Blackened Salmon with Feta-Yogurt Sauce and Golden Couscous

This recipe was particularly fun to make, and especially fun to photograph.  For some reason I ended up putting it on my floor, taking a photo of it there, and then sitting in the same spot and eating the whole dish.  There is a small window of time, usually around 2pm, when sun manages to find a small crevice between all of the tall New York City buildings and floods into my second floor apartment, and therefore onto me.  I love sitting and eating under the sunshine during this brief moment, which is what I was able to do today.

The truth is that I just got back from a relaxing and much-appreciated vacation with my mom and sister in Barbados, and I’ve got fish on my mind in a major way.  Almost every meal we ate there featured grilled fish – usually mahi mahi, snapper, or dorado – lightly seasoned and served with plenty of Scotch bonnet hot sauce (my new favorite hot and slightly sweet sauce, in case you’re wondering).  For this reason the only recipe ideas that were swimming in my mind were fish, spicy, and sweet.  Thus was born this recipe which I am delighted to share with you!

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>Sweet & Sour Eggplant

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“Vivez, si m’en croyez, n’attendez à demain:
Cueillez dès aujourd’hui les roses de la vie”
                                                                    ~¨Pierre de Ronsard, Sonnets pour Hélène, 1587
A quote Ronsard wrote to a lover, explaining that we shouldn’t wait until tomorrow to pick the beautiful flowers of today – a rather irresistable way to tell a girl that she shouldn’t waste another second before being with him.  But of course I appreciate the larger message of living for the beauty of today – when it’s put so simply, I feel stupid for not following this advice – why don’t we always just enjoy what’s great right now, right in front of us? 
I fear that the answer to this simple question will take at least my entire lifetime to answer, if I ever succeed in reaching a conclusion before I die.  I don’t understand the art of living, and while I am working hard at creating a satisfying and peaceful lifestyle for myself, I am constantly aggrandazing my problems and anxieties until they eat up any chance of happiness I may have had.  All the books, tapes, movies and lectures I’ve been exposed to have pointed to the same thing, something which I believe is true but am still unable to fully embrace – in order to sustain any realistic possibility of a content life, we need to let go of everything.  Just avoid the past and the future, which are entirely out of our hands, and be content with the simple pleasure of the present.
As hard as I try to live in this time frame referred to as the right now, I rarely succeed, because my mind immediately races in about 20 different directions – should I check my cell phone for that life-changing email I know I won’t be receiving, or what about that comment someone made to me this morning, what did he really mean by it?  Why does it even matter what he did mean by it? While none of these actions or thoughts matter on any conscious or subconscious level, I am utterly unable to resist allowing them into my mental state of mind, and thereby affecting my tension and anxiety level.  If one day I can control my thoughts to be geared almost uniquely toward this present moment, all with a smile on my face, I think I will have achieved enough for a lifetime – I won’t need much else to feel like a human at its basest level.
So that’s where I am in my life right now, and for some reason I need to share it.  I made this eggplant dish which I like because sometimes I don’t know how to eat eggplant (aside from my two favorite eggplant dishes, caponata and caviar d’aubergines – yummmm).  Please make it.  And if you do make it, PLEASE make a comment.  Even if you’re just reading this, make a comment! what do you think? Do you think it looks good, bad, appetizing, ugly?  I won’t be offended, and I’ll appreciate your opinion, whoever you are, so please keep that in mind.
Bon appétit, bonsoir, beaux rêves.  La vie n’est qu’un aigre-doux, n’est-ce pas?

Sweet & Sour Eggplant- Serves 1

1 small eggplant
2 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp fresh ground ginger
pinch cayenne pepper
1 tbsp sugar
pinch cinnamon
1 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 tbsp plain yogurt (greek-style preferably)
1 handful sliced basil leaves

1.Wash and dry the eggplant.  Thinly slice it cross-wise and place slices in a colander. Sprinkle heavily with salt, place over the sink, and let sit for 20-30 minutes.  Dry slices with a paper towel, and roughly chop into 1-inch pieces.
2.Meanwhile,  mix remaining ingredients except the garlic in a small bowl.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper, taste, and adjust sauce according to your taste, adding more of whichever ingredient you choose.
3. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat; add chopped garlic, and sautée until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
4.Add eggplant chunks, and sautée until browned evenly, approx 6-7 minutes.
5.Reduce heat to medium-low, pour sauce over eggplant, and sautée to combine. Cook until sauce has been well saturated and thickened, about 5 minutes.
6. Put on a serving plate, top with yogurt, and sliced basil. Voilà