V day vibes are all about celebrating the people and things we love. Whether this year entails a romantic evening in with your valentine or a big gathering of girlfriends, we’ve got just the recipes for you, thanks to the ladies of L.A.’s new Botanica.
We recently gathered with a few ladies we love at Jenni Kayne‘s for a Valentine’s Day-themed cooking class led by the talented, veggie-loving beauties behind this soon to open Silverlake cafe – and feel fully equipped to hit the kitchen.
Friends Emily Fiffer and Heather Sperling are launching Botanica later this spring and we can’t wait to hit them up for more of their planty magic, including many Middle Eastern influenced veggie salads, incredible condiments and pantry offerings, plus more healthful desserts like the one we’re sharing here tomorrow.
Foregoing traditional tones of red and pink, Jenni stuck with mostly black and white details for the décor (save the quince branches in the foyer), adding a level of casual elegance we love. The table was dressed to perfection with linens from Heather Taylor Home, who also attended, plus florals by the ever exquisiteTwig and Twine (see Valtentine’s Day classes from years past!)
We’re sharing favorite recipes from the studding spread here below, including this moroccan carrot salad, and roasted eggplant with jeweled herb salad. Tomorrow we’re sharing their incredible strawberry tisane tea recipe that can’t be missed…
Moroccan Carrot Salad:Hands down, this is one of the best dinner party dishes in our arsenal. It comes together in a snap and can be easily adapted if you don’t have everything on hand. As Stefon would say, this salad has everything: color, crunch and chew; tart, sweet and saline. It’s light enough to serve as an appetizer and stands on its own as a main. Baharat is a Middle Eastern spice blend that takes a variety of forms depending on its origins. Most of the time it includes a combination of black pepper, coriander, cumin and a mishmash of warming spices (cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice). If you have a full spice drawer, it’s worth making yourself a batch.
Don’t have everything on hand? No need to freak out. Simply substitute another toasted nut, like almonds or walnuts, for pistachios; currants or figs for dates; basil for mint; equal parts black pepper, coriander and cinnamon for baharat; more kumquats plus some orange segments for mandarinquats (which are larger and sweeter than a kumquat, and smaller than a mandarin).
Moroccan Carrot Salad
Makes 10-12 appetizer-sized servings
For the salad:
8 cups (loose) shredded purple and orange carrots
1 cup chopped cilantro
1 cup chopped parsley
1 cup chiffonaded mint
1 cup scallions cut on the bias, greens included
1 cup cooked red quinoa
¾ cup toasted pistachios
1 cup ruby dates, pitted and chopped (medjool work, too)
1 cup thinly sliced mandarinquats
¼ cup thinly sliced kumquats
sea salt and pepper
For the vinaigrette:
1 tsp baharat
juice of 4 lemons
juice of 1 orange
1 Tbsp honey or maple syrup
¾ cup olive oil
Toss all of the salad ingredients in a medium bowl and mix well with your hands. Season liberally with salt and pepper and toss again.
In a jar with a lid, add the baharat, lemon and orange juices, and honey or maple syrup. Mix well. Pour in olive oil, close the lid, and shake it like you mean it (until the vinaigrette is glossy and emulsified). Season with lots of salt. It should strike a balance of sweet, tart and saline.
Pour vinaigrette over the salad and mix with your hands so everything is thoroughly coated.
Give it a taste. Is it delicious? Your work here is done. If it’s missing something, it’s likely more vinaigrette. These delicate salads are super absorbent, so take a more-is-more attitude here. You can’t mess up. The salad is best eaten the day it’s made, otherwise you risk sogginess. Undressed, it’ll last a couple days in the fridge.
Roasted Eggplant with Jeweled Herb Salad: You might’ve picked up on the fact that we like to pile mountains of herbs on top of things (yogurt! kabobs! soup!). Well, be prepared to fall under this particular mountain’s spell. This colorful dish is hearty enough for a wintry main, bright and fresh enough for a cool summer night, and works just as well for two as it does a group. It makes for a gorgeous dinner party centerpiece, too. Endlessly adaptable, it bends to your pantry’s contents. Once you make it a few times, you’ll become a mix master, subbing almonds for pistachios, currants for pomegranate seeds or figs for dates (to name a few). Want it to be vegan? Omit the yogurt that’s brushed onto the roasted eggplant; it’ll still taste great!
Roasted Eggplant with Jeweled Herb Salad
Makes 8 servings*
For the eggplant:
4 large Japanese eggplants or small Italian eggplants, cut into 1-inch thick slices
1 cup olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp ras el hanout
1 cup thick, plain sheep’s milk yogurt or Greek-style cow’s milk yogurt
½ cup tahini
juice of 2 lemons
1 tsp ras el hanout
water to thin
For the herb salad:
2 cups cilantro (leaves and tender stems), roughly chopped
2 cups parsley (leaves and tender stems), roughly chopped
½ cup mint leaves, torn
1 cup Kalamata olives, roughly chopped
10-12 dates, roughly chopped
1 cup toasted pistachios
1 cup pomegranate seeds, plus more for garnish
juice of 1-2 lemons, to taste
Preheat your oven to 425°F and line two baking trays with parchment paper. Score each eggplant slice with the tip of your knife and place on a roasting pan, scored-side up. In a small bowl, mix the olive oil, garlic, ras el hanout and a good pinch of salt. Spoon the oil over the eggplant slices and rub it in thoroughly, coating well (about 2 teaspoons per slice). Reserve the leftover mixture. Roast the eggplant until the flesh is tender and lightly caramelized, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the tahini sauce by whisking together the tahini, lemon juice and ras el hanout (it’ll seize up — this is normal!). Slowly drizzle in water, whisking until the sauce reaches your desired consistency (we like it thick enough to cling to a spoon, but thin enough to drizzle). If you go overboard, just add a bit more tahini. Season with salt to taste.
Next, make the herb salad by combining all of the ingredients in a bowl except the lemon juice and salt, and mixing well with your hands. Toss with the reserved olive oil/garlic/ras el hanout mixture, add the juice of 1 lemon and a healthy pinch of salt, and taste. Add the juice from the second lemon, if you’d like. You want this to be flavorful and bright!
Remove the eggplant from the oven and lay the slices side by side on a platter. Brush each slice with thin layer of yogurt. Using your hands, shower the eggplant with the herb salad. Drizzle with tahini sauce, sprinkle a few more pomegranate seeds on top, and finish with a drizzle of olive oil and a final sprinkle of sea salt.
*To make the dish for 2 people, simply halve a large eggplant and follow the rest of the instructions, being sure to cut the rest of the ingredients into fourths.