Sunday, April 14, 2013

Eggplant Victory

I have a confession to make: eggplant was my Achilles heel.  My Everest.  My other thing that means difficult challenge.  Since what my former roommate and I call the "Eggplant Incident of 2005" I have been fearful of cooking this gorgeous flavorful veggie.  I tried grilling, baking, casserole, all to no avail.  I would eat eggplant at restaurants, in the homes of friend's, and silently bear my shame.  But today, I have conquered the Solanum Melongena.  And it.  Was.  Delicious.

The impetus for conquering my fear came from my dear friend Beckham, he like me is a food lover and thanks to his lovely wife, a master of vegetarian delights.  He sent me a text last week that would forever change my eggplant-cowering life, "Last night's dinner: asian-y twice baked eggplant and roasted bok choy."  This text lead to a gchat exchange that piqued by curiosity.  Beckham is a natural cook: his paraphrased food philosophy being "take things that taste good, and apply heat and seasoning."  I generally need a safety net, ie recipe, in the kitchen, but decided to try his style and wing it based on an idea, and some basic Beckham tips.  Equipped with his instruction and inspiration, I set out to conquer my culinary albatross. Eggplant, consider yourself vanquished.

Twice-baked Asian Style Eggplant with Arugula and Edamame Salad
Serves 1 (with leftovers for later.  Yum)

For Eggplant
2 Japanese eggplant

2 large pieces of fresh ginger - peeled and finely diced


peanut butter (organic)

dark soy sauce

sesame oil


aji-mirin (sweet cooking rice seasoning)

Chinese five spice

For Salad

edamame - cooked and shelled


ginger dressing

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Slice the eggplant in half length-wise and brush with olive oil.  Season lightly with salt and paper and bake for about 30 minutes or until eggplant is tender.  While the eggplant is baking, combine the next eight ingredients in a bowl and reserve.  For quantities, just eyeball it and remember: non-recipe cooking is liberating and makes you feel like a super hero.  Just trust me.  (The only reason I ended up using peanut butter was because I started out with too much soy and it was a wonderful correction.  If you haven't used these ingredients before, use a light hand with the sriracha, aji-mirin and sesame oil, and an abundant amount of soy.)

Scoop out the delicious eggplant meat and combine with all other ingredients.  (Accidentally cut through 3 of the 4 eggplant skins and don't sweat it.)  Place the eggplant mixture back in the eggplant skins and bake until warmed through, about 10 more minutes.

While this is baking plate a generous portion of arugula with the edamame and just a splash of ginger dressing.  Top the salad with two eggplant halves and enjoy.

Optional: Get so excited that you call your friend who inspired the dish when you are only halfway through eating.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Pancetta and Broccoli Rabe

Well hello there, interwebz.  I've decided to post again.  I'm sure that this is the first time ever anyone has ever started a blog, and then let it drop off, so for this I greatly apologize.

I still don't know how often I'll update, but whenever I cook good food and think of funny things, I'll probably be posting.  I can't keep all this goodness to myself.

Speaking of goodness, peep that sweet potato...mmmmm.  I'll be getting to that in a minute.

My cooking style has recently changed because I'm newly single, so I'm having to relearn how to cook for one. It's annoying because I have no help in the kitchen (or with dishes, which are the bane of my existence, and the ruiner of nails),  no one to share my cooking triumphs with, and too many leftovers.  Still, there are bonuses, such as I can cook whatever I want, when I want and don't have to worry about making sure its "man friendly." I also can cook enough for two meals and leave the leftovers out on the counter while I eat dinner.  It's the little things, people.

I found a recipe in the January/Feburary issue of Food Network Magazine that perked my interest.  I used the base ingredients, but didn't bother with the cheese concoction because it seemed like too much work.

Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Pancetta and Broccoli
2 servings, for 1 single lady, and weekend leftovers

2 Sweet Potatoes
4 Slices of Pancetta
1/2 Bunch of Broccoli Rabe, stems cut off, and chopped
1 Cup assorted Mushrooms (I used the "stir fry" pack that had shiitake, portabella, and I dunno what else)
2 Cloves Garlic, Sliced
1/2 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
Pinch of Nutmeg
Greek Yogurt

Pierce the sweet potatoes with a fork and place in a 350 degree oven for about an hour.  If you don't plan that far ahead, just nuke those bad boys for about 10 minutes until they are soft.

Chop and cook the pancetta until brown, about 5 minutes, and remove from pan to a paper towel.  Add the broccoli rabe (which I had never had or cooked before, and is awesome)  and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes.  Add in the mushrooms, red pepper flakes, and garlic and saute until the veggies are tender, another 3 or 4 minutes.

Slice open the potato and add a little butter (I use yogurt butter) and a bit of nutmeg, then the rabe mixture.  Put a dollop of greek yogurt, and then the pancetta.

Eat, enjoy, and relish the fact that you have leftovers and they are all yours.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Open-faced avocado and goat cheese sandwich. Eat and have your spirits lifted.

Oh thwart me so.  I know I've got the raw skills to be good at this and share my passion, but life and my own laziness get in the way.

I've been having what my mom would call a boude week. ('Boude' is a cajun word which means 'to pout.')  If you're unfamiliar with the term, it's more than just pouting really: it's when you are in that place where you don't like ANY of your clothes, your temper is super short, and you feel like you can't do anything right, even though in reality, you are super fantastic awesome sauce. I don't know if it's been the weather or what, but I've just felt a little off my game and bleh.

It's cyclical of course because you are in a crummy mood, so you don't feel like doing anything, so then you don't, and then you feel crummy because you didn't do anything.  Sometimes I like to refer to this phenomenon as "being a lady" because it doesn't seem to plague men.  Oh the bliss of being a dude and not putting unreasonable, emotional, expectations on yourself.

When I'm in that icky blah place, this dish will put a smile on my face.  It doesn't fix everything because duh, it's just a sandwich, but it is a step in the right direction.

Open Faced Avocado and Goat Cheese Sandwich
1/2 avocado
1 tbsp goat cheese
1/4 tsp lemon juice
salt and pepper, to taste
hot sauce, to taste
two pieces wheat bread
cherry tomatoes, halved

Mix first five ingredients together: can be done the day before.  Top bread slices with avocado mixture and cherry tomatoes. Easier to make if the bread can be toasted, but just as yum regardless.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Grilled pork chop with pineapple relish

Well hello, Saturday.  So nice to see you!  It's been a long week, and I am over the moon to be sitting on my sofa in my pjs.  I sat down several times this week to blog this recipe but never got around to it, but  c'est la vie.  I would love to say that I'll be more timely in the future, but sometimes life gets in the way.  I'm going to focus on quality in my posting, and not worry about quantity.  In fact, I think I'm doing readers a favor because it gives you less to read, and life is so busy as it is: you are welcome!  (See what I did there?)

Anyhoo, enough of my weekend rambling: on to the food!  This is a great example of how something really simple can dress up a dish in your regular meal rotation and give it new life.  I have made these teriyaki pork chops more times than I count: they are definitely a favorite for my fella.  We typically don't buy bone-in chops, but I follow the marinade recipe although I don't measure: life is too short to be that precise!  

I've also made the blueberry relish and it is great, but this week I tried something different: pineapple!  I have been famous in the past for wasting food so I'm really trying to be more conscientious about buying ingredients that I can use in multiple ways and pineapple is something we already love.  So take a recipe you love, tweak one or two ingredients, and give new life to an old standard.  This relish was great for two recipes: chops and quinoa early in the week and pork lettuce wraps later in the week.

Pineapple relish
1 cup of pineapple, coarsely chopped
1/2 jalapeno, seeded and minched
1 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1 tbsp lime juice
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
sprinkle of kosher salt

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate.  Can be served immediately, but flavors will deepen if given time to chill.  Cover and refrigerate leftovers.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Kale and White Bean Stew

This weekend was a busy one for me with work responsibilities (retreats on Saturday and Sunday) so I didn't have as much time for cooking as I would have liked.  Also, whenever I have to eat out a lot in a short period of time I try to cook something healthy for dinner as soon as I can to balance the scales.

Don't get me wrong: the guacamole, Chinese food, cupcakes and Italian were all delicious.  You might notice that I said I ate out twice, but that sounds like more than two complete meals.  Welcome to working with college students. :)

Anyhoo, this kale and white bean stew from epicurious was just the ticket. Of course, it was 75 degrees (thanks Louisiana) but such is life.  I also think that this soup tasted WAY better than it looks.  This isn't just a commentary on my photography skills: it looks so healthy, amiright?  In my experience, something that looks this healthy might suffer in taste but trust me when I say this is de-lish.  While I'm calling this recipe vegetarian, I did use chicken stock because I just don't like veggie stock flavor as much, but feel free to substitute whichever suits your fancy.

Let me also take an opportunity to plug the Epicurious App: tons of great recipes, really easy to use, save, and share.  Check it out!

Kale and White Bean Stew (from Epicurious, with my modifications)

2 pounds kale leaves, center ribs and stems removed
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped peeled carrots
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped shallots (about 4)
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 cup white wine (Elios Mediterranean White)
2 15-ounce cans white beans, drained
4 1/2 cups chicken broth
5 fresh thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon garlic red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Cook kale in large pot of boiling salted water 1 minute. Drain. Transfer to bowl of ice water to cool. Drain. Squeeze out excess water. Coarsely chop kale.

Heat olive oil in medium pot over medium heat. Add chopped carrots, celery, shallots, and garlic; cook until soft, stirring, about 15 minutes (do not brown vegetables). Add white wine and simmer until liquid is slightly reduced, about 7 minutes. 

Add white beans, 4 cups broth, thyme sprigs, and bay leaf and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 20 minutes. Add kale and simmer 5 minutes longer. 

Remove thyme sprigs and bay leaf. Add remainder of broth to thin stew. Mix in red wine vinegar and chopped fresh herbs. Season with salt and pepper.

Grilled Squash Salad

On my new quest for more vegetables, I am trying to come up with easy salads to bring for work lunch.  This is a bit of a challenge for me because I have always been very unimaginative in this area.  For most of my life, a salad has been lettuce, tomato and dressing.  Anything beyond cucumber was exotic and perplexing.  "Olives?  In a salad?  THAT IS NEITHER LETTUCE NOR TOMATO!"

I've branched out a bit, but I'm always probably a little overly pleased when I come up with a "different" salad.  This one came together with zucchini that my fella grilled over the weekend.  I intended to do my usual spinach salad with fixins but the spinach was past its prime.  Instead, I ended up with zucchini as the base, which I liked even more.

While I'm having a salad confessional, let me also say that I don't make my own dressing.  I know how easy it is, and I have good olive oil and tons of vinegar, but I just can't be bothered.  And they just put it in bottles and make it so nice!  Who am I to put the hard working salad dressing folks out of business?

Grilled Squash Salad

3 zucchini, chopped
1 tsp lemon pepper seasoning
1 tsp olive oil
10 cherry tomatoes
1/2 tablespoon pinenuts
1 tbsp goat cheese crumbles
1 tbsp Ken's Olive Oil and Vinegar Dressing

Put zucchini on foil sheets.  Cover with lemon pepper seasoning and olive oil.  Wrap and close and place on warm grill until your fell says they are done, roughly 10 minutes.  Let zucchini cool and chill until the next day. (Note: If you can't grill the squash, roasting in an oven would work fine.)

Assemble all other salad ingredients and put dressing in separate container.  Bring to work and enjoy!

Vegetarian Tacos: Support that Resolution!

Well hi there!  If you're still here, thanks!  Sorry about the radio silence: after my big trip abroad I have been bushed and out of wack.  I'm finally able to stay awake past 9 pm (party time!) so let the blogging commence.  In additional, it's taken a while for me to get back into the swing of cooking, and I am fired up about trying new dishes.  Specifically, I'm trying to recommit to a balanced diet.  With the holiday and vacation, I've had a bit of a backward slide, so I'm excited about getting "back on track" if you will.

I've decided to take things a step further and try to eat more vegetarian meals.  I don't think I will ever be a vegetarian because meat is tasty, but I know it's a healthy way to go, so I'm going to be trying to find more creative ways to enjoy vegetarian meals.  This first one is almost so simple, I feel like posting it is cheating, but it was too yum to keep all to myself.  By substituting roasted mushrooms for meat I was able to have a meal that was flavorful and tasty but light on fat.

Vegetarian Tacos

1 container white button mushrooms, rough chopped
1 tsp Smoked Paprika
1 tsp Chili Powder
1 tsp olive oil
2 wheat tortillas
1/8 cup shredded cheddar cheese
10 cherry tomatoes, chopped
1/2 Avocado, sliced
1 tbsp of cilantro, rough chopped
1 tbsp salsa
1 tsp lime juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place mushrooms on baking sheet and coat with paprika, chili powder, and olive oil.  Stir to coat.  Bake for 10 minutes until mushrooms are cooked through but still firm.

Microwave tortillas for 10 seconds.  Put cheese on tortillas (not as pictured, but how I should have done it.) :) Add mushrooms and all other ingredients and enjoy!

Note: Wheat tortillas, although healthier than flour, still pack a lot of calories.  I typically don't eat the whole tortilla because it's a little big so I tear off about 1 inch all the way around.