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 26, 2013 § 4 Comments
We haven’t bought a can of beans in, oh gosh…I’d say six months. This weekend we used our last stray can of black beans for a chili—and I remember moving to our new house with it and packing it away on an upper kitchen shelf. Cooking up dried beans in a pressure cooker is super easy and super cheap, and here’s the bonus: You get several cups of flavorful bean broth to add to whatever dish needs a little tasty liquid. (See how easy it is here.)
And if we’re cooking up our own beans, we might as well make our own favorite bean-based spread, right? I’m speaking of hummus, of course, made with those funny looking little chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans). I’ve written about hummus here before, but after making several batches of the stuff, I was left disappointed. Too thick. I wanted the creaminess you’d find in the off-the-shelf brands.
Jennifer found the solution—or very nearly—with a recipe from The New Moosewood Cookbook. Not completely creamy as we had hoped, she adjusted and tasted and made batch after batch until finally, she made the perfect consistency. The secret? Adding in some of that aforementioned bean broth and reducing the amount of tahini. Oh, and adding in a roasted red pepper.
Red Pepper Hummus (adapted from The New Moosewood Cookbook)
- 2-3 cloves garlic, sliced
- large handful parsley
- 2 scallions, chopped into 1-in. pieces
- 3 cups cooked chickpeas (nearly a 1-lb. bag of dry beans cooked, reserve cooking liquid)
- 4 tbs. tahini
- Juice of one lemon juice (or more, depending on said lemon’s juiciness)
- 3/4-1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. cumin
- 1/4 – 1/2 sumac to taste (optional if you can find it at your local Middle Eastern grocer)
- 1/4 tsp. paprika
- 1 red pepper, roasted at 425F for 30 min., cooled and skin removed, and cut into strips
1. In a food processor combine the garlic, parsley and scallions, and whir up into a mince.
2. Add chickpeas, tahini, lemon and salt. Puree into a paste.
3. Add the cumin, sumac and paprika as you add some of that reserved bean cooking liquid—try about 1/4 cup—and process. Add more liquid by the tablespoon until you find the consistency right for you. Careful with the sumac—you may like just a tad, so taste before adding any more than a 1/4 tsp.
4. Add the red pepper at the very end and pulse the food processor until it breaks down the red pepper. We’re not looking for a completely pureeing of the pepper. We just want it broken down into bits.
January 29, 2013 § 3 Comments
I’m a fan of tofu. Not a crazy fan, but a fan nonetheless. And I’m not sure how it happened. Omitting red meat and poultry from my diet accounts for some of my fandom, I guess. Quite honestly, I am just going to let me fondness of tofu exist for what it is. Why bother explaining, right?
The best tofu I ever had was in a take-out dish from a Chinese restaurant in Ithaca, New York, about 18 years ago. The name, the flavorings, the accompaniments all escape me now. The one piece of the dish that remains in my memory is the tofu. Crispy on the outside. Soft on the inside. The closest thing to a McDonald’s french fry this side of the Golden Arches. I want that. I crave that even.
In the absence of that crispy tofu dish, I’ll take this tofu noodle soup. Soy sauce is in there, but it’s not too salty. And the hoisin gives it that … umami. There, I said it. Umami, that fifth and most flavorable of the basic tastes. A bowl of this broth will satisfy me for lunch. The tofu and noodles make it a real deal meal.
I’ve adapted this recipe – and I keep adapting each rendition of it – from a VegNews Magazine newsletter. I found that the original recipe had too little broth and way too many noodles. A halving of this and a doubling of that with on-the-fly adjustments takes care of that problem.
1 thinly sliced yellow onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbs grated fresh ginger (about an inch or less)
4 tbs hoisin sauce
4 tbs soy sauce
9 cups vegetable broth (or water)
1 15-oz. package extra-firm tofu, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 8-oz. package rice noodles, cooked and drained
4 tbs rice vinegar
4 tsp Asian hot sauce
Scallions, bean sprouts and cilantro to sprinkle, if desired
- In a large pot, saute the onion in about 1 tbs of oil over medium-high heat until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and saute for another 30 seconds or so.
- Stir in hoisin, soy and broth. Bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer and let cook for 15 minutes.
- Stir in tofu, noodles, vinegar and hot sauce. Now, here’s an embarrassing thing: I have JUST NOW realized the recipe calls for cooking the noodles FIRST, then adding them to the pot. This explains a lot. Well, adding them at the end is fine, too—just simmer them in the broth for about 5 minutes or so.
- Serve soup in bowls and sprinkle with scallions, sprouts and/or cilantro if you so choose.
Next time, I’ll boil up the noodles beforehand THEN add them to the soup and report back to you if there is a major difference. Meanwhile, enjoy!
January 15, 2013 § 3 Comments
Wheat berries. Never heard of them? Neither had I, until I came across them as an ingredient in a course-grained whole wheat bread recipe (more on that bread another day). And now, they’re a special breakfast treat.
How did they go from bread to breakfast? When I spotted them in the Amy’s Bread cookbook recipe I read up a bit on this whole grain. According to Wikipedia, “wheat berry” is just another term for the whole wheat kernel. Silly me, I thought they looked familiar. As a farm kid, I had wheat kernels end up in pant cuffs, socks and occasionally other locations on my person after a day on the wheat combine. If milled instead of left whole, the wheat berries become wheat flour. And as we know, grains left whole are good for you because none of the nutrients are processed out of the grain. Keeping it whole leaves all that good-for-you protein, fiber and iron (and I’m sure other good things) right in that wheat berry for your health and flavor enjoyment.
The whole wheat berry as an ingredient in bread gives the bread some chewy texture—something to bite into other than just the bread. They’re also a bit sweet and nutty in flavor—a great thing when used not just in breads, but also when added to salad greens or made into a grain-based dish.
My course-grained bread recipe called for just a 1/2 cup of cooked wheat berries with a half-cup of the reserved cooking liquid. Wanting to have some extra on hand, I added one cup of uncooked berries to about 2.5-3 cups boiling water, then let it simmer, mostly covered, for about 50 minutes. The result was about 2 cups of plump wheat berries and surprisingly just enough liquid.
The berries that didn’t make it into the bread made it into my breakfast bowl. Taking a cue from my typical steel-cut oats preparation, these berries received some raisins (highly recommend the jumbo raisin mix from Trader Joe’s) and slivered almonds. And to plump up the raisins while warming in the microwave, I added enough apple cider to come nearly to the surface of the wheat berries. Soul-satisfyingly delicious. And it filled my belly. I even slurped from last juices from the bowl.
I would love to try wheat berries in a savory application and have seen a recipe or two pairing them with mushrooms. If you have any recommendations—either savory or sweet—please leave me a comment below.
And now that I know my family has a barn full of these wheat berries at home, I think I’ll bring home a great big bag of them next time I visit.
November 27, 2012 § 2 Comments
Indecision can be crippling. Seriously crippling. Should I wear the green coat or the black leather? Should I dodge this person on the left or right? Should I sit here or there? Soon enough you find yourself standing in the produce aisle for 15 minutes, not sure which head of broccoli is the one destined for your dinner table.
Don’t think it hasn’t happened to me. It has.
Today I avoided a near calamity in the kitchen—the calamity of not knowing for sure what to have for lunch. At breakfast time (and by breakfast I mean my two helpings of coffee), I was thinking I’d have a salad for lunch. And yes, I do consider lunch that early in the morning.
Then at 10am, I spied that last ball of pizza dough in the fridge. Pizza for lunch. My fave. But … there’s the salad. And gosh darn it, that pizza dough is sitting there, asking me to redeem myself for a not-so-great pizza making session last night.
Salad … on a pizza? Salad pizza! Why not, right? Why not, indeed.
I’ve had arugula pizzas at fun, fancy pizza joints before. So I felt comfortable enough throwing something together despite my lack of arugula. Here’s what I eventually made, using 1/2 of one ball of pizza dough.
Since my new convection oven tops off at just 450F (a minimum of 480F is what I prefer for pizza), I baked the dough naked for 8 minutes, knowing I’d want my salad topping in the oven for just a minute. After 8 minutes, I took out the base and applied:
-baby spinach/young greens with thinly sliced red onion and red pepper, lightly dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette
-leftover sauteed shrimp (pre-heated while the naked dough cooked)
Sneak it back into the oven for just a minute more. Sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper.
Delicious. It was so good, it’s gone.
I’m always looking for not-your-typical pizza topping suggestions. What are some of yours? Leave a comment and let me know.
October 5, 2012 § 2 Comments
Dainty has been absent, but I have a good .. strike that .. I have a great excuse. I’ve moved.
Not far. Just a mile or so down the road. But even if the distance was 10 feet, it’s still a huge process. Packing, unpacking. Oh, and buying the place. And dealing with a construction crew that is – even a month after moving – still on site. But they are good boys so I don’t mind them being around.
Yes, the builders are still here. And yes, this building is new construction. It’s an unusual building, too. The design is based on the Powerhaus design used quite a bit in Germany and apparently this is the first building of its sort in the U.S.
And what makes it so unusual? It’s incredibly energy efficient. Like, super super efficient. I’ll get into it in more detail eventually, but let’s first talk about how it impacts Dainty the most: In the kitchen.
I’ve cooked with gas stoves since I learned to cook. But, the question in this Powerhaus design is this: Is gas efficient? No. Apparently gas is upwards of 70% less efficient than electricity. Bleh. I hate electric stoves. I mean, fire is so fierce, you know? Fire is awesome.
But, fire fails in efficiency. So … Dainty now has an electric cooktop. To be more specific, it’s an Electrolux Radiant/Induction Cooktop. It has two radiant burners and two induction burners on its flat surface. What’s induction? You know that commercial with Kelly Ripa making a meal and her water boils in 90 seconds? That’s induction. It’s a little like magic. But water boiling in 90 seconds? Awesome.
After about a week of avoiding all forms of cooking once we moved in, I decided to cook something on the induction burner. Or at least boil something. Can’t go wrong with boiling, right?
I boiled eggs. It’s a simple enough process: Eggs in pot, cover with an inch or so of water. Bring to a boil. Cover. Turn off heat. Let them sit for 12-15 minutes. Rinse with cold water to bring down temp. I did exactly as outlined.
And I got a soft-boiled egg.
Here’s where I went wrong: When cooking on a radiant, coiled or gas burner, it takes time for the water to come to a boil. During that time—what? maybe 5-6 or so minutes?—those eggs are slowly cooking. When using induction, that time to boil is cut drastically short and hence the cooking time is cut short. Ergo, soft-boiled eggs.
I’ve gotten back up on the cooktop and tried boiling eggs again. One minute at a full boil is not enough. 90 seconds, not enough. Two full minutes, a tad too much. Plus, without a slowly firming inside the shell, the shells tend to crack when they come to a rolling boil so quickly, spilling their whites.
So, what’s the solution?
Using the radiant burner. Thank goodness it’s a hybrid.