Sunday, August 25, 2013

So, an Eggplant and a Can of Coconut Milk Walk into a Pan...

Summertime = Fresh Veggie Time

Most of our eats these days are coming from fresh veggies either from the local farmers market, our garden or the garden of a friend. It's my most favorite time of the year (cooking-wise). The local farmers market is abound with eggplants which are a favorite in this mostly vegetarian house. One quick go to dinner I make is a curry and luck would have it that we have a can of coconut milk.

Eggplant Curry it shall be.

Veggies for Curry:

  • Eggplant from the farmers market
  • Bell Peppers from the farmers market 
  • Squash from our garden 
  • Onions from the farmers market
  • Garlic from the farmers market 
  • Serrano Pepper from the garden at school 
  • Green cabbage from the farmers market to top the curry

Other items around the kitchen:

  • One can of coconut milk 
  • Coconut oil
  • Half a package of tofu
  • Brown Basmati rice 
  • Curry powder 

The rice goes on first since it takes the longest. Years ago my mom found that cooking rice in the microwave makes it come out perfect every time and prevents the rice from burning to the bottom of the  pan, which can happen if you are doing other things in the kitchen. I like to put it in for 20 min at first and then reassess after that to see if more water is needed. The rice usually takes about 35-40 min total in the microwave, and comes out pretty much perfect every time.

As the rice is doing its thing, the curry gets prepped. I usually use olive oil when cooking, but for dishes like this I like to use coconut oil. Oil goes into the pan to heat up, and is followed by the onions and garlic. As this heats up I prep the eggplant, squash and bell peppers by cutting them into small cubes. When the onions and garlic are cooked soft, the veggies go in along with the coconut milk and curry powder. I want the eggplant to soak up as much of the flavors as they can, and since this is a quick dish, I want to maximize their time together. I'm a bit afraid of the Serrano pepper since I don't love a lot of spice, but I figure the coconut milk will help temper the heat, so in it goes.
Coconut milk, garlic, Serrano top and Eggplant all hanging out 

I want to incorporate the tofu into this dish and decide to cook it separately and make it a crunchy topping. Sometimes the tofu does not hold up in curry dishes and I want to avoid more mushiness in the curry. It goes into the cast iron on high heat with the coconut oil to crisp up.
As the curry starts to bubble I check in on the rice, add a bit more water and put it in for about 10 more min and start to cut up the cabbage. I want to keep the cabbage raw and crunchy. It could easily go into the dish but since the eggplant curry and the rice are going to be the same consistency I want to keep it raw for a different texture and I also want it to keep its sweetness to complement the sweetness of the coconut milk. 

It even crunches when you cut it
The rice is done, the curry has melded and the tofu is crispy. That means it is time to plate it up. 
Ready to eat

I just love veggies and this is a great way to let them shine. They are coated in the spicy coconut milk curry sauce that has an extra bite because of the Serrano. The rices does its job of soaking up all the extra goodness. The cabbage and tofu toping keep the dish from being one demential. I always wish I would take the time to make curry the slow way, but in the end I just ask "why really?" because this quick way, about 35 min, is just as good. 
Clearly enjoying dinner. 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Cool as a Cucumber Soup

This is an amazing dish. It is so super easy, but when people eat it  they will be wowed and your guests will think you are a master chef and thank you for serving them something so amazingly gourmet. Cold Cucumber Soup. The idea came about for a couple of reasons.
First: it's summer and hot as all get out, so who wants to cook.
Second: my mom ordered this on a recent trip to NYC and loved it.
Third: We were having a dinner guest with some eating restrictions, although that's nothing new in this house, but we had to make a dinner that didn't have soy or tomatoes.

We looked up a few recipes (yes, I actually followed a recipe) and found that we had most of what we needed.
-4 seeded cucumbers
-2 cups water
-2 cups non-fat Greek yogurt
-fresh dill (left over from making potato salad)
-fresh mint from the swamp down below the field
-2 cloves of garlic (local from a friends garden)

Put all the ingredients into a soup pot and used the immersion blender (mom has the same one I do) to blend it all up. During the process the smell of the mint and dill seem to explode into the air. So good. It takes no time at all to transform this into soup. The longest part of the process is chilling it before serving. We chilled ours overnight but 3 to 4 hours would be fine. When you do serve it, you will see that it is fresh, cool, and oh so refreshing. The non-fat Greek yogurt make this creamy without being guilty. The dill and the mint are the real stars here, however. You get the dill first, but the mint is a close second and that is the flavor that stays on your tongue and makes you go back for more. It's a reminder to me that often the best dishes are the ones with the simplest ingredients.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Scapes and Zukes

Summertime in Vermont! Hot. Humid. Humid Again. This means we want to eat light and not have to cook anything inside the house. We went to the Montpelier Farmer's Market in the morning and we picked up some zucchinis, green onions and garlic scapes. Garlic scapes are the green flower stalks of the garlic plant. Farmers cut them off so the plant's energy can be diverted to growing a larger bulb. They have a milder garlic flavor and are a tasty treat in their own right. I have only had them a few times as a salad garnish, so I decided to do something new and grill them.

What we have in Mom's fridge
-Homemade tabouli from Moosewood
-Garlic Scapes
-Fresh Goat Cheese from a neighbor who raises goats

The tabouli was round two of this salad. We made batch one to take to dinner at my brother and sister-in- law's house and it was so perfect on a hot day that we came home with an empty bowl. We doubled the recipe and added in fresh mint and parsley from neighbor's gardens. I think the fresh mint is far superior to the dried mint originally called for, it adds a bright note to the salad. The greens, onion bulbs and tops also made its way into round two.

Mom's Tabouli
The zucchinis are hollowed out into boats and put on the grill outside to gently grill and soften. The scapes don't need to be grilled long so they go onto the grill just for the last 10ish min.
Veggies on the grill
When they come off the grill, we fill the boats with the tabouli and top them with the fresh goat cheese and the scapes. The goat cheese is so fresh and mild almost like a farmers style cheese than a strong goat cheese. The creaminess is a nice contrast to the herb filled tabouli. The scapes taste like the fancy roasted garlic you get in restaurants! Grilling them brought out their sweetness and added a smokey touch that complements middle eastern flavors in this dish. I love garlic and these have taken it to a new level. I only wish I could get them all year round. Serving it all in a zucchini boat makes this an easy yet substantial dinner. 
Served with a slice of watermelon.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Scrappy Post Run Lunch

Just walked in from a run and I want something super quick, filling but not too filling so that it undoes my run! The fridge is getting a bit bare and there are not a lot of "ready to eat" food in there. I search around and find.

-Last bit of tomato sauce
-some mozzarella P's brother brought from Trader Joe's
-salad fixings
- last two veggie "meat" balls I made for dinner last week

The veggie "meat" balls are something I have been experimenting with. I made them by mixing black beans, carrots, onions, corn and bread crumbs. I was poaching from veggie burger recipes and they called for about cup of bread crumbs, but I only had about 1/4 of a cup, so in an attempt to keep the veggie "meat"  balls together I added some falafal mix. But then I added too much water and had to add in even more mix, this was a disappointment because the falafal ended up taking over the other flavors, still good, just not what I wanted. I cooked them in the toaster oven and served them with pasta for dinner and had a few left over in the fridge.

Looks like I will be making a veggie "meat" ball sandwich! The veggie "meat" balls go on the bread, topped with the last bit of pasta sauce, next goes the zucchini strips, tomatoes and onions and it all gets topped with the mozzarella. Into the toaster oven it goes. As it heats up I make a quick side salad of greens, artichoke hearts and the veggies that didn't fit on the sandwich.

While the veggie "meat" balls where not exactly what I wanted the other night they really are perfect for this sandwich and the tomato sauce ties all the flavors together. Mixed with the veggies it makes a hearty lunch, but I don't feel like I'm ruining my run! Time to refuel.
After and just want I wanted.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Beet Soup

Last weekend at the farmer's market was beet season. We got decided to get both red and yellow verities. We also ended up coming home with a bag of greens as well, since the woman in front of us had them cut off her beets and the farmer did not want to throw them away. Those quickly become lunch paired with fresh eggs. I usually just roast or do a quick pickle on beets, but this time wanted to try something new. Soup was feeling nice so I went to my favorite cookbook and found two recipes, one for a borsht and the other for a chilled beet soup. Not surprising I did not have the full ingredient list for either of these, and funny enough one called for buttermilk, so I did a mix and match.

What I have in the fridge:
-Bunch of baby red beets and greens
-Bunch of baby yellow beets
-Sweet Potato
-Curry Powder
-Whole Wheat Bread

 In the past I have had a major beet fail but not peeling them and in the end the dish ending up tasting like soil. I decided to tempt fate again and just peel the ones that look "soily" and leave the peel on the babies. Wondering if this will be my downfall, and if I should know better.
Left over scraps
Into a warmed stock pot go the onions, beets, sweet potato, heavy dash of salt and pepper and on a whim some curry powder. This is given about 10 minutes to roast up to develop more flavor since I realize I'm out of soup stock and stock like products that live in my fridge. Though most of the soups in the Mooswood Cookbook don't call for stock and I love everything in there.
To the veggie curry powder mix goes about 5 cups of water and the heat gets turned down. On goes the cover and I cook it until all the beets and sweet potatoes are soft. As these are stewing I focus on the apple and beet greens. My mom makes an awesome squash soup for Thanksgiving that she puts apple in. Since my soup follows the same flavors I add an apple in the last few minutes of cooking to add a different level of sweet besides the beets.  I know that I'm going to blend this in the end so chop the greens now and will add them right before serving.
Finishing touches 
I use my once again amazing immersion blender (I can use it right in the pot. Never ceases to amaze me!) on the finished veggies. I'm surprised the soup is so red and the color of few baby reds dominated everything else in here.
I have some greek yogurt to use instead of sour cream, and to it add some dill I have drying. A bit of an ode to traditional beet flavors. Last night I purchased (on sale!) some whole wheat bread at the local health food store when I was there buying vitamins for P. The bread is amazing and I think we're hooked, it's the closest thing we have found to Manghi's in Montpelier, VT. 

Into the soup goes the greens and stems (hate to waste anything and I find them tasty) for a final 5 on the stove. The final verdict is that the soup does not taste like soil! I'm happy I added the curry, it makes it more complex. P claims the soup is too thick to be a borsht, (but was I even making borsht?) but eats it up anyway. This is a hearty soup, the greens add a much needed texture element and a splash of green in this sea of red. The dollop of yoghurt is key and makes it feel more finished. The toast rounds it out into a great light supper.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Celebration Drink

School's out for the summer! Well at least for three weeks! Here is a quick drink to celebrate.
What's in the fridge
-one lime
-Santa Cruz Strawberry Lemonade
-Frozen fruit (Mango, Strawberry, Pineapple and Papaya mix)

In the milkshake tumbler goes the peeled lime, a splash of strawberry lemonade, handful of frozen fruit and some tequila to celebrate. Since I find the strawberry lemonade very sweet I add some water, I usually add sparkling for a nice kick but we are out so tonight tap will do (I'm in a hurry to celebrate). I blend it all in the tumbler with the immersion blender and serve it in a fancy glass. Sláinte!
Cheers to Summer! 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Fresh Herbs

Dinner Tuesday June 18th.
I often will make a dinner around just one ingredient in the fridge. Tonight that would be the fresh herbs from the farmer's market; Italian Parsley, Tarragon,  and Lemon Balm. After some "research" on Pinterest I see that tarragon is used a lot in vinaigrettes and in chicken salads. I'm going to run with that idea and see what I have to make it happen.

What's in the fridge for the vinaigrette:
-Artichoke hearts in oil

These all go into a little mini chopper, or chop master, and come out as an amazing fragrant lemony, garlic herb paste. Tempted to eat it with a spoon.
I don't have chicken so I'm going to have to substitute tofu.
What's in the fridge for the tofu salad:
-Little less than one cup of quiona (the last bit in a bag)

I cook the quiona and do a quick sauté on the tofu to give it a crunchy crust. As these are cooking I cut up the tomato and cucumber into a large bowl. When done they get added to the bowl and the herb paste goes on top. I let it sit in the fridge for about 30 min to get the flavors to meld and for the tofu and the quiona to soak it all up.

While it's melding I'm going to make a green salad to have with the herb tofu quiona.
What's in the fridge for the green salad.
-Lettuce, Spinach and Radishes from the farmer's market.
-Pear rescued from left over school lunches
-Blue cheese
-Last few olives in the jar

At this point it is just a matter of chopping, plating and assembling the two salads together. It is hard to make a bad salad with fresh local produce and to keep these veggies in the staring role I do a simple squeeze of lemon and dash white balsamic as dressing.
Totally blown away at the beauty of these radishes. 
The tofu took on the flavors of the herb paste and the slight crunch of the quiona and the cucumbers add a nice texture to the dish.  The lemon flavor from the balm ties in with the greens and the light flavor or parsley is in every bite. The radishes and thinly cut white onions are spicy but are balanced out by the pear, olives and the blue cheese. This dinner makes me happy.
P paired his dinner with Loser Pale Ale from Elysian Brewing Co