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Star Trek Cookbook cover

When I sat down to write this column this morning, I first grabbed myself a large, steaming cup of raktajino. Well, I guess that's not exactly true because while raktajino might be one of the top consumables that people most associate with Deep Space Nine, it's not exactly easy to make unless you have Klingon coffee beans. I mean, it's pretty much just really strong coffee. In the Star Trek Cookbook, Neelix describes the beverage as being "hefty, robust Klingon coffee," which sounds extremely appealing to coffee addicts, but it's a bit difficult to re-create on your own. Even if Klingon is your first language. Neelix recommends getting "real java, aged java you can make even more robust and vigorous by mixing with dark French roast or Italian espresso beans that you grind yourself. Vary the proportions of dark roast to java for taste and strength." The rest of the cookbook's entry on raktajino just gives more information and tips about preparing your coffee in a drip machine, French press, and even a vacuum coffee maker. So it would appear that the mysterious raktajino can sort of be faked by simply making really strong coffee. That's a bit disappointing, really. I think I was hoping for something along the lines of a necessary addition of roasted chicory, raw meat drippings, or even refined mud to make it truly Klingon.

Moving on, I attacked the alluring Icoberry Torte that Sisko orders for breakfast in "The Homecoming." I was going to investigate the ever-popular I'danian Spice Pudding, but I couldn't bring myself to actually buy the instant or quick-cook packaged pudding the recipe called for. I suppose I could have made my own homemade pudding or custard, but when it comes right down to it, I have a consistency issue with pudding and all pudding-like things. I don't like how slithery and shivery the stuff feels in my mouth. The folks on Deep Space Nine seem to love it, though. When Jake and his father return to the station after being on Earth for an extended amount of time in "Babel," ordering a dish of it from the replicator is one of the first things Jake does. According to Jake's finely tuned taste buds, none of the replicators on Earth could even come close to making such high quality I'danian Spice Pudding as the stuff put out by the station's replicators—I think they have O'Brien to thank for that. In "Fascination," Quark negotiates a wardroom full of hormone-befuddled guests, laden with a tray of the specially prepared puddings. But even with all these tantalizing references, I couldn't bring myself to make that over the Icoberry Torte.

I find icoberries additionally intriguing because Jadzia is allergic to them. Worf gets all pissed off in "Let He Who is Without Sin . . ." when Jadzia wants to drink icoberry juice on their Risan vacation. The allergy manifests itself by making her spots itch, which seems to be very like the hives people get when they are allergic to strawberries. Therefore, it made perfect sense that Neelix's recipe calls for either strawberry or raspberry preserves. Making the torte itself is fairly easy, as long as you have access to almond meal. After looking around Whole Foods and Andronico's—the higher-end grocery stores in my area—I finally found some at the San Francisco's Farmers' Market from Lagier Ranches. Anyway, the torte is basically a separated sponge cake, and what I mean by that is that the egg yolks are separated from the egg whites and beaten with the brown sugar. Next, the orange and lemon extracts (I used fresh juice, which was another option) and the dry ingredients—the almond meal and dried bread crumbs—are stirred into the yolks and sugar. The whites are then whipped in another bowl until firm before being folded into the yolk batter. After the torte is baked at 350° until golden brown, you are supposed to top it with the strawberry or raspberry preserves of your choice and a dollop of whipped cream. That annoyed me. I mean, it's called "Icoberry Torte" not "Almond Torte with Icoberry Preserves." As far as I'm concerned, the torte should have the icoberries baked right in and not layered over the top. At any rate, my husband really liked it, even though I thought the odd addition of staled whole-wheat bread crumbs made it rather dry. All in all, not very satisfying.

Next I tackled Sisko's Aubergine Stew. Right off, the recipe in the Star Trek Cookbook pissed me off because it called it "Augergine Stew." What's that about? What's an augergine? Or an even better question, "What's a copy editor?" I rewatched the episodes that referenced the dish—"Emissary" and "The Nagus"—but as far as I could make out Sisko and Jadzia were calling it aubergine stew. Not one to leave any stone unturned in the name of accurate research, I next consulted my indispensible resource, the Star Trek Encyclopedia, but they too call it "augergine." Thinking that this was just an alienized word that was meant to only sound like aubergine, I went back to the recipe and reread the opening paragraph. This is the part I found to be particularly interesting:

Why is the stew the color of eggplant? Because aubergine, in French, means eggplant, but it also means the purple color of eggplant.

What gives? In that instance they're spelling it correctly, so why do the cookbook and the encyclopedia insist on spelling it as "augergine"? As a final resort, I followed up with two more resources. Sure enough, both Memory Alpha and Star Trek's official website back up the correct spelling.

And why was I driving myself nuts with all this augergine/aubergine nonsense? Because when I sat down to develop my recipe, I wanted to be certain that I was, in fact, supposed to be dealing with eggplant and not an ingredient that doesn't exist. I could have simply gone ahead and made Neelix's recipe, but as soon as I saw that rather than actually having eggplant in the EGGPLANT STEW the recipe instead called for grape jelly, I made the command decision to completely scratch Neelix's weird recipe and come up with one that had a chance in hell of tasting good. I realize the grape jelly is included to give the stew an aubergine color, but why not go for taste rather than appearance? After all, I'm assuming from Sisko's comment to Jennifer in "Emissary" that this dish comes from his father's Creole cooking traditions. If it wasn't originally an Earth dish, I could see the need to make it purple and alienish, but otherwise I don't see the point in adding a toast spread to a stew. Additionally, I really don't believe that grape jelly is a specific component of Creole or Cajun culinary traditions.

Neelix's recipe included lamb as well as eggplant, and since I'm a big lover of lamb, I saw no reason not to have it in my version. Most stews, soups, and sauces start with an aromatic trio of diced onions, celery, and carrots, but any Cajun or Creole dish has to begin with the "Holy Trinity" of New Orleans cuisine: diced green peppers, onions, and celery.

The Definitive Eggplant Stew

2 eggplants, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 tablespoon kosher salt
3 pounds boneless lamb leg, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, halved and sliced
1 green pepper, diced
4 stalks celery, diced
1 can (32 oz.) whole, peeled tomatoes
3/4 cup tomato juice (from the can of tomatoes)
2 cups beef stock or broth
3 cloves garlic, minced

For the Spice Rub:

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of red pepper flakes

Preheat the oven to 375°

1. In order to purge any bitterness from the eggplant, put the cubes in a colander and sprinkle them evenly with the tablespoon of salt. Gently toss the eggplant until the cubes are uniformly covered with the salt. Put a plate under the colander and leave the eggplant to drain for at least 30 minutes.

2. In a large bowl, combine the lamb cubes and the spice rub and gently toss with your hands until the lamb is evenly coated. Set aside.

3. Put a large Dutch oven or stock pot over medium heat and warm 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the onion, green pepper, and celery and sauté until slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Add the lamb cubes to the pot and stir to combine with the aromatics. Next, add the tomatoes, juice, and beef stock and raise the heat to medium-high. Bring the stew to a simmer, then cover and put the pot in the oven to braise for 1 hour.

4. While the stew is braising, add the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil to a large sauté pan or skillet over medium heat. Then, add the minced garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add the drained eggplant cubes to the garlic and oil and sauté until lightly browned.

5. Using pot holders, remove the stew from the oven and put it back on the stove over low heat. Stir the eggplant and garlic into the stew and let it simmer, covered, until the eggplant blends into and thickens the stew, about 15 minutes.

6. Test the meat for doneness by poking one of the pieces of lamb with the tip of a paring knife. If the knife meets little or no resistance, the stew is done. If the meat still seems tough, simmer for another 15 minutes before testing again.

7. Serve with crusty baguette or over mashed potatoes to soak up the juices and drink with a chilled glass of Springwine (Riesling to us Earthlings) or a dark ale to balance the heat of the stew.

Moving on to the mysterious hasperat, I found that both Neelix and the Star Trek Encyclopedia like to make this favorite Bajoran dish with cream cheese and diced red and green bell peppers. But what of the famous tongue-searing brine that Ro Laren mentioned in "Preemptive Strike"? I can definitely get behind a cheese filling, but the only truly brined cheeses I know about are feta and haloumi. I don't consider washed-rind cheeses to be really brined, even if that is what they are washed with. Unfortunately, feta and haloumi cheeses aren't really spreadable, so they would need to be combined with a creamier medium. Fromage blanc is a nice step up from cream cheese and it also assimilates flavors very well. It's a Borg cheese. Furthermore, to make it truly "tongue searing" and "eye watering," I think using diced habañeros rather than ordinary bell peppers is in order. According to Neelix and the Encyclopedia, hasperat is a burrito-type thing, so the cheese mixture should be spread on tortillas and rolled up.

Have Some Hasperat

5 ounces fromage blanc
3 ounces feta
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
3 habañeros, diced*
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tortillas
Red pepper sauce to taste

1. Combine the fromage blanc, feta, garlic, and parsley in a food processor. Pulse until all ingredients are universally blended and smooth. Using a rubber spatula, scoop the mixture into a bowl and add the salt and pepper. Set aside.

2. In a large skillet over very low heat, warm each tortilla until it is soft and pliable. Because you don't want the cheese to melt, let the tortillas cool before spreading with the cheese.

3. Once cool, use a rubber or off-set spatula to spread the cheese mixture on one side of the first tortilla. Lay the second tortilla on the first (on top of the cheese) and spread the face-up side with the cheese mixture. Lay the final tortilla on top and roll up the stack of tortillas. Cut the tortilla roll into 1-inch rounds and douse with red pepper sauce.

Eat too many of these little beauties and you'll need to become a rebellious Bajoran Maquis to keep off the excess weight.

*Take care when handling these very hot chile peppers. Those with sensitive skin might want to wear rubber or latex gloves. When you are done dicing the habañeros, wash your hands immediately and don't ever touch your eyes or face.

Well, in closing I guess I have to come to the conclusion that, aside from Dr. McCoy's Tennessee Smoked Baked Beans, I haven't really been happy with anything I have made from the Star Trek Cookbook. However, it is a fun book for any Trekkie to have, if only to sop up such tidbits as Quark's foreword ("as told to Armin Shimerman") and Jeri Ryan's section on how little she was able to eat in order to fit into her costume. Also, her Borg Tricorder Pie is hysterical. Maybe when spring rolls around, I'll delve into the Jean-Luc Picard section and have a "Tea. Earl Grey. Hot" Party and report back. Until then, peas and long life.

Stephanie V.W. Lucianovic is a freelance writer, editor, and sometime cheesemonger in San Francisco. When she's not eating, cooking, or writing about it at The Grub Report, she's being paid by Television Without Pity to sit in front of the TV and point and laugh evilly. Stephanie's food writing was recently published in Digital Dish: Five Seasons of the Freshest Recipes and Writing from Food Blogs Around the World and Best Food Writing 2005.
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