Tunisian Fried Tuna Pastries with Egg

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I can’t attest to the authenticity of these savory pastries, which are called brik in Tunisia, briouat in Morocco and burak in Algeria. I doubt that egg roll wrappers are used to make these in North Africa, but they work perfectly well in this version, encasing a spicy filling of tuna and runny egg yolk. The trick is to make sure you fry the pastries just long enough – too little and the egg white will be undercooked, too long and the egg yolk will harden.

Tunisian fried tuna pastries with egg

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon oil, plus more for deep frying
1/2 onion, chopped
12 ounces canned tuna, drained and flaked
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 tablespoon lemon juice
salt and black pepper
pinch of cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and chopped
8 sheets egg roll wrappers
8 eggs

1. In a medium pan, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Saute the onion until soft, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer onions to a large bowl. Mix in the tuna, parsley, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste, cayenne pepper and capers.

2. Place equal parts of tuna filling on each egg roll wrapper, spoon a depression into the filling, and break an egg into each depression. Carefully fold the top and bottom of the wrapper over the filling, then fold over right and left sides.

3. In a frying pan, heat two inches of oil to medium-high heat. Deep-fry the pastries in batches until crisp and golden, about 3 minutes for each side. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain. Serve warm.

Spaghettini with Fried Eggplant and Capers

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If I had to choose, eggplant may very well be my favorite vegetable. When undercooked, it tastes terrible, but when cooked properly it becomes sublime, buttery perfection. I’m no stranger to eggplant and pasta dishes, so when Food and Wine ran a Sardinian-inspired version, I had to try it. I adapted the original version to my own tastes, using less oil, substuting the Pecorino for Parmesan, using brined capers in place of salted ones, and omitting the homemade croutons altogether.

This version might just replace my standard southern Italian-style pasta and eggplant recipe, which includes tomatoes and ricotta salata. That’s the thing with eggplant dishes – you can never have enough.

Spaghetti with eggplant and capers

Ingredients:
1/4 cup brined capers
1 lb spaghettini
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 eggplant, peeled and cut into 1-inch dice
Salt and pepper
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Large pinch of crushed red pepper
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Place the eggplant in a colander and sprinkle with salt an let stand for 15 minutes. Lightly pat with a paper towel to absorb excess moisture. In a bowl, rinse the capers and squeeze dry. Meanwhile, in a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the spaghettini until just al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 3/4 cup of the cooking water.

2. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1/4 cup of the oil until shimmering. Add the eggplant, season with salt and pepper and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the sliced garlic and crushed red pepper and cook until the garlic is softened, about 2 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, in a small pan, heat the remaining 1/4 cup of oil until shimmering. Add the capers and fry over high heat, shaking the pan slightly, until the capers are golden and puffed, 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the capers to a paper towel–lined plate.

4. Add the pasta to the eggplant. Add the Parmesan and the reserved cooking water and simmer, tossing, just until the water is nearly absorbed, about 2 minutes. Serve the pasta in bowls, sprinkled with the fried capers.

Pappardelle with Mascarpone-Porcini Sauce

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I’ve been cooking with dried porcini mushrooms a lot lately. I used them liberally in two Thanksgiving dishes: baked pasta shells with cheese, porcini, pancetta and radicchio; and porcini-potato gratin.

But we’ll get to those later. One of my favorite uses of this super-flavorful mushroom is in a pasta sauce, made even richer with the addition of creamy mascarpone cheese. Stirring in a classic tomato sauce at the end helps balance things out with a bit of acidity, making for a wholly satsifying dish.

Pappardelle with mascarpone-porcini sauce

Ingredients:

2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cans whole plum tomoates (preferably San Marzano)
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 handful basil, coarsely chopped
3 ounces dried porcini mushrooms
3 tablespoons mascarpone cheese
1 package pappardelle pasta
Salt and pepper to taste

1. In medium pot, gently saute the garlic with one tablespoon olive oil, and then add the chilli, oregano and tomatoes. Mix gently, taking care to not break up the tomatoes (this makes the sauce slightly bitter).

2. Bring to a boil and simmer gently for an hour. Add the vinegar, then stir and break up the tomatoes in the sauce with the back of a stirring spoon. Add basil, season well to taste, and add one tablespoon olive oil. Cover and set aside.

3. Place the dried porcini mushrooms in a small bowl and add 1 cup boiling water for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the remaining olive oil and garlic in a medium pan and saute over low heat for 5 minutes. 

4. Pick out the soaked porcini, reserving the porcini broth, and add porcini to the pan. Saute for 5 minutes. Pour in half a cup of the reserved porcini broth and discard the remainder. Simmer the mushroom mixture until the liquid is absorbed and then add the tomato sauce. Add the mascarpone and season to taste.

5. Meanwhile, cook the papardelle in salted wated until al dente and drain. Add pasta to sauce and toss. Serve warm.

Lentil Salad with Browned Sausages

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Lentils have always been a comfort food for me. Adas polo, an Iranian lentil and rice pilaf topped with fried onions, was a dish frequently requested by my sister and I when we were kids. Adasi, or soupy lentils served with olive oil and lemon juice and sprinkled with golpar, is one of my favorite meals when I’m feeling under the weather.

A dish of lentil salad with browned sausages that I made recently is French-inspired rather than Iranian, but the comfort factor is still there. With the days getting shorter, darker and rainier, a bowl of well-seasoned lentils couldn’t be a better antidote to the autumn blues.

Lentil salad with browned sausages

Ingredients:

2-3 cups cooked brown lentils
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
1 small carrot, peeled and chopped
1 lb smoked sausage, sliced
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
5 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat one tablespoon olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the sausages and saute, turning ocassionally until browned, about 10 minutes.

2. In another saucepan, heat one tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and carrots and saute until the onions are translucent, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and remove from heat.

3. While the sausages cook, make the vinaigrette: In a bowl, whisk one tablespoon vinegar with the mustard and a pinch of salt. Whisk in two tablespoons olive oil. Season to taste with salt.

4. If lentils are not warm, reheat them. In a large bowl, toss the lentils with a little salt and remaining vinegar and olive oil. Drain the sausages and add sausages and vinaigrette to the lentils, tossing to coat. Stir in the parsley, onions and carrots and add salt and pepper to taste.

Crispy Chicken and Kimchi Potstickers

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anyone who knows me knows of my affinity for korean cuisine. and of my affinity for kimchi. and more specifically, my affinity for all things banchan. i can think of nothing better than an array of small plates to complement a plate of bulgogi or japchae. naturally, i relish the taste of kimchi in my dumplings.

Kimchi and chicken potstickers

recipe:

1 t toasted sesame seeds
1/3 c + 1 T soy sauce
1/4 rice vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 lb ground chicken or turkey
1/2 lb kimchi, drained and finely chopped
1 egg, beaten
2 t cornstarch
1/2 T sugar
1/2 t salt
1/4 pepper
gyoza wrappers
2 T vegetable oil
1 c water

1. in a small bowl, stir 1/3 cup of the soy sauce with the vinegar, water, garlic, 1 green onion, and sesame seeds.
2. in a large bowl. combine and mix the ground turkey with the kimchi, remaining green onions, egg, cornstarch, sugar, remaining soy sauce, salt and pepper.
3. place gyoza wrappers on a work surface and lightly moisten the edges of the wrappers with water. place a spoon of the filling on one side of each wrapper and fold in half to form half moons. press the edges of the wrapper firmly to seal. repeat with the remaining wrappers and filling.
4. in a large, nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. add half of the potstickers to the skillet. pour in 1/2 cup of the water, cover and cook over moderately high heat until the water has evaporated, the filling is cooked through and the bottoms are browned, about 10 minutes. transfer to a serving platter and repeat with the remaining oil, potstickers, and water. serve with the dipping sauce on the side.