Stranger Things

June 18 – June 24, 2018


Monday:                   Grilled Fatoush with Halloumi and Eggplant


Tuesday:                   Lamb-Ricotta Meatballs in Tomato Sauce with Roasted Broccolini


Fawns at Casa Stuarti – Future destroyers of our Hydrangeas

Wednesday:            – business travel – Devon Seafood Grill, Hershey, PA – a fine chain restaurant – try the Baramundi


Evening Sky from Grilling Deck, Casa Stuarti

Thursday:                 – business travel


Friday:                       Snapper Escabeche with Charred Scallions


Thistles in the ‘hood

Saturday:                  Dinner with Pink Putters and Their Hangers-on at The Lot in Oakmont – Good food and drink, Spectacular friends


Sunday:                     Grilled Brats with onions and peppers

Grilled Fatoush is a joke, right?  Wrong, Skippy – it was part of the strange, but very satisfying dish we had on Monday.  We do cook strange things from time to time, and I’ve been reluctant to share them with you.  But just last night we had a fine dinner of grilled cabbage with Naira sauce and . . . but there we go again.

The title of this blog also refers to a strangely compelling, though disturbing television program that Beez and I watched over the last month or so.  (The second season was even more disturbing, so we’ve backed away.  Our general theory about monsters is that if we can’t see them, they don’t exist.  Pulling the covers over your head is an effective defense.)

The kind of dish that we’re going to tell you about this week, and probably next, is the kind of thing you notice in the New York Times Magazine or in an enticing picture in bon appétit or the weekend Wall Street Journal and, well, it’s just the two of you, and if the dish goes south, you can always cook some eggs and bacon.  So why not?

I was attracted to Grilled Fatoush with Halloumi and Eggplant because I happened to have some Halloumi in the cheese drawer.  Halloumi is a salty, chewy, Greek Cheese that can be grilled.  It will not fall through the grill since it doesn’t melt, it just chars and warms and softens nicely.  Einstein, in his final years, was working on an explanation of how cheese can exist in such a state.  (His initial findings were that this would have been possible for lactose-based products in the first few milliseconds after the Big Bang, but not thereafter.  His inability to solve the problem made his final years uncomfortable.  He was often heard to mutter, as he wandered around the campus at Princeton, “My beautiful theory – sunk by a low-class cheese.”)

Also, we crave eggplant and we like fatoush – a Middle-Eastern mixture of onions, peppers, tomatoes and vinegar that is absolute dynamite as a topping for avocado toast (dust it with a little cayenne for a bit more spice).  So when I saw this recipe, months ago, in bon appétit, I knew that it was only a matter of time before I’d be cooking this for my honey.  A rainy, cold, late Spring, postponed the deal – but last week we discovered this new and unusual vegetarian dish worthy of any meatless day on your calendar.

(Beez did allow that the grilled snapper escabeche  on Friday was,

“the best fish I’ve eaten this year.”  Maybe we’ll tell you about it some day.)




 Timing:                         40 – 50 Minutes


For the Dressing:

5 Tablespoons Olive Oil (plus more to oil the grill grates)
2 scallions
1 jalapeño
½ cup pitted Castelveltrano olives (other green olives will work, but Castelveltrano are superb)
3 Tablespoons salted, roasted pistachios
3 Tablespoons lemon juice (1 ½ lemons)
1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar
Kosher salt
Ground Black Pepper

Main Ingredients:

1 Tablespoon dried thyme
1 Tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
2 pieces of Pita Bread (6”)
2 medium eggplants, halved lengthwise (if you’re using 1 large eggplant cut it crosswise, as well)
Small English Cucumber (‘small’ is pretty big – these are those long, thin cucumbers you find wrapped in plastic; no need to peel these)
8 ounce package of Halloumi cheese (Both Giant Eagle and Whole Foods carry this cheese)
1 pound of tomatoes, halved and cut into wedges
½ cup torn mint leaves
¼ cup dill sprigs
Kosher Salt

Prep:           You can make the dressing one day ahead.  Refrigerate, then bring to room temperature before using.

Measure out ingredients, prepare jalapeños, prepare a grill for medium heat – clean and oil the grate.

Cook and Assemble:

Grill the scallions and jalapeño – 2 minutes for scallions, 4 for jalapeño.  Transfer to a cutting board and let cool slightly.  Then halve the jalapeño, scrape out the seeds, and coarsely chop the pepper and the scallions.  Mix these in a medium bowl with olives, pistachios, lemon juice, vinegar, and 5 Tbsp. of oil.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Mix the thyme, sesame seeds, and garlic powder in a small bowl.  Coat the pitas and eggplants lightly with 2 Tbsp. of olive oil, then season with salt and rub with the thyme mixture.

Grill the pita and eggplant, turning occasionally and moving to avoid scorching, until pitas are golden and eggplants are browned and tender.  4-5 minutes for pitas, about 10 minutes for eggplants (could be as few as 8 or over 10 – make sure a knife can pierce the eggplants with a little resistance – you want them tender, not mushy).  Transfer the pita and eggplant to a platter.

Now grill the Halloumi until charred and soft – say 2 minutes or a little more per side.

Tear the Halloumi and Pita into chunky pieces.

Then cut the eggplants into bite-size pieces.

Put the pitas, Halloumi and eggplant into a large bowl.  Add the cucumbers, tomatoes, and dressing.  Give a good toss and season with salt.

Serve from bowl or spread out on a platter, topped with mint