Saturday, September 10, 2011

Roasted Eggplant with Garlic Pasta

Ever since I tasted baba ghanoush I've wanted to make some.  Last week I got an eggplant in my produce delivery, and that was my plan.  But, as I've never made anything with eggplant before, I thought I'd try roasting it first and see how that went.  Well, by then I had an idea for a pasta dish in my head.  I admit I was influenced by the desire to try some garlic a friend picked up at a garlic festival a few weeks ago.

Eggplant mixture
    1 large eggplant
    1 med onion
    Olive oil
    1 can diced tomatoes
    Salt, pepper to taste
Garlic pasta
    4 cloves garlic; minced, pressed or crushed
    1 lb. angel hair pasta
    1-2 tbsp butter
    Salt, pepper to taste
1.  Heat oven to 425° F.  Prepare a shallow pan with non-stick spray or parchment liner. 
2.  Wash eggplant.  Cut off top stem and bottom bump.  Slice at an angle into 1/4 inch slices.  Arrange the slices on the pan--try to not overlap them.
3.  Cut top stem and bottom roots off onion.  Peel off the outer thin layers.  Slice straight across  to get 1/4 inch wide rounds.  Separate the rings and arrange over the eggplant.
4.  Liberally sprinkle dried oregano and basil over onion and eggplant.  Drizzle 2 tbsp of olive oil over the spices.
5.  Pour diced tomatoes over all, drizzle a bit more oil and season with salt and pepper.
6.  Roast in hot oven for 20 min.
7.  Mince garlic with a knife, press through a garlic press or crush with a mortar and pestle.
8.  Boil water with a sprinkle of salt, but only add pasta once it's to a rolling boil and only cook it as long as directions indicate.  (We used "fresh" angel hair that only needed to cook 45 seconds.  We had the water ready but didn't put pasta in until eggplant was done.)
9.  Once pasta is drained return to pot and mix in the minced/crushed garlic and butter.
10.  Serve eggplant mixture over pasta.

    Don't be turned off by the strange color of the eggplant.  It really is quite tasty.
  1. Use a big sharp knife for the eggplant.
  2. Use a garlic infused olive oil to add more flavor to the roasted eggplant.
  3. Crush garlic cloves with flat side of knife--this aids in peeling them. 
  4. Use an electric tea kettle to have boiled water ready to cook pasta.
  5. The butter in the pasta is to keep it from sticking.  You can use oil instead.
  6. Feel free to reduce the amount of oil to your taste.  The eggplant soaks it up easily so you may just want to drizzle after adding the tomatoes.
  7. I put the seasonings on before the tomatoes to make sure the eggplant got the flavor.
  8. You could also "roast" the veggies under a broiler, but keep your eye on it so they don't burn.
  9. I found the tomato wasn't enough for my taste.  I will use 2 cans next time.
  10. Add some parmesan or pecorino cheese over tomato.
  11. Baffling fact:  angel hair pasta should be cooked to a core temperature of 160° F.  No idea how you're supposed to check that.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Simple Supper: Crackers and Cheese

I had to work late tonight and the last thing I wanted to do was a) stop at the grocery and, b) prepare something for dinner.  Ok, so that's two things.  Sue me.  I'm tired and make mistakes.  The more tired I am, the longer it takes me to walk the aisles and pick up what I need.  I end up getting stuff I just want.  Here's an example:

Ham, sliced or shaved
Spreadable cheese
Olives, as exotic as you like
Wine of your choice (optional)

1. Take a cracker.
2. Spread cheese on it.
3. Cut and flatten olive into cheese.
4. Cover with a piece of ham.
5. Enjoy followed by a slurp of wine.

How I chose my ingredients:
Crackers - My sister likes crackers with lots of fiber.  She will stand and compare fiber content for way too long.  I pick a cracker by the picture of it on the box.  I like them round with seeds and grains.  If they look like cardboard they probably taste like it.  There is a reason cardboard isn't considered a food.

Ham - I don't like water-logged ham.  I'd rather go to the deli counter and have them slice it fresh.  I like honey baked and black forest.  Roasted or smoked turkey breast is also good if your like my friend Jtran who "don't do no ham".

Spreadable cheese - I'm really not a cheese snob...ok, I am.  However, today I was looking for that processed cheese in the cute foil triangles with the bit of plastic that you pull, but the goat cheese was actually on sale for less.  And I am trying to choose things with less additives and processing.  If you do get goat cheese, make sure it's the spreadable kind.

Olives - I love them--as long as they aren't spicey.  Tonight, though, my eyes were glazing over staring at the rows upon rows of olive jars.  I remembered the deli counter had some and got just a few of three different kinds: baby kalamata, green with minced garlic and green with pimento.  I got about 15 olives for just over $1.

Note: If you don't like to enhance the flavor of your food with wine, you can stop reading here.

Wine - I am currently taken with  Chardonnays, but tonight I wanted a red.  I'm trying to learn to like them because they say the antioxidants are higher.  I do avoid cabernet savignon and merlot because I find them to be too acidic.  Also, I don't like to spend more than $10 for a wine I picked up at the grocery.  Today I got a great one for $5.  It's a California Shiraz from Barefoot and according to the sticker, it's an award winning wine.  I read the description on the back and liked the flavors mentioned.  I'm glad to pronounce it a success!

Just a couple notes on red wine: don't serve it too chilled.  I took it from the shelf of an air conditioned store, so I when I got home I went ahead and served myself some.  I swirled it a bit and let it sit while I made my tray of food.  It's supposed to "aerate" or breathe. explains it like this:
By allowing wine to mix and mingle with air, the wine will typically warm up and the wine's aromas will open up, the flavor profile will soften and mellow out a bit and the overall flavor characteristics should improve.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Delightful Tabouli

If there is anything more delightful than than picking fruit moments before you use it in a meal, I don't know what it is.  Ok, maybe picking your own veggies or spices, though I would not apply said theory to meat.  I do love having a lemon tree in the yard.

A few months ago, I received a package in the mail that made me very nervous.  I was expecting a package of dresses I'd ordered online.  The box I received was very heavy and smelled of onions.  NEITHER quality is desirable in a summer dress.  Turns out my dear aunt Lisa had finally come through on her promise of sending me her favorite tabouli mix... 12 of them!  Suddenly the smell made sense and awoke my hunger.  I found a few tomatoes and a cucumber and ran outside for some lemons.  And set to work.

Bishop Brother Tabouli Recipe (from the package)

  • 1 10oz. pkg Taboli Salad Mix (or use 1/2 lb soft bulgur wheat, 1 bunch of parsley and 1 green onion, both finely chopped)
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 fresh tomatoes chopped finely
  • 1 small cucumber chopped finely (I used an English cucumber)
  • 1/3 Cup vegetable oil (I used olive oil)
  • 1/2 Cup lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. Salt
  • 1 tsp. Black Pepper
For added taste add (2) green onions with tops finely chopped

Before chopping the above vegetables combine the 2 cups warm water and taboli salad mix together and let soak while preparing the vegetables. After all is chopped now combine all ingredients with the water and mix. Refrigerate at least four hours to allow the ingredients to chill and flavors to mix together. Will keep up to one week if properly refrigerated.

My modifications:

1. I like using English cucumbers because they are less watery, have more flavor, the skin doesn't require peeling and there are no seeds.
2. I found this recipe a bit oily. I reduced the oil to 1/4 cup and used olive oil.
3. I love lemon so I upped the juice measure to 3/4 cup.
4. Green onions are a must in my book.

My discovery: Though advertised as "vegetable cutting knife", bamboo knives are NOT the best way to cut veggies, especially tomatoes.  What should have taken me a few minutes of chopping, actually took me over half an hour.  The serrated knife is great for cutting bread, but I think I'll just keep the straight one for shmearing my bagel.

The picture above is yellowed because it's a batch that we took to the Hollywood Bowl when we went to enjoy Chris Botti's trumpeting sounds.  I forgot to take the picture while it was still daylight.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Cucumber Snack

This is a quick refreshing snack that's great after surviving rush hour.

1 cucumber
1 lemon
salt and pepper to taste
chili powder, optional

1.  Peel cucumber.  You may skip this step if you are fortunate enough to have an English cucumber.
2.  Slice cucumber thinly and spread out slices on a deep plate -- the bigger the better.
3.  Sprinkle slices with salt, pepper and chili to taste.
4.  Squeeze lemon halves over top making sure to cover all the slices.  Remove seeds, if necessary.
5.  Let sit for 3-5 min.
6.  Eat!  Utensils optional -- I love to use my fingers! :)

Experimental Hors D'oeuvres

Since I'm house sitting at a friend's, I went rummaging through the fridge to see what I could throw together for dinner.  This is what I found:
4 large mushrooms
1 small onion
1 slice ham
1 tube crescent roll dough
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
garlic salt
chili powder

1.  Pre-heat oven to 350° F.
2.  Wipe mushrooms clean with a towel, instead of washing them -- it's a trick I learned from Julia Child.  Cut off hard stems and dice.
3.  Heat pan over med heat.  Dice the onion. To be healthy I browned the mushrooms and onion dry.  Stir occasionally.
4.  Cut slice of ham to small squares and add to mushrooms and onions.
5.  Sprinkle with chili and garlic salt and keep stirring occasionally.
6.  Pop open the tube of crescent dough.  Roll out the dough and cut the triangles in half -- pizza cutter makes it easy.
7.  Press the smaller triangles into the mini muffin pan -- alternative: use regular sized triangles for regular muffin pan. I started with a dowel, but found it easier to do with my fingers.

8.  Spoon 1/2 teaspoon shredded mozzarella into bottom of dough "cups"

 9.  Spoon a teaspoon amount of the mushroom mixture into each cup and sprinkle some parmesan over the top.

10.  Bake for 12 min.  Crust should be golden brown.
11.  Remove from oven and let cool in pan for no more than 5 min and remove to plate to finish cooling -- if you leave them in longer the moisture will make the bottoms soggy.
12.  Plate up and serve.  Goes great with some ranch dressing on the side (but then, what doesn't?).

Things I would try differently:
1.  I think some mild sausage would be great in lieu of the ham, but then I used what I had.
2.  Use some oregano and basil seasoning instead of the chili powder.
3.  Forget reducing fat and use a teaspoon of butter to saute onions and mushrooms.  Also, add a splash of white wine.
4.  Use more cheese and mix it into mushroom mixture to melt before adding it to the dough.
5.  Forget the pre-perforated triangles.  Roll out dough with pin to be thinner and cut into 2 - 2 1/2 inch squares.  You'll get more out of it, so up the amount of ingredients.
6.  Egg-lovers -- I don't include myself among you -- feel free to scramble an egg or two to the mushroom mixture.
7.  Add a clove or two of garlic, pressed, of course.

Sunday, June 5, 2011


I'm getting a new camera!  It's on its way and should arrive in my hands sometime next week.  I'm so excited at the prospect of posting recipes with my own pictures!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A New Beverage Idea

I love water.  That's what we'd always have on the table growing up, unless we had guests or it was tea time.  It's my default drink.  I was shocked the first time someone told me "I don't like water".  I thought it was quite a silly thing to say, like "I don't like air".

Everyone knows that they should drink more of it and beverage companies have capitalized on the idea by providing hundreds of varieties of water -- and I'm not sure that's an exaggeration.  Vitamin water was a really big thing for a group of my friends who thought they were being healthy, until the sodium content and unpronounceable ingredient list was pointed out to them.  (Am I the only one who reads labels?  I know I'm a brat whose friends are very forgiving.)

I found an idea in a book last year, but I finally built up the nerve to try it this week.  I soaked and cleaned some leeks. (Soaking is very important to loosen the gritty dirt that hides between the layers.)  Then I put them in a pot with a quart of water -- no salt.  I let them boil for about 20 minutes and them let them cool.  The book recommended this as a "cleanse":  drink the cooled water and eat the cooked leeks throughout the day.  The water is loaded with vitamins and minerals from the leeks -- and it doesn't taste bad!  In fact, it doesn't have much flavor at all.

A Mexican friend recommended drinking the water from cooked beans to help ease cramps and other "time of the month" ailments.  Think: high fiber, iron and protein.

Last night, my sister boiled an artichoke and as she was pouring out the water, it occurred to me that I should have asked her to save it for me.

I usually salt my veggies when I cook them, so I don't know if that taste good to drink like water.  Hm, it could probably be used as a base for a work-out drink, like to make your own gatorade, or a broth to make a soup.  Hm... so many ideas.