oh holy eggplant: aida mollenkamp's keys to the kitchen

Is it just me, or is there some sort of hiatus in Hollywood? Like, no blockbuster run-away hit movies to dream about going to (in all my spare time), not even a lousy romantic comedy to overpay for on hulu. No matter, because if you ask me, this is the year of the cookbook. They just keep landing on the shelves, one stunner after another. Ever since my own came out, I'm guilty of pre-ordering every hot-new release on Amazon, so they literally land on my front steps on release day. I know, indulgent.  I celebrate every one by putting it aside on the couch and waiting until everyone is sleeping before nestling in with it on the couch. And like a good movie, my kind of cookbook can really take you somewhere. Somewhere you've never been, but dream of. Or somewhere you have been, but want to return to again. An exotic destination, a feel-good moment. A ridiculously good meal at your very own table. 

This new book, this splendid book, Aida Mollenkamp's Keys to the Kitchen, did that for me. 

Full disclosure, Aida and I go way back to a funny day in the Food Network Kitchens when we found ourselves on camera together for a fleeting moment. That moment led to her Food Network and later Cooking Channel shows Ask Aida, and my favorite FoodCrafters. But if you ask me, this book is where Aida really shines. I thought I knew Aida's food--fun, flavorful, a touch of the exotic. Delicious, mostly healthful, sometimes indulgent. A bit of LA and San Fran and enough style to spare. But in this book, Aida shares even more of herself, the parts even some of her friends (who, sadly on the other coast, don't have a chance to sit down at her table too often) don't know. This girl, and her food, have soul. Soul that seems to come from all over the world. Peanut Butter-Banana Bread? Buttermilk Biscuits with Black Pepper Brown Butter? Sage-Maple Skillet Corn Bread? (oops, did I just get stuck in the Breads and Doughs chapter? Oh yes I did.) Charred Chile, Corn and Zucchini Tacos? Pistachio Carrot Cake with Brown Sugar-Cream Cheese Frosting? Yep, that's food to make a soul feel downright giddy.

Some of our food pals and I are celebrating Aida's book launch today, and every day this week, with a little online party to which you're invited. I must say, I had a hard time picking just one recipe to cook and share with you all, but this one struck me dead on with one glance. It's from a whole chapter of recipes I'm going to love on in the coming weeks called Meatless Mains. Aida, thanks for that. You all probably know by know how this household thinks that's the goods. With recipes like Smoked Mozzarella, Zucchini and Arugula Lasagna, Triple-Mushroom Stroganoff and this one, Eggplant Casserole with Pine Nut-Yogurt Sauce, I think we'll be set for a while.  

Since Aida's one of the most generous people I know, truly, she's sharing this recipe and, thanks to Chronicle Books, one copy of her brand-new book with you on my site today. Leave a comment to win {official rules below} and help me wish Aida a happy launch day. I know nothing that would make her happier than hearing that you all are heading to your own kitchens to cook tonight. 


Eggplant Casserole with Pine Nut—Yogurt Sauce
From Keys to the Kitchen
Reprinted with permission from Aida Mollenkamp and Chronicle Books

Poor eggplant, it always seems to be typecast in the kitchen, being constantly fried or breaded. In this healthy yet hearty Mediterranean-flavored casserole, it combines with tangy yogurt, earthy pine nuts, nutty bulgur, and a sweet tomato sauce for a new starring role.

Recipe With in a Recipe: Use the red pepper tomato sauce in place of normal tomato sauce.
Goes Well With: Serve with a simple green salad and some crusty bread.

6 servings
(4 cups/1 L sauce)
Total time
1 hour, 15 minutes
Hands-on time
40 minutes

¾ cup/180 ml water
½ tsp kosher salt
¾ cup/150 g cracked bulgur wheat

Red Pepper Tomato Sauce
2 tbsp olive oil
½ yellow onion, finely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 roasted red peppers, minced
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
One 28-oz/800-g can pureed tomatoes
¾ cup/30 g thinly sliced fresh basil or chopped Italian parsley, plus more for garnish
1⁄3 cup/45 g dried currants
Sugar (optional)

Eggplant Casserole
2 lb/910 g eggplant, cut into ½-in/12-mm slices
2 tbsp olive oil
Kosher salt
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup/240 ml plain, whole-milk, Greek-style yogurt
½ cup/47 g slivered almonds or pine nuts

For the bulgur
Combine the water and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the bulgur, stir to combine, and remove from the heat. Cover and let sit until the bulgur is tender and swelled up, 20 to 30 minutes. Meanwhile, make the sauce.

For the sauce
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When it shimmers, add the onion, season well with salt and black pepper, and cook until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add the roasted peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, until they just begin to color, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and tomato puree and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat to a simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is slightly thickened and flavors are melded, 15 to 20 minutes. When the sauce is ready, stir in the basil and currants. Taste and, if necessary, season with sugar, salt, or pepper. Remove from the heat and set aside. Meanwhile, cook the eggplant.

For the casserole
Heat the broiler and arrange a rack in the top of the oven. Brush the eggplant with oil and season with salt. Arrange the slices on a rimmed baking sheet and broil until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside. Decrease the oven temperature to 375°F/190°C/gas 5.

To assemble the casserole, spoon one-fourth of the sauce (about 1 cup/240 ml on the bottom of a 9-in/23-cm square baking dish. Lay one-third of the eggplant slices over the sauce. Spread all the bulgur over the eggplant. Repeat layering sauce and eggplant, ending with the sauce (you’ll have 4 layers of sauce and 3 of eggplant, with a layer of bulgur in the middle).

Place the garlic on a cutting board and sprinkle a pinch of salt on top. Chop the mixture until it is a rough paste. Stir the garlic into the yogurt. Spread over the sauce in an even layer on top of the casserole. Scatter the nuts over the yogurt. Bake until cooked through but not bubbling, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest 5 minutes.

Serve hot or at room temperature.

Riff : Replace the bulgur with 1½ cups/360 ml cooked ground meat.

Cracked bulgur is cracked wheat that is the same size as cornmeal and is used to make tabbouleh. If you can’t find it, you can use quinoa (cook according to package directions) or leave it out.

Dried currants are a seedless grape that has been dried. It is not the same as the fruit that's related to the gooseberry.

Greek yogurt is a strained yogurt that is thicker and tangier than regular yogurt. It has become more and more widely available, but if you can’t find it, regular plain yogurt will work too.

The bulgur can be made up to 2 days ahead. Store refrigerated until ready to use.

The sauce can be made up to 2 days ahead. Store refrigerated until ready to use.

The casserole can be assembled up to 2 days before baking and can be baked up to 2 days ahead. Bring to room temperature before serving.

And if that recipe's not enough to knock you into blissful hibernation in your kitchen for the next few hours, watch Aida's darling cookbook trailer here and get inspired:

// Amazon // Anthropologie // Barnes & Noble // Chronicle Books //

Okay friends, here's how the giveaway works: 

Giveaway Details


To help you get , Chronicle Books is providing one (1) lucky reader with a copy of just-released, Keys to the Kitchen by Aida Mollenkamp.


This giveaway is open to USA visitors and will be open until Wednesday, October 31, 11:59pm PST.

Who Can Enter:

Open only to residents of the USA 18 years old and older.

How to Enter:

Leave a comment below — one entry per email address only please. For a second chance to enter, pin {to Pinterest} or tweet a link to this post with the has tag #keystothekitchen and let me know via comments. 

How Winner Will Be Chosen:

The winner will be chosen at Random.org and will be notified via email, so please make sure the email address you list in the comment section is correct. You will have 48 hours to respond, or a new winner will be chosen.

Fine Print: I am hosting this giveaway so you can experience this book for yourself. I am in no way being compensated for this giveaway and Chronicle Books has generously provided the prize copy of the book.

Photos are by Alex Farnum and styling by Lillian Kang and are copyrighted material.
And, New Yorker's, don't miss your chance to meet Aida at Anthropologie next month. Details here:

Keys To The Kitchen NYC Book Signing
Saturday, November 10, 2012 11AM to 1PM
75 9th Avenue, NY, NY 10011


{clean eating} Black Radish Salad with Kale, Tokoyo Turnips, Almonds and Parmesan Cheese

This past weekend Greta, András and I were in Virginia and North Carolina, and we were bad—really bad. I’m talking buttery grits, sweet tea, biscuits and Nutter-Butters bad. So this week I’ve been craving nothing but kale salads and beet juice, the kind of cleansing food that gets me back on track, mentally and physically, from my sugar-induced slump. But then, there’s this cold that’s creeping in. And hot chocolate calls.


It’s nothing a good trip to the farmer’s market can’t fix. Here’s how it went. Greta and I set out for our weekly Wednesday trip to our teeny market, just two strides out my front door— our neighborhood’s greatest gift. I had two facts in my head as we went: First, the market is just week’s away from its winter hiatus, which starts after Thanksgiving, a deadline I don’t take lightly. And second, today we had just $20 cash, half our usual market stipend that has us in a week’s worth of fresh fruits and vegetables, a jug of cider and one cider donut apiece. What can you buy with $20 at the market? Amazing, intriguing vegetables—always cheaper than fruits—bunches of greens and piles upon piles of roots. Beets. Potatoes. Black Radish. Kale. Broccoli. Tokyo Turnips.

I saw a salad coming on.

Last week at an incredible dinner at Il Buco, I had a Grilled Filet of Spanish Mackerel with filet beans and raw Tokyo Turnips, a bracing, surprising success that I haven’t stopped thinking about since. The turnips were calling my name, as were the black radishes whose brooding, elephantine skin conceals their gleaming white core.

I had a vision of a clean salad forming, full of crisp, fall flavors, knobby bits of aged crystalline Parmesan cheese, and roasted almonds. All crunch, substance, flavor. Back home, as I worked my way around the roots with my camera, I got hungrier, so I threw a few potatoes and some garlic in the oven to roast. And the smell.... well, you know the smell of roasted garlic and potatoes.

What’s left, after my split personalities went their separate ways, is two different but equally delicious salads: one pure and raw, the essence of every vegetable, the other, warm and raw melting together, the give of roasted potato between every bite of earthy kale and crisp radish. Both alive. Both the kind of salad you might enjoy, say, as a lunch or a first course, of if you’re still in the mood for being bad, as an easy meal eaten along side a few fine slices of charcuterie with a glass of Chimay. So much for clean. Either way, lean or lux, both are at home on any table—carnivore or vegetarian. Take your pick:


Black Radish Salad with Broccoli, Tokyo Turnips, Kale, Almonds and Parmesan Cheese

Serves 2 to 4

½ head Tuscan/ Black Kale/Cavolonero, cut in bite-sized pieces
3 tablespoons high quality extra virgin olive oil
Juice of ½ lemon
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 small head fresh broccoli, florets and stems, thinly sliced lengthwise
1 large black radish, thinly sliced or cut in bite-sized pieces
2 small Tokyo Turnips, thinly sliced
4 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, broken in bits
1/3 cup roasted, unsalted almonds, roughly chopped
Fleur de sel or sel gris, for garnish

Toss the kale together with the olive oil and lemon juice in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Massage the kale, squeezing and rubbing the leaves together with your hands, working the oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper into the leaves to flavor and tenderize them. Toss together with the broccoli, turnips, parm, and almonds. Divide between plates. Garnish with fleur de sel and more ground pepper; serve at room temperature.


Black Radish Salad with Tokyo Turnips, Roasted Potatoes, Apples, and Manchego

Serves 2 to 4

1 handful fingerling or banana potatoes, halved lengthwise
4 cloves garlic, in their skin, smashed
5 tablespoons high quality extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
½ head Tuscan/ Black Kale/Cavolonero, cut in bite-sized pieces
Juice of ½ lemon
1 small crisp, tart apple, thinly sliced
1 large black radish, thinly sliced or cut in bite-sized pieces
2 small Tokyo Turnips, thinly sliced
1/3 cup roasted, unsalted almonds, roughly chopped
2 ounces Manchego cheese, thinly sliced
Fleur de sel or sel gris, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Toss the potatoes, garlic, 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt and pepper together until coated and spread onto a baking sheet in a single layer. Roast until soft with golden brown edges, about 30 minutes.

Toss the kale together with the remaining olive oil and lemon juice in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Massage the kale, squeezing and rubbing the leaves together with your hands, working the oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper into the leaves to flavor and tenderize them. Toss together the roasted potatoes, turnips, apples, and almonds. Divide between plates. Scatter the cheese over the top. Garnish with fleur de sel and more ground pepper; serve at room temperature.

Photos and Recipes © Sarah Copeland 2012
Please credit source when using on Pinterest. All other uses require permission via email.


{foraging} rye and yogurt pancakes with figs and fennel syrup

We're lucky that Greta spends many days a week in the very good care of two angelic sisters, Miss Marlene and Miss Angele, who keep her fed and happy while András and I work. One of the things that drew us to their sweet space was the fact that it's in a family home, right on the park, with a garden out back to play in the shade of an enormous fig tree.

This is Greta's first fall there, and it hasn't taken her long to fall as hard and fast for figs as I did the first time I had the chance to pick them straight from a tree, long ago in St. Tropez where I spent many months as a private chef.

These days, I get my figs from this sweet Italian gent down the street from me, one of the dozens of my neighbors who brought the tradition of keeping fig trees in their yard from Italy, Greece or in the case of Marlene and Angele—Malta. But I found the fig bowl on his porch empty the last two times I passed. On a recent evening picking up Greta, I admitted to Miss Marlene that I had a hard and fast fig craving and no ready solution. She welcomed me to forage the upper reaches of the fig tree, where it's us against the birds to get to them first. For the most part, they've won, but one day this week Greta and I made out with four whole figs, plump and pink inside—an absolute treasure, and cause to celebrate.

In our house, celebrating means pancakes. A lengthier start to a week-day, the kind that gives her Apa (papa) heart palpations since his commute is a little more time consuming than mine. But today, her Apa's gone, and this rain has me feeling snoozy, like hanging in with my girl a little longer than usual before I arrive at my desk.

Pancakes in our house almost always start with mostly or at least some whole-grain flour. Rye is our favorite of late—earthy and rich, which blends well with buttermilk, or since it's always on hand in our fridge, creamy European-style yogurt. These fat stacks are great in Papa size portions, or made as silver dollars, just right for dipping.

Today we're dipping in a little fennel maple syrup, made with another foraged treat—fresh fennel seeds from our neighbor's garden, sprinkled in while the syrup warms on a low flame. But any light drizzle of pure grade b syrup over your stack is just the thing to sweeten the start of the day.


Rye and Yogurt Pancakes with Fresh Figs
and Fennel Syrup

Makes 12 to 18 pancakes

1 cup rye flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp raw or unbleached sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
2 large eggs, separated
1 cup thick plain yogurt + 1 cup whole milk (or 2 cups buttermilk)
4 tbsp melted unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
Fresh figs

Fennel Maple Syrup
Grade B maple syrup
¼ to ½ teaspoon fennel seeds

Whisk together the rye flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk together the egg whites, yogurt and milk in another bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and the melted butter. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and whisk in the wet ingredients, alternating between wet mixtures until the batter is just incorporated with a few lumps—be careful not to over mix, which can make the pancakes tough.

Warm the syrup in a small saucepan over low heat. Add the fennel seeds if desired, stir to combine, and keep warm over low heat while you make the pancakes.

Heat a nonstick or cast-iron griddle or heavy skillet over medium-high heat until hot. To test, splash a drop of water onto the griddle; it should sizzle. Brush the griddle lightly with melted butter. Scoop about 1/3 cup of the batter onto the griddle, leaving plenty of space between pancakes for them to spread and be flipped. Cook until the bottoms are set and a few bubbles form around the edges, about 3 minutes. Add a little more melted butter to the griddle.

Using a flexible spatula, flip the pancakes and cook until the bottoms are golden brown around the edges of the second side, and the apples a touch crisp, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate and stack them high, topped with butter, fresh figs and a drizzle of warm fennel syrup.

Photos and Recipes © Sarah Copeland 2012
Please credit source when using on Pinterest. All other uses require permission via email.


cooking with love + paprika

When it comes to family, András and I couldn't have been born into better ones— we adore our own parents, and each others. But while we're fortunate to see my family four, five, sometimes six times a year, the 4,000-odd miles between us and Hungary, where András is from, means that will never be the case for him. We do our best. We visit once a year and stay as long as we can, we Skype each Sunday and email photos back and forth. But still, truth be told, I take for granted that they—these four healthy grandparents Greta has, András parents, and my own, will still be there, strong and lively as ever on the one day when we hope we can stay a little longer, visit more often.

Recently, we had a scare with Anya, András mother, and it made me look those 4,000 miles straight in the eye. Everything turned out to be just fine, but it softened my too-rare sensitivity to the concession that for András, a life spent together with me would be a life apart for his family, too.

There's not a great deal I can do about that big ocean between us, but if there's one thing I know that brings home a little closer to him, it's cooking with love and paprika.  Lecsó--a stew of onion, pepper, and tomato thats loaded with the heady aroma of rich paprika, is the one meal we always eat when were in Hungary, no matter the season. And when we miss Hungary, and the people it holds, it is Lecsó I cook, serving it as his mother does, over thick slabs of rustic brown bread. If it is bread with flecks of caraway like the one she makes fresh most days, all the better.

Lecsó is not the most beautiful food on the planet, but its flavor can blind you. And it couldnt be simpler to make. The trick is finding the right peppers. Hungarian long green peppers are most like banana peppers or Italian frying peppers, thin and crunchy, and melt into the stew. You'll need a few hot Hungarian wax peppers—small, green and spicy—which for lack of ever finding them, I'm committed to growing in my garden forever more. I always use Hungarian paprika for this dish because of the round, rich flavor and depth it lends. 

Lecsó is great served warm or cold (though I prefer it warm), and because it keeps well for days in the fridge or freezer, I always make a big batch...maybe one even big enough to last until Thanksgiving.  



Serves 2 to 4

3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
4 long Hungarian, banana, or Italian frying peppers, seeded, deribbed, and thinly sliced
1 to 2 hot Hungarian wax peppers, seeded, deribbed, and thinly sliced
5 large firm, ripe tomatoes, chopped
2 tbsp Hungarian sweet paprika
1/2 tsp Hungarian hot paprika (csípős)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Whole-grain bread
Butter, at room temperature

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and just golden brown, about 6 minutes. Add the peppers and stir to coat with oil. Season with about ½ tsp of salt. Cook the vegetables until softened, stirring often until they seem to melt together, about 10 minutes. Stir together the tomatoes and paprikas in a medium bowl and stir them into the vegetables in the pan. Continue cooking, seasoning with salt and pepper, stirring often until everything is soft, a roasted red color, and deeply flavored, about 10 minutes more. Serve warm over fresh buttered bread. 

All Photos + Recipes © Sarah Copeland 2012
Please credit when posting on Pinterest. All other uses require permission via email. 
My photo
New York City, United States
Sarah Copeland is a food and lifestyle expert, and the author of Feast: Generous Vegetarian Meals for Any Eater and Every Appetite, and The Newlywed Cookbook. She is the Food Director at Real Simple magazine, and has appeared in numerous national publications including Saveur, Health, Fitness, Shape, Martha Stewart Living and Food & Wine magazines. As a passionate gardener, Sarah's Edible Living philosophy aims to inspire good living through growing, cooking and enjoying delicious, irresistible whole foods. She thrives on homegrown veggies, stinky cheese and chocolate cake. Sarah lives in New York with her husband and their young daughter.