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Archive for the ‘cooking’ Category

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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Spring Crab Salad

Spring seems to have finally arrived here in Portland.  And it’s about time!  I feel as if it’s been months since I saw the sun, even though I know that it has peeked out for as long as a few hours at a time in the past few weeks.

Tomorrow it’s supposed to be sunny and 70 degrees.  I’m not sure how I can contain myself.

One of the first signs of spring, of course, are tulips.  These were given to me by a thoughtful co-worker.

And the other sign of spring?  Farmer’s markets, fresh, local produce, lots of greens and daylight that lasts into the evening and inspires leisurely, light meals.

Today the intermittent sunshine and a big pile of ripe mangoes at the grocery store (and a package of fresh Dungeness crab meat in the fridge)

inspired me to make a crab, mango and avocado salad with micro greens (from the farmer’s market) and a lime ginger vinaigrette.

For such an elegant dinner, the prep was incredibly easy and the flavors a perfect combination of sweet, tart and little bit salty.

Crab, Mango and Avocado Salad with Lime Ginger Vinaigrette

(Serves 2 hungry people as a main course, or 4 as a starter)

For the Vinaigrette

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

2 teaspoons grated lime zest

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

1 teaspoon honey

1/3 cup olive oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mix all of the ingredients except the olive oil, salt and pepper in a small bowl and whisk.  Slowly drizzle the olive oil into the bowl, whisking briskly until the dressing emulsifies.  Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.  Set aside while you assemble the salad.

For the Crab Salad

2 cups fresh salad greens

2 ripe mangos (I like the Manila variety), peeled and cut into small dice

1 ripe avocado, peeled and sliced into thin slivers

8 ounces fresh crab meat (here in the NW we use Dungeness Crab, but any fresh crabmeat will do)

Red pepper flakes (optional)

Choose a nice plate on which to assemble the salad.  Spread the greens evenly over the plate.  Cover the greens with a generous layer of mangos, saving a few for garnish.  Arrange the avocado slices around the edge of the plate and fill in the middle with the crabmeat.  Garnish with remaining mango, and, if you like a little spice with your crab, sprinkle some red pepper flakes over the whole thing.

Just before serving, drizzle no more than ½ of the vinaigrette over the salad.  Serve with the extra dressing on the side.

Even though we’ve finished dinner, the sunset still seems a long way off.  It must really be spring at last!

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Well, now it’s really fall.  In fact, with snow in the forecast, some might say fall is over and gone.  Luckily there are still some wonderful apples in the markets, and on Saturday while shopping at New Seasons I had a taste of a phenomenal ripe pear.

The other day it was the apples that inspired me, though.  My mother used to make applesauce every fall and the bowl full of heirloom apples on the counter was too good to resist.

Applesauce is an uncomplicated dish, but before I got started I thought I’d look around for some inspiration.  The Gourmet Cookbook had just the thing — a simple recipe with a touch of calvados (brandy made from cider quality apples).  I just happened to have a bottle of Clear Creek Apple Brandy on the shelf, too.

Brandied Applesauce

(loosely adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook)

1 pound assorted firm and flavorful heirloom apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces

½ cup fresh-squeezed orange juice

½ cup brown sugar

½ teaspoon orange zest

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons apple brandy

Combine apples, orange juice, sugar, zest and cinnamon in a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.  Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Remove lid and simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated, 5-10 minutes.  Add the apple brandy and simmer for about one minute more.  Remove from heat and mash with a fork or a potato masher until it is a chunky sauce.  Cool (the juices will thicken as the sauce cools).

Makes about 1½ cups.  Can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.

Of course, I had to make a few changes to the original recipe — I used fresh-squeezed orange juice and orange zest in place of water and lemon zest, and substituted brown sugar for the white granulated sugar.  I think it turned out perfectly, let me know what you think.

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I just finished reading a wonderful book — A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg.  Molly is the creator of the smart and tasty blog Orangette and the owner, along with her husband Brandon, of the Seattle restaurant Delancey.  I plan to eat at Delancey on my very next visit to Seattle.  I promise.

Anyway, as I was saying, I just finished reading A Homemade Life.  Every chapter tells a story and includes a recipe, and I pretty much want to cook or bake every recipe in the book.

Not wanting to put my exploration of these dishes off too far, I chose to start with one of the simplest — not that most of the recipes are complicated, but this one is particularly simple.  There are only 4 ingredients, and all but the tomatoes are something most of us have in our pantries all the time:  olive oil, salt and ground coriander.

The tomatoes are those Roma tomatoes, the ones that you can find year-round in most supermarkets.  I ran out to get some.

Preparation is quick — slice the stem end off each tomato and cut them in half lengthwise.  Toss them with the olive oil, spread them on a baking sheet, sprinkle with salt and coriander and put them in the oven (which you have preheated to 200 degrees) and let them roast.

The only thing challenging about this recipe is that it takes a while.  The tomatoes roast in a very slow oven for 4 to 6 hours.  Yes, 4 to 6 hours.  The nice thing is that you don’t need to do anything to them while they are roasting, just check in on them now and then.  I roasted mine for the full 6 hours, and honestly, they could probably have even roasted a bit longer.  I think they turned out perfectly.

I’ve used these tomatoes in at least three dishes since making them — we added them to a duck ragu that was tossed with homemade fettuccine, to a saute of chard and caramelized onions, and served them with scrambled eggs, for breakfast.

They even taste good on their own.


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Sweet and sour chard

I have to start with an apology.  Work seems to have been getting busier and busier and I have dropped the blog ball for the last few weeks.  I am sorry!  I will try to do better — I promise.

A sign of how bad it’s been is that I made this incredibly good sweet and sour chard weeks ago, and have not had the time to post the recipe.  I also have to admit that my photos of the dish are sorely lacking.

But, here goes.

Chard.  It’s piled up in the grocery stores here right now, and massively piled up at the farmer’s market too.  It’s not one of those vegetables that I have always eaten, but now that I do eat it I wonder why I waited so long to start.  There’s something about the taste, the texture, how it adapts to so many flavors — not to mention how good it is for you!

*photos taken with the Hipstamatic app on my iPhone.

The night I invented this dish I was also making an incredibly tasty dish of chicken thighs and figs (yes, I know I should post that recipe, too — for those of you who must know, I found the chicken recipe in the Zuni Cafe Cookbook) and wanted something tangy and flavorful to serve alongside that.

Here’s what I made.

Sweet and sour chard

(serves four as a side dish)

1 generous bunch rainbow chard (you could also use kale or another kind of chard)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

½ cup chopped onion

3 large cloves garlic, chopped

1 large tomato, coarsely chopped

1/3 cup golden raisins

3 tablespoons cider vinegar

1 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon coarse salt

½ teaspoon hot pepper flakes

Prepare chard by cutting off stems and chopping them, then removing the stems from the leaves (you don’t have to do this for the full length of the leaf, just near the bottom where the stems are widest) and chopping them.  Chop the leaves coarsely.  Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan.

Add onions and stir until they begin to wilt.  Add garlic.  Stir until it also begins to soften.

Add chard stems, tomatoes and golden raisins.  Stir until the tomatoes begin to release their juices.

Add chard leaves, vinegar, honey, salt and hot pepper flakes, stir to mix and cover the pan.  Let the mixture cook for about 15 minutes, over medium – low heat , stirring occasionally, until chard has softened and is no longer tough.

And it was good.  Don’t just take my word for it — try it yourself.

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