Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Italian Stuffed Eggplant

I had the urge to buy eggplant at the store last Saturday but I had no idea what I was going to do with it.  That is the fun part I guess when you impulse buy produce.  It was local and it looked really fresh so I couldn't resist.  The thing I love about eggplant is it is a blank palette of sorts, able to soak up whatever delicious flavors you choose to add to it.  So Sunday the question was what to make?  Eggplant parmesan sounded too heavy and bready so I decided on stuffed eggplant.  I guess I kind of wung it on this one having no recipe, which was a bit brave since I was making it for me and my boyfriend Scott who hasn't had a whole lot of exposure to eggplant.  Good thing he is always a good sport and tries my experiments along with me. 

I sauteed the inner part of the eggplant along with onions, bell peppers, garlic and Italian herbs, and combined it with cheese to make a delicious filling, then bathed it in my home made roasted tomato sauce (but in the recipe below I have just specified a can of tomatoes to make it easier on you should you choose to make it), and baked it until bubbly.  It was beautiful! 

I have to admit I was rather proud of how it looked and it smelled like a lasagna!  It was delicious as well thank goodness, a successful experiment.  I will definately be making it again if I get my hands on more eggplant before they go out of season!  It is a lot easier to make than it looks, so I would encourage you to try the recipe as well! 

Italian Stuffed Eggplant
Serves 2-4

1 tsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 15 oz can fire roasted tomatoes
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp fennel seeds
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 medium eggplants
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small red onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 oz grated parmesan cheese
5 oz shredded mozzerella cheese

To make sauce, heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper and saute for 30 seconds, then add balsamic, tomatoes, herbs, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.  Let simmer for 20 minutes to develop flavor, then remove from heat and keep warm. 
To prepare eggplant, heat oven to 400 degrees, and line an 11x7 inch baking dish with foil.  Spray foil with spray and set aside.  Halve each eggplant lengthwise and scoop out middle of each halve leaving a 3/4 inch boarder.  Chop insides for filling.  In a large skillet, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil and add onions.  Saute for about 5 minutes until softened and add garlic, eggplant, peppers herbs, and sea salt and pepper to taste. Saute until eggplant is very soft, another 5-7 minutes, then remove from heat and stir in 1/2 the tomato sauce, parmesan and 4 oz of the mozzerella reserving the rest for topping.  Place eggplants cut side up in dish, and stuff each with the eggplant mixture dividing evenly between the 4 halves.  Top with remaining sauce, then place in the oven and bake for about 30 min.  Add cheese after they are heated through and eggplant shells are tender and bake until it is starting to bubble another 5 minutes. Serve hot. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Wild Mushroom Barley Risotto

A chill is in the air, and risotto season is here once again!  There is nothing I love more than sitting down to a bowl of creamy comfort food for dinner on a chilly day, or just when I am craving a food hug.  A few years ago when I first discovered the deliciousness of risotto, I would make it about 3 times a week in the cool months, not even counting the sweet risotto dessert I would make quite often.  It was something that I would come home from work wanting, so creamy and rich, and the best part was I could make it with whatever I had on hand and in my pantry.  Arborio rice is so delicious when cooked properly and it can be made very rich if you are in a naughty mood or veganized if not but still tastes just as delicious!  In the last year however, I have fallen in love with barley risotto.  Hulled barley needs a good soaking before cooking it if you want it to be ready faster, but I feel like I am getting more of a nutritional bang for my buck when I use it in place of the white rice. 

Last weekend when I came across a large selection of local mushrooms at the market, I had to buy them, because in my head I was invisioning a creamy dreamy mushroom risotto!  I thought it would be the perfect thing to make for me and my boyfriend Scott on Sunday for dinner.  I also grabbed some locally grown kale and crimini mushrooms as well as some truffled cheese and I was already looking forward to the deliciousness that would result.  Scott helped me grate the cheese and prepare the kale while I chopped the mushrooms and sauteed the crimini and it was wonderful to actually help me with dinner!  I suppose most of the time I am a control freak and I just do it all myself, but he is rather cute in the kitchen so I welcome his help.  Once the mushrooms were added to the risotto the kitchen was filled with the most wonderful earthy rich mouth was watering and I couldn't wait for the barley to finish cooking.  It smelled even better once the truffled cheese had been added and truffle oil had been drizzled over it! 

It was as delicious as it smelled...hearty grains bathed in silky earthy mushroom sauce, dare I say it...heavenly!  Scott enjoyed it as well, even if the kale was a new thing to him.  I always appriciate that he is a good sport with my recipe experiments...luckilly this one was a success!  If you would like to try some, I have included the recipe. 

Wild Mushroom Barley Risotto
Serves 3-4

1 Tbsp olive oil
2 medium shallots, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup hulled barley, soaked for at least 2 hours in water
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried thyme
1/4 cup white wine
4 cups mushroom (or veggie) stock, heated to almost boiling
sea salt
freshly ground pepper
7 cups assorted mushrooms, sliced
2 cups kale, torn into bite sized pieces
4 oz grated Cacio Di Bosco Tartufo cheese or other truffled cheese, grated (if not available pecorino romano or  parmesan will do)
truffle oil, for finishing
1 oz Cacio Di Bosco Tartufo shaved, for garnish

In a large stockpot, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat and add shallots.  Saute until translucent, about 5-7 minutes.  Add garlic, herbs and barley and saute a minute more.  Then add wine, 1 cup of stock, and sea salt and pepper to taste.  Let simmer and stir occasionally until the barley has absorbed most of the liquid.  Add another cup of stock, and let absorb.  Repeat with remaining stock, and when last cup has been added, add mushrooms and allow to cook until they are tender.  Add kale and cook until wilted and bright green.  Add shredded cheese, stir in and allow to melt, then taste for seasoning and add salt if needed.  When barley is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed, spoon into bowls, drizzle with truffle oil, and top with the shaved cheese. 

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Roasted Tomatoes on Toast with Chevre, Poached Egg and Fresh Basil

Tomatoes fresh from the garden are one of the most heavenly vegetables.  I had a big pile of tomatoes on my counter that I had recieved from my Grandpa and I decided that they needed to be included in my dinner.  I could have simply made a caprese salad and had them raw, but I love them so much roasted that that is what I did with them. 

I had some crusty peasant bread to top with the roasted tomatoes which I decided to do up crostini style except for the fact that don't have a grill so I oven toasted them.  Still just as delicious because what was important was the tomatoes.  I sprinkled them with chevre for richness, basil for herby freshness and lastly a poached egg, which I love on just about any sort of toast.  As a whole it was delicious, but what made it was the tomatoes.  Roasting them brought out the essence of intense sweet tart bright flavor which I love and you can only find in fresh summer tomatoes.  I would encourage you to try this, it is perfect for a light dinner, or brunch and so simple to make!

Roasted Tomatoes on Toast with Chevre, Poached Egg and Fresh Basil
Serves 2

3 medium tomatoes, cut into eigths
olive oil
sea salt

2 medium peasant bread slices
olive oil
1 garlic clove

Poached eggs:
1 tsp vinegar
1/2 tsp sea salt
3 cups water
2 large organic eggs
2 oz chevre, crumbled
2 Tbsp fresh basil, cut chiffonade
balsamic syrup (optional)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
To roast tomatoes, preheat oven to 475 degrees, line two large baking sheets with foil, and spray with non-stick spray.  Spread out tomatoes on one baking sheet and drizzle with a little olive oil.  Roast for about 15 to 20 minutes, until tender and starting to brown at edges.  Remove from oven, sprinkle with sea salt and set aside. 
To make toast, brush olive oil over each bread slice and place on other baking sheet.  Toast in the oven until browned then cut garlic in half and rub over each toast slice using the cut side.  Set aside. 
To poach eggs, heat water to a simmer in a medium saucepan with the vinegar and salt. Crack an egg into a ramakin. Stir water with a spoon to swirl, and carefully pour egg into it. Let cook for 3-4 minutes or preferred doneness, and remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate. Repeat with other egg.
To plate, place a piece of toast on each plate, then top each with tomatoes, crumbled goat cheese and a poached egg, and lastly basil and a little sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Drizzle balsamic syrup around the plate and serve!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Roasted Blueberry Salsa

I am not sure how I decided that I needed to add blueberries to my salsa, but for some reason it had to be done.  Afterall, many people add fruit to their salsa but it is usually something like mangoes or pineapple...not berries.  My Mom said it sounded disgusting and thought I was crazy for doing such a thing, that is until she tasted it and was won over.  Every summer we get a large amount of tomatoes from my Grandpa's garden and much of that goes to making roasted chipotle salsa.  Many different things have been added to it my favorite of which is habaneros for a kick but never blueberries. 

So last week when I threw the tomatoes, onions, garlic and berries on the pan and hoped that this experiment would be delicious.  It sure smelled good...but of course it had to cool before we could properly taste it.  Once cool, I added lime, basil, and chipotle and I was right about my premonition that this would be good.  It had a deep tomato flavor with a hint of tart and sweet from the berries which lended almost a jammy note.  I had blended it pretty smooth because that is the way my Mom likes it and I was to share it with her, but I think next time I would leave it chunkier were I making it for myself.  It was perfect with some home made chips I had made in anticipation of the salsa making. My Mom admitted that it was good and I have to say, she has eaten most of it the salsa lover she is!  So if you are looking for a salsa that is a little different here is the recipe!

Roasted Tomato Blueberry Salsa
Makes about 6 cups

6 large ripe tomatoes, cut into 8ths
1 red onion, sliced
4 garlic cloves
olive oil
2 cups organic blueberries
1/2 cup fresh basil
juice of 4 limes
sea salt
1 Tbsp chopped chipotle in adobo sauce
freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp agave nectar

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees and line a sheet pan with foil.  Spread out tomatoes, onions, and garlic on sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil.  Place in the oven and roast for about 20 minutes until softened then add blueberries and continue to roast for about another 10 minutes until the berries have burst and everything is starting to caramelize and brown at edges.  Remove from oven and let cool.  Place in a food processor along with basil, lime juice, sea salt to taste, chipotle, freshly ground pepper to taste, and agave nectar.  Process to desired consistency and chill before serving.