March 26, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Ah, an over-stuffed pita sandwich…yum.
Who am I kidding!? When have I ever stuffed a pita and have it NOT break apart on me? Never. Ever. And once it breaks, it’s just all downhill from there. Your fingers get full of hummus. Whatever dressing you’ve put on the sandwich runs down your wrist into your sleeve. It’s no good, stuffing a pita.
Better to use pita like a sandwich bread.
That’s exactly what I did for lunch yesterday. Toasted pita cut into two half moons, each spread with Red Pepper Hummus, some roasted eggplant, and some greens lightly dressed with Lemony Vinaigrette. After chowing down, I realized the Fiery Onion Relish may have been a fun thing to have as a topping, too.
Maybe I’ll try that for today’s lunch.
March 12, 2013 § 1 Comment
Sometimes you have to shop for dinner. Sometimes it’s in your fridge or freezer, in bits and pieces, just waiting for you to assemble.
That’s what happened with last night’s dinner—Eggplant Rollatini. Open the fridge and there’s an eggplant needing to be used ASAP. Open the freezer and there’s a cup or so of frozen ricotta and chard lasagna filling left over from last fall’s Roasted Vegetable Lasagna making festivities. And there’s a large can of whole peeled tomatoes in the cabinet.
Get out the mandolin, folks—it’s rollatini-making time. And having never made rollatini before, this was all off the cuff.
- olive oil (to be used throughout recipe)
- kosher salt and pepper to taste (to be used throughout recipe)
- 3-4 cloves garlic, depending on size, smashed and minced
- 1 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
- 1-2 tsp. Italian seasoning
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 1 medium-large eggplant, sliced lengthwise to about 1/4-in. thickness with a mandolin (be careful!)
- Chard-ricotta mix from Roasted Vegetable Lasagna, or about 1-1.25 cups plain ricotta for this recipe
- About 1/ cup Parmesan cheese to sprinkle
1. Turn oven to 400F.
2. Add 1 tbs. olive oil to pan on medium heat. Add garlic and let it go until it becomes fragrant. Slowly pour in the liquid from the canned tomatoes. Take out each tomato from the can and gently mush and tear it into pieces with one hand and add to the pan. Messy, but it’s the best and easiest way to do it. Add in Italian seasoning, sugar (really, it helps brighten the sauce, trust me) and a large pinch of kosher salt.
3. The sauce will really be bubbling at this point. Turn it WAY down and let it simmer gently. Add in a turn or two from the pepper mill. Continue to simmer until it thickens a bit, about 20-30 minutes, just about until you’re ready to assemble the rollatini.
4. Meanwhile, slice eggplant. Place each slice on a sheet pan, and pour a bit of olive oil (not a lot, not a little) over each slice, using a brush to spread the oil over each slice. Sprinkle kosher salt and pepper on each slice. No need to do both sides, one side will do. Pop the sheet pan in the oven and bake for 15-16 minutes, or until the firmness of the eggplant is gone but the eggplant has not become wicked soft. When done, take out and let cool enough to handle, about 5-8 minutes. Keep oven on!
5. Working with one slice of eggplant at a time, spread about a tablespoon of the ricotta mixture over the surface of the eggplant slice. You don’t want it too thick or you won’t be able to roll it very well. Starting at the narrow end of the eggplant slice, roll it into a “cigarello,” or, as I would rather imagine it, roll it up like you’d roll your yoga mat. Set aside. Continue with the next slice until you either run out of ricotta or eggplant.
6. Lay down about 1/4 cup of the tomato sauce in the bottom of an 8×8 baking dish. Place eggplant rolls in dish on their sides (not standing up). Fit as many as you can in there. When done, generously spoon sauce over the surface—but you don’t want it soaking wet, either. Find the happy medium. When done, sprinkle a coating of grated Parmesan on top and cover with foil.
7. Pop back into the 400F oven for about 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 5 minutes or so. Remove and let cool for 5 minutes before digging in.
Have something like this in your repertoire? Let me know your version in the comments section.
February 21, 2013 § 3 Comments
The way I understand it, Paula Deen’s first food-for-money venture was preparing bagged lunches for the locals, which her sons would then deliver. What those lunches were, I do not know. I imagine a typical lunch included a sandwich (or sammy). Maybe some chips. And there had to have been a decadent, butter-loaded dessert in that bag, too.
Anyone who follows me on Instagram has seen what I concoct for my own lunches, usually from leftovers or stuff just sitting in the veggie bowl. The Sweet Potato Sandwich has become a standby. The Salad Pizza is still one of my proudest moments. Avocados and boiled eggs smeared on toast are regulars, as well.
My latest sammy, Roasted Eggplant on Whole Wheat, has got me thinking about Paula Deen and her bagged-lunch business. This sammy, I’m tellin’ you, it’s good. Real good. People would want to eat it. And they might even pay real money for it—and for me to make and deliver it. Is something like this even feasible here in Boston? And I’m sure there’s some proper and official channels to go through to make sure I’m not serving thoroughly rotten food, too. I mean, someone’s got to make sure the cats and I are wearing hair nets, right?
The thought is on my mind. Who knows, maybe I’ll even give it a try, “underground catering” style (I didn’t really say that, if anyone official is reading this). Meanwhile I’ll keep putting various spreads and veg and cheese and such onto different sorts of breads and doughs. Keep up with them on Instagram and let me know which ones appeal to you most.
Roasted Eggplant on Whole Wheat Baguette
It’s simple, really:
Slice an eggplant into 1/2-in. slices. Place on a sheet pan. Sprinkle each slice with some olive oil, using a brush to spread it over the surface. Eggplants are like sponges—they soak up a lot of oil. That’s why it’s important to brush. Then sprinkle each slice with kosher salt, and give each slice a small twist from the pepper mill. Put in a 420F oven for about 20 min. Remove from oven and let cool. You’ll have extras—always a good thing.
If I’m roasting, why not throw a red pepper in there, too, right? Slice lengthwise, cutting in two, and remove seeds and pith. Flatten each half as best as possible. Find room on the sheet pan in amongst the eggplant. The peppers will take about 5-8 minutes longer than the eggplant—look for it to be dark around the edges. When done, place the halves into a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Remove from bowl 10 minutes later and peel off the skin.
Take a segment of homemade Whole Wheat Baguette (recipe is coming, I promise) and slice lengthwise.
Smear one side with homemade red pepper hummus (courtesy of Jennifer!).
Top with however many slices of roasted eggplant you can fit on there. You may have to cut them in half and pretend it’s a puzzle.
Top the eggplant with roasted red pepper.
And top the pepper with goat cheese. What’s not good about anything I just mentioned? Really?
On the other side of the baguette, lay down some baby salad greens lightly dressed with something. I used Lemony Vinaigrette, which is always in a jar at the ready for good times.
Put one half on top of the other. Warning: Goat cheese crumbles may try to escape. That’s ok—they won’t get far.
Proceed to eat. Enjoy.
My question to you is this: Do you want to eat this? And how much would you pay to have it made for you? Add a pear and a cookie and you’ve got yourself a lunch.
October 15, 2011 § 1 Comment
Day 4 … halfway through our week of eating and drinking stuff as homegrown and as local as possible. How’s it going? Great. In fact, we might have too much food. Well, we’ll make it to the end, definitely.
Okay, I had promised some scintillating breakfasts. Not happening on Day 4. The morning meal, to me, is utilitarian. I know, that’s the wrong way to think about it. You’re supposed to eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a queen and dinner like a pauper. Or something like that. I honestly don’t have the stomach for breakfast until, say, 9 am.
Day 4 was a whole two days ago. Let’s see if I can remember what we had.
Flat Black coffee. Maine’s Own Organic Milk. And honestly, I may have had an apple. I know it wasn’t much. I was kinda busy and on a role with things, work-wise. Sometimes that happens. Kids, eat your breakfast and don’t be like Auntie Dainty.
Lunch … I have to say what I made for lunch was the best thing ever constructed out of two pieces of bread. Seriously. Some cookbook-writing chef is going to see my delicious creation and will put it front and center in his/her lunch options.
It’s a grilled eggplant and tomato paninni with smoky mayo. Recall the smoky mayo originally topped the broiled bluefish on Day 2. Imagine that spread not-too-thinly on two slices of homemade sourdoughish bread. And remember the eggplant on the grilled pizza from Day 3? Lay a couple of those grilled eggplant slices down on top. Add some sliced tomato, top with another mayo-slathered slice of bread. Put a bit of olive oil in a hot cast iron pan. Lay down the sammies. And add some wait to make them “pressed sandwiches.” In this case, I used a very heavy Dutch oven. Grill both sides to a nice crispness. Smoky mayo+grilled eggplant=the world’s perfect pairing. I wanted to share it with everyone and no one all at once.
We still had two bluefish fillets in the fridge from our Cape Ann Fresh Catch share on Tuesday. We did another round of Broiled Bluefish with Smoky Mayo since it was so good on Day 2. And we had a small side salad. See those beans on top? Vermont Cranberry Beans – the best homegrown beans. Ever.
That was it for Day 4. We won’t tell you if we finish the remaining Topsfield Fair-made kettle corn. We’ll let you think on that.
July 22, 2011 § 1 Comment
One of the things we do when we spend time in Provincetown is head over to the Saturday farmers market. This time of year the stalls offer some great fresh produce we haven’t seen locally since last summer. This time we picked up two smallish eggplants. Versatile! Yummy! Pretty! Eggplants are all of the above … And also a bit short-lived on the countertop, especially in weather like this.
What to do with them? We could grill. We could stuff. We could make lasagna. We could bread. And we did none of those. Instead, when they began getting “long in the tooth,” we turned to an old standby – spicy eggplant relish.
I pulled this recipe from my Moosewood cookbook a few years ago for a get-together and used it as a dip. It got a great response. We used the leftovers in numerous ways, such as a spread for sandwiches, and also as an eat-by-the-forkful snack. Can’t remember exactly which Moosewood cookbook it came from, possibly the original. Luckily its a popular recipe and we were able to find it online – hey, we’re on vacation, we don’t travel with old cookbooks.
2-3 Tbs olive oil
1 medium onion
1 small red pepper, large dice
2 small-medium eggplant, small cubes, don’t bother peeling
Salt, pepper and cayenne to taste
-heat oil over medium-low. Add onions and sautée until softish, 4-5 min.
-add cubed eggplant and red pepper. The eggplant will soak up a lot of the oil. Stir really well to coat all of it. Let it cook low and slow. Add a generous pinch or two of kosher salt and several turns of fresh pepper.
-Let it cook down awhile – 5 min or so. Add in as much cayenne as is appropriate for you. Cook partially covered for another 4-5 min.
-is the eggplant soft? Take it off the heat. Season with salt/pepper if needed.
We ran into one small problem during this – there was no cayenne in the house. How is that possible? We made due with some chili powder and red pepper flakes. The chili powder gave it a smoky flavor, making it a bit more savory. It was a good addition, actually. I added a bit too much red pepper flakes. Adding a small sliver of cheese when serving on a cracker will take care of that. Looking forward to having this in a tofu wrap for lunch. Perfect beach food.
May 24, 2011 § 3 Comments
More than a week after lunching at De Kas Restaurant in Amsterdam, I’m still dreaming of the meal. It’s one of the hottest tables in Amsterdam, and no wonder, given its fresh, bright flavors, dedication to locally grown foods and airy environment. And I mean airy environment: The restaurant is under glass in a state-of-the-art greenhouse.
De Kas is certainly in unique surroundings. The history of the property goes something like this: Back in the 1920s, the parcel of land was home to Amsterdam’s municipal nurseries. All of the plants and flowers used for Amsterdam’s municipal plantings were grown on these grounds and in greenhouses. Over the decades, the nurseries were shut down and the buildings and greenhouses became dilapidated—such a shame! About 10 years ago the greenhouses were scheduled for demolition, but a Michelin-rated chef, Gert Jan Hageman, came up with the idea of converting one of the greenhouses into a restaurant and growing area. The dining room was designed by renowned designer Piet Boon and is lovely. The kitchen is open, and there’s even a chef’s table, where guests can enjoy their meal just steps from the hot grill (honestly, not something on the top of my list to do). And the bar area, while open and visible, is tucked away and is just shady enough for any self-respecting bar fly.
As I mentioned, they believe in fresh, local food. And it can’t get more local than the greenhouse adjacent to the kitchen and the gardens that surround the restaurant. The team also has a farm that produced a great deal of their produce. What they don’t grow and raise themselves is sourced from nearby farms and the North Sea.
Enough about that, let’s move on to the food. The three-course menu is fixed; i.e. you are served what they are preparing that day (they do ask if the chef should take into account for any dietary restrictions). And they do offer a wine pairing, which I eagerly agreed to. Can’t recall the first wine, but the second was an unoaked chardonnay from Spain. Tasty!
The meal was fabulous, that’s a given. And beautiful – not something every restaurant gets right. Instead of attempting to describe the meal, I’ll just leave you to enjoy the photos.
While the municipal nurseries are long gone, the remainder of the property has retained its “municipalness”—it’s now a public park enjoyed by people and wildlife alike.
April 21, 2011 § 4 Comments
Why these are called Napoleons, I’m not sure. Maybe because they are short squat layered stacks. I’m almost positive it wasn’t because the guy had a tasty complexity of flavors. In my book, these take the victory.
Here’s the idea: Layers of eggplant, ricotta and asparagus. Simple. Delightful. And they do have a mysteriously complex flavor, thanks to grilling.
Giada DeLaurentis, aka food porn queen, made these in a recent show. The recipe is easy enough to recreate. Just a warning, these require some grilling. We have one of those indoor grills that you plug in AND a 16-in. All-Clad grill pan. We used both at the same time for these.
Eggplant Asparagus Napoleons
(gives you 4 short stacks)
- 1 medium eggplant, sliced into 1/2-in. slices, at least 12
- asparagus – about 12 stalks
- 3-4 tbs freshly chopped thyme
- salt/pepper to taste
- ricotta cheese, about 2 cups
- 1/2 lemon
-Set oven to 200F-250F
-Put about two cups of ricotta in a medium bowl. Add about half of the chopped thyme and squeeze in the juice of half a lemon. Stir to incorporate. Set aside.
-Put eggplant slices in a big bowl. Dowse with olive oil, sprinkle with two big pinches of kosher salt, a couple of twists of pepper, and the remaining chopped thyme. Get your hands in there (or use tongs) and make sure it is all evenly coated. The eggplant will suck up the oil – that’s okay, don’t overdo it.
-Set indoor grill or grill pan or maybe even your outdoor grill to medium and let it heat up. Place 12 eggplant slices on the grill – reserve the bowl they were in. If it looks like some of the slices missed a bit of oil, take some olive oil and a brush and brush them up a bit. Let them grill up on that side for a few minutes.
-Meanwhile, chop the woody parts off your asparagus. Place in that bowl, add a touch of olive oil, salt and pepper. You can grill these up in a separately as I did, or you can wait until your eggplant is done.
-Speaking of eggplant, check to see how the undersides are coming along. When they get golden grill marks on the bottom, flip ‘em over. Maybe some of the ones you just turned over need another wash of oil. Your decision. Give them another couple of minutes to grill up – just take them off before they get limp and burned.
-Grill up the asparagus on medium. It won’t take as long as the eggplant. Move them to get all sides as best you can. 4-5 minutes max. You don’t want them wimpy; pick one up and hold it sideways – it shouldn’t sag. Place them on cutting board when done and chop them in half.
-Here’s the assembly part: On a baking sheet place four slices of eggplant. Spoon on a dollop of the ricotta – not too much, just enough to cover the slice but don’t spread it thinly either like butter on toast. Now add three asparagus sections on top of the ricotta. Add another layer of eggplant. More ricotta. Another three sections of asparagus. Now top it off with eggplant. You should have yourself a nice short stack.
-Pop the baking sheet in the warm oven for about 10 minutes or so – enough time to bring everything up to temperature.
Use one napoleon as a side dish or use two as a meal and serve with some sort of protein. I made a side of quinoa with roasted cherry tomatoes and shallots.