Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tomatillo Quesadillas

Until we started getting tomatillos from our CSA a couple years back I had never really seen them outside of salsa. Once I started playing around with them I really learned to enjoy their tartness and acidity. The share a lot in common in tomatoes but their flesh is much firmer so they hold up to cooking very very well. I like to chop them up and saute them with garlic and little olive and then scramble in a couple eggs. It is a favorite breakfast this time of year.
Today we made them into quesadillas, the recipe was on the fly so I will do my best with amounts.

8-10 ripe tomatillos
6 saladette tomatoes (shaped like a plum tomato but smaller)
2 small red onions
2 cloves garlic
kosher salt
Shredded chedder cheese
whole wheat tortillas
olive oil

Remove the husk from tomatillos and wash them well. They have a sticky resin on the skin that is not very tasty. you can core the tomatillo like a tomato, just removing the portion where the stem was attached. Slice the tomatillos about 1/8 inch thick and set aside.

Heat a couple Tbsp of olive oil in a pan, chop the onions and add them to the hot pan. Saute the onions until the start to caramelize then add the garlic and tomatillos. reduce the heat to medium and let the tomatoes start to soften and cook down. After 5-7 minutes slice the tomatoes in half and add to the pan, season with salt, cumin and oregano. Continue to cook them down until most of the liquid has cooked out then remove from the heat.

Heat up a large frying pan to medium high with just a bit of olive oil and use a paper towel to spread it around. Lay one tortilla down in the pan and spread a layer of the tomatillo mixture out close to the edge. Sprinkle on some of the cheddar cheese and lay on the other tortilla.  Cook until the bottom tortilla is browned and crispy then use your biggest spatula to flip the quesadilla. Alternately you can spread the filling and cheese onto one half of a tortilla and fold it over. It is much easier to flip that way.
slice the quesadilla with a pizza slicer and serve with guacamole and sour cream if you are so inclined.

The sweetness of the onions and the tartness of the tomatillos really work well together and the cumin worked really well.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Roasted Eggplant and Feta

I am LOVING all the eggplant we're getting this summer! Haven't gotten sick of it yet.

Well, it was time for something a little different. But, I still wanted to use what we have in abundance, which is eggplant, tomatoes and peppers. And, I wanted something healthy (which means nothing fried, alas). I had some feta in the fridge and did some poking around online, and this is ultimately what I came up with after combining a few recipes.

1 large or 2 small eggplant, peeled and diced into 3/4" cubes
2 small green bell peppers, diced
1 quart cherry tomatoes, halved and seeded
3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
fresh herbs
olive oil
salt and pepper
Cooked grain, 4 servings

Preheat oven to 400F.

Make sure all the veggies are of similar size so they cook evenly. Combine all the veggies and garlic on a baking sheet with several good glugs of olive oil, sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper. Stir in herbs (I used about 2 Tbsp of Mark's latest batch of basil pesto) and mix well.

Roast at 400 for around 30 minutes. At this point, I added the leaves from 2 sprigs of fresh oregano and left it in the oven, turned off, to keep warm for a few minutes. The oregano cooked just a little bit but was still nice and fresh.

Spoon cooked grain (I used whole wheat couscous) into a bowl; top with veggies; sprinkle with crumbled feta and serve.

Mark's feedback, as with most of my vegetarian dishes, was that it would be really good with meat. :) Specifically lamb. However, I thought it was good as-is. This made 4 healthy sized servings for a main dish, could serve more as a side.

Unstuffed Pepper Casserole

The first week we received green bell peppers in our CSA share last summer, I had quite the craving for stuffed peppers. Unfortunately, those yummy early green peppers were a bit too small and mis-shapen for stuffing. But the craving was not to be denied.

So instead, I cooked the filling as I normally do but diced all the peppers and added them to the pan. Then I combined them with cooked bulgur, spread into a baking dish, topped with cheese and baked it. It was delicious and easy and a great way to use up a variety of veggies. And no blanching the peppers first! For some reason, I always get hung up on that stupid extra step (even though I rarely did it, and usually made these in the crockpot because it was a hot summer day).

My version is vegetarian, but of course you can add ground beef in the beginning steps if you like meat in yours.

1 medium onion, diced
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
2-3 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced
4 small green bell peppers, diced
Any other veggies you have around: eggplant, zucchini, broccoli, etc.
Italian herbs of choice
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil
Cooked grain, enough for 4 servings
1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 c. grated Parmesan or Romano

Preheat oven to 350.

Saute onion and garlic in a glug of olive oil until softened. Add tomatoes and cook about 5 more minutes; add peppers and any other veggies and cook a few more minutes, stop while the peppers are still green (before they turn that drab olive green). Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper and herbs; I usually use basil, oregano, and parsley.

Meanwhile, prepare your grain. I have used bulgur, brown rice and couscous in this but I think it would also be good with pasta.

Combine the grain, veggies, and beans in a 13x9 baking dish; top with cheeses. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the entire dish is bubbling. This reheats really well so it's great for lunches all week, and makes about 6 servings.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Eggplant Patties, Fresh Tomato Sauce and Mojitos

So I made a couple things for Kerrie's Bunco group on Saturday. The eggplant patties are a recipe my mother has perfected over the years and I am very happy to pass it on. The fresh tomato sauce recipe I grabbed from one of my favorite food blogs. They actually take pictures that look good and the food is pretty awesome as well. Mojitos, well I just kind of figured those out but I will try to put together a recipe.

First up the sauce. I followed the Smitten Kitchen recipe pretty closely. We have a food mill so if you read the note about food mills you can pick up what I did from there. The flavor is fantastic, and it freezes well so it won't be a fresh ripe tomato in December but it is pretty close. By only cooking it for 45 minutes or so you don't really finish the alchemy that takes place with an all-day sauce so it will be a great base for other things as the winter goes on.

The eggplant patties are really quite simple. In a nutshell they are meatballs with eggplant as a replacement for meat. The proportions on this one are really guesswork, most of it is to taste but here goes.

3 medium eggplant
2 cups unseasoned bread crumbs
1 cup Parmesan/Romano cheese
3 Tbsp dried basil
3 Tbsp dried oregano
1-2 eggs
vegetable oil for frying.

Peel and chop the eggplant into 1 inch cubes. Place all the eggplant in a steamer and steam until very soft. In my electric steamer it took about 20 minutes to steam it all. You want it to be soft enough so that if you press it with a fork, it mashes.

I like to press the eggplant into a colander to remove as much of the moisture as possible, then dump the mashed eggplant into a bowl and mix well with the breadcrumbs, cheese, basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Taste the mixture at this point for seasonings. It should be dry enough that you can form it into a patty that will hold its shape pretty well, but it should not be hard.  Add one egg and mix well, if it is too soft to hold its shape then add more breadcrumbs and herbs. Set the mixture aside and heat up your biggest frying pan or electric skillet with enough vegetable oil on the bottom to form about 1/4 inch layer. Once the oil is hot carefully lay your patties into the oil and cook until golden brown on one side then flip and cook through. About 3 minutes per side or so. Set the cooked patties onto paper towels to drain.
This recipe made 25-30 patties. Serve warm with tomato sauce for dipping. These are moist enough to handle hanging in the oven for a while to keep warm if need be so you can make them up ahead an hour or so.

The mojitos I make by the pitcher. Making individual mojitos is a pain in the butt so I don't do it. But a pitcher makes it worthwhile. You will need

White rum
Soda water
fresh mint leaves
simple syrup

First off a note about simple syrup, amazingly enough it is really simple. Mix equal parts water and sugar and heat to a boil, reduce the heat, simmer for a few minutes until the sugar is completely dissolved.  I keep mine around in a squirt bottle and it keeps very nicely in the fridge.
For each pitcher I use 1 whole lime cut into small wedges, a dozen or so mint leaves, roughly chopped, 5? oz rum, perhaps 2-3 oz of simple syrup, more to taste, a tray of ice cubes and as much soda water as needed to fill the pitcher.

Put the limes and mint in the bottom of the pitcher and muddle it. Don't have a muddler? I don't either but the wooden food pusher thing for my kitchen aid grinder attachment works just fine. A mortar and pestle also works well. If you don't have any of those you can give it a quick buzz with a stick blender, just don't go crazy, you don't want a paste. Once your green stuff is muddled add the simple syrup, rum and ice. Pour in your soda water and stir. Taste it and add more booze, syrup, limes or mint as needed.
Yes you will wind up with pieces of mint in your drink. it won't hurt you.

Several people who had the eggplant patties remarked that it was either the  first time they had eggplant, or the first time they have liked eggplant. That is the best possible praise in my book.

After a week in L.A.

I have no really good food tales to relate. The best meal I had all week, and it was a great meal, was at
The Water Grill

Incredible fresh raw oysters and 1/2 a dungeness crab made for a perfect meal. Since I didn't have any of their actual menu items I can't say much else, but the bread was good and the menu looked great.

I also had time to visit a great local micro brewery owned by a Father and Son team from my home town of Scottsville. If you get to .LA. you need to go to Eagle Rock Brewery
It is in a very unassuming building with no signage but after 6 or 7 pm a food truck shows up and you can find it without much hassle. They have a really nice tasting room where you can buy their beers and a few other guest beers as well.
 The Solidarity Black Mild was really tasty, a nice light way to start. They also had a seasonal Red Rye ale that was incredible, big hoppy tastes with a grapefruit flavor that always makes me happy. The rye added another layer of flavor that mellowed out some of the bitterness and really made it a treat. Jeremy Raub and his Dad Steve have a great thing going and my only disappointment was  that I could not take any home on the plane with me.

This week it's back to my kitchen and I have a few things I put together for Kerrie's bunco night that I need to write down by request.

Thursday, September 2, 2010


What more needs to be said. When the tomatoes come in it's time for gazpacho. Unfortunately the cucumber season at the CSA and the tomato season didn't really overlap so I had to pick up my cukes at the market. You can find a million variations of gazpacho out there and it really comes down to your tastes. At a minimum it should include fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, red wine vinegar, olive oil, some fresh herbs and bread, yes bread.

If your recipe does not call for day old bread it is missing some of it's roots. I make mine with green peppers, onions, garlic and jalapeno peppers as well.
This recipe  comes pretty close to what I do. I would  replace the cayenne with a fresh jalapeno.

I like to drizzle a bit more olive oil on mine as I serve it. Some fresh bread for dipping is a winner as well.

If you want to get creative try replacing your hot tomato soup with gazpacho and dip a grilled cheese in it. I love it.