Saucy baked eggplant

September 30, 2009

We’ve been really giving eggplant a lot of love these days, which is something so new and so delicate I’m almost afraid to talk about it in case that curses us to a slew of bad eggplants whose bitterness can neither be salted nor pounded away.

But, what the hell. I’ve been really wanting eggplant parmesan, but I am about 98% spent by dinnertime on a given weekday, so there’s none of this salting, then pounding, then dredging in eggwhites and breadcrumbs, then frying or baking, and so on. This hit the same general notes with maybe a quarter of the effort, which is a win. Plus, during the lengthier segments of prep, I was able to take naps.

saucy baked eggplant

saucy baked eggplant

This was so easy, it’s barely a recipe. I washed a medium white eggplant, sliced it into ~1/4 inch rounds, salted them in a colander over the sink for an hour, took a nap, preheated the oven to 375*, rinsed the eggplant and beat the bitterness out between paper towels, layered tomato sauce and eggplant in a baking dish, topped with some fresh mozzarella, covered with foil, and baked for 40 minutes, taking another nap in the process. While I slept, Matt cooked some macaroni and we served up a delightful meal.

I’ve got ideas for eggplant that extend beyond the pasta realm – homemade baigan bharta, stir fry with eggplant, maybe some baba ganoush. But, for tonight, this was perfect.


Piece of cake

September 28, 2009

I spent the majority of my Sunday in and out of the kitchen – cleaning a little, but mostly freezing fresh tomatoes and some chickpeas I cooked on Saturday, simmering enough stock to use for dinner with some left for the freezer, cooking dinner, and even making some dessert. Sometimes you build up that kitchen momentum and it would be dangerous to stop. Plus, I learned today that freezers run more efficiently when nearly full, so the fact that I added all of the above mentioned things to ours makes me feel like I did a good thing.

Even though it was still in the 80s when we sat down to dinner last night, I was dead-set on having soup. This soup in particular caught my eye after buying my first leeks ever at the farmer’s market on Saturday. My version was quite similar but with olive oil instead of butter (we’re out) and, sadly, there was no dill to be found at my usual markets. It was still lovely and warming and hearty and I know it will be perfect in about two months when I’m coming home with frozen hair.

I hope you click over to the recipe because her picture is quite impressive and my picture is, well, I don’t have a picture. What I do have is four different shots of blinding white light that might be bowls of soup. Now that it’s getting dark earlier and we use those low watt cfl bulbs (hides the dirt – try it!), it’s almost impossible for me to get a decent picture. I really don’t know how to use the camera, to be honest, and it’s not actually mine.

I did get a shot or two of this:

what's more comforting than cake?

what's more comforting than cake?

I baked a cake! All by myself! People who know me in real life might be aware that, while I’m obviously an accomplished home cook, I’m not much of a baker. And, aside from the occasional batch of cookies, I try to stick to what I know. But, when I was visiting my family a few months back, my mother patiently stood with me while I made my first zucchini bread and “helped” me make a pound cake. Since then I baked 2 loaves of zucchini bread before I put my hand mixer back in the bottom drawer where it belongs. With all of the other stuff I don’t use.

But this? This was easy. I stumbled on this recipe last week and when I bought a pint of raspberries at the farmer’s market this weekend, I knew I wanted to try it. While the soup was cooking, I bravely preheated the oven and got to work. The batter was thicker than I expected but other than that, it went off without a hitch.

I’m glad I had the foresight to take that picture before I “plated it” because I did a truly horrifying job removing the cake from the pan, and it fell apart in about 25 different pieces. Oh well. Easier for snack-size servings. It tasted great, and the raspberries were a good counter to the sweetness of that 3/4 cup of sugar. I’d like to reduce the sugar next time, but I’m not sure what would happen if I did. Do you know? This is why baking makes me nervous. Because of science.

I just had another piece, and I can’t help but think how nice it would be to have a homemade cake on hand all the time.


Comfort food

September 26, 2009

The temperatures have dropped a bit, and I don’t know if it’s that or the exhaustion I’ve been fighting, but I’ve been heading straight for my comfort foods this week.

I don’t know what it says about the person I’ve become that I’d rather have a giant bowl of roasted vegetables than a piece of cheesecake when I’m tired or in a bad mood, but roasted eggplant is just so good now that I’ve finally developed an effective method to reduce the bitterness (slice, salt over a colander for an hour, then rinse and lay out in a layer between two paper towels and beat the slices to near death with an empty beer bottle. I assume other bottles would work but I’m just going from my own experience here). I guess I just need to embrace it because this pasta with eggplant, zucchini, mini-romas, and garlic was a near-perfect meal.

emotional eating that I can get behind

emotional eating that I can get behind

The pictures in this post are going to be even worse than normal, just to warn you. See above re: exhaustion.

The eggplant and zucchini that we had in the crisper were both huge, so the pan of vegetables I roasted (375* for 45 minutes) was actually full to overflowing. So we had a whole glass dish of leftovers to complement another comforting favorite: barley risotto. Just plain this time, as the mushrooms we were going to use were green-tinged and slimy. Awesome!

I was going to put the picture in, but I just can’t. I respect you too much. It’s terrible. If you want to see some barley risotto, here’s one I don’t find completely embarrassing. I’ve also made it about 28 other times if you’re looking for recipes. I was getting into arborio rice but we’re on a grocery budget again and barley is less than 1/2 the price, pound for pound, so it’s back in our lives.

Today, we finally opened this jar of tomatillo salsa that we’ve been trying to open for literally weeks and had some black bean chilaquiles to celebrate.

chilaquiles!

chilaquiles!

These were easy and warm and comforting – a perfect Saturday night meal. I just cut up two tortillas and burned them again on 450* for 10 minutes. I turned the oven down to 350* and cooked a diced green pepper and a small diced onion in a skillet with some olive oil on medium-high heat for about 5 minutes. I turned the heat down and added about a cup and half of black beans, just to heat them up for a minute or two because I didn’t defrost them. Then, I layered the chips, beans/peppers/onions, and about a cup and a half of roasted salsa verde into a baking dish and baked for about 25 minutes, until the chips were really soft. Chilaquiles aren’t traditionally baked but I needed my one large burner to cook some chickpeas and so in the oven it went. On the side, some tomatoes from my favorite kid at the farmer’s market who keeps a really careful tally of how many pints of his tomatoes have been sold so that his dad knows how much he’s going to have to pay him out later.

And now, for more comfort, there’s TV on DVD waiting for me. Between Netflix and Hulu, I think I actually watch more TV now than I did when we had cable. Today, I even made Matt go to the video store to rent two discs of 24 because I’m completely addicted to it (I know – is it 2001 already??) and even though we already pay 20 dollars a month for Netflix I was somehow able to justify it because we walked to the video store so we were saving money on gas.


S(o)uper Easy

September 22, 2009

I’m sorry about that. I really am. Titles are just not my strong suit.

But soup is!

quesadilla soup

quesadilla soup

I set out to make a basic tortilla soup to use up a few things – a few cups of black beans from Sunday’s batch, some frozen corn just taking up valuable freezer space, 1/3 of a red pepper left over from the chickpea croquettes I loved so much, and a few spoonfuls of salsa. Matt had the brilliant idea of adding cheese to the soup itself IN ADDITION to putting some on top with the tortilla chips.

Whoa.

So the extra cheese made it quesadilla soup (clever!) and also made it extra good. Bonus: it disguised the “extra charred” flavor of the tortilla chips I completely burned. I mean the rustic tortilla chips. Rustic because I couldn’t be bothered to cut them so I just ripped them into pieces and they ended up looking really kind of sad. But extra crispy!

Quesadilla soup

You need:

  • 1 flour or 2 corn tortillas
  • a little olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced (or to taste – I used more)
  • 1/2 red bell pepper (a whole one would also be great), diced
  • 1.5 – 2 cups of cooked black beans (or about 1 can, rinsed and drained)
  • 1 cup of corn
  • cumin, chili powder, and cayenne to taste
  • 1/3 cup salsa
  • 1-2 oz cheese, grated

And then you:

  1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium.
  2. Add garlic, the add diced pepper when fragrant. Cook for about 5 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425.
  4. Cut or rip tortilla(s) into roughly even pieces. Lay on on a baking sheet and spray lightly with oil.
  5. Add 4 cups of water (or broth) to pot.
  6. Add corn and beans, as well as seasoning. Bring to a boil.
  7. Reduce heat to medium. Simmer for 15 minutes.
  8. When the soup has been simmering for 5 minutes, put pan with tortillas in oven. About 5 minutes later, flip them, reducing heat if they get too dark (obviously I missed this step). Then 5 more minutes later (a total of 10 for the chips), take them out.
  9. When soup is simmered, add salsa and cheese. Increase heat to medium and heat through forĀ  a minute or two.
  10. Spoon into bowls.
  11. Serve with tortilla chips and cheese on top. And more salsa if you’re lucky enough to have some.

This makes about four servings. I had mine with unpictured okra. Unpictured because it’s really becoming a daily habit.


I have a new personal chef.

September 21, 2009

So, I’ve been trying to jump on the party bus and get into Mad Men like the rest of the world, but after the first few episodes of season one, I’m less than impressed. We were watching an episode the other day during which a young newlywed’s wife called him at the office to see what he wanted for dinner and I don’t remember his exact response but I think it was something along the lines of “I don’t care, little woman. I hate all members of your sex, and so do my colleagues.” But then, he turns to one of those colleagues and is all zen and calm in his realization that dinner’s going to be waiting for him when he gets home. And then I wanted to throw something at the tv and yell “Chauvinist!” but it was after 10:00 and there’s a noise ordinance.

But then tonight I came home from work and Matt had dinner just coming out of the oven (there were literally 9 seconds left on the timer, it was beautiful) and I ate it and I couldn’t help but think that maybe there’s something to this whole “dinner on the table” thing after all. That something being that my husband is awesome. And I love crispy things with cheese. And the fact that we don’t actually have a table on which dinner can be waiting doesn’t detract from either of those things.

beery flatbread pizza

beery cheesy flatbread

We talked last night about tag-teaming some pizza with that super easy dough we used a few months back, but Matt got all industrious while I was at work and somehow telepathically knew I was exhausted and didn’t really want to do my part, so he found a different beer dough recipe (he can’t remember from where) (ETA: he corrected me – he found it from the Google. He suggests searching “pizza dough from beer”), used up some cheese we had languishing in the refrigerator (colby jack I think), and made an experimental flatbread pizza. I thought it was delicious, like a whole pizza made of crust, which is my favorite part. Matt, ever the critic of his own culinary ventures, thought it tasted like “stale cheese toast.” If this is stale cheese toast, I’d like a few hundred pieces, please.

The cucumber and tomato salad on the side was all me, though. I made it last night as a topping for another Matt-made meal, from the newest issue of Vegetarian Times. The recipe isn’t up on their site yet, but I’ll add it when it is.

chickpea croquettes with greek salad topping

chickpea croquettes with greek salad topping

I was really sore and tired yesterday, and I was thisclose to going out to dinner, but I’m glad we didn’t because this was way better. Plus, we went all over town looking for chickpea flour that didn’t cost $7.99 a pound. We finally found a decent-sized bag for $2.99 at the international grocery store, where the woman working behind the counter took a break from clipping her toenails to ring us up.

I’m not even kidding.

Anyway, this was probably my favorite new recipe I’ve tried in the past few weeks, and I can’t wait to make these croquettes again. Or, more accurately, have Matt make them again. They also make a delightful lunch, served cold with the salad – they’re super filling without being heavy. However, store them in an airtight container because a plastic bag is no match for that much cumin. I learned that lesson for you.

Okay, so, level with me. Is the first season of Mad Men really worth my time? Because my time is precious. There are literally hundreds of DVDs in my Netflix queue vying for my attention.


Muy refresco

September 18, 2009

After a long, exhausting week, all I wanted to do was come home, eat some burritos, and polish off the last disc of 90210 season one. Oh, and to blow off stuff I actually need to do, like laundry.

So, I did.

a big pan of quinoa and red bean burritos

a big pan of quinoa and red bean burritos

There were also some delicious beverages…

Mexican Coke

Mexican Coke

It’s got sugar, not high fructose corn syrup, and it costs $1.85 a bottle, but it is oh so delicious.

And, my new favorite…

okra fries (thanks, Antoinette!)

okra fries (thanks, Antoinette!)

And now I’m seeing some bourbon vanilla ice cream in my immediate future.

I love Fridays.


Soup for the sick

September 17, 2009

Well, we were completely cable-free for less than 24 hours and then I got sick.

Coincidence?

I think you know the answer to that.

Tonight I was feeling well enough to cook again, and, true to form, I had to make soup. When I’m sick, I make soup. Actually, that’s not entirely true. Sometimes I branch out and make stew. But tonight I wasn’t feeling very adventurous.

evertyhing but the crisper drawer soup

everything but the crisper drawer soup

Soup is good when you’re not 100% because it’s so easy.

Basically, I sauteed all the vegetables I had left from last Saturday’s farmer’s market – some carrots, a red pepper, and a zucchini. I added some stock, some water, a few bay leaves, some salt, some pepper, and brought to a boil. I simmered the vegetables in the liquid for 15 minutes and then added 1 1/2 cups of frozen, thawed red kidney beans and 1/3 cup of ancini de pepe and brought to a hard simmer until the pasta was cooked, about 5 minutes. I took out the bay leaves and added some thyme and oregano at the end because it was a little bland.

Now I’m contemplating freezing some portions but I’m getting conflicting information from the internet on freezing soups with pasta. The internet can be so confusing sometimes. Thoughts? Advice?