It's OK to Have Dip for Dinner

Plus, a recipe for the first of the year's glorious tomatoes and a succotash paella

Dips fall among my favorite snacks: and what better dip is there this time of year than one made with eggplant? Serve Mark’s version with a slew of crostini or toasted pita and it’s totally satisfying. Have it with, say, ricotta and cherry tomatoes drizzled with great olive oil, and, yes, the two together can make for a fun, easy dinner.

For the last recipe, welcome back to Mark’s friend, Edward Schneider, who Mark introduced a while back: Today, Ed is all about paella. Thanks for reading. — Melissa


Grilled or Roasted Eggplant Dip

Makes: 6 to 8 servings
Time: About 1 hour, largely unattended

Ingredients

  • 2 medium or 4 small eggplant, about 1 pound

  • 1 red bell pepper (optional)

  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice, or more as needed

  • ¼ cup olive oil

  • ½ teaspoon chopped garlic, or to taste

  • Salt and pepper

  • Chopped fresh parsley for garnish

Instructions

1. Turn the broiler on and position the rack about 4 inches below the heat, prepare a charcoal or gas grill for high direct cooking, or heat the oven to 500 degrees.

2. Pierce the eggplant in several places with a thin knife or skewer. Grill or roast it, along with the pepper if you’re using one, turning occasionally, until the eggplant and pepper collapse and their skins blacken, 15 to 30 minutes depending on size. Remove, wrap with foil, and let cool.

3. When the eggplant is cool enough to handle, unwrap it, make a cut in the skin (if it hasn’t split on its own), scoop out the flesh, and chop it as finely as you can manage. Peel and core the pepper if you’re using it, then chop it. Mix the eggplant and pepper with lemon juice, oil, and garlic, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Garnish with parsley and serve.

— From How To Cook Everything: Completely Revised Twentieth Century Edition

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Chicken and Tomato Packets

Don’t let the mess on a plate deter you from making this delicious dinner.

Serves: 4
Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 3 medium ripe tomatoes (or a pint of tomatoes if you have one lying around)

  • 2 garlic cloves

  • 8 boneless, skinless thighs (1 1/2 to 2 pounds)

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil

  • 4 sprigs of oregano

  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup feta

Instructions

1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Core and chop the tomatoes; put them in a medium bowl. Peel and mince 2 garlic cloves and add them to the bowl.

2.Cut aluminum foil into 4 rectangles each about 12 x 18 inches. Fold each in half crosswise to crease, then reopen.

3. Spoon the tomato mixture onto 1 half of the rectangle, as close to the center as you can. Top each with 2 chicken thighs, drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and top with a sprig of oregano and a sprinkle of feta.

4.Fold over and seal the packages, rolling the edges tightly to completely enclose the filling.

5.Put the packages on a rimmed baking sheet and put it in the oven. Bake until the chicken is cooked through and the tomatoes are tender and saucy, 25 to 30 minutes (open up 1 package to check).

6. Open the packages carefully and serve hot or warm right in the packages on plates with the juices poured over.

— Recipe from How to Cook Everything Fast

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The Case for Monthly Paella

By Edward Schneider

Whatever we may call them, Jackie and I love Spanish-style rice dishes cooked very much like paellas, and we eat them pretty often: once a month at least. Typically, no matter what set of ingredients they contain, they start with a red sofrito comprising onions and maybe garlic, tomatoes, sweet red peppers if we have any, Spanish smoked paprika (pimentón), a fresh herb such as rosemary or sage, and chorizo, itself seasoned with more pimentón. Delicious stuff, whether the other components are animal or vegetable, or both, and it’s the stuff we’ve grown accustomed to, in the full knowledge that it represents only one entry in the weighty encyclopedia of paella.

A trip to the farmers market the other week took our rice dinner in a different, seasonal, direction: Our little haul of jade-green fava beans, yellow zucchini (courgettes), and premature but irresistible corn seemed to demand paler colors and gentler flavors. So I ditched the multi-ingredient sofrito but retained the usual technique and made something that in retrospect I’m inclined to call Succotash Paella because of its complement of ingredients.

I was about to say I started by cooking an onion, but the first, rather onerous task was getting the damn fava beans out of their pods; a big bag of them yielded around 2 cups (475 milliliters by volume) — though a half cup more or less wouldn’t matter much. Note I did not blanch the beans and pop them out of their thick skins, which Jackie thinks is a waste of time anyway: They cook long enough with the rice that the skins grow tender (and, of course, Jackie is right that they add a lot to the flavor). You can do this a few hours or a couple of days ahead: Refrigerate them in a well-sealed container and they’ll be fine.

Also in advance, I cut the little kernels off the spindly corn cobs (they would have made poor eating as corn on the cob — we’ll need to wait a good few weeks for that pleasure) and put them in another container in the fridge. 

The cobs provided a delicious stock for cooking the rice: I cut them into one-inch (2 cm) lengths and pressure-cooked them for 35 minutes with a small onion and a small carrot, both roughly chopped, a tiny bit of fresh thyme, and a little piece of dried kombu (optional, but if you’ve got it, use it: it adds to the deliciousness).

Now, back to the actual dinner, which you could start work on about an hour before serving. Begin — or continue — by cutting a juicy, pearly new-season onion (mine weighed less than 4 ounces: 100 grams) into strips and sweating it over low heat in 2 tablespoons of good olive oil with a couple of sage leaves (or other herb) and a sprinkle of salt. As to equipment, I must report that I don’t like my genuine paella pan: On a gas range it doesn’t heat evenly, and it would be a disaster on an electric range. It’s great for cooking over an open fire, though. So for two main-course portions, I use a shallow braising pan about 11 inches (28 centimeters) in diameter, and you can too — or you can use a 12-inch (30-centimeters) skillet.

To the softened onion add the fava beans and one of those zucchini cut into 3/8-inch (1-centimeter) dice, raise the heat to medium-high and stir them around until warmed through. Then, a generous 3 cups (700 milliliters) of corncob stock (eked out with water if you don’t have enough) and some salt. Judge the salt by taste: the broth should be palpably salty, otherwise, the rice will be bland.

When the stock comes to the boil, stir in 2/3 cup (a good 4 ounces, or 120 grams) Spanish Bomba rice, and simmer vigorously, uncovered, until the rice has absorbed all the stock and is cooked but not mushy. Depending on the size of your pan and how you have interpreted “medium-high heat,” this will take 15 to 20 or even 25 minutes. It is not impossible that you will need to dribble in a little extra stock or water — just a quarter cup (60 milliliters) or so. In any event, five minutes into the simmering, stir in the corn kernels and drizzle the rice with a tablespoonful of your best olive oil (for flavor); after this, try not to stir the rice, if only because that would break the Rules of Rice.

Don’t bother trying to achieve the brown crust that forms on the bottom of an authentic paella: This dish is about pale-green-yellow sweetness and light, not about the Maillard reaction.

Now take the pan off the heat and cover it, ideally with a tea towel or a couple of pieces of paper towel, then with a lid. Leave it alone for at least a quarter of an hour before eating; like so much food, it tastes better tepid than hot.

Eat it as is, or with some sort of sauce. I made a quick aioli by micro-planing a big clove of garlic into about 2/3 cup (160 milliliters) of leftover mayonnaise and adding a couple of extra teaspoonsful of olive oil. But a more authentic eggless Catalan allioli or its Cuban relation mojo might be even better drizzled over each portion. The internet is littered with recipes for these.

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