Two nights ago I had the pleasure of hosting two dear friends, Kassandra and Levitz. As readers will note, I have been quite lax in reporting on the delectables I've been preparing over the past two months, and a post recapping some of those meals is to follow. Alas, I cannot recall the exact recipes used for all of those, so I shall endeavour to present the most recent meal with the photographs and recipes you've all come to enjoy.
I have of late become truly enamoured of the Tel Aviv Farmer's Market which I frequent every Friday. While still greatly appreciative of Shuk HaCarmel, the farmer's market is somewhat more spectacular in the rarity and extremely high quality of the goods there on offer. In addition to fun items like carrots and potatoes of every colour, Thai greens and the occasional off season lime, much of the farmer's markets goods are organic. This past Friday I picked up a beautiful organic young chicken, tomatoes, fresh za'atar, cilantro and mint, and some really beautiful acorn squash. I had bought a number of aromatic at Shuk HaCarmel earlier in the week that were wilting in my fridge and required immediate preparation.
I braised the celery and leeks in chicken stock with some coriander seeds and green peppercorns, roasted the acorn squash and later some new potatoes and finally roasted the chicken whole in the oven. To accompany these components I made a lovely mint-cilantro emulsion, and a positively tremendous sauce out of gooseberries. Gooseberries resemble cherry tomatoes wrapped in a natural paper much like tomatillos. They have taken an excellent name in Hebrew, that translated into English means "love cherries" for the paper that surrounds them appears in the shape of a heart. I removed the gooseberries from their wrappings, puréed them, mixed them with Calvados, tobasco, sugar and salt - reduced the whole bie slightly and allow it to cool. Everything the sauce touched became all the more scrumptious.
While home in New York, my mother prepared a Japanese kabocha squash with the skin still on that when sautéed became crispy and delightful. I chose to leave the skin on my acorn squash when roasting them and achieved the same desired effect of contrasting textures.
While there were many ingredients that created many components of this meal - all in all it was not very technically difficult. Each component of the meal was rather simple, in fact. After the main course, in good French style, we had a very simple salad of tomatoes, fresh za'atar, olive oil and salt. The tomatoes were plenty acidic and as such required no further citrus juice or vinegar. Try making this one at home, most of the ingredients are relatively accessible.
For the leeks and celery
1 large leek that is mostly white, white part only, sliced in half lengthwise and washed (do not peel apart the layers)
1 head of celery, stalks pulled apart, leaves discarded and washed
2 cloves of garlic peeled and smashed with the back of a knife
1 tbls coriander seeds
1 tbls green peppercorns
1 tbls salt
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup boiling water
For the squash
5 small-medium acorn squash, cut in half lengthwise, and seeded
olive oil as needed
2 tbls salt
For the potatoes
~1kilo/2 lbs red new potatoes
olive oil as needed
S+P to taste
For the chicken
1 young chicken, trussed
1 onion, small dice
1.5 tbls olive oil
S+P to taste
For the gooseberry sauce
1/2 cup calvados
2 tbls tobasco sauce
1/2 cup of sugar
1 tbls of salt
For the emulsion
1 bunch of cilantro, washed and dried, bottoms of the stems removed
the leaves of 10 sprigs of mint, washed and dried
1 tbls ginger oil, or 1 tbls grated ginger
1/2 cup grape-seed oil
2 tbls mustard
1 tbls salt
pepper to taste
For the salad
1 kilo/2.2 lbs variety of plum and cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1/4 of a bunch of za'atar, leaves pulled from the stems, washed and dried
olive, S+P to taste
Pre-heat oven to 375F/190C. Combine all ingredients for the leeks and celery in a medium roasting pan. Combine squash, olive and S+P in another roasting pan and make sure all of the pieces are well coated and that the flesh side is down in the pan. Place both in the oven, remove the squash after 40 minutes, the leeks and celery after one hour. After half an hour has passed, make sure to press the vegetables that are braising back down into the liquids so that the pieces that rise to the top don't burn. These should be reheated before serving. Allow the squash to cool then dice with the skin on and transfer to a small rectangular cake pan (such as for banana bread) and set aside.
'Combine potatoes with all other ingredients, roast in the oven for 45 minutes, remove from the oven, set aside and re-heat before serving.
Raise heat of oven to maximum. Combine onion with olive in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. After only two minutes, push all of the onions to the side and place the chicken, breast side up, in the skillet, brown then push the onion all around the sides of the chicken. Place in the oven for 45 minutes, then remove and ten with tinfoil for 15-20 minutes while you allow the chicken to rest.
Now is an excellent time to re-heat your other vegetables, having lowered the heat back down to 300F/150C. Pour a bit more olive oil over the diced roasted squash before returning it to the oven.
Purée the gooseberries then combine with all other ingredients in a sauce pan. Heat over medium, bring to a simmer then lower the heat to medium-low. Allow to reduce for about 15 minutes or until the mixture no longer smells of either alcohol or vinegar. Remove to a bowl and allow to cool.
In a high rimmed bowl, combine all ingredients for the emulsion and purée with an immersion blender. If the mixture comes out too thick, then add more grape-seed oil as necessary until desired texture is achieved.
Combine all ingredients for the salad in a bowl and toss. B'Teavon!