CtBF – eggplant caviar

When I was planning on making this, I hoped that my favorite farm stand would have eggplant. At first glance, no. But when it was mentioned, the guy immediately went out and picked a bucketful. Doesn't get fresher than that!!

When I read the recipe, I immediately thought use the grill! So I charred them, then roasted them over indirect heat. No heating up the kitchen!!!


It took a little longer than I thought it would, but was in no hurry.

Once roasted to softness (with a little olive oil and salt), the eggplant is allowed to cool. Then the flesh is scraped from the shells. Then whirred with lemon juice, smoked paprika, salt, I used roasted garlic and some fresh-picked basil. It was temping to use mint as well. I'd love to hear how that turned out if anyone used it. This was really dump and stir, I referenced the recipe, but didn't follow it (honestly not sure how much eggplant I had!). This makes for a very delicious, light spread. It gets a glue of olive oils and a little more smoked paprika for serving. As suggested, I served this with some crostini. A few pickles too. And, since I had a fresh fig from my new tree, I put together another version with ricotta, prosciutto and the fresh figs. All served with some sparkling rosé. It's difficult to beat this as a lovely summer repast. Totally enjoyable, and perfect for a summer afternoon.

You can check out what others thought about this simple but delicious dish, by checking out the Cook the Book Fridays site.

CCC – Cottage Cooking Club, July Edition

This month in the Cottage Cooking Club, we had another wonderful selection of recipes to make and enjoy, all out of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s lovely cookbook – River Cottage VEG. I committed to three, but then, well, I still had other meals to cook, so I ended up making a few more…

I wanted to be sure to have fresh ingredients for my recipes, but with my crazy schedule, I can’t always get to my favorite roadside stand. What makes it so? It’s a family affair. There are usually kids working the counter, and always adults harvesting something. You can pick produce that was on the vine or in the field literally moments before.

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I didn’t start out the month with vegetables from this stand, but I did find some fava beans at the market. I’ve never made anything with them, I’m not certain that I’ve ever eaten any, so I decided that I would try them out, making bruchetta with fava beans and asparagus. The vegetables are cooked separately, sautéed together, and then seasoned and goat cheese added – finally ending up on small toasted bread rounds.

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I prepared these after I’d been out of town for a number of days, returning home, craving vegetables! So along with, I thought that the marinated zucchini with mozzarella sounded delicious. I had some fresh mint from the garden, and decided to try that combination with the grilled zucchini – something light and refreshing.

The zucchini are sliced thinly, and the grilled until they get browned around the edges and are softened. They marinate in a light dressing of garlic, olive oil and lemon, along with some fresh pepper and the mint. Just before serving, the mozzarella is added.

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Around the same time, I found myself with day-old French bread, fresh tomatoes and garden basil on my hands – so what else? Panzanella! I’ve made other versions of this, though it’s not a typical recipe for me. This one sounded great with the addition of olives and cucumber.

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My “official” recipes for July were supposed to be the tomato, thyme and goat cheese tart, pasta with raw tomatoes and eggplant parmigiana. Full disclosure – I didn’t end up making the tart. Forgot the puff pastry… and another full disclosure, I probably don’t need any puff pastry, so I didn’t get there. I did, however, make this before, but with mozzarella and basil. totally worth making again.

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The pasta with raw tomatoes was quite good. Anything with capers always works for me. It’s very light and flavorful.  I did have a couple of different types of tomatoes from the farm stand, so that added a bit of nice color. The tomatoes are peeled and seeded, straining the seeds to capture the maximum juice, which gets mixed with fresh basil, capers, a bit of garlic and olive oil then tossed with the pasta. You can add some cheese if you like, but I took the suggestion and chose to go without.

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Finally, eggplant parmigiana. In this recipe, a simple tomato sauce simmers together, and gets layered with lightly fried eggplant slices and cheese. I decided to veer a bit away from the recipe with the sauce. It seemed like the flavors were intended to be delicate to let the eggplant shine through, but I still couldn’t resist adding some fresh oregano and basil – but I put in whole sprigs instead, that I could pull out after it simmered for a bit, imparting a subtle herby note. I almost always roast my eggplant, but decided to try the frying method in the book. But with my first batch, I started worrying about the oil content – so I combined methods – brushing each slice of eggplant with oil, then letting it cook in the pan until slightly browned and softened. This reduced the amount of oil that was absorbed by the eggplant, and it turned out quite well once I got the hang of it. All of this gets layered with parmesan and buffalo mozzarella and then baked until it’s bubbly and browned on top.

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As it turned out, all of the dishes were quite good. Maybe because I made it most recently, I’d say that the eggplant was my favorite. Fava beans… well, that dish was good, but I am guessing that they were not the early fresh beans that were called for. But very fun to try. The zucchini was delicious as well, and quite beautiful. I also liked the pasta, though I’m not sure that all of the straining and steps were worth the effort (who minds a few tomato seeds?), but super light and tasty. I’m not sure when I’ll make the panzanella again, but it was quite delectable as well. This ended up being (not at all surprisingly) a wonderful group of dishes to make – perfectly seasonal, and perfectly delightful.

If you’d like to see what others in the Cottage Cooking Club made this month, you can find their posts here.

 

 

 

ffwd – eggplant “tartine” with tomatoes, olives and cucumbers

I had picked up a couple of eggplant at the local farmstand, so I was looking forward to this recipe. As usual, I didn’t actually read it beforehand, so assumed that I needed some bread for the “tartine”. I think I’d even read through this one before. Oh well. The bread was nice anyway! 🙂

I also had been looking up some recipes. Lately I’ve been getting a bunch of emails from “America’s Test Kitchen”. I have a number of friends who love their recipes, as they tell you the “right” way to do things and are never-fail. I assume I can always learn something. So, I decided that since I had two smaller eggplants, I would go ahead and try both methods. To be honest, I was sure that the Test Kitchen method would win out. After all, they are so very certain about it. Essentially, this is a slice of roasted eggplant topped with a salsa and some sliced cucumbers. I’d run out of celery. Oh well. (as a Dorie side-note, my mother got me eating celery again because she strips off all of the strings too – and now that I’ve adopted that method, I like it a lot more)

The test kitchen method is a bit more involved. The eggplant is not peeled, and sliced into 3/4″ slices. They are salted and then left to draw out the “bitter juices” for at least 1-1/2 hours. Then the slices are rinsed thoroughly, and pressed in between many layers of paper towels to get rid of those juices.

Dorie’s recipe simply has you trim some of the skin from the eggplant, then slice 1″ thick.

At this point, I was a bit skeptical. The skin looked bad, the slices thick, but, I persevered!

At this point, for hers, I followed Dorie and put the slices on some lightly oiled foil, and topped with a teaspoon of olive oil, plus some salt and pepper. For the test version, I prepped the same, but just sprayed with some virgin olive oil that I keep in a pump sprayer. They got the same salt and pepper.

I roasted Dorie’s for the full 45 minutes, I ended up just adding the test slices at 35 minutes to go (I think I’d read that 25 minutes at 400 was right – I was splitting the difference). I brought them out, and while they look a bit different, not that much. Dorie’s are on the left.

While the eggplant cooled a bit, I made the salsa. Simply chopped vegetables and the additional ingredients – in this case green olives and capers along with a bit of olive oil and red wine vinegar. I used basil because that was what I had on hand (and besides, I like the combination). And the cucumbers get sliced.

Since I wanted a side-by-side comparison (I was certain that there would be a big difference), I put one each of my eggplant slices on a plate. Again, Dorie on the left. I have to admit, it looked really nice with the brown crust on top (a result of the extra oil, I’d guess).

And then it gets assembled!

This was really good. I have to say that the only real difference between the eggplant was because of the peeling of the eggplant skin (better), and the thickness of the slice (better as well) of Dorie’s. The obvious other thing is that it’s so much simpler! And while I often wonder about Dorie’s (extra) steps, in this case, her method was terrific – no reason to mess with all of that other stuff!

Now – the remainder of the dish. My olives came from a local company, so maybe were a bit stronger in flavor than others (though in my imagination, everything in France is more flavorful – so a bit of a hollow excuse, I expect). But I thought that they overwhelmed the flavor of the eggplant (that was so, so good!). The cucmbers were a bit of an odd addition, but still tasty.  I think absent the olives, this would have been a really great dish. That said, it was still very good. Next time, I would just leave the olives out. Overall, I can totally see making this again. As a starter, or along side something grilled – or even with just a little cheese to round it out a bit as a light meal.

This was a lot of fun to make, and it was even better to learn something new. Thanks Dorie!