Spicy Eggplant Relish

June 18, 2013 § 1 Comment

Funny how when I make a salad, sauce or spread for a gathering of friends, the recipe always turns out to be from the Moosewood Cookbook. Not kidding. For flavor profiles that were developed back in the crunchy ’70s, the Moosewood’s recipes really seem to be a hit with people in the 2010s. Their popularity doesn’t seem to have anything to do with being mindful of healthy eating and instead has EVERYTHING to do with the fact that this food tastes awesome. Good-tasting food is an instant classic.

Spicy Eggplant Relish on a Stacy's Pita Chip

Spicy Eggplant Relish on a Stacy’s Pita Chip

The most recent dish to receive the “Oh man, I seriously need this recipe” comment is Spicy Eggplant Relish. Keep it in an all-veggie-ingredients-minced form, or mash it into a chunky puree after cooking. In either state of consistency, it can be used as a topping for crackers and pita, as a sandwich spread, or even tossed onto a veggie burger (or a real burger if you’re into that kind of thing).

And don’t let the “spicy” descriptor dissuade you. You’re in control of the spice. Make it as light or spicy as you wish.

Spicy Eggplant Relish (ala The Moosewood Cookbook)
2 tbs. olive oil
1 cup minced onion
1 medium eggplant, diced  (I kept the skin on, it’s fine)
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. cumin
1 medium red bell pepper, minced
1 medium clove garlic, minced
1 tbs. lemon juice
cayenne to taste (start with 1/4 tsp.)

 

1. Heat oil in pan. Add onions, eggplant, salt and cumin. Saute on medium for 15-20 minutes or until the eggplant is tender (but not mush). 2. Add in the pepper. Saute for about 8-10 minutes.
3. Stir in garlic and lemon juice and continue cooking another 5 minutes. Sprinkle in the cayenne, let it sit for a bit, then taste. Add more if you need more heat. Same goes for salt. Mash or not to mash, it’s up to you. Serve it straight away or let it come to room temperature. Cold is good, too, straight out of the fridge, but I prefer it room temp.

Jicama Salad

June 4, 2013 § Leave a comment

My new favorite item to add to a salad is jicama, otherwise known as Mexican potato or yam bean. My fondness of the roundish, beige and nondescript tuber with a potato-pear texture began in an Asian restaurant in California (surprisingly not a Mexican place) about a month ago, when I had it in a jicama-grapefruit salad. And that was pretty much all it was: matchsticked jicama mounded on a plate and dressed with a spicy but light dressing. The grapefruit, ringed around the pile of jicama, was there to cool the heat. Toasted cashews added some crunch.

Jicama salad with apples, grapefruit and toasted cashews

Jicama salad with apples, grapefruit and toasted cashews

I attempted to recreate my own jicama salad. Online searches gave me oodles of salad dressings that would serve the purpose. But I failed. And I failed because I attempted to recreate what I had experienced previously. I had a pile of poorly julienned jicama, grapefruit that I hadn’t segmented properly, and well, the Cat Cora-inspired dressing was okay. But just okay. And aside from properly preparing the jicama and grapefruit, the success of a jicama salad really pivots on its dressing.

Turns out friends returning from a vacation in Sedona also became infatuated with jicama in salads. They had a delectable jicama salad in one of Sedona’s best restaurants, Elote. Wisely, they bought the restaurant’s cookbook, complete with the recipe for the jicama salad dressing.

We have since used this to dress traditional salad greens to which we’ve added all sorts of things including jicama, orange, grapefruit, apple, cashews, peppers, etc. You could put it on an old shoe and it would taste wonderful. My suggestion is to keep a jar of this in your fridge at the ready for any type of salad (or shoe) you may be serving.

Jicama Salad Dressing (courtesy Elote Cafe Cookbook)

1 cup olive oil
2/3 cup lime juice
1/4 cup Cholula hot sauce
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 tsp sugar

1. Add all ingredients to a lidded jar and shake vigorously until combined.

2. That’s it! You’re done! Pour it on! As with any salad, use a combination of whatever and however much you’d like: julienne a chunk of jicama, chop up an apple, segment half a grapefruit, add in a 1/2 cup of toasted cashews, through in some thinly sliced red peppers, and toss it all on top of some salad greens. Your salad is served.

NOTE: The brand of hot sauce matters here, or at least makes a difference in taste. Our friends make it with Cholula and the dressing is quite spicy. We have used Frank’s Red Hot (it’s what we have in the fridge) and it results in a less spicy-hot experience. Both are delightful on a salad. In fact, it’s what I’m having for lunch.

Roasted Eggplant on Toasted Pita

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.

Roasted eggplant and hummus on toasted pita

Roasted eggplant and hummus on toasted pita

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.

 

 

Fiery Onion Relish

March 19, 2013 § 1 Comment

The best things in life aren’t necessarily free. They are unexpected. The sudden burst of sunset as the day’s snowstorm pulls away. The street fair you happen upon while heading on an errand. The new friend you meet just randomly. You didn’t mean it, plan it, expect it—and then there it is and you’re incredibly happy with an unexpected smile. Really, it’s the best.

This recipe is like that. Unexpected and happy and the best. Well, maybe not the best best, but the unexpectedness of it pushes it right up there. It’s one of those recipes you find while you are on your way to something else. In this case I was in search of something new to do with sweet potatoes (I don’t want to burn myself out on Sweet Potato Wontons with Cashew Sauce ala Garum Factory). And while flipping through the pages that Sundays at the Moosewood Restaurant’s index told me to search, I just randomly and unexpectedly happened upon this relishy goodness.

I’m a fan of Moosewood’s sauces and relishes. Their Spicy Eggplant Relish (The New Moosewood Cookbook) is a definite go-to for me, as it their savory onion marmalade (Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites). This particular recipe was in the cookbook’s chapter on India—not a chapter I’d normally hang out in. Nor is something with the word “fiery” in the title a recipe I’d eagerly seek out. But I saw it, and I made it, using it as a condiment for today’s Roasted Eggplant on Whole Wheat Baguette. And it was unexpectedly delicious.

fiery onion relish

fiery onion relish

Fiery Onion Relish (from Sundays at the Moosewood Restaurant)

1 cup minced onion (use sweet onion if you want a mellow onion flavor)
4 tsp. lime or lemon juice (I used lime)
1/2 tsp. sweet Hungarian paprika
1/4-1/2 tsp. cayenne
salt to taste

Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl. Stir with a fork to mix well. Set aside for 30 minutes before using to blend flavors. The relish is meant to be spicy hot. The more cayenne, the spicier it is. Yields 1 cup and can be refrigerated for several days.

Wheat Berry and Bean Salad

March 6, 2013 § 2 Comments

The only on-the-package-recipe you should ever make is Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies. Truly. It’s a proven recipe and makes a darned-good cookie, a cookie you will experience from the first years of your life to your last. It’ll even be served at your wake. Every other recipe found on a package—whether it’s a box of Velveeta or a fancy grain—should be embarked upon with hesitation and doubt. A dingy full of doubt.

I love what wheat berries do for me for breakfast. I’ve also included them in bread recipes and sprinkled them on a green salad. So when I grabbed my bag of Bob’s Red Mill Wheat Berries and noticed the Wheat Berry & White Been Salad recipe on the back I thought, “Why not try something new today?” “New,” I am reminded now, means a learning experience and not necessarily a guarantee of something awesome.

The salad is simple—wheat berries, white beans (I used chickpeas I had on hand), scallions, celery and tomato with a vinaigrette. The vinaigrette is what I regret here. Following the recipe as I did, the ratio of vinaigrette to salad ingredients was way too much. It was more of a thick soup than a salad because it was so heavily dressed. I had to fill out the salad somehow.

A little too overdressed for my liking.

A little too overdressed for my liking.

Reconstructive salad making ensued. Wheat berries went from 1 cup to about 1 3/4 cup (all of what I had just cooked). I had no more chick peas, and no more lentils, which are my usual go-to filler for salads like this. Bulgar would have been too fine of a texture to add into the salad. In the end I cooked up a batch of black beans and added to the soupy salad until it was soupy no more. I must have added close to 2 cups, no kidding.

Wheat Berry and Bean Salad (adapted from Bob’s Red Mill) wheat berry and bean salad
Salad:
1 cup cooked wheat berries
1 cup chick peas
2 cups black beans (or some sort of bean or lentil)
1/2 cup scallions, chopped
1/2 cup celery, diced (makes for a nice crunch)
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered

Vinaigrette:1/2 cup olive oil
2 tbs. lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon)
2 tbs. white wine vinegar
2 tbs. chopped parsley
1 tbs. honey mustard
2 tbs. minced shallot
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4. tsp. black pepper (or 5-6 grinds from a pepper mill)

1. Mix the vinaigrette ingredients together. I chose to emulsify with an immersion blender. I then added the vinaigrette to the bottom of a large bowl.

wheat berry salad vinaigrette

wheat berry salad vinaigrette

2. Add the salad ingredients to the vinaigrette and combine. If it looks overdressed to you, add something to it! Soggy salad is not something you should put up with, really and truly.
3. The recipe says to chill overnight to blend the flavors. Perhaps over that period the beans and berries are supposed to soak up some of the vinaigrette? I didn’t want to leave it to chance. Serving suggestion is to serve on a bed of leaf lettuce. Again, I didn’t want my greens to be soaked, so the additional beans were necessary.

Eat and enjoy—and let me know what you think about the amount of vinaigrette here, please! Too much? Not enough? Just right in a Mamma Bear sort of way? Comments are not just appreciated—they’re anxiously awaited!

Roasted Eggplant on Whole Wheat Baguette

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    roasted eggplant and red pepper on whole wheat baguettewould 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.

Roasted eggplant

Roasted eggplant

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.

whole wheat baguettes

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.

roasted eggplant sandwich

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.

Tofu Noodle Soup

January 29, 2013 § 3 Comments

Tofu Noodle Soup

Tofu Noodle Soup

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.

Ingredients
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

  1. 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.
  2. Stir in hoisin, soy and broth. Bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer and let cook for 15 minutes.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!

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