tasted so far, and there were far too many as you can see, has been fresh, flavorful and unfussed. The last is what impresses me. Nothing is overdone. Flavors are clean and vibrant and the food is all surprisingly local! Apparently, the country grows most of the produce it uses, and even some exotic Asian ones.

Well, today being Shabbath, I am going to take a leaf from the country and not spend too much more time here and spend it with life and exploring the city. I will do more on the country in a later post with more details on food experiences and my explorations of the culture.

As promised, I leave you with the recipe for a Leek and Turnip Soup with Cauliflower Croutons and Tahini emulsion. This soup gets a touch of sour spice with an added daikon, crunch from the flash sautéed cauliflower. And, of course the binding gel and flavor component of sesame. This is a region inspired dish in affirmation of the super flavor and versatility of the humble sesame seed. Tahini sauce is a great vegan alternative for many creamy  dishes and cheeses while adding amazing depth of flavor.


Roasted Leek and Turnip Soup 

with Cauliflower Croutons and Tahini Emulsion

The soup itself makes a little more than one meal for two people and the leftovers are fantastic for lunch. The croutons are best eaten immediately for the crunch. 

The soup is deliberately lightly seasoned with just salt and pepper, to allow unsullied flavor interaction between the vegetables. It also presents a clean canvas for the tahini itself to shine and do its magic in building up flavor into the meal.

As such, you can break this into two meals, with the soup on its own and making the cauliflower croutons a snack all by themselves served with the tahini emulsion.

________________________________

4 leeks, chopped

2 medium turnips, chopped 

1 medium daikon, chopped

1-1/2 cups, unsalted stock, warm

 

For the Crouton:

3/4 cup cauliflower flowerlets

1 tsp coarse ground aleppo pepper

salt, pepper and olive oil as needed

 

For the Tahini Emulsion:

2 T ground sesame seed paste

4 T cold water

1/2 tsp lemon juice

pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 400F.

In a baking pan, toss the leeks, turnips and daikon together with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Bake covered with foil for 30 minutes and then uncovered for 10 minutes, until soft and slightly browned.

Puree with all the roasted vegetables with the stock. 

Bring the soup back to a boil on the stove and adjust the seasoning.

The soup can be made ahead and actually tastes even better the next day.

To make the croutons, toss the cauliflower-lets in aleppo pepper and salt. Heat oil on high in a heavy-bottomed frying pan. 

When hot and oil is rippling, add the cauliflower along with a sprinkle of water and cook for 2 minutes covered. 

The cauliflower will be softened but still crunchy in the center.

To make the emulsion, whisk all the ingredients by hand, adding water to make it runnier if preferred.

Serve the croutons atop the soup with sprinkled parley and finished with a drizzle of the emulsion.

 


A bit of a Tahini Crush + Swordfish Experiment

It began rather innocently. 

With a dish I call Anarkali Rice cooked for a  dinner I hosted recently. If you are familiar with the story of Anarkali and Salim, an historical romance, you may suspect how this ends. You see, it was an Iranian style of pilaf/biriyani tossed abundantly with spices, saffron and, the pièce de résistance, sprinkled generously with pomegranate arils. The word for pomegranate in Urdu and Hindi is anar! Kali means bud or flower, which, is generously offered on all festive occasions. 

I served the rice with a side of tahini laced yogurt sauce. It was a combination, much like Salim and Anarkali, fraught with intense passion and rapport. Oh, that is where I may have slipped into an addiction. I have somehow become intensely infatuated with tahini!

I find myself lying awake in the middle of the night, plotting how I can involve said condiment into my lunch the next day. As soon as that is done, I find my mind wandering towards a similar goal with dinner. It gives me goosebumps when I think about how amazing it tastes with the most mundane of things. My current favorite snack is to slice up vegetables and stick them straight into the tahini jar and marveling at where this has been all this time!

DSC_0085-1-small.jpg

I must say, I have been rather productive (and prolific) in incorporating this intense, yet delicate sesame paste in more dishes than I would have thought of before this sudden obsession. Afore, my scope on the paste extended to as far and beyond as falafels and hummus. Really! I blush as I say this and cannot believe how daft I had been. But, there it is, the unpolished truth. 

If you have seen my Instagram lately, you would have caught a fair glimpse of it too. Yet, as I said, it has been a wonderful eye-opening experience. Have you ever tasted granola with a drizzle of it? No? Well, I have something for you coming up soon. Lately, I have been having a lot of simple sautés for my meals. It seems only too natural to finish with a quick drizzle of the sauce just as I would olive oil. Omelettes? I got you covered there. Soups? Oh yes, it's coming too. I mean really, name any dish category and I have dabbled with it in my 'explorations' over the last couple of weeks.

Ahem! So, I give you fair warning. You are going to see a fair few posts coming up with that particular ingredient sneaking in smoothly. By the time I finish, you'll wonder how one could even possibly consider having the dish without the sauce! ;-)

For the first installment, I am choosing a Fall inspired salad. I walked into Whole Foods and was told a story about them receiving and filleting whole swordfishes every day on premises. I don't know how true that story is but it made me give the fish a thought. It look really good and fresh. I normally do not choose swordfish, given a choice. In my mind, it has been relegated as the American fish steak choice. Meaning, if you don't eat meat but want a steak experience, you would get a swordfish steak. Who ever calls a fish slice, steak?!

Anyway, spying a rather prime looking filet, I picked it up with the thought that, well, if hell breaks loose, there is always tahini ;-) The piece I had picked up was good enough for two meals, which, was great as it let me experiment.

For the first, I cooked it as a steak and served on a  bed of greens, sautéed brussel sprouts and apples, topped with, you go it, tahini yogurt sauce and generous sprinkles of pomegranate arils. I had marinated the fish itself in a spice mix of aleppo pepper, z'atar, lemon juice and olive oil with a touch of salt. The sear was great, the flavors were lovely but I had underestimated the cooking time for such a thick slice. I had to slice it up and sauté again as I really did not like the raw taste.

For my second attempt then, I spent only a couple of hours thinking of flavors, presentation, styling and how to get the perfect dish. This time, the fish would be cubed and seared. I used the same marinade as it had been wonderful. This time though, I pickled the apples, overnight. That was a stroke! And, as for the tahini, I made a sauce with it, homemade pumpkin puree and yogurt kissed with some aleppo pepper, lemon juice and salt. The fish was seared on all sides, strategically placed, adorned by sautéed brussel sprouts and pickled apples.

This dish is a winner! You may wonder why the tahini. Well, let me tell you, it's the sauce that pulls everything together. The subtle spices on the fish are emboldened by their trusted cohort, the tahini. As for the sauce itself, without the sesame, it utterly lacks depth. When you pull together a forkful of fish, a sliver of the pickled apple, a piece of the sprout and drag it through the puree generously lapping it up into a bite, you will know what I mean. They just belong together and in no small measure is that to the credit of the behind-the-scenes role of the sesame paste.

And, thus, continues my adoration of the tahini.....

DSC_0082-1-small.jpg

Seared SwordFish Salad

with Pickled Apples + Tahini Pumpkin Puree

I made this dish for one and give you that recipe for proportion. It is easily scalable. The recipes for the puree and pickled apples, further below are for a larger quantity then you would need just for one serving. 

________________________________

1/4 lb fresh, firm sword fish filet

4 brussel sprouts, halved

3 T of tahini-pumpkin puree (recipe below)

7-8 slices pickled apples (recipe below)

a few slices of red onion

pomegranate arils for garnish

lemon juice

For the fish marinade:

1-1/2 tsp z'atar

3/4 tsp ground aleppo pepper

2 tsp olive oil

juice of half lemon

salt and pepper as needed

 

Start with dicing the sword fish into approximately 2 inch cubes.

Mix together the marinade ingredients and soak the fish cubes for atleast 10 minutes.

In a frying pan, sauté the brussel sprouts in oil, simply seasoning it with salt and pepper. When done, reserve.

Heat oil in a pan large enough to hold all the fish you are frying or make in batches. Do not overlap fish pieces.

When the oil is hot, arrange the fish in one layer and leave it on medium for 2 minutes. 

Turn the fish to sear on all sides, it will take about 5 minutes in all for each batch.

While the fish is cooking, arrange the salad starting with puree at the bottom and then layering with the remaining ingredients.

Place the hot fish cubes on top. Finish with a squirt of lemon juice and sprinkle of pomegranate arils.


Tahini Pumpkin Puree

This recipe makes enough for a 4 person salad of above. If you are making more or using less, it can be stored in the fridge for up to a week. Leftovers are great as a chip dip for appetizer or even sandwich spread!

________________________________

1/4 cup tahini sauce

1/2 cup homemade pumpkin puree (without any added spices)

1/2 cup greek yogurt

juice of 1 lemon

1 T aleppo pepper

salt as needed

Puree everything together to a cohesive paste.

I left mine, slightly coarse for texture but for a more restaurant style finish, make it a fine finish.


Pickled Apples

1 apple, cored, sliced thin

2 tsp white vinegar

1/2 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp salt 

Combine the vinegar, salt and sugar and pour into the bottom of a small shallow dish.

Place the apple slices on top, overlapping as needed.

Let it sit for a few hours or overnight, turning it occasionally to let the vinegar infuse all the slices.


You may also like ...

Summer Ease

DSC_0219-1

There is something about the warm air that brings out a smile and many laughs.

There are so many 'capture' of Summer frolicking all around and on every social media. It is inevitable to be get caught up in it all and just have a bit of fun as well. Partying on rooftops with panoramic views of the city, walking through unexplored parts of the city in a quest of hidden gems, making plans to spend more time outdoors and somewhat doing it (ref. roof tops), doing silly, goofy stuff and needing no excuse for them, lying on the warm sand and forgetting everything else in comfort of the lapping waves, wearing billowy skirts and squealing when the wind catches them and laughing when it catches others', more, more and so much more....

DSC_0073-1-2

Amongst all of this energy and excitement is an implicit lethargy, as well. The desire to not spend copious amounts of time preparing meals but much more in enjoying them.

The laziness of simple meals

that easily done and do not distract from activities we are more interested in doing.. :) Fortunately, Summer is that time of the year, when cutting time's corners does not impact the plate much at all. In fact, one could argue that less is more in these times

with all the gorgeous, fresh food available

.

DSC_0095-1

Looking back at the last few months of Summery times, I realise I am no outlier. Meals at home have been clean, fresh and flavorful. Not much fussing or trussing. Between the CSA, my weekly visits to the Union Square farmers' market and the frequent visitations to Chelsea Market, I have consumed

copious amounts of ridiculously fresh eggs, meat, seafood, vegetables and fruits

without being anywhere close to the production of these items.

When I visited the countryside of Ireland last month and Tuscany last year, I realised how much having access to farm fresh ingredients mattered to me. And, I am just happy that I live in a place where I atleast have access to it because I do know I would find it very very hard to live away from the city too long! Ok! I am basically saying I love New York City and am thankful for its awesomeness.

DSC_0237-1
DSC_0122-1

So, that's all I have to say this weekend. I have a few photos of some meals from my kitchen and a recipe for the simplest tart ever!

Leek and Cherry Tomato Galette with homemade tahini paste to add flavor. Hope you have a brilliant one!


Leek and Cherry Tomato Galette

1 portion suet crust dough (recipe here)

2 eggs

2 T almond milk

2 small leeks, finedly diced

handful of cherry tomatoes, halved

2 T of fresh basil, torn

3 generous T of homemade tahini sauce (recipe here)

Preheat oven to 375F.

Roll out the dough to a rough 10 inch circle. Leaving a inch and half crust border, spread the tahini evenly throughout the base. Pile the leeks onto the paste and then sprinkle the tomatoes over. Fold the edges of the crust onto the filling in such a way to hold it from running out.

Whisk the eggs and almond milk as thin as you can. Pour the egg mixture into the tart. Sprinkle with basil.

Bake the tart for 30-35 minutes until crust is crackly and cooked and the center is nearly set. Cool on rack and serve immediately. To reheat, warm in oven at 375F for 15 minutes.


This and that........ and Pantry Staples

DSC_0021-1-3

So, I have been back from my mini vacation for almost a week now, and, I have been procrastinating on that promise I made you before I left. Truth be told, I am feeling a bit uninspired. I do have a bunch of photos and cool recipes to share but I just have not had the initiative to. Yes, I feel awful and blasphemous saying that but I am hoping, acknowledging and saying it loud will start the process of healing. I felt like taking a break from this space and now am forcing myself to turn around and face my demons and hoping you can help me with it.

Now, I don't really know the cause or reason for the ennui but I can feel the intense sense of pride that I usually feel when I open this space has dissipated in the recent week. No, I am cavalier about it and no, I have not lost interest per se. I suppose, it is only one of those cyclical downswings in the take of things when I ponder about the purpose of it all.

Miami-Beach
DSC_0008-1
DSC_0429-3

I am not seeking validation here. This space provides me a creative outlet and a place where my individual voice can scream aloud with whatever emotion I am feeling without censure or restraint, if I choose to. I know that. I also know that this space has opened several windows into myself and many doors of opportunities. All this is great! All this makes me smile, laugh and leap with joy. It also makes me wretchedly agonize over

"What next?"

. It takes me to the depths of my lows where I question how

content I am NOT

.

It is easy to chalk this up to the very human fallacy of wanting, seeking, needing more and ever more.... Ok. Fine. I am human. I want more. Accepted. But WHAT?! I am also competitive and restless and need to be constantly challenged to be happy. I bore easily and have a voracious appetite for new experiences. Sometimes, I create my own challenges (not all productive, I'll admit) but more often, I seek an environment that stimulates me.

Now, where can I find that?

DSC_0079-2

Well, anyway, that is my rant today! :) I am leaving you with some photos of what I have up to lately and a recipe for a few

homemade pantry staples; Rosemary Preserved Lemons, Tahini Sauce leading to a finger licking-ly good Hummus

.

Homemade Tahini Sauce

1 cup white sesame seeds, unroasted

pinch of sea salt to taste

1/3 cup fresh olive oil

Spread the sesame seeds evenly in a baking tray and gently roast them in an oven at 325F turning them over every 5 or so minutes until they are lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Process the seeds while still warm until you get a crumbly meal mix. Continue pureeing while streaming in the olive oil until a smooth, creamy paste forms. Add the salt and pulse to mix. Transfer to an airtight container and cool to room temperature. The sauce will keep in the fridge for a month or more.

Rosemary Preserved Lemons

DSC_0071-2

3 ripe lemons, sliced 1/2 inch thick

1/3 cup sea or rock salt

2 healthy sprigs of rosemary

Prepare an airtight glass jar, just large enough to fit the lemons by steaming and letting it air dry. Make sure there is no moisture in it. Tear and place one sprig of rosemary at the base of the jar. Sprinkle a bit of salt. Layer the slices of lemon alternating with more salt. Squeeze down on the slices to release the juice. Fit in all the slices. Top off with remaining salt and the rosemary.

Store in a cool, dark place for a week, shaking it every 2 days. Transfer to the refrigerator and use as needed.

Lemony Z'atar Hummus

DSC_0077-2

1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight

3 T tahini sauce (from above)

2-3 slices of preserved lemon (from above)

1/4 cup olive oil

water as needed

salt to taste

2 tsp Z'atar

Cook the chick peas in water (pan or pressure cooker) until very soft and the shells fall off. Remove the skins of the chickpeas. Yes, it is tedious but very worth the texture of the hummus. Let the chick peas cool to room temperature. Process the rest of the ingredients till a smooth paste is formed.

Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of z'atar.

MADE A RECIPE FROM THE BLOG?

Share your creations tagging @ashafsk on Instagram and hashtag #MadeFromFSK