Archive for ‘Eggplant’

June 27, 2012

Good on Everything | Ajvar

This is something I will be making repeatedly throughout the summer.

Roasted red bell peppers and eggplant, finely chopped, along with copious amounts of garlic and a bit of olive oil and salt.  I was quite astonished to find the depth of flavor in something that truly only had four ingredients.  Roasting is certainly what certainly makes it so good.  And the thing is, with a gas stove (or this summer the grill, which is in near constant use) roasting takes almost no time.  Five to seven minutes or so straight on the burner over the heat, turning every so often to completely blacken the outsides.  Put in a covered container to steam and cool for 10 minutes, the skins on the peppers slide off like a silk dress.

This is sexy stuff.

I want it on steaks, on fish.  On these balkan burgers.  On regular burgers.  In my eggs.

In this recipe, I included a bit of roasted eggplant (at which Balkan traditionalists would have been shocked and horrified) but I found it gave a gorgeous texture.

For some background: ajvar is typically made in Serbia in the fall, where in small towns its process requires just about everybody who lives there to pitch in and help.  The peppers are roasted, peeled and deseeded.  Everything is pureed and put up in jars for the winter.  Only here, I can’t wait that long: I ate spoons of it out of the dish while we were waiting for company to arrive.  They were lucky they got here when they did.  I would have eaten it all.

Lovely stuff.

Make some.

Ajvar

2 red bell peppers, blackened over a grill or stove, skin, stem and seeds removed, chopped

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October 7, 2010

A Vegetarian Dinner to End a Vegetarian Day

Some days our family goes all veg, but it’s almost always by accident.  It’s not until later in the evening when we think over what we ate that day do we realize it’s done.  Meals like the one we made tonight are the main reason for it.  We sometimes just don’t miss the meat.  Food this good will satisfy anyone.  Today’s 10 minute homemade ricotta cheese and a perfectly poached egg contributed to the lovely feeling of abundance to the meal.  Thanks to Miss Whisk for the original inspiration for this dish.

Fresh Ricotta, Roasted Vegetables and Rossi Pasta, serves 2 (plus 1 three-year old)

1 baby eggplant, diced into 1 1/2 inch pieces

2 large Roma tomatoes, diced into 1 1/2 inch pieces

Olive oil, salt, pepper

3/4 c fresh ricotta

Scant 1/2  pound fettucine (we used Rossi’s Parsley and Garlic)

3 eggs, poached for two minutes

1 T chopped fresh basil

Mix the eggplant and tomatoes with the olive oil, salt and pepper and spread in a roasting pan.  Roast on 400˚ for 30 minutes or so. 

Poach your eggs (bring water with a splash of vinegar to a low boil, crack the egg into a small bowl, swirl the water with a spoon and pour the egg in the center of the water, cook for two minutes, remove with a slotted spoon to drain on a towel). 

Cook the pasta according to package directions.  While it’s cooking, add the roasted veg to a small sauce pan, along with the ricotta and two ladlefuls of pasta water.  Stir to create a sauce.  Drain the pasta,  divide between warmed pasta bowls, top with the sauce, a poached egg, the fresh basil and perhaps a further crumbling of the ricotta.

The only non-local ingredients in this post were the olive oil, salt and pepper.  For complete sourcing, please see the Farms and Producers page.

Playlist included De L’alouette, by Columbus-bred funk-soul-brother RJD2.

September 27, 2010

Brick Lane, Meet Persephone: A Seasonal, Weeknight Curry

Awww! Cherub is such a big help with chopping tomatoes. With a butter knife.

 

Indian food is something I’ve developed a taste for.  To the point that I crave it regularly.  I didn’t always.  I didn’t understand it; it was a little too exotic.  Now?  Let’s be honest here: I love it.  It has become a point of pride that I’ve tried to learn what I can about a world cuisine that 1.1 billion (with a B) eat every day.  

On Sunday, Hades, Cherub and I made a stop at the Sawmill Patel Brothers, the Indian supermarket, and worked up the ingredients for a lovely English-inspired vegetarian curry (it’s the heavy cream that makes it smack of something that Richard Hammond might enjoy after a few shouts at his local).  Cherub even helped pick out the 10 pound bag of Basmati rice that we ended up taking home.  Add in some seasonal baby eggplants and cauliflower, plus the last (I keep saying this) of the tomatoes from our garden.  Then a lovely melange of Indian spices from Patel to make it delicious.  

These two dishes require a bit of prep, but it’s totally worth the minor, and I do stress minor, effort. 

Lemon Basmati with Curried Eggplant and Cauliflower 

For the Lemon Basmati 

1 c. Basmati rice, soaked briefly in water 

2 c. water 

Salt 

While you’re doing prep for the rest of dinner, soak the rice in cold water.  When it’s time to get cooking, bring two cups of water to a boil and add in a generous sprinkling of salt.  Then tip in the drained rice, bring back to a boil and then reduce to the lowest setting to simmer slowly for about 15 minutes.  Turn off when done.  You will finish this in a frying pan just before the curry is ready. 

For the Curried Eggplant and Cauliflower 

The cauliflower breaks down significantly in the 30 minutes it cooks. Leave it initially in large chunks, so that you'll have some variety in size when it comes time to serve the dish.

 

1 bay leaf 

1 small red spicy pepper, whole 

1 black cardamom pod 

3 or 4 green cardamom pods 

1 t. cumin seed 

1 t. mustard seed 

1 red onion, chopped 

1 shallot, chopped 

1 garlic clove, minced 

1/2 inch fresh ginger root, finely grated 

5 or 6 baby eggplants, halved 

1 Japanese eggplant, sliced into rounds 

2 red skinned potatoes, cubed 

1 tomato, chopped 

1 heaping t. of curry 

1/2 t. garam masala 

2 c. water 

1/2 c. heavy cream 

Vegetable oil, salt, pepper (optional) 

In a pan heat a tablespoon or two of vegetable oil over medium high heat.  Add in bay through mustard seed and cook for one to two minutes, until browned.  Careful, the mustard seeds really pop.  If you have a screen to put over the pan, by all means, do it.  Then add in the onion and shallot.  Continue to cook over medium high heat for another two minutes, or until just beginning to brown.  Add in the garlic and the grated ginger.  Cook for 30 seconds.  Tip in eggplant through garam masala, cook for two minutes.  Add in the water.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium and cook for 30 minutes.  Just before serving, reduce heat to low, add in the heavy cream and stir to incorporate. 

To finish the Basmati 

1/2 t. mustard seeds 

1/2 t. fenugreek seeds 

1/2 cumin seeds 

6 curry leaves 

2 green onions, sliced 

1/2 c chopped almonds 

1/2 lemon, zest and juice 

1/2 inch grated fresh turmeric root (1/2 t. dried turmeric will work just as well) 

1 generous pinch fresh coriander leaves, chopped for garnish 

In a large frying pan, heat 1 to 2 T. vegetable oil over medium high heat.  Add in the mustard, fenugreek and cumin seeds and the curry leaves.  Cook for one to two minutes, until browned.  Careful of the popping mustard seeds, cover with a lid or splatter screen.  Add in the green onions and almonds, cook for two minutes.  Mix the lemon zest, juice and fresh turmeric and pour in quickly and cook for 20 seconds.  Add in the cooked rice and stir to incorporate the seasonings.  Fry for two or three minutes to reheat. 

To serve, place generous servings of rice and curry in shallow plates, top with chopped coriander. 

Playlist included M.I.A’s Paper Planes.

September 15, 2010

Perfect Pairings | Turbot in Aubergine Soup

Bread and butter.  Strawberries and cream.  Proenza and SchoulerBlomkvist and Salander.  I’m not simply saying that some things go together, I’m saying that they complement each other, they amplify each other, and their sum is greater than their parts.

Take, for example, eggplant and tomato.  They grow together, they’re picked together, and most importantly, they create the most amazing flavor together.  I can’t help but believe that nature wants us to follow its cues.  In fact, earlier this week I simply roasted eggplant and tomatoes together, took the tray out of the oven, and poured it over pasta.  It’s a marvelously versatile combination.

Today we have a delightful, late-summer dish that will leave you with a satisfied smile.  The soup and crouton are satisfying, and the fish is simply prepared and light.  For those of you interested in economy, it will stress neither your grocery bill nor your time.  It’s also very easy and looks lovely when served.

September Turbot in Aubergine Soup

2 1/3 lb Turbot Fillets

½ of a medium-sized eggplant, cubed

1 lb of tomatoes, roughly chopped (1/4 cup reserved)

½ white onion, diced

2 healthy slices of rustic bread

1 garlic clove, peeled

Salt, pepper, olive oil, small handful of chopped herbs

In a medium-sized pan, add a glug of olive oil and soften the onions over medium heat, about 6 minutes.  Add the tomatoes and eggplant, and cook until soft, about 10 minutes.  Transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor and blitz.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Transfer to a saucepan and keep warm over low heat.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350˚.  Cover the bottom of a roasting dish with parchment paper to keep the fish from sticking.  Rinse your turbot fillets under cold water.  Season with salt and pepper and gently fold the fillets in half, skin side in, placing them next to one another in the dish.  PK tip:  Salt your fish just before you’re ready to cook it.  Salting too early will dry it out.  Drizzle generously with olive oil.  Bake for about 15 minutes, or until fish is no longer translucent and has just begun to flake.

Toast your bread.  While still hot, rub each slice generously with your garlic clove.  The toast acts as a nice “grater.”

To serve:  Pour several ladlefuls into the bottom of two warm, shallow bowls.  Place your toast in the middle, about ½ submerged.  Place your fish filet atop the bread.  Garnish with reserved tomatoes, chopped herbs and a drizzle of olive oil.

Serve with a Sauvignon Blanc, Indaba, perhaps?  Very cheap and cheerful.  Also found regularly at Fresh Market and Whole Foods.

Playlist included the enchantingly Icelandic Hafdis Huld.

September 12, 2010

Gameday in the Underworld | Lamb Tagine

I knew it was game day, I just didn’t make the traditional food for it.  This is a novel spread for fall football entertaining because (well, it features lamb, but also!) each of these can be served either hot or room temperature.  If it’s not your thing, give these dishes a try on a fall weekend when your favorite team has a bye.

First, tagine of lamb (we used lovely little lamb chops).  This is a simplified version of a Claudia Roden recipe from Arabesque.  I prefer to have my lamb a bit more on the well-done side, so braises suit me well.  To braise, I first seared the chops with a garlic clove and a couple of shallots in a tagine, then added some of the lamb stock we made last weekend and then a handful of almonds (roughly chopped) and a handful of dates.  Let it cook for about an hour and a half to two hours over really low heat.  This method gave it a really lovely sauce and the chops were surprisingly tender for such a short braise.

Side dishes included roasted eggplant, tomato and bell peppers (just used a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper and a 400˚ oven for about 25 to 30 minutes).  Afterwards, give it a mix with a few dashes of cumin and some ground sumac if you’ve got it.

Make a quick sauce by caramelizing a whole onion, sliced in thin rings, in a bit of vegetable oil.  Once the onions are caramelized, add a drop or two of honey, some salt and pepper and use either an immersion blender or a food processor.  Puree until smooth.  This thick sauce is great with the lamb, but it could be nice with any number of other meats, some sage-y roasted pork perhaps.

Then I made couscous.  I think it’s kind of funny how much I enjoy making this.  It’s like how your mom has a potato salad recipe memorized and the only way you can learn is by watching her. “Oh honey, I don’t know, keep adding the mayonaise until it looks right.”  Great, thanks, Mom.  (Don’t take that personally, Demeter.)  Here’s an attempt to get a recipe down for this fast side that can be served warm, room temperature or cold.

Warm or Cold Couscous

3 cups couscous (not the Israeli, we used Rice Select tricolor)

3 cups liquid (water is fine, chicken stock is nicer)

½ c olive oil

1 orange (zest and juice)

3 T cumin

1/8 t of rose water, if you have it

¾ c currants or raisins (golden or plain jane)

4 green onions, thinly sliced

1 c. grape or cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered or larger tomato cubed

½ c. pine nuts( toasted is nice, but not 100% necessary)

Handful of fresh parsley and mint, finely chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Bring the three cups of liquid to a boil, then whisk in the couscous.  Remove from heat and cover.

In a deep bowl, whisk together olive oil through rose water, a generous couple of pinches of salt and 20 twists of fresh ground pepper.  Add in the raisins through mint and parsley and whisk again.  After ten minutes or so, remove the lid from the couscous and using a fork, fluff the couscous and then add into the deep bowl with the dressing.  Mix well.

At this point you may need to add a bit more olive oil or cumin or salt or pepper.  PK tip:  This is where taste, remember, season, taste again comes into practice (I think I originally read this in Ruhlman’s Soul of a Chef).  You’ll do this a lot as you begin to cook more without a net, so to speak.

Serve with a 2004 Grenache from Orvene Winery.  It’s a stunning, affordable pairing available from our friends at Vino 100 down in the Short North.

An unusual menu for a game calls for an unusual playlist.  Today’s included old Cocteau Twins and Bjork’s Hyperballad.

PK thanks Cronus for today’s photography.

September 9, 2010

Greek, Only Not | Roasted Lamb Shoulder with Olives

Didn’t they always serve roast lamb on Sundays back in the Mad Men era?  This Greek-inspired lamb shoulder with an olive sauce is worth all the trouble and forward planning you might have to do.

Hades and I had a hankering for some lamb after the Greek Festival last weekend.  Maybe with some olives.  And eggplant.  Ooo!  And some of our home grown tomatoes. You know, Mediterranean flavors , but not quite so literal.  And that started us thinking about all the Columbus purveyors of locally made, grown and produced deliciousness; we decided to see how local we could go.  Consider this one of our first forays into the Eat Local Challenge that will be happening later this October.

We ordered our lamb shoulder from Bluescreek Farm Meats, our Cherub selected the local eggplant and garlic with a little help from Colleen at the Greener Grocer.  The olives and pita were from Firdous Express, and the tomatoes and herbs were from our backyard. The shallots were from Cronus’s garden.  Not local was the salt, pepper, olive oil, and butter.  We’ll work on those.

You might be tempted just to enjoy the pictures and read the description, but please don’t do that!  Try this out on a Sunday soon, before all this summer’s tomatoes are gone.

Roasted Lamb Shoulder with Olive Sauce served with Eggplant and Tomato Fondue

Lamb Stock – Yeah, I know.  Keep reading.  We made ours the day before.

1 pound of lamb bones (ask your butcher, lamb neck works well)

2 carrots (tops left on, please), scrubbed and broken in half

1 yellow onion, paper left on, quartered

Small handful of parsley and thyme, 1 bay leaf, 10 peppercorns

In a roasting pan, spread out the bones and place in a 350˚ oven for 30 to 45 minutes turning once or twice, until golden.  When roasted, place bones in large pasta pot, along with the rest of the ingredients.  Cover with water.  Place over high heat to bring to a boil, then turn down so that the water is barely simmering.  Skim regularly.  Allow to gently cook for two hours.  Strain through a fine mesh or cheesecloth.

Roast Lamb – Preheat Oven to 500˚

2.5 pounds bone in lamb shoulder

1 head garlic, cloves separated, but paper still on

Very large handful of fresh sage, fresh parsley and fresh thyme

Salt, pepper, olive oil

In a large, heavy, lidded roasting pan, cover the bottom of the pan with all of the garlic cloves then layer over the herbs on top of the garlic.  Using a sharp knife, shallowly slice a crisscross pattern into the top of the lamb shoulder, rub liberally with olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper.  Put the lid on the pan, slide the pan in the oven and immediately reset oven temperature to 325˚.  Roast for four hours.  (Yes, four hours.)   To serve, shred roughly off the bone with a generous ladle of olive sauce and some pita for scooping.

PK tip: keep the bones once you pull out the roast.  Throw them in the freezer so you have roasted lamb bones next time you want to make stock.

Olive Sauce, inspired by Marco Pierre White

4 c. Lamb Stock

1½ c. olives from your grocery’s olive bar (pits removed, but not stuffed with feta or jalapeños, please and roughly chopped)

4 T butter

In a sauce pot, reduce the lamb stock over medium heat by 2/3 (this takes about an hour to an hour and a half).  When you’re about ready to serve dinner, whisk in the butter and add the olives and warm through.

Tomato Fondue, inspired by Marco Pierre White and Escoffier

½ shallot, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

Scant ½ cup olive oil

6 to 8 large, very ripe Roma tomatoes, skinned, deseeded and chopped (Hades insists he would never bother with skinning and deseeding, but I did, and it was worth it)

¼ bay leaf (really, Marco?), 1 sprig of thyme, salt

In a pan, heat the olive oil over low heat.  Add the shallots and garlic and sweat, without coloring, for a few minutes.  Add in the tomatoes and cook gently, stirring occasionally, until reduced to a thick paste.  Remove bay, and tip mixture into a blender or food processor.  Blend until the mixture is smooth.  I found it actually emulsifies into an almost mayonnaise-like consistency.  Add a pinch or two of salt.

Eggplant Preparation

1 eggplant, sliced into ½ to ¾ inch thick rounds

Olive oil, salt (preferably fleur de sel:  it adds a nice texture)

In a large frying pan, cover the bottom of the pan with ½ inch of olive oil and heat over medium high heat.  Prick the eggplant rounds with a fork.  Place the rounds in the hot oil and fry until golden brown on both sides (six to eight minutes).  Remove to a plate lined with paper towels and sprinkle with salt.  To assemble, place a slice of eggplant on a plate and cover with a generous spoonful of the tomato fondue.

Are you still there?  You are?  That’s great.  I’m guessing you’re still reading because there’s a little tiny bit of you that wants to make this, but you read the post and said, “no way, that’s too hard.  I don’t have time for that.”  You have the time if you really want to.  You’d be so proud of yourself.  I was so proud of myself.  Hades and I love cooking together.  The greatness of the meal is that it highlights one of the most amazing cuisines as well as lots of different techniques.  Like lifting weights, it will make you a stronger cook.  And heck, it tastes great, too.

Wine:  PK recommends a Greek white that Hades and I were introduced to at Gordon Ramsay’s London Bar.  It’s a Moscofilero, Domaine Skouras.  A white with Lamb?  A white indeed.

Playlist included the lovely Rose Elinor Dougall’s debut album Without Why.

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