It’s no secret to anyone who regularly peruses these pages (here, here, here, and here) that both SYR and I are enamored with Lévana’s cooking and teaching styles. Often defying the tried and true, she combines many an ingredient in ways that conventional wisdom might sometimes question but the results are always delicious! She does, time and again, prove that cooking for a crowd need not be a whole day affair, she invariably comes up with shortcuts that save hours of work, nerves and sweat.
This past Monday, after just over a month of being unable to do much, I found my way to Lévana’s Dinner and Show, this week. She covered Sephardi Finger Foods; the menu consisted of the following:
Lamb, Pine-Nut and Raisin Grape Leaves
Spicy Chicken Cigars
Fishballs in Lemon Sauce
Spicy Marinated Olives
Vegetarian Stuffed Zucchini and Eggplant
It’s hard to choose just two of the recipes, but since this week we’ve been covering mushrooms we will include this one where she uses them:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 pound mushrooms, chopped
¼ cup fresh bread crumbs
Salt and pepper to taste
Good pinch nutmeg
½ teaspoon dry thyme or tarragon
2 pounds puff pastry sheets, kept chilled
1 egg, mixed with a little water
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Heat the oil in a skillet. Add the onion and sauté until translucent. Add the mushrooms and sauté until all liquids evaporate. Add the remaining filling ingredients, and combine thoroughly. Cut the puff pastry to desired size. Place the filling in the center and close on all sides, pressing all around the sides with a fork. Place on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. Bake about 30 minutes, or a little longer, until golden brown and puffy. Serve hot.
Hot and delicious
The Spicy Marinated Olives were superb (and those who know me, know I’m no big fan of olives), with very subtle hints of anise. Unusual, delectable! The Spicy Chicken Cigars were the best I’ve ever tasted; the Fishballs in Lemon Sauce, superbly delicious, didn’t taste fishy at all!
The Vegetarian Stuffed Zucchini and Eggplant looked great and tasted supreme. The excellent Nut Truffles dessert, was just sweet enough without the sweetness drowning out any of the other flavors.
The pièce de résistance, for me, was the Lamb, Pine-Nut and Raisin Grape Leaves dish:
Lamb, Pine nut and Raisin Grape Leaves
1/4 cup olive oil
4 large cloves garlic1 large onion, quartered
1 small bunch flat parsley
¼ cup mint leaves, packed
1 pound ground lamb
1 large tomato, halved, seeded, and diced small
1/2 cup golden or black raisins
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted (325 degree oven. 10-12 minutes)
Good pinch saffron
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Pepper to taste
1 15 ounce jar grape leaves, separated and rinsed
1 cup pomegranate or cranberry juice
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons olive oil
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Heat the oil in a skillet. In a food processor, finely grind the garlic. Add the onion, parsley and and mint, and grind coarsely. Add the ground mixture to the skillet, and saute until translucent. Add the lamb and tomato, and cook 2-3 more minutes. Add all remaining filling ingredients and mix thoroughly. Place a tablespoon stuffing at the bottom center of a leaf (smaller leaves: Make them overlap to get a larger more workable surface). Roll once, fold the sides towards to center, and roll all the way up. Place seam side down in a pan just large enough to fit the leaves snugly in one layer. Repeat with the remaining leaves and stuffing. Whisk the juice, tomato paste and oil in a little bowl, and pour evenly over the leaves. Bake about 40 minutes, until the juices are reduced and the leaves look nicely browned on top. Serve warm or at room temperature.
All in all, it was a cooking demo and dinner to remember.