Seared Eggplant Parmesan Slices and Moving On

vscocam225

I am here to talk about eggplant, but what I really want to talk about is how the time is coming when I’ll be moving out of Murrayville once again and so I can’t take for granted small wonders like  playing board games of Jeopardy and Stratego with my delightful siblings, and smoking an occasional cigarette with my brother (I know–a bit hypocritical with all the emphasis on health here–so we keep it to a minimum) and sitting on the porch roof outside my bedroom window with Liz and dreaming up our futures.  Today I am grateful for new opportunities, and  for the months of catching up that I’ve been able to enjoy with the people I love most.

Sauteed Eggplant with Parmesan

1 eggplant, slices into orbs
1 can tomatoes
1 clove garlic
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1/2 large yellow onion, sliced
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tbsp walnut oil
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp oregano

In a pot, combine tomatoes, onion, pepper, garlic and spices. Cook over low heat until the pepper has softened and the onion has become translucent. Use and immersion blender to puree until the mixture has turned to a sauce. Heat the walnut oil in a frying pan and saute the eggplant slices until browned. Set on a plate, cover with the sauce, and top with the grated parmesan cheese.

Serves 2

vscocam224

Broccoli Bean Soup

DSC01940
In the interest of honesty, I have to admit that I usually feel a bit deceptive whenever I record one of my own recipes on this blog (so about 95% of the time).  Recipes are ontologically systematic, and if anything, the way I cook is the opposite of systematic.  I rarely use measurements and I am usually taste-testing everything throughout the whole process and adding spices or throwing in onions according to what my taste buds deem necessary.  The only problem with this is that I am now accountable to a blog, and I cannot just give out a nebulous recipe comprised of “a little bit of this and a little bit of that and a little bit of love all thrown together in a pot.”  I am slowly getting better at self-discipline and training myself to pay attention to the amounts I am using, but I am far from perfect in this regard.  I feel I owe it to people to offer this as both a disclaimer and an encouragement to think a little outside the box and adjust your ingredients to match your gustatory preferences.

That said, this wonderful soup was made in a haphazard fashion, and while I think the measurements of the ingredients provided will yield a most satisfactory result, I cannot be too sure.  So exercise your freedom and edit as you see fit should you decide to stir up this delicious soup in your own pots.

Ingredients

1 large head of broccoli, cut into florets
1 medium yellow onion
1/2 cup milk or almond milk
2/3 cup carrot juice (simply puree 3 large steamed carrots with a bit of water)
1/2 cup brown rice
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 1/4 cup cooked kidney beans
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper

Use a food processor to blend together the broccoli with the milk, onion, garlic and parmesan cheese. Pulse until well blended. Transfer the mixture to a medium size pot over low heat. Add the carrot juice, beans, rice, salt and pepper. Cook for an hour and serve hot. Enjoy! Tastes great with a side of tortilla chips.

Serves about 4
DSC01939

Sesame-Seared Salmon with Spinach

DSC01931

There is something fishy going on.  My pictures keep getting erased from my phone.  I actually have a whole slew of beautiful food that I can no longer account for, and in this day and age, you can’t just put up a post without photographic evidence.  So I guess I’ll have to make everything all over again, or at least re-evaluate and figure out which recipes tasted the best anyway.

This salmon was a winner, but it seems this fish just does not like all the attention, or maybe it’s the camera itself that is sick of my new-founded picture snapping habits.  I’ve had to re-create the meal three times over and I’m starting to get pretty suspicious.  Good thing there’s always Elvis to remind me that my relationship with salmon is worth the time and effort.  Love requires commitment, and it finally paid off to persevere through my suspicions.  Plus it afforded me the opportunity to eat more salmon and work on anger management– a clear win-win situation.

Thanks to BBC Food for the recipe, which I tweaked to match my ingredients. Thanks to all the recent salmon sales that have ensured me with a freezer full of expectant pink fillets.  This particular preparation leaves the kitchen smelling wonderfully similar to a sushi bar.

Ingredients:

1 lb fillet of salmon (or a similar amount)
4 lemons
3 tbsp sesame oil
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
4 large handfuls of spinach

In a large pan, heat the sesame oil. Coat on side of the salmon in sesame seeds and lay seed-side down in the hot oil. Let it brown over medium-high heat. Flip it and begin to brown the other side. Sprinkle the chopped cilantro over the side with the sesame seeds. In a bowl, combine the juice of four lemons with the soy sauce and stir. Pour the mixture over the salmon, cover and reduce heat to low until salmon has been cooked through. It won’t take too long, as the lemon alone can “cook” the salmon. Remove from heat and wilt the spinach in the extra juices of the pan. Serve hot. Enjoy!

DSC01933

(^^By this point I had run out of cilantro, but it was just fine. I ate it with little sweet peppers instead.^^)

Cauliflower Zucchini Curry

vscocam203
The weather has been calling for lots of soups and stews lately, with all this dampness hanging in the air and making everyone sick. Luckily, this curry happens to be a great defense for the immune system, in large part because of its spices. Cumin and turmeric are well known for their healing and fortifying properties. The carrot juice provides the vitamin A, while the kale is chock-full of wonderful vitamins. Both the cauliflower and zucchini are anti-inflammatory vegetables with B vitamins. Cauliflower also contains stores of omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin K.
I like using cauliflower because of my impossible weakness for the underdog in every situation. It seems cauliflower doesn’t always get the attention it deserves, and if there’s anyone who will side with the losing team, its me. Cauliflower is making a slow come-back these days, as it should, because it is extremely versatile and can be incredibly tasty when treated properly. I like to think that I am playing my part by making this warm toasty curry. This dish is packed with flavor, spice and color, and it’s just the thing to chase away the blues that can come with too many rainy days.

Ingredients

2 medium yellow zucchinis
1/2 head cauliflower
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 cups chopped kale
1 can crushed or diced tomatoes
2/3 cup pure carrot juice (about 2 large carrots steamed and juiced)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp curry powder
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground coriander seeds
1/2 tsp ginger
vscocam202

In a medium size pot, simmer together the tomatoes, carrot juice, and half of the minced garlic on low heat. Stir in one tsp of curry powder along with the cumin, turmeric, cayenne pepper, coriander and ginger. Dice the zucchini and divide the cauliflower into small florets. (I used blended cauliflower that I had on hand from my cauliflower pizza crust, which also worked fine). Heat olive oil over a stove top and saute the zucchini for about 10 minutes or until browned. Remove from oil and add to the pot with the tomato curry sauce. While oil is still hot, add the onion. Saute for about two minutes, then add the cauliflower to the pan and saute for about 8 minutes. Lightly salt, then add the garlic and saute together for a few more minutes until brown. Add to the tomato curry. Stir everything together and add the second teaspoon of curry powder, the rest of the salt, and the chopped kale. Simmer on low until kale has wilted. Serve hot. Enjoy!

Serves 4
vscocam201

Cauliflower Crust Pizza

vscocam198

This morning I was thinking about the home that I live in and all the hundreds of thousands of people involved in the production of this house and all the things I own.  There are walls and paint and furniture and appliances and clothes and books and lamps….and each of these things is composed of so many different materials from so many different places and factories.  In my ideal world, I would love to be able to answer the who, what, where, when and how of it all.  I would love to know all the workers who gave me what I have and know that they were treated justly and know their stories.  In today’s world, that is pretty much impossible.  All the same, I think these issues are particularly pertinent in regards to what we put into our bodies.  The who/how/what/where/when behind our own nourishment seems like something we should not have to work too hard to understand.

As a country, we’ve gotten so far past that point that it seems like people are really trying to swing the pendulum back to some semblance of normalcy.  There is more awareness about farmer’s markets and local organic farming.  There are more and more CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) programs springing up, and it seems people are becoming more aware of how food and health are intrinsically connected.  (Thank you Captain Obvious.) 

It is more time-consuming to live this way, but I would argue that it is entirely worth the time and energy.  Quality takes time, but the rewards far outweigh the costs.  This is a topic I could talk about for hours and days without growing weary of it…and if you happen to be a family member of mine, you know I can become annoyingly didactic on all matters food-related.  “Marie all I want is to enjoy my slice of pizza without you going all Sermon on the Mount on me!!”  Poor family.

So instead of bewailing the evils of processed foods (and its not like I’m a total food purist myself), I’ve been trying to focus on the joy of cooking instead.  Because it is a joy.  It’s a conversation with myself actually, in which I hear a whisper “Meet me in the kitchen.”  And then, “Try  a spicy stew of purple cabbage and hot sausage and sweet potatoes today…you’ll be surprised!”  And I mix and stir and inhale scents and flavors and I am surprised.

As I was by this delicious pizza.

Ingredients:

Crust

1 head cauliflower
1/3 cup goat cheese (If you don’t like the taste of goat cheese, you can use a cup of mozzarella instead)
1 free range egg
1 Tbsp dried oregano

Toppings:

Whatever you like!!

I used: homemade tomato sauce, spinach, eggplant, green pepper, onion, zucchini, and parmesan cheese.  I sauteed all the vegetables in olive oil except for the spinach. Afterwards, I threw on some leftover grilled chicken and it was a dreamboat of a meal.

vscocam199

vscocam200

Preheat oven to 400° Place cauliflower florets in a food processor and pulse until it becomes grainy. Steam until the cauliflower is soft, and drain thoroughly using a dishcloth. (Or just microwave it for about 8 minutes). Let it cool a little, and while it’s still warm, stir in the egg, goat cheese and oregano. Place a sheet of parchment paper over a pizza pan, and spread the crust over it. Bake it for 40 minutes. Remove and coat with your toppings of choice, and then broil in the oven for 5 minutes. Enjoy!!

vscocam197

Winter Ratatouille

vscocam194
I say winter ratatouille because of one key distinction between this dish and the alternative I might make in the summer.  I used canned tomatoes instead of fresh tomatoes, and because of this, I also altered the technique for the layering of the vegetables.  If you know me well, you know that I love and respect tomatoes too much to disgrace their good name by buying a fresh tomato in the winter.  The winter offers tasteless mealy pale imitations that come from God knows where.  Don’t do it.

I began with Julia’s recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking simply because she throws each group of vegetables over some hot olive oil and sautes them slightly before putting them together in the stew, thereby calling forth the separate flavors of each before they are combined together.  I like that, and it certainly worked for me here. After that, I kind of did my own thing, not because I think I can do it better than Julia, but because my amateur self is still bad at following directions.

Disclaimer: I did not use parsley.  Can you call it ratatouille without the parsley? I’m not sure.  I didn’t have any, but to be fair I did use lots and lots of thyme in its place, and in my book you can never go wrong with thyme.  In fact, it might taste even better this way. I’ll try to remember to do a taste comparison at some point.

Ingredients:

1 large eggplant
2 large zucchinis
1 orange bell pepper (any bell pepper works; I chose orange for aesthetic purposes)
1 yellow onion
2 tbsp dried basil
2 tbsp dried oregano
1 head garlic (you can douse it with olive oil, slice off the rough end of the head, and stick it in the oven at 400° for 10 minutes and then the cloves will slip right out of their casings)
7 tbsp olive oil
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 handful fresh thyme
1 tbsp salt

vscocam192

(^^Hannah helped slice even with her Hulk arm. What a trooper.^^)

Preheat oven to 350.° Slice the vegetables into thin circles and separate them. Toss them with a light sprinkling of salt, basil and oregano. Heat up 2 tbsp of olive oil on a stovetop. Taking one bowl at a time, lay the vegetables over the hot oil and brown them slightly on both sides. Add more oil to the pan as needed, and heat before sauteing. Use a deep baking dish (its actually a casserole dish but I hate the word “casserole”) and layer the vegetables into it, starting with the eggplant, the zucchini, the tomatoes, the peppers and then the onions. After the first layer, top with whole roasted garlic cloves. Slice them once or twice if they are very large. Remove the thyme leaves from half of the sprigs of thyme and sprinkle over the top. Repeat the entire process. Cover the dish and set in the oven for 40 minutes. Enjoy!
vscocam191
(^^Before it’s been cooked^^)
vscocam190
(^^Also good over salad^^)

Maple Crisp Apple Pots

vscocam183

They say that smelling is half of tasting, but that can’t be true because three other senses are also involved in the all-inclusive sensory experience of eating.  Enter your imagination and try to recall your favorite food memories.  Taste and smell are crucial components, but sight and touch and sound are essential as well.

For example, some of my favorite food memories don’t involve taste or smell at all.  I used to watch my dad eat breakfast in the morning.  He would have toast with butter or apple butter, and would sit at the table with a mug of hot coffee and his newspaper.  There was something about the way he would take a bite from a buttery slice of toast that invariably drooped down in the center, fold over a page of the newspaper and then take a long audible sip of coffee.  It looked like the best meal in the world.  I fully enjoyed the experience without tasting a morsel myself.

I have many voyeuristic food memories like that including watching: the way Denzel Washington chews his gum in Remember the Titans, or death discovering peanut butter, or Babette preparing her feast…and who knew that even this grotesque concoction could seem enticing?  And food in literature opens up a whole other world of sensual experience that I’ll need to devote many posts to in the future.

vscocam181

Or sometimes it’s the texture of the food that gives it its charm.  My grandma used to make a quick breakfast for me when I went to her house that she must have learned during wartime or the great depression or some such period when creativity was a necessary aid for scrimping on ingredients to make something out of nothing.  She’d combine together one poached egg with some butter and a hunk of bread in a pan and then put everything into a mug and hand it over with a fork.  To me it seemed like quite a decadent little feast, and I think most of the appeal came from the combination of textures: fluffy eggs, toasty bread, and hints of butter.  The same can be said about my childhood obsession with the tapioca pudding my mom used to bring home, where half the pleasure consisted in savoring the slippery feel of the little tapioca pearls before swallowing them down with their surrounding clouds of creamy pudding.

vscocam182

So what does all this have to do with today’s treat? Well nothing much except that the wonderful potency of the fragrant cinnamony apples brings back memories of Thanksgiving mornings when we used to borrow the oven of our neighbors who were away in order to accommodate all the cooking required to host a Thanksgiving army of people.  Our house smelled like roasting turkey and sounded like chaos and March of the Wooden Soldiers (which plays each Thanksgiving at 9am), while the neighbors’ house was empty and quiet and smelled like apple pie.  It was fun running back and forth with my mom to check on the cooking process, and escape and re-enter the mayhem of home.

So there’s nothing more to say about these baked apples except to note that they hit up all five senses.  They smell like all the best apple baking aroma memories.  Each bite holds a treasure trove of texture varieties.  They taste like comfort and home.  They look like the best of autumn, and they give a pleasing little crunchy chew.

Ingredients:

4 apples of your choice
1/3 cup gluten-free rolled oats
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup crushed walnuts
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp butter (if you want to make these vegan, just leave out the butter)

Preheat the oven to 375° Core and hollow out the apples while leaving their exteriors in tact. Dice the interior of the apples and mix with all the ingredients except the butter. Stuff each apple. Cover the bottom of a baking dish with water and place them upright inside the dish. Top each one with a pat of butter and bake for 35 minutes. Serve warm. Enjoy!

vscocam184

PS> A bonus treat for making it through the post. Watch this video of a Norwegian guy finding the caches of food that he hid for himself after days of arctic hiking.

Chocolate Quinoa Porridge

vscocam168

Well we’re living in a time where pretty much everything goes, right? And wasn’t it Marie Antoinette who said “Let them eat cake…for breakfast”? And had she known about combining somewhat unlikely ingredients (although it depends what you consider ‘unlikely’), would she not instead have said “Let them eat chocolate quinoa porridge”? I think so.

Ingredients

1/3 cup quinoa
1 1/3 cup almond milk
1 tbsp Dutch cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp agave nectar

Optional:
1 oz chocolate of choice
a few strawberries

Let the quinoa soak in the almond milk overnight. Transfer it to a pot, add the cocoa powder, and bring to a boil. Reduce to low heat until the quinoa has absorbed the milk. Stir in the agave nectar or brown sugar or whatever you prefer. Let the chocolate melt over it and add the strawberries if you like.  It’s an energy booster that’ll satisfy that one desire and give you two dancing feet. Enjoy!
vscocam169

Valentine’s Day and Salmon

Valentine’s Day is pretty much all we have to hold us over until St Patrick’s Day, which can get us through till spring, so it needs to be the gift that keeps on giving.
That said, hopefully everyone got their fair share of flowers and oysters and wine and love this week. My Valentine’s Day included salmon, chocolate and dancing.  Salmon is wonderful because its oemga-3 fatty acids and rich mineral content make it a very good meal to eat during the winter, and yet for me it is associated with summer and the ocean.

vscocam160

(^^Notice how even my attire is salmon-colored^^)

So not only is salmon is breath of summer during the cold months, but it also happens to be an apt Valentine’s Day meal.  Its blushing color, soft meat and inviting taste make it a love of a fish. Plus it is very versatile. It is delicious with the simplest of ingredients; a squeeze of lemon and some pepper over a stove top are enough to turn it into a proper meal, and if yet you play around with spices and cooking methods you can easily render it a whole new dish. I like to simply pepper the salmon, poach it in lemon juice and top it with lots of fresh cilantro and garlic. My mom uses it to make fish tacos alongside a black bean and salsa blend. This week we were out of lemons, so my dad prepared a filet of salmon with butter, oregano and the citric juices of an orange. The orange added a pleasant zest to the meal. We ate it with some roasted asparagus. Don’t even get me started on asparagus….it was one of my first vegetable loves along with the tomato and I remain smitten to this day.

vscocam163

May this year be full of lots of fiery loving.

Smoked Salmon on a Sunday Morning

vscocam166

There are some days when you get extra doses of Inspiration and you sit down and write 50 blog posts and have to save them all in your drafts lest you frighten the world with an overabundance of zeal, which to the blog-reading public might come across as “too much free time.”

On other days, the creative juices decide they’ve been flowing too freely and they’re just going to take a break and dry up for a few days. During this period, it’s really impossible to post anything, and even if you look back at the plethora of filed drafts, they all seem stale and lifeless.
vscocam167

Then, on a Sunday morning, you wake up and the sun is very bright and the fact that breakfast is your very favorite meal is enough to remind you that it will be a beautiful day. And just like that, Inspiration returns …in the form of smoked salmon.

It doesn’t matter that there’s no smoked salmon in the house because today is Sunday and there’s nothing keeping you from bundling up, stepping into the cold sunshine, and walking to the store to buy some. Then you remember that Inspiration is relentless when she strikes. She doesn’t care where you are or what you’re doing, so you have to run back inside to get your journal.

vscocam165

At this point, you’re walking and writing at the same time and simultaneously trying to lift your face to the sun to catch its rays and absorb a winter’s portion of Vitamin D. This is obviously too much activity at once, especially for someone entirely inept at multi-tasking, which is why you trip into a car that’s pulled over alongside the road. It’s embarrassing until you realize that its just your brother sitting there with the coffee and newspaper that he’s just picked up from the local deli. He is clearly amused and offers you a ride, but you decline because “A ride? O please, can’t you see I’m enjoying my walk?”

When you reach the store it takes concentrated effort to ignore the bounties of food that A) you don’t need, B) you didn’t come for, and C) you can’t afford. Eyes on the prize, Marie.

The guy at the fish counter sees you eyeing the oysters that you really should have enjoyed on Valentine’s Day this week if you were not single. He sweetly asks if he can help you find something, and for a moment, the way he is positioned there in front of all those gorgeous seafood varieties makes him look like an ideal catch himself until reality hits in the form of your rumbling stomach and you quickly grab the smoked salmon and scurry to the checkout line.

There, a light of divine intuition strikes and you call home to ask that someone preheat the oven to 425.° And thus begins the preparation for the simplest, most perfect little Sunday meal.
vscocam164

Rub some asparagus in olive oil and minced garlic and throw it into the oven to roast. On second thought, add some brussels sprouts along with it. On the stovetop, combine a little vinegar with some boiling water and poach an egg or two. Lay the roasted asparagus on your plate, top it with some slices of smoked salmon and lay the egg(s) on top. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and enjoy!!

vscocam122

(^^Cora misses her Sunday afternoon football^^)