Monday, September 24, 2012

Meatless Monday - Cannibal Eggplant and Sicilian Caponata

Cannibal Eggplant.  Kind of sounds like Hannibal Lecter and actually has a lot in common.  More on that to come.  In the meantime, see if you can guess which of these is that varietal?

I learned a lot about eggplant during our jaunt at Wild Boar Farms last week.  I knew there were tiny green eggplants, both fat, round and long, thin purple and the white/purple striped ones.  But yellow, orange and various versions of other colored stripes?  And an eggplant with a storied past? 

I had no idea.

Wild Boar has a demo garden for Baker Heirloom Seeds and it was fascinating.  My first encounter was with this strange siting:
They looked like tomatoes or cherry peppers, but didn't have the same kind of leaves as either of these fruits, and they were very hard and dense.  I asked one of the guys on the farm (Brad the owner was away from the tent picking more fruit.) and they said the Baker Seed catalog had been borrowed and not returned so they had no way to identify.  I think I may have discovered they are Black Stem Eggplant which is more of an ornamental eggplant, apparently.

Once I heard there were lots of varieties, I went on a hunt.  Though I picked up the typical kinds to make a caponata, I HAD to pick some of the others just for fun. 

After researching upon arriving back home, I found out the  three yellow ones are a Asian eggplant varietals which I may try in Caponata after tasting.

As for Cannibal Eggplant...It's actually called Cannibal Tomato Eggplant and it's the little red one in the middle of the photo above I believe. To spare those of you who don't want to know the gory details, I'll simply LINK TO the info. Suffice it to say, the name is appropro according to the legend and it is really too bitter to eat.  So it is really only a novelty for most palates, including ours. 

What's Caponata, you've been thinking?

It's our favorite way to eat eggplant--a Sicilian sweet and sour preparation that we eat with crusty bread and cheese for a quick lunch. For dinner, it's takes simple grilled fish up to rock star status.  Picnics get upgraded with paninis of Caponata, fresh Mozzarella, basil and grilled chicken. Finally, you can stir it in with cooked white beans and a can of tuna then serve over arugula or mixed greens for a super quick and light main dish salad.

Easily prepared in about 30 minutes, it will last in the fridge for at least a week but you can also freeze it if you have an overabundance of eggplant and want to make several batches. 

Ready to find out how to make it?  After you do, let me know how you enjoy eating it the best...

Sicilian Caponata -- My Way
1 large or 2 medium eggplant (about 2 lbs)
1/3 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 cup chopped onion

red pepper flakes
1 tsp salt or as needed to taste
2 tbsp tomato paste or 1 large tomato, peeled, seeded and chopped
2 tbsp organic sugar or 1 1/2 tbsp agave nectar
2 tbsp balsamic, sherry or red wine vinegar
1/2 cup raisins (I've used both golden and dark)
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted, optional

Cut the eggplant into 1/2" chunks. 

In a very large skillet, heat 3 tbsp olive oil with the garlic until the garlic starts to turn slightly golden.  Remove with a slotted spoon to a small strainer over a bowl and add the onion to the pan.  Let it cook for a bit, then remove the onion to the strainer.  Add any drained oil back to the pan. 

Carefully only enough eggplant cover the bottom of the skillet.  

Sprinkle with 1/4 tsp salt then let it cook undisturbed for a few minutes until you can smell the eggplant getting a little toasty.  Carefully turn it to reveal the golden undersides and salt with another 1/4 tsp salt.  (If you were able to fit all the eggplant at one time into the skillet, adjust the salt as necessary.  You may need a bit more or less.)  When the eggplant has softened a bit stir it and push it to one side of the pan then add the remaining eggplant and remaining oil to make a single layer in the other side of the pan.  (I was able to fit way more than half the first time around so I only needed to use half the pan, but if you have a lot of eggplant left, remove what has already cooked to the strainer with the onion and cook the rest.) Repeat the cooking process with the remaining eggplant.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the tomato paste and a big pinch of red pepper flakes.  Stir until the tomato paste takes on a darker color and begins to coat the vegetables.

Add the onions and garlic, sugar, vinegar and raisins then stir it all together with a rubber spatula to combine everything well without breaking up the eggplant. (Sorry for the blurry "action" shot.)

Finally, add the pine nuts if using.

I stash mine in 1/2 pint canning jars since tomato paste tends to discolor plastics.  It will keep for a week in the fridge or up to 3 months in the freezer.

Print Page Copyright 2012 Christi Flaherty, Cook What You've Got

Friday, September 21, 2012

A Day at Wild Boar Farms & BLT Piadini


That's how much this incredibly colorful 15-20 lb haul of heirloom tomatoes, eggplant, peppers and cucumbers was when we visited Wild Boar Tomato Farm this past weekend.  In. Sane.

That's the beauty of going TO the farm.  Even better than a farmers' market or a CSA box. You cut out any middle man and get Chez Panisse and Michael Pollan worthy produce for pennies!

Brad Gates and his Wild Boar Tomato Farm (so named because of the wild boar that come around occasionally) have been garnering quite the collection of accolades.  Besides being lauded by the mother of Local, Seasonal and Organic cuisine, Alice Waters, and the champion of Eating Real Food, Mr. Pollan, they have been showcased on Martha Stewart's show as well as various documentary films.

Seriously, look at, find a farm near you and Go to It! Any farm that grows food, at least once.  You'll be surprised how your family comes to life when they are away from TVs and video games.  Kids really love nature given the opportunity to experience it. 

The four of us got to go hang out there with the rows of heirloom veggies (note the sign behind Kyle...Baker Creek Seeds Heirloom Demo Garden) and come home with this beautiful and tasty load.

For $10!!  (Yes, I said it again!)

Anyway, I couldn't wait to photograph them so we could dig in.  They were so juicy and ripe, that many of the tiny tomatoes split.  No worries.  They just became an easy pasta sauce after they baked with olive oil, salt and garlic.  The remaining tomatoes were doled out over the week for a tomato salad, a fresh garnish for pasta carbonara one night, and a super colorful pico di gallo for an easy black bean soup (recipe to come). And the last few have been saved for my hubs' favorite summer meal of all time!

BLT Piadinis!

If you haven't  heard of piadinis, it's sort of like a pizza or flatbread with a salad on top.  You fold it like a taco...
And Eat...

BLT Piadinis
I made my pizza dough, just to save money, using the Lighter Whole Wheat recipe from Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day by Zoe  Francois and Jeff Hertzberg adding rosemary.  Many grocery stores have pizza dough for $1.50 or less per lb which will make 2-3 9" pizza crusts.  This is the next best thing, but using the recipe from this book, you can make enough pizza dough to make 8-10 9" crusts.

2 lb pizza dough

1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (yes, fresh...dried really won't taste the same)
1 lb heirloom tomatoes
1/2 cup olive oil (plus some for rolling dough)
4 oz bacon, cooked until crisp, reserve 1 tbsp fat after cooking 
6 cups arugula or mixed greens
balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat grill to high.  Or heat a baking stone or two in the oven at 475 degrees.. (Cookie sheet works in a pinch as a sub for the baking stone.)

Divide the pizza dough into tennis ball sized pieces.  Coat them in olive oil on a large cookie sheet (no matter what cooking method you're using) and set aside to rest.

In the meantime, mix the mayonnaise with the fresh basil, a big pinch of salt and a lot of freshly ground pepper.

Cut the tomatoes into bite sized pieces and stir in olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.

Forming one crust at a time, press and pull into a 9" free-form circle that is no more than 1/4" thick (does not have to be perfect!)  If the dough is hard to work into a circle, let it rest for a bit and start with another one.  Keep working them in rotation if you have to.  We got into a groove after I formed three and we got the first two on the grill.  You can use a clean counter top to form the crusts if you want to form all of them at one time.

For grilling, transfer a crust to the grill and cook for about a minute or until it releases easily using tongs and/or a long spatula.  Flip it and cook for another minute or so until the dough is done all the way through and has grill marks.

For baking, place as many crusts as you can fit at a time with a little room for rising.  Let them bake until cooked all the way through.

Spread each crust with the basil mayo, then top with arugula, bacon and marinated tomatoes.  Drizzle with a very small amount of balsamic vinegar and serve.

Print Page Copyright 2012 Christi Flaherty, Cook What You've Got

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Classic Question & Classic Cookie (Without Gluten)

"Half Empty" or "Half Full"? Which one are you?

Depending on the circumstance, I can be both. 

With this pan of chocolate chip bar cookies, I'm definitely thinking "Half Full"

You see, I made them to accompany the kids' choice of root beer floats after a panini fest we had with friends over the weekend.  Thankfully we were all so content after paninis and floats that even after the whole weekend of nibbling at them, I still had a half a pan left.YEAH!! Little treats for me all week.

Using my everyday gluten free flour mix, it wasn't any more difficult than making regular chocolate chip cookies.  And as you can do with any chocolate chip cookie recipe, I simply spread the whole mix into a bar pan instead of making individual cookies (which with gluten-free doesn't work so well anyway).  They had the texture of brownies (or blondies in this case I guess) at first and would have probably stayed that way if I had taken them out a few minutes earlier than I did.  But even after several days, they are still chewy and great with vanilla ice cream.

I had everything to make them, except I didn't happen to have enough chocolate chips due to a chocolate chips in a hot car episode. Keeping with my CWYG concept, I used what had then made up the rest of the two cups with chopped milk chocolate almond bar.  (Though milk chocolate isn't usually the choice for these cookies, it reminded me of one of my favorite Mrs. Field's cookies from the early days - Milk Chocolate Pecan.)  So use whatever chocolate you have in the house and make these cookies.  If you keep gluten-free flours in your house, chances are you have everything to make my everyday mix. 

Featherlight Flour Mix from The Gluten Free Gourmet Bette Hagman.
2 cups rice flour
2 cups cornstarch
2 cups tapioca starch
2 tbsp potato flour (not potato starch)

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Bar Cookies
2 1/4 cups gluten free flour mix
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp xantham gum
3/4 butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar (I used evaporated cane juice)
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a 9 x 13 pan and set aside.

Mix dry ingredients together in a medium bowl with a whisk. 

Using a mixer, blend the butter with the sugars until creamy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, then add the vanilla.  Blend well, the slowly add the dry ingredients, a little at a time on low speed.  Once the dry ingredients are incorporated, stir in the chocolate chips.

Spread evenly into prepared pan and bake for 30-40 minutes or until the middle is barely firm.

Let cool for a few minutes.
Print Page Copyright 2012 Christi Flaherty, Cook What You've Got

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Bean Beauty - Wild Salmon & Mixed Bean Salad

Boasting a questionable reputation (among boys especially), beans are not exactly the glamour girls of the food world.  Cranberry Beans (or Borlotti) may be the exception.

Naturally clad in a cream and fuschia-speckled cloak, the snowy white and hot-pink spotted beans are not only pretty, but they are easy to work with (which actually is the exception among glamour girls, too!).

A surprising bonus to using fresh beans that I've found is that it brings my kids around the table with me (yes, they came to me without asking), chatting about things, life, whatnot, while our hands stay busy separating the beans from their pretty pods. With a teenager, any activity that produces conversation is welcome, but when the activity also produces part of dinner, also...BONUS!

Cooking much quicker to cook than dried, (30 minutes vs. 1 1/2 hours) the beans, pods removed, are becoming part of my freezer stash ready for weeknight meals.  All they need is a couple of smashed garlic cloves, a sprig or two of fresh herbs or a bay leaf and covering with water.  After they start to boil, they can simmer for 20-30 minutes or til they are slightly firm, but creamy on the inside.

Once cooked, they can hang out in the fridge for a few days (3-4) so they are ready to throw into salads or soups.

The best and most authentic way to serve them for a side dish is to, while hot, toss the drained beans with the juice of one lemon, a good teaspoon or more of sea salt, some red pepper flakes and a good dousing of olive oil.Though this is how mine started, I decided using them as a salad component would be a good late summer dinner idea.

Remember the Campout?  I had that grilled salmon available in the fridge so we made a quick salad with the beans along with green beans and greens from our veggie box, some feta and olives and a lemony dressing.

My non-fish eater loved having the beans as his vegetarian protein.  Little did I know how much he loved them until he announced "I LOVE cranberry beans, thank you so much for buying them" on his way inside to  get more after finishing his salad.

Note on buying the beans in pods, you will get about 1-11/2 cups of beans from each pound of beans before removing the pods.  So buy a lot.  And don't buy them in large quantities unless you pick them yourself (like in a large bag or box at a farmstand.) since many times these include premature bean pods as filler which are completely useless.  If you are lucky enough to find fresh beans, take the time to pick them out yourself.

Print Page Copyright 2012 Christi Flaherty, Cook What You've Got

Monday, September 17, 2012

Pesto Tomato Melts - Meatless Monday Quickie!

A visit to a tomato farm over the weekend (more details and photos to come) yielded about 10 pounds of perfectly balanced sweet, acidic goodness!  So two of my last three meals have centered on this lycopene filled fruit!

For meatless Monday, I thought I'd share this super quickie I threw together for lunch but it would make an equally tasty dinner if you add a salad or fruit.

     In keeping with my CWYG concept, I had homemade pesto on hand from garden basil, and I had gluten free bread from this recipe so this is where I started.

    Toast bread lightly, spread with pesto and top with sliced tomato

    Add a few slices of your favorite melting cheese.  I chose marbled jack since it was readily available in my fridge for school lunches, melts well and is close to what I associate with "melty" cheese sandwiches other than the plastic wrapped American stuff. But feel free to use fresh mozzarella (sprinkle tomatoes and mozz with salt before serving) or any other cheese that you have hanging around.

    Broil but watch closely, it will go from barely melted to burnt quickly!  It's ready when the cheese is melted, bubbly and slightly browned in places.  Eat.  NOW!!

    Print Page Copyright 2012 Christi Flaherty, Cook What You've Got

    Monday, September 10, 2012

    Camping 101 & Smoky Potato Frittata

    A couple of weeks ago, the boys acquired a tent and small grill at a friend's garage sale.  Having never been a camping family, we all decided a trial run in the back yard would be a good idea.
    Harry took the whole thing seriously.  After setting up the tent, he nursed the coals til they turned to ash.

    Finally getting the burning embers and gray coals he had watched and waited for, we had a simple grilled dinner of organic turkey hot dogs (not recommending by the way).  After turning marshmallows over the radiating heat til they were perfectly toasty for smores, lots of heat from the coals still remained.  So knowing the effort Harry had put into making the fire, and the extra flavor that comes from charcoal, I decided to rummage through the fridge for a few other items to take advantage of the residual heat. A wild salmon filet for a salad later in the week came first (recipe coming later), then a few ears of corn.  Finally, remembering my brother in law throwing foil-wrapped potatoes into a fireplace once, I did the same with these smoldering coals.

    While we finished out the night helping the boys get everything set for their "campout",  the potatoes cooked to a smoky softness, ready to use for meals throughout the week including a breakfast accompaniment of hashbrowns the next morning, and this quick dinner recipe later in the week.

    Smoky Potato Frittata
    1 tbsp olive oil
    2 russet potatoes, baked
    1/2 yellow onion, chopped
    1/2 red or yellow pepper, chopped
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    1/2 tsp smoked paprika
    1 tsp Italian seasoning (ours had fennel and red pepper in it so it had a little pizza flavor)
    1 tsp salt

    2 green onions, sliced thin
    4 oz cheddar cheese, shredded
    4 eggs, beaten well with 1/4 cup milk or cream

    Preheat broiler.

    In a large skillet, preferably cast iron, heat the olive oil over medium high heat.  Add the potatoes and cook without stirring for a couple of minutes or until they will move easily when nudged with a spatula.  At that point you can flip them all and add the onion and pepper.  Cook again for a few minutes or until the potatoes are brown and the onions and pepper are soft.  Add the garlic, paprika and salt and stir again until everything is well coated with the spices.

    Sprinkle the green onions over the potato mixture.  Whisk the 1/2 of the cheese into the eggs and pour carefully over the potatoes trying to not disturb any of it.  Let it cook for a few minutes until the bottom is slightly set.  Carefully turn the eggs so that the liquid egg mixture can seep to the bottom.  keep doing this until most of the egg mixture is soft-set.  Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top and place under the broiler on the middle or bottom shelf of the oven so that the will cook quickly but not burn.

    Cut into wedges and serve with salad or fruit.  Ours was a salad of shaved radishes, fennel, butter lettuce, with olive oil and lemon juice.

    Print Page Copyright 2012 Christi Flaherty, Cook What You've Got

    Copyright 2012 TablaVie Personal Chef Service

    All photos and recipes may not be used without express permission from Christi Flaherty, owner and creator of Cook What You've Got Concept and blog.
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