Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Spicy Aubergine and Broad Bean Filled Bread

This is...well, it is a very long post, with a very long recipe for something that is essentially a calzone with Middle Eastern flavours. The filled bread is excellent, and only worth the time as I was at home all day doing other things. I wouldn't attempt this on a weeknight if you work away from home, though it wouldn't be impossible provided you don't mind dining well into the wee hours of morning.

Last week, the local grocer had aubergine on sale for a dollar-and they were enormous. Really, enormous doesn't begin to express how mammoth these things were-so I bought two. I couldn't help myself. I used the first to make caponata, which we've been eating since Sunday. Today, I knew time was running out, so I prepared a number of slices into breaded cutlets for frying at a later point, wrapped them in freezer paper, and that was that. The remaining cutlets were pan fried for tonight's dinner. I could have made a lasagna, or a traditional calzone with tomato and cheese, but I also had a dozen red peppers to deal with (I swear, I'm useless in the face of reduced produce. It could be worse, I could be bringing home stray dogs, or orphans). I roasted those early in the day, before I was sure what would become of them. I rather like the results, but I am also rather wiped out from it all. The bonus is that I ended up with enough food to feed the boys over the next few days, without heating the oven in the forecasted warmer weather. These would be great at room temperature as well.

If you time this correctly, the dough will be ready when the eggplant is done frying-but you can always slow it down by sticking it into the fridge after the first rise. I'll post the recipe in the order I did it, but each part can be made well ahead-a day ahead if need be.

For the Red Peppers:

There are all manner of doing this, but I find this simplest. If you have a better method, feel free to use it.

Heat the oven to 425 degrees f. Clean 6 red bell peppers and leave in rather large slices. Toss with about 4 tablespoons olive oil, and spread on a baking sheet. Bake 30 minutes, then turn the slices and bake 10-15 minutes longer or until skins remove easily. Cool, remove skins and chill until needed.

For The Spice Paste:
Not quite harissa, but in that spirit.

1 tablespoon chopped, preserved lemon rind
1/2 tablespoon chopped preserved blood orange rind (skip it if you don't have it, or just use a bit of orange zest)
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
1 tablespoon crushed fennel seeds
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (more or less to taste)
1/2 teaspoon dried fennel
1 heaping tablespoon concentrated tomato paste (or a few tablespoons of the regular)
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
More vinegar if needed to make a spreadable paste
Mix all together, cover and chill until needed. It may separate, but give it a stir and all will be well.

For the Dough:

2 cups warm water (lukewarm)
2 1/4 teaspoons dry yeast
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon coarse salt
4-6 cups strong flour

Dissolve yeast in bowl with water and sugar. When foamy (about five minutes) stir in salt, and about 4 cups flour. Add more flour as needed to produce a dough that can be kneaded easily and is no longer sticky. Oil a bowl, place in dough, and let rise until doubled-about 1 hour).

Punch down dough and let rest 20 minutes before dividing in fourths and rolling out 1/2 inch thick.

For the Broad Beans:

I used tinned beans which I slipped out of their tough outer skins. Do this ahead, and set aside until needed.

For the Aubergine:

Peel and slice aubergine in rounds 1/2 inch thick. Layer in a non-reactive colander with coarse salt (about 1/2 teaspoon per layer). Let stand 30 minutes. Rinse each slice well, the dry between towels. Prepare three bowls, one with beaten eggs (about 3) another with plain flour, and a third with dry breadcrumbs (or Panko, or the Jewish Panko known as Matzo meal, or crackers, or whatever coating you prefer). Dust each slice first in the flour, then dip in egg, the coat with breadcrumbs. Remove to a plate. Any leftovers can be frozen for later use. You will need about 8 slices to make 4 breads. Keep chilled until ready to use. I find it helpful to coat them about 30 minutes before I am ready to fry as it helps the crumbs adhere better.

Heat about 2 inches of oil in a heavy pan. I used a mixture of corn oil (for heat tolerance) and olive oil (for flavour). Watch it so it does not smoke. Fry the slices over rather hot oil about 2 minutes each side. Drain on a metal rack over a pan. You can drain on paper, but they stay crisper on a rack.

Put it Together:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Dust a baking sheet with cornmeal or semolina.

Divide dough in quarters. Roll each section out and spread a tiny bit of the paste over the centre. Layer on a slice of aubergine, a few broad beans, and cover with a few slices of pepper. Be sure to leave room around all of this to bring up the sides and seal the bread. After the peppers, spread a bit more paste, then repeat ending with red pepper and paste. Bring up sides of dough, folding to seal-but do not pull too tightly-the dough needs room to expand. Place smooth side up on a baking sheet, brush with an egg wash of yolk and water, and scatter tops with a mixture of fennel seeds, cumin seeds, dried thyme, and sesame seeds. Pierce a vent with a sharp knife.

Bake the breads 30 minutes, the rotate the pan and bake another 10-15 minutes, or until done. Remove to a rack and then immediately cover with a dishtowel to keep the crusts soft and pliable. Serve warm, or at room temperature. They reheat well in a 200 degree f. oven. The microwave is OK as well, but the dough will be softer.

Makes four large breads (a single bread can easily feed two people with a salad). Serve with yoghurt.

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