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.
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!
July 27, 2012 § 4 Comments
Zucchini. It doesn’t stop.
Turn around for a minute and the long green veggie is 3 inches longer on the vine. Not kidding. Hold off on picking it for a day and … well … it becomes a billy club. Growing up, we’d throw the very large zukes into the pig pen. Healthy, zucchini-loving pigs, that’s what we had.
Lately, thoughts during my 25-minute walk back home from yoga have turned to how to use that day’s zucchini. Pizza. Pasta. Salad. I’ve done them all and wanted something different. Last night, my craving for a burger—really, the craving for something meaty between two bready buns—decided dinner for me. Why should sliders be reserved for meat eaters? Zucchini can play that game, too.
1 5-6 in. zucchini
2 tbs olive oil
1+tbs balsamic vinegar
1 spring oregano
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
6 small French rolls, cut into top and bottom halves
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1-2 tbs olive oil
1 deliciously red heirloom tomato
1. Slice zucchini into rounds slightly thicker than 1/2 in. Discard (or eat!) the smaller rounds. Shoot for using 12 rounds.
2. Combine oil, vinegar, oregano, a big pinch of kosher salt and several turns of the pepper grinder in a medium bowl. Dip your finger in there and adjust seasoning if you’d like (more vinegar? more oil? It’s your food—make it taste the way you like!). Add zucchini slices and toss. Put aside.
3. Smash those garlic cloves with the back of your chef’s knife (on a cutting board, of course) and schmear it together until the garlic becomes kinda pasty. You can add a sprinkle of salt or not. Add this to a small bowl of 1-2 tbs olive oil. Brush this oil onto the bun halves.
4. Set a grill pan onto medium-high heat. When it’s hot, place buns, cut side down, onto the pan and flatten slightly. 10-15 seconds will do. Put grilled buns into a bowl and cover with a tea towel for now. Turn off grill pan.
5. Meanwhile … we’re still waiting for the zucchini to marinate a bit. Take this time to make a small side salad and whip up a quick vinaigrette.
6. Okay, done with the salad? Time to move on. Get that grill pan back up to medium high. Place your zucchini rounds onto the grill pan. Using a brush, dab some of the liquid remaining in the bowl onto each slice. Let them sit for 4-5 min, or until they get some nice-looking grill marks on the bottom.
7. While those are grilling, slice the tomato into 6 slices and add to whatever liquid remains in the bottom of that bowl.
8. Mozzarella. Time to slice it. Slice it about 1/4 in. thick or less, and into whatever size will sit nicely on top of a zucchini round.
9. Back to those zucchinis. They should be ready to flip onto the other side. Do that. Then place a bit of mozzarella on top of each. Let them grill for a minute.
10. Get your buns ready, working with one top and bottom at a time. This part is optional: Make some room in that grill pan and place the buns cut side down into the goodness the zucchini has been cooking in. Only takes a second, and remove quickly. If not doing that: Place one zucchini slice onto the bun bottom, and overlap a second on top of that. Add a slice of tomato. Top it off with other half of the bun. Repeat with the remaining zukes and buns.
Super. Good. I ate one and a half. Coulda had two. Or three.
Enjoy. I’m off to make zucchini bread now.
Do you have a favorite zucchini recipe? Share it in the comments section.
July 5, 2012 § Leave a comment
Tofu. Exciting stuff.
Exciting stuff that you most likely stay away from. Am I right? “Meh, whatever. I’ll have the chicken,” is what you’re saying.
The best tofu I’ve ever eaten was takeout from this hole-in-the-wall Chinese place in Ithaca, New York, about 18 years ago. It was a bit spicy with a shockingly crisp texture. No idea what they did to it but I can still remember how tasty it was.
While trolling the Web in search of what to do with tofu, I came across a fabulous marinade. And by fabulous I mean I had all the ingredients on hand and it was super-simple to make. The recipe has been on a Post-It Note on the fridge for about 8 months now, and before I lose it down that mysterious gap between the icebox and the counter, I thought I’d post it to Dainty for safekeeping.
Okay, so … you marinate this tofu baby. Then what? The cooked marinated tofu slabs go well with an Asian-style slaw. Put both in a wrap or on top of brown rice. A little added soy sauce is a good addition for the latter, as well.
1 tbs balsamic vinegar
1 tbs sesame oil
1 tsp agave nectar
1 tbs minced ginger (a heaping tsp of ground ginger works, too, and gives it a tiny bit sweeter flavor)
1 tbs minced garlic
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne
*This recipe easily doubles BUT think twice before doubling the cayenne. A double recipe will more than adequately cover a standard block of tofu cut into 1/4-inch slices.
-Combine all ingredients in a tall-sided container and whir up with a hand-held immersion blender. Or, put in a regular blender. Blending isn’t totally necessary, but I feel it gives the marinade more body than just a simple whisking. It then holds onto the tofu better.
-Brush overtop 1/4-in. tofu slices, and the sides, too, if you wish. You may have extra marinade – keep that around to pour on top of your wrap or tofu rice bowl.
-Let sit in the refrigerator for an hour or two. Then place slices bottom-side down in a medium-hot pan. Flip after 3 minutes. Flip again after three minutes—this helps get the marinade onto the side that wasn’t brushed.
We used the marinated tofu in a brown rice bowl along with a raw corn-cabbage slaw and some leftover sauteed mushrooms that we reheated in the same pan used to cook the tofu. A sprinkle of nama shoyu or regular soy sauce gave the dish a nice pop.
What’s your favorite tofu marinade? Please share below – it’s good to have more than one in your recipe book!
May 7, 2012 § 1 Comment
The following is a paraphrased and nearly completely inaccurate account of a recent text conversation.
Text from Nan: J’s sick, can’t use tix to tonight’s show at Club Passim. Can you use them?
Text from Dainty: Uh … wha? Tonite? Sure! Who’s playing, where’s it?
Nan: Meg Hutchison. She’s great. H Sq.
Dainty: We’re in! Coming after Baptiste yoga, could eat a cow. Do they have food?
Nan: Veggie Planet serves their food. Order Henry’s Dinner. On a pizza. Trust me.
Jennifer and I do indeed trust Nan—she’s a lawyer, after all, and we love her. We go to Club Passim, ravenous, and after a cursory glance at the menu, immediately ordered the Henry’s Dinner, pizza version. Something about sweet potato, goat cheese, asiago, rosemary and sage—oh, don’t forget the caramelized onions—all atop a whole wheat pizza.
First thought: Um … yeah. It’s really good. Things that should come together as a side dish at Turkey Time turns out to be a great topping for a pizza.
Second thought: I could totally make that.
And I did Here’s my version.
- 2 pizza doughs from the Biga-Based Pizza Dough recipe (which makes a total of four)
- 1 large sweet potato
- 1 sweet onion
- olive oil
- balsamic vinegar
- fresh rosemary and sage, ground in a spice mill together, about 2 tbs each
- a log of goat cheese
- asiago cheese (we used parmesan)
- salt and pepper go without saying …
-We had a gigantic sweet potato, so we spiked it with a few holes and popped it into a 425F oven for nearly an hour. After 45 min you want to keep poking a fork in it to see if it’s done all the way through. When done, let it cool enough to handle. The skin will just peel right off with your hands. Slice it into 1/4-1/2 inch think rounds.
-While the potato is cooking, slice up that sweet onion. Add about 2 tbs olive oil to your trusty large skillet, set on medium high, and toss the onion in there. Add maybe 2 tbs balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle generously with kosher salt. Toss often. After a bit you’ll want to turn the heat down low and let it saute low and slow. Half hour, maybe. Give the onions a taste halfway through – you might want to add more balsamic to your liking. When they’re done, let them cool, too.
-Heat the oven to 480F. Got a pizza stone? You need one, seriously.
-When you’re ready, flour your counter and roll out that pizza dough – thin but not super super thin. Sprinkle a pizza peel with fine corn meal and lay that dough on there.
-Next, brush the dough surface with some olive oil. Now you can arrange your ingredients however you want. I put the caramelized onions on the bottom. Next I layer with sweet potato – I broke my potato slices into chunks and spread them out a bit. Same with the goat cheese – I just broke chunks off the log and applied liberally. Next, a generous dusting of the rosemary-sage mixture, followed by Parmesan cheese. Salt and pepper on top.
-Slide the pizza onto the stone. 6-7 minutes is all you need. You should have enough ingredients for two pizzas, so while the first one is cooking, get the second one all set to go.
-Wait 3 minutes before cutting into it. You gotta let that thing set up.
Jennifer just took the leftovers for lunch and popped it into the break room toaster oven. A colleague asked, “Hey, is that the Henry’s Dinner pizza from Veggie Planet?” Looks like I got it right.
April 1, 2012 § 5 Comments
What we have here is a guest post. My first guest – awesome! And it’s from none other than the best chef I know personally—my dear wife, Jennifer. She’s the real cook in the Dainty household. Who needs a recipe? Not her, not really. Today’s topic happens to be one of those recipe-less recipes that she just developed from experience. You eat enough chowder, you’re gonna know how to make it eventually.
So, without further ado, here’s Jennifer’s brilliant rendition of clam chowder.
Ode to a clam. Yes, I said clam. Many of you out there have an aversion to shellfish, which are easy to ruin in unskilled hands. Perish the thought. I know one former Eastern Long Island resident (editor’s note: That would be me) who had such an aversion, until she was able to experience what shellfish cooked well tastes like … manna from heaven. Well, actually the sea—the sweet, briny, bountiful sea.
Inspired by photos posted by dear friends who did some late-winter clamming, I suddenly remembered the quart-sized pouch of clams frozen in our freezer; harvested New Year’s weekend during an unseasonably warm morning outing in the flats of Provincetown Harbor. I had frozen the clams along with the liquor they produced, waiting for the right moment to make a chowder. Not your typical Monday night meal, and it only took moments to whip up!
-I thawed out 4 cups of clam broth and 2 cups of fish fumet
-Diced into 1 inch cubes 3 potatoes
-I cooked the potatoes in the clam liquor along with 2 bay leaves for seasoning. While the potatoes were cooking I sautéed up a mirepoix (fancy way of saying celery, carrot and onion).
-2 medium carrots
-2 celery stalks
-1 large onion
-Once the veggies were mostly soft I added 4 oz. of shitake mushrooms. I had them in the fridge, and thought, why not?!
-When the potatoes were done (15 minutes or so), I used an immersion blender to break down the potatoes, but not completely. I wanted to leave some chunks, but also give the illusion of some cream in the broth, so I let my starch be the cream substitute. To the pot I added my cooked veggies and the quart plus of clams, warmed the mixture through and wished I had some crusty bread to serve along with it.
Man, oh man that was good! Thank you P & J for inspiring me to bust out the bounty harvested a few months ago. Food-inspired memories!
Comments? Questions? Your favorite clam chowdah experience? Leave us a note below!
March 19, 2012 § 4 Comments
Hearty soups … yes, I love them. And the ones I make are nearing the definition of stew. But every once in a while I will be in the mood for something light, breathy and brothy.
This Asian-Inspired Soup is a riff on something Mark Bittman published in March 2011. He gave three simple (very simple) recipe suggestions in each of four categories: creamy, brothy, earthy and hearty. The second and third recipes are slight twists on the first in each category. By the end of making the twelfth, he says, you’ll never need to follow another soup recipe.
With a package of firm tofu and some leftover chickpea broth (remember that from Pressure Cooker Basics?), I twisted Mark Bittman’s own Asian twist on brothy soups.
- 8 cups water, in this case chickpea broth and water
- 1/4 cup chopped scallions (about 3-4)
- 1 package firm tofu, drained and cubed
- 4 oz oyster mushrooms, roughly chopped
- 1 tbs soy sauce
- 1 tbs sesame oil
-To a large pot add the water or broth, scallions, tofu, mushrooms, soy and sesame.
-Heat over a medium-high flame to just boiling, them bring to a quiet simmer, partly covered. Let simmer for … 15 minutes? 20 minutes? It’s up to you and how tender you like your oyster mushrooms. Check it at 15, then check the mushrooms every few minutes.
-Ladle into bowls. Garnish with a few chopped scallions. You might enjoy a crispy baguette to dunk.
Seriously, I tried to make this soup sound difficult/complex/sophisticated/finicky. But that’s just impossible. This soup is just way simple. And delicious.
Any Asian-inspired and simple soup suggestions or ingredient ideas? Leave a comment and let me know.