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.
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.
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.
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.
October 14, 2011 § 1 Comment
Day 3 on the Homegrown Food Challenge and no fish heads were lopped off on this particular day. But the grill did get lit, and that’s always a fun thing. Here’s how our day progressed.
Starting to look very familiar. Flat Black coffee with Maine’s Own Organic Milk. Stonyfield yogurt with local apple, honey and a crumbled Effie’s oatcake. We’ll get a bit more creative with breakfast on the weekend, no worries.
Jennifer and I both had big salads with local stuff, similar to the one I had for lunch on Day 2. Local lettuce and red pepper, pickled beets, homemade dressing, etc etc. I even made some homemade croutons from homemade bread.
This is where the grill gets lit—finally! We cranked it up for some pizza made with homemade pizza dough. Two pizzas are usually enough to take care of dinner plus give us enough for lunch the following day.
Pizza #1: Homemade sauce using slightly green homegrown tomatoes (similar to the roasted cherry tomato sauce I make), grilled eggplant (from farmers market) and locally made mozzarella.
Pizza #2: Homemade pesto using homegrown basil, grilled eggplant, roasted red pepper (from farmers market) and caramelized homegrown leeks.
Can’t have pizza without beer, right? We had some Whale’s Tale Pale Ale from Cisco Brewers on Nantucket. Pretty tasty stuff!
As I am two days behind in posting, I can hint at what awaits you for Day 4: One of the most fabulous creations to ever have been sandwiched between two pieces of bread. Think I over-exaggerate? Oh. No.
October 11, 2011 § 1 Comment
Yesterday began our week-long Homegrown Food Challenge (HGFC). So, right from the beginning I have to amend the title, or rather—I should clarify and lay out the rules of this Homegrown Food Challenge we’ve undertaken:
- “Homegrown” … with such a small garden plot and the fact that it’s nearly done producing, we’re amending “homegrown food” to “local food.”
- “Local” for this challenge will mean somewhere in New England. I know, it could be more local than that. Maybe for the next challenge we’ll pull in the boundaries.
- Items that are in our allowable “pantry” include oils, vinegars and flours. And I reserve the right to add in quinoa as a “cheater” grain.
- Leftovers that were in our fridge need to be eaten, right? And trust me, we did not stock the fridge with “leftovers” so we could cheat with them.
- Our “veganish” diet – two out of three meals not containing animal products – will be put on hold for the week.
Hey, that’s not so bad, right? So far, so good.
To prep for the challenge, I hit the closest local farmers market I could find, which just happens to be at Boston Medical Center on Fridays. I came back with butternut squash, two eggplant, red peppers, dinosaur kale, two heads of leaf lettuce and romanesco – it’s like a fractal-influenced head of broccoli. All produce brought to us by the good folks at Farmer Dave’s in Dracut.
We also stopped by Whole Foods to find some local dairy products. And you know what? We did actually find some.
So, with that, let the challenge begin!
Breakfast: We need coffee. Coffee doesn’t grow in this climate. What to do … Well, there are local coffee roasters. That counts. And our favorite local coffee roaster is Flat Black Coffee Company with locations in Dorchester and downtown Boston. We’ve known the owner for years and can attest he and his crew produce a great and responsible bean. Into that cup we usually pour some almond or soymilk. Not happening this week, so how about some local milk? We picked up some Maine’s Own Organic Milk.
The coffee accompanied a bowl of Stonyfield plain yogurt – I’m positive all that dairy is from New England cows and if not, someone clue me in – mixed with a local chopped apple and topped with Topsfield-produced honey. Breakfast, done.
Lunch: Okay, so … It’s Columbus Day. Jennifer’s off work, and I’m working but not all that hard … A friend calls us. Hadn’t seen her in a while. “Wanna go out for lunch?” Say no? No. We said yes. And we opted to eat at a small, local Mexican restaurant two blocks away where I know they a) make a lot of their own stuff and b) could use our dining dollars. I feel completely in-line with the challenge by supporting our local small eateries.
Dinner: Gotta clean out the leftovers from the fridge, right? Pasta with shrimp, red pepper and pesto. And just the pasta and shrimp weren’t local in that dish. Plus, we had homemade bread. And, a bottle of Harpoon IPA brewed right down the street in Southie.
Day 2 should be interesting—it’s our first Cape Ann Fresh Catch share pick-up. Fish with heads!! Awesome!
October 2, 2011 § Leave a comment
Normally, if you let produce sit around for awhile, bad things happen. Soft spots. Wilt. Mold. Eyes sprouting. Ooze. Fruit flies. Rot.
Okay, I’ll stop with the grossness.
But sometimes, if you let produce sit around, good things happen. Like what? Like ripeness, for one.
This time of year, you just never really know what’s gonna happen in the garden. And I speak specifically of the summer hangers on—the zucchini and yellow squash, the basil, the peppers, the tomatoes. Especially the tomatoes. Less sun, cooler weather means they take a way long time to ripen on the vine. And the frustrating part is a tomato could be green and happy one day, and then the next day it could be on the ground, fodder for the ants.
So, I pick them up and bring them home. Or I pick them when they’re just turning orangy. Or I pick one or two whenever I visit the garden, which is about twice a week this time of year.
What to do with green tomatoes? Orangy tomatoes? Let them sit on the counter—they’ll ripen. Kinda. Not a nice and juicy vine-ripening experience, but they’ll turn red. Ish.
With a mix of tomatoes in all stages of ripeness, I turn to a recipe from Emeril Lagasse I pulled off the Food Network website. The original calls for pancetta and three different types of hot peppers – jalapeno peppers and Anaheim and pasilla chiles. And, it calls for just green tomatoes.
Is it spicy? Oh yeah, it’s spicy. Feel free to add a dollop of sour cream to cool it down. Me? I like to add a spoonful of pesto. Tomatoes and basil – a perfect match.
Spicy Tomato Soup(this is a double batch)
1 Tbs olive oil
- 1 large sweet onion, sliced thinly
- 5-6 cloves garlic, peeled
- 2 bay leaves
- 5-6 hot peppers, whatever type you want to cook with, diced (I used jalapeno and Hungarian wax)
- 3.5 lbs tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped
- 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Salt and pepper
-Heat oil in a pan over medium heat. Saute onion until just translucent – 4-5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
-Add garlic, bay leaves, garlic, and peppers and cook for 4-5 minutes. Add tomatoes and stock, then adjust seasonings with salt and pepper to taste. Bring soup to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer for 15 minutes or so, until the tomatoes are soft.
-Time to puree!! But remove the bay leaves first!! You can puree in batches in a blender. Or, we have an immersion blender that does a terrific job. Sure, you’ll get a bunch of tomato skins getting kinda caught in the blendery parts. Just remove, or put back into the soup—whatever your preference. If you’ve pureed in batches in a blender, pour the soup into a separate bowl.
-Add the lemon juice. Give it a taste. Spicy? That’s what it’s supposed to be.
Try with a bit of sour cream. Or shaved parm. Or the runny part of your stash of pesto. Be sure you have some crusty bread. You’re gonna want to sop up that goodness.
You know, this would be a great soup to make for the Homegrown Food Challenge. Luke, give this a try—I know you love spicy stuff!