We spend a lot of time thinking of recipes and images to share with you on this blog, and sharing food, even if just virtually, is in effect the backbone not only of this blog, but the notion of food in general.
With that in mind, Cookin’ and Shootin’ will start introducing you to the chefs, creatives, and food lovers that inspire us (and sometimes, feed us!).
We start what will hopefully begin a delicious series with Dean Sheremet, fellow FCI graduate (ahem, we both graduated top of the class – just saying), Nobu and Jean-Georges alum, culinary TV presenter, and pal. This end-of-summer biyaldi, layered with vegetables, is a warm, deeply flavored, and robust dish that will bridge the gap between the seasons.
The recipe follows, as do details on where you can find Dean on social media, so be sure to add him to your list of people to follow. Lastly, a little Q&A, based on the ever-entertaining Proust questionnaire.
Cooking background: French Culinary Institute class of 2010, Nobu, Jean-Georges
Currently: TV projects, writing, recipe developing
What is your idea of perfect happiness, were it food? Any meal shared with friends.
What is your greatest food fear? (Insert flashback) Not having mise ready at service.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself as a chef? In the heat of service, I can be very stringent.
What is the trait you most deplore in fellow cooks? Laziness and lack of accountability.
What is your greatest food extravagance? The time I went to the French Laundry, and I wanted to experience everything. I couldn’t turn down the bread, and 21 courses later, I literally felt like I was going to throw up.
What is your favorite food journey? I’m still on it.
On what occasion do you lie in the kitchen? I sometimes gloss over ingredients that I put in food that they may not eat. (Apologies to my vegetarian friends – read: duck fat).
What do you dislike most in a food’s appearance? I hate dead herbs on a plate. Or herbs on the rim of a plate. Actually, just any misguided herbs.
Which living chef do you despise the most? It’s more a quality than a person: Egotism.
What is your greatest food regret? Sending out overcooked salmon. Sorry, table 56.
What or who is the greatest culinary love of your life? Doing prep – it’s when I feel at peace.
When and where were you happiest cooking? Cooking on the line at JG, at a really high level, and cooking without fear.
What is the cooking talent you would most like to have? Patience.
What is your current state of mind? Restless.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? I have a hard time letting go.
If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be? I’d have my grandmother back on this earth.
What do you consider your greatest achievement? Work ethic.
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? Working brunch.
What is the quality you most like in a man? Trustworthiness.
What is the quality you most like in a woman? Wit.
What do you most value in your friends? Knowing they have my back no matter what.
Favorite hero of fiction? Sherlock Holmes.
Who are your heroes in real life? My grandmother.
What is it that you most dislike? Ignorance.
How would you like to die? Happy.
What is your motto? Memento mori.
Serves 6 to 8
For the Orange Braised Fennel
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ yellow onion, finely chopped
1 small fennel head, core removed and
Finely grated zest plus 1/3 cup juice (from 1 orange)
¼ cup Sauvignon Blanc
1 cup ricotta cheese (your choice of skim or full-fat)
Heat the oil in a medium pan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onion and fennel and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes.
Add the orange zest and juice and white wine and cook until the liquid has almost evaporated, another 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Stir in the ricotta.
For Eggplant Purée
3 Japanese eggplant, diced (about 1 ½ cups)
½ yellow onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely grated
Pinch of Aleppo or cayenne pepper
1/3 cup store-bought tomato sauce of your choice
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the eggplant, onion, and a bit of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until eggplant is golden brown and onion is softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add the tomato sauce and scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.
Set aside to cool slightly, then stir in the vinegar and Aleppo pepper and pulse it in a food processor just until chunky. Season with salt and set aside.
For the Biyaldi and Assembly
2 small Japanese eggplant, sliced thinly lengthwise (ideally on a mandolin)
2 Gold Bar yellow squash, sliced thinly lengthwise (ideally on a mandolin)
1 cup (2 ounces) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
½ cup plain panko
1 rosemary sprig, chopped (about 2 teaspoons)
½ cup store-bought tomato sauce
– Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 400°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
– Toss the eggplant with just enough oil to coat, and arrange the slices in a single layer on one of the prepared baking sheets. Roast the eggplant until golden and soft, about 10 minutes.
– While the eggplant is roasting, arrange the squash in a single layer over a few clean kitchen towels and season liberally with salt, after about 10 minutes, wipe them dry of any moisture and excess salt.
– Grease a 13- by 9-inch casserole with olive oil. Spread the bottom of the dish with tomato sauce. Arrange half of the sliced eggplant to the bottom of the dish, gently overlapping the slices. Dollop and gently spread, first, with some of the braised fennel, then with some of the eggplant purée. Top with a layer of squash slices, then repeat procedure with remaining ingredients.
– Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Combine the cheese and panko in a small bowl; drizzle enough olive oil to moisten the mixture. Remove the foil and sprinkle the top with breadcrumbs. Place under the broiler until the cheese starts to melt and the breadcrumbs gently brown
– Let stand 5 minutes before serving.