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Tom’s Cookbook Library: Chef Stephanie Izard shares know-how

Learn how to make eggplant zaalouk, preserved lemons

"Gather and Graze" is the new cookbook by Stephanie Izard, a Chicago-based chef who won the Food Network's Iron Chef award in 2008.
"Gather and Graze" is the new cookbook by Stephanie Izard, a Chicago-based chef who won the Food Network's Iron Chef award in 2008.

Stephanie Izard has won multiple accolades for her culinary skills. The Chicago-based chef broke new ground in 2008 as the first female chef to win the Food Network’s Iron Chef award.

Since then she has become executive chef and co-owner of three popular Chicago restaurants: Girl & the Goat, Little Goat Diner and Duck Duck Goat. Izard also received the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Great Lakes.

With the recent release of “Gather & Graze” (Clarkson Potter) Izard offers 120 home-cook friendly recipes. The book provides insight on the chef’s “tricks, techniques and shortcuts.”

A good example (recipe included) instructs readers on how to make Eggplant zaalouk, a Moroccan-inspired appetizer. Preserved lemon, harissa and olives work well to build a flavorful dish. Alert: Preserved lemon made from scratch can get involved. A well-stocked market could prove a timesaver.

Other chapters focus on brunch, grilling, meat, fish and dessert.

Stunning food photos by Huge Galdones add to the enjoyment readers will experience.

Journalist Tom Witom, who lives in Elgin, has written extensively for years about food and the food industry. Contact him at

Eggplant Zaalouk

Serves 6 as appetizer

2 tablespoons canola oil, or more if needed

2 pounds Japanese eggplant, sliced lengthwise and then again into l/2 inch thick half-moons

1 medium sweet onion, diced

5 garlic cloves, minced

4 large ripe heirloom tomatoes, diced

1/4 cup dry white wine

1 1/2 tablespoons harissa

1/4 cup julienned preserved lemon peel (1/2 lemon before cutting) *See directions below

Kosher salt

2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

1/4 cup large green olives, pitted and sliced lengthwise

Heat large, preferably nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil and saute eggplant, stirring regularly, until browned and soft, about 10 minutes. You may need to add small amount of oil while cooking if pan gets completely dry.

In large heavy-bottomed pot, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat and then sweat onion and garlic until aromatic and soft, about 5 minutes. Add diced tomatoes and simmer until some of the liquid has evaporated, about 20 minutes.

Deglaze pan with wine, then add eggplant and cook for 15 more minutes. Stir in harissa and preserved lemon, season with pinch of salt, reduce heat to medium low, and cook for 30 minutes.

Remove pot from heat and stir in mint and olives. Season to taste with salt. Let cool to room temperature before serving. (This can be stored in refrigerator for up to five days.)

Preserved Lemons

Makes 1 quart

3 lemons, at room temperature

1/2 teaspoon whole pink peppercorns

1/2 teaspoon whole fennel seeds

1/2 teaspoon whole coriander

1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds

1/2 cup salt

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup vodka

Fill medium stockpot halfway with water and bring to boil. Using tongs, carefully dunk a 1-quart glass canning glass jar into boiling water to sanitize; boil for 10 minutes. Lift out, let drain and set aside.

Add lemons to pot and allow water to return to boil. Boil for 5 minutes. Remove lemons from water and allow them to cool slightly.

Working on plate or cutting board with well to collect juices, slice one end of each lemon with X, cutting three-quarters of way into fruit. Stack lemons in jar so uncut end of each lemon sits snugly inside cut end of one below. Add any accumulated juices to jar as well.

In small pot over medium-high heat, combine spices, salt, sugar and vodka. Cook until liquid heats all way through and begins to bubble, about 8 minutes. There will be salt and sugar that have not fully dissolved, so before pouring mixture into jar, give it hard stir. Carefully pour liquid over lemons. You may not need all liquid but add any remaining solids to jar. Tightly close lid and leave jar as room temperature to preserve for at least four weeks or indefinitely.

Store lemons in fridge for up to two months once opened. To use preserved lemons, remove lemon from jar with clean tongs or fork. Slice peel from flesh and discard flesh. Clean as much of white pith off peel as possible and then slice peel into thin strips.

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