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My new favorite part of the New York Times is Martha Rose Shulman’s weekly recipe column, Recipes for Health.  Every week she posts delicious, easy and tasty recipes using fresh and seasonal ingredients and every week I am drawn in once again.

A few weeks ago she posted a recipe for eggplant and chickpeas that made my  mouth water, and finally, last night, I had time and the ingredients to make it.

Eggplant is one of my favorite vegetables, and roasted until it is velvety and then paired with chickpeas, tomatoes and pomegranate molasses

it turns absolutely spectacular.  Now, don’t worry, pomegranate molasses is available all over the place these days, by mail order, at Whole Foods, or at your local ethnic grocer.  And it’s an ingredient worth having.  Just try it with eggplant and see!

I, of course, made a few changes to the original recipe, so here’s the version I used.

Eggplant with chickpeas and tomatoes

1 large eggplant (1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds), halved lengthwise then cut in 1/2-inch slices

Salt to taste

3 to 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, as needed

2 large garlic cloves, minced

1 large can fire roasted crushed tomatoes (I used Muir Glen)

3 medium tomatoes, coarsely chopped

1 teaspoon brown sugar

Freshly ground black pepper

½ teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses

1 large can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

2 to 3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley, mint and basil

Serves 4-6 as a side dish

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with foil and brush it with olive oil.  Place the eggplant slices on the foil, salt them lightly and brush them with olive oil.

Bake for 20 minutes or until the eggplant is lightly browned and feels soft and dry to the touch.

Remove from the oven, and fold over the foil to make a packet around the eggplant slices. Allow them to soften and steam inside the foil while you prepare the rest of the dish.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy casserole or skillet.

Add the garlic. Cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Stir in the canned and chopped tomatoes, salt to taste, sugar, pepper and cinnamon. Bring to a simmer, and simmer uncovered over medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring often, until the tomatoes have cooked down and smell very fragrant.

Add the eggplant, molasses and chickpeas. Simmer uncovered for another 20 minutes, stirring from time to time. The mixture should be thick and the eggplant should be very tender, melting into the mixture.

Taste and adjust seasoning. Sprinkle on the chopped parsley, mint and basil and serve, hot, warm or at room temperature.

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Fresh fruit salsa

We’re away on vacation, but of course that doesn’t mean we aren’t cooking. We’ve rented a small cottage on an island and one of the main selling points was the “fully equipped gourmet kitchen.” While the collection of pots and pans doesn’t provide us with the usual variety of cooking utensils we have at home, I wouldn’t describe what we are doing as “making do.”

Luckily, there’s a reasonably good grocery store on the island, and we were able to lay in plenty of supplies on our first full day here. Among other things, there were some ripe, white-fleshed, nectarines

that just insisted on being made into a fresh fruit salsa — perfect to serve with the bar-be-que’d chicken thighs we grilled up tonight.

This salsa is one of the easiest condiments around — you can use ripe peaches, or nectarines, or even mangoes — and takes only a few minutes to whip up. Even better, the taste only improves if you make it early in the day and let it macerate for a few hours to let the flavors develop.

It also doesn’t require a lot of complicated ingredients, and it can be served with fish, shrimp, chicken, grilled vegetables or even tofu! Just about anything you can grill will taste good with this salsa on the side.

Fresh fruit salsa with cilantro and lime

(makes about 1 ½ cups salsa – enough to garnish 4 people’s plates)

2 ripe nectarines (or peaches, or one ripe mango)

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 scallions, finely chopped

½ cup finely chopped cilantro

juice from ½ a juicy lime (or more to taste*)

salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon finely chopped jalapeño (optional)

*if the fruit is very sweet use more lime juice, if it is not too sweet, use less.

Chop fruit into small dice (about ¼ inch dice is good) and put into a small mixing bowl.

Add garlic, scallions, cilantro and lime juice and mix well.

Flavor to taste with salt and pepper.

Add jalapeño, if using, and mix well again.

Set aside (not in the refrigerator) for at least 15 minutes to let the juices from the fruit mix with the lime and other flavors; mixing well again before serving.

Serve at room temperature alongside grilled meats, fish or vegetables.

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It’s here.  That part of the summer when the piles of zucchini start getting bigger and when (at least in the midwest) you have to be careful to lock your car so that no one can leave a bag of garden-fresh zucchini on the front seat.

At least that’s the joke they tell.  Funny thing is, I actually like zucchini.  My brother, though, that’s another story.  He’s famous in our family for refusing to eat zucchini and for smuggling it out to the trash in a napkin whenever it was served.  I’m not sure he would like this zucchini, but so far, everyone who has tried this version has loved it.

So, I thought I’d share it here. Just in time.

It’s not a hard recipe.  The trick is to make sure the oven is hot enough (I like it at about 450 degrees) and that the zucchini is cut into thick slices (1/2 to 3/4 inch thick).  The rest of it doesn’t seem to matter as much.

(Note:  the beautiful, ripple-edged zucchini in this picture were a gift from SV who grew them in her garden.  Thanks!)

Easy roast zucchini

(serves 2-4 people as a side dish)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

About 2 pounds fresh zucchini

1 tablespoon Aleppo pepper

1 tablespoon smoked paprika

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon Nanami Togarashi assorted chili pepper* (or cayenne pepper to taste)

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon kosher salt (or more to taste)

Spread 1 tablespoon of the olive oil on a sheet pan.

Slice the zucchini into rounds ½ to ¾ inch thick and place them on the oiled pan, sliding them around to ensure that the undersides are coated with olive oil.

Brush the tops of the zucchini slices with the rest of the oil.

Mix all of the spices together in a small bowl and sprinkle them as evenly as possible over the tops of the zucchini slices.  I sometimes use the brush I used to spread the oil to more evenly distribute the spice mixture.

Put the pan into the oven.  Check it after about 20 minutes and shake the pan a bit to make sure that none of the zucchini is sticking.

Put the pan back into the oven and check it again after about 5 more minutes.  If the zucchini isn’t browning yet, put it back for another few minutes.

When the edges of the zucchini start to brown, flip the slices over and return the pan to oven for another 5 or 10 minutes, until all the slices are turning brown around the edges.

Slide the zucchini into a serving bowl, spiced side up.

Serve straight from the oven or at room temperature.

*available at Asian food stores (I got this jar at Uwajimaya)

Give this recipe a try and let me know what you think.

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