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Excitement You Can Taste

by Michael Israel

June 24, 2013 | 10:14 am

Mustard seeds, waiting to be pickled.

Summer has arrived. In my opinion, there is nothing better on a hot summer day than spicy food. Interestingly enough, the greatest spicy cuisines come from very hot regions such as Southeast Asia, Central America and North Africa. Some studies show that eating spicy food on a hot day helps cool the body down because it stimulates sweat. For the Fress menu this week, I am preparing a spicy soup which is inspired by a classic Magheb relish, called Ajouk, found in Encyclopedia of Jewish Food (EJF).

According to EJF, Ajouk is traditionally a spicy and chunky mashed vegetable relish similar to chutney. The most common vegetable used for this recipe is eggplant, but other tender squash, like zucchini, are also commonly used. Chutney is fantastic for two reasons; the texture is silky yet chewy, and the flavor is both spicy and sweet. At this point, I imagine you are wondering why I am making a soup to represent a recipe for a relish. Soup is a great way to incorporate a variety of flavors and textures in one bite. I am making an Ajouk-inspired spicy summer squash soup, garnished with pickled mustard seeds. The base of the soup is smooth in texture with a spicy and sweet flavor. The pickled mustard seed garnish adds brightness and texture with their unique flavor of vinegary and sweet mustard and the pop of caviar pearls. Pickled mustard seeds are one of the few ingredients that can make anything more fun to eat.

I write this blog because I am determined to bring new excitement to one of the greatest cuisines of all time, Jewish food. For those of you that find it difficult to be inspired by a written recipe, I urge you to come to Fress, the popup restaurant that my wife and I have created at the Wine Expo in Santa Monica. There, you can taste the food that is created for this blog, and I am confident that it will excite your palate.

"Ajouk" Summer Squash Soup
makes 1 gallon

2 lbs   Zucchini, diced
2 lbs   Yellow Squash, diced
8 oz    Onion, diced
1 T      Chili Paste or Harissa
6 ea   Garlic Cloves, minced
1 t       Coriander, ground
1 t       Caraway Seeds, ground
¼ C    Rice Wine Vinegar
¼ C    Honey
2 qt    Vegetable Stock
To Taste  Kosher Salt
3T       Olive Oil

Procedure:

1. In a large pot over medium heat, add the olive oil.
2. Add the onions and sweat for 5 minutes, then add the garlic and sweat until aromatic.
3. Add the chili paste, coriander and caraway and sweat until aromatic.
4. Add the zucchini and yellow squash and sweat for another 5 minutes.
5. Season with a liberal amount of kosher salt and then add the vegetable stock.
6. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes.
7. To finish, add the honey and vinegar, then pureé in a blender or food processor until smooth.

 

Pickled Mustard Seeds makes 1 ½ C

1 C       Yellow Mustard Seeds
1 ½ C   Rice Wine Vinegar
1 ½ C   Water
½ C      Sugar
1 T        Kosher Salt

Procedure:
1. Combine all ingredients in a small sauce pan. Bring to a simmer and let cook for 45 minutes until the seeds are the texture of caviar pearls.
2. Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator for a maximum of 2 weeks.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Michael Israel is the Chef and Owner of the M.O. Eggrolls food truck in Los Angeles, California where he lives with his wife Emily. In 2005, Michael graduated from the Culinary...

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