Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Grilled Eggplants with Pesto

This is one of the simplest, and most delicious, things I've eaten recently. I also like this dish because it is an eggplant dish that doesn't involve it drinking up gallons of oil. Use your initiative to build it into a full meal, or enjoy as a snack.

Ingredients: eggplant, pesto.

1. Cut eggplant into 1/2 inch slices lengthways.
2. Grill until soft. Ideally, on an unoiled cast iron grill pan (like a skillet, but with ridges) to get those smokey black lines. Otherwise, under a broiler would do. No need to use any oil here.
3. Smear pesto on generously.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

fall happiness:



pretty leaves!

And, not to forget: soup!

butternut squash soup with warm spices and crispy onions

I happened to have a roasted butternut squash sitting in the fridge that I had stuck into the oven this weekend, when baking something else. I highly recommend you do that, it's really a no-brainer. I imagine acorn squash would work just as well and in a pinch canned butternut squash might do, too, if you think roasting your own is too much effort (but it really isn't).

For roasting, I just halved the butternut squash, scooped out the seeds and baked it, cut side down on a piece of aluminium foil on a baking sheet (to minimize clean up) until a fork slid in easily. 45 minutes maybe, but that obviously depends on the size and your oven. I then scooped out the flesh and stored it in a tupperware container.

Once you have the roasted squash, the soup takes literally 10 minute to prepare. The crispy onions were a stroke of genius. You can omit them, but you would be terribly, terribly mistaken.

flesh of 1 scooped out roasted butternut squash
1 Tbsp of butter
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
about 2 Tbsp of your favorite thai curry paste (how much exactly will depend on the curry paste you use and how spicy you like your soup--I used green, though red would probably be even better, at least colorwise)
1/2 can of coconut milk (I had some leftover in the freezer)

Heat butter in a large pot and saute until translucent, about 2 minutes. Throw in the garlic, the butternut squash, the coconut milk and 1 cup of water. Add the curry paste. If you want to be on the safe side, add 1 Tbsp first and then adjust later. Let it cook and bubble for a little bit, then blend until smooth.

Add more water until you like the consistency. Then add salt and more curry paste, to taste. Maybe a little lemon juice?

Serve, topping with the onions. I didn't have any cilantro on hand but imagine it would go well.

crispy onion topping

1 onion thinly sliced
1 Tbsp of butter
handful of raw cashew nuts

While the soup is bubbling, heat the butter in a small pan until very hot. Add onions and let the fry, stirring occasionally. You want them to get very brown, almost burned on the edges. Just before they are ready, throw in the handful of cashews. Swirl them around and let them get a little toasted but watch closely because the little suckers like to burn when you are not watching. Sprinkle with a little salt to taste.

Serves 3.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

does anyone want any garam masala or turmeric?

i happen to have more than i could use in the next decade, so if anyone wants some, i'd be happy to spread the wealth around a little...just let me know.

quickie pasta salad

Make a vinaigrette by whisking together:
-1 shallot, finely minced
-small bit of dijon mustard
-glug of good-quality (i.e., sweet and tart, not sour) balsamic vinegar
-glug of extra-virgin olive oil
-a tablespoon of chopped herbs (I used thyme, sage, and rosemary)
-good salt and freshly ground pepper

Adjust the vinaigrette to taste. If you have a not-so-sweet balsamic, you could add a small bit of honey if you like. If you have a super-sweet one, relatively more mustard or a dribble of red wine vinegar will balance the sweetness. You can keep this in the fridge for a few days, and really it gets better as the flavors meld together.

Cook some smallish pasta, such as orzo, and combine it with some of the vinaigrette, plenty of crumbled feta cheese, and halved cherry tomatoes. Adjust the proportions by taste—you should be able to just taste the herbs and the shallots, and it should be pleasantly tangy&sweet&salty. Eat right away or pack for lunch.

(Other things that I didn't have on hand but that I suspect might go well here: chopped kalamata olives, small broccoli florets slightly steamed, chopped roasted red peppers, etc.)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Pickles and preserves

Time for another ridiculously out of season post. My papaya tree has been giving me more papayas, and the neighbors have more oranges and lemons than they know what to do with. Another neighbor gave me a bunch of jars and some basic preserving advice, and the results were pretty good.

Orange/Lemon Marmalade

All the oranges and lemons you've got
A few bags of sugar
An old cotton T-shirt, or some cheesecloth
Some string
A really gigantic pot
A bunch of clean, dry jars

Wash the oranges and lemons, chop them in half, and juice them. Dump the juice into the pot, but set aside the seeds and pith. Chop the orange and lemon rinds, and dump them into the pot too. Wrap the seeds and pith in a chopped-out piece of the cotton T-shirt, or a square of cheesecloth, tie it shut with the string, and dump it into the pot. This will let you get all the nice pectin out of the seeds, but will prevent you from having to chomp down on them later on. Leave the end of the string hanging out of the pot for easy removal. Cover everything with water (just barely) put the lid on the pot, and simmer until the rinds are soft. (Set aside a few hours for this step.) Remove from heat, take the seeds out, and add sugar until the volume of the concoction has doubled, then stir until the sugar is dissolved. Don't be impatient, or you'll end up with grainy marmalade! Once the sugar has dissolved completely, put the pot back on the heat, bring it to a boil, and boil for five minutes, or until a small quantity dropped onto a plate sets in 1-2 seconds. Pour into jars while hot, and let cool for a couple of hours. Screw tops onto jars, and voila! You have a huge amount of marmalade!

Hot Papaya Pickle

2 large papayas
3-6 tablespoons salt
100g mustard seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
2tsp asafoetida (fenuigreek) powder
A couple of hot chili peppers, chopped however you please
A whole bunch of vinegar (I used white, but I think apple cider would work nicely)
The gigantic pot, once all the marmalade is washed off
More clean jars

Peel and dice papayas. Put them in a mixing bowl with the salt, stir, and leave for an hour or two, until shriveled. Discard the juice; dump the papayas into the pot. Add the spices and chili peppers, and cover the whole mixture with vinegar, leaving about an inch of extra vinegar at the top. Boil for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, pour into jars, and voila! Papaya pickle!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

despair and carmelized onions

despair, because of imminent starvation. that's in fact a common theme to my dinner cooking. imminent starvation and the search of instant gratification. here is what I made a few weeks ago when my vegetable drawer was sad and empty and I had patience for only as long as it takes the pot of pasta to boil. it was really delicious and it made highly excellent lunch leftovers.

Penne with Carmelized Onions

1/2 pack of penne
3 large onions
3 cloves of garlic
couple of needles of a rosemary sprig
3 generous tbsp of creme fraiche
1 tbsp of butter and a glug of olive oil
freshly grated parmesan, lots of it
salt and freshly ground pepper

Boil the pasta and while you're waiting for first the water and then the pasta to boil, slice the onions thinly, and chop the garlic cloves and the rosemary needles.

Heat the olive oil and the butter in a pan, throw in the onions and the finely chopped rosemary needles. Cook at medium heat stirring around frequently, so they don't get burned but beautifully brown and carmelized. After about 10 minutes throw in the the garlic and salt and some ground pepper, stir around a minute or two. If you are getting impatient because the onions are brown but not soft and you want to eat, turn up the heat and add half a cup of pasta water and let it cook until the water is evaporated. (that's what I usually do, because I have very little patience when I am hungry).

Drain the pasta and return to the pot. Taste the onions for salt, pepper and stir in the creme fraiche. Stir into the pasta. If it's not creamy enough for your liking, add another tablespoon of creme fraiche. I almost certainly would do. Eat with lots of parmesan.

This serves two hungry people or one with leftovers for lunch. No need to say that the recipe doubles beautifully.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

tomato lime soup

In the interest of more quick and easy recipes: here's one for soup from "Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home" that I have been using lately.


3 garlic cloves
2 teaspoons cumin
1 tablespoon veggie oil
6 cups tomato juice
2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
juice from a large lime
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro


(1) saute the garlic and cumin in oil for a minute
(2) add the other ingredients
(3) simmer for several minutes

There are lots of ways to dress this up if you have the extra time and ingredients:

(4) add some Tabasco sauce
(5) spoon the soup over crushed tortilla chips
(6) grate cheese on top
(7) add more fresh cilantro on top
(8) chill and top with cubes of fresh avocado

But I think those are all superogatory. Three cheers for Moosewood!