Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Comfort Food

Launching a (successful!) business is not easy.  Now, that’s the understatement of the century.  Some days we’re flying high.  Other days…  Well, let’s just say we’re lucky to get out of our pj’s. 

McKenzie just arrived at Lisa’s house for a two-week retreat to work on upcoming projects (like a presentation at College of the Canyons and a workshop at Whole Foods Valencia) and…let’s call it company culture First order of business—a mani / pedi at Jimmy’s in Fairhaven.  Laugh all you want, but when you have newly-painted fingers and toes, the world looks a little brighter.

Especially when fall has dawned in the Pacific Northwest.  The days are getting shorter, the skies grayer, and the rains have begun.  Next business meeting takes place in California.

So last night, after a blustery walk along the bay, we decided to cook up a little comfort food—a Middle Eastern spread of falafel with homemade pita and Israeli salad with a variety of spreads and toppings.

It was good.  So good, we purposefully ignored our hunger cues and stuffed our bellies with crispy-herby falafel all dressed-up with hummus, chatzilim (an eggplant spread), zhug (a Yemenite spicy herb pesto), and shredded cabbage. 

The meal seemed so fittingly comfort-food-like, we thought we’d share some of the recipes with you, starting with the chatzilim, which is super-easy and can be used as an appetizer dip with bread or pita or as a sandwich spread.  Here’s a picture.  And the recipe.

Chatzilim [pronounced hut-si-lim]    

1 large eggplant, split lengthwise
Extra virgin olive oil, about 4 tablespoons, divided
1 large clove garlic
¼ teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt
Zest of one lemon
Juice of ½ lemon
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Rub the eggplant on all sides with about 2 tablespoons of the olive oil.  Place, cut side down, on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 20 – 25 minutes, or until the eggplant is very soft and the sides collapse. 

While the eggplant is roasting, make the garlic paste.  Place the garlic clove on your cutting board and put the salt on top.  Using the side of your chef’s knife, smash the garlic clove and salt together, continuously dragging the side of your knife across the garlic and salt until it becomes a smooth paste.

When the eggplant is done, remove from oven and set aside until cool enough to handle.  When cool, scoop the flesh out into a medium-sized bowl.  It should be very, very soft and sort-of runny.  Whisk together with a fork until it looks smooth. 

To the eggplant, add the garlic paste, lemon zest and juice and black pepper.  Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Taste, and adjust seasonings to your palate.  Put in the refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes before serving.

That’s it. 

This is the basic recipe for chatzilim, but we often get creative with it, adding herbs or chili peppers or roasted tomatoes.  Sometimes, we gently poach the garlic in the olive oil, instead of smashing it to a paste with the salt.  Depends on our mood.

Our social calendar is booked-solid for the next two weeks, including pizza-and-games (Risk? Twister?) tonight with friends.  We’ll keep sharing stories and recipes with you. 

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