Sunday, July 28, 2013

Eggplant and Tomato Grilled Pizza

One of my favorite preparations of the most popular summer veggies (including:  cucumbers, zucchini, and eggplant) is to remove some of the moisture by salting them.  Salt seems to be a fear for many people.  It is one of the many unfortunate consequences of our wacky food system.  Salt is not only essential to give pretty much any ingredient flavor, but it is an amazing tool.

First, salt is fine.  Since many people are used to processed foods, convenience foods, and fast foods...salt has become this evil thing to avoid.  If you grew up eating packaged foods, you definitely didn't need to add salt to anything you were cooking.  When I would microwave my Hungry Man, I never pulled out the salt shaker to perfect the seasoning.  As a result, when cooking real food, I have talked to countless people who either skip the salt completely, or they feel very uncomfortable adding salt to their food.  Or they cringe watching me or someone else season a dish with salt.  The consequence of this fear of salt?  People think they hate "fill in the blank" ingredient.  Common culprits:  mushrooms, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, kale, beans, beets, squash, eggplant, and probably most veggies.

Now, there are lots of reasons people might not like a certain ingredient.  Most likely it is because the time they tried it, it was cooked poorly.  And it is very likely it wasn't seasoned properly.  Other options:  it wasn't in season, wasn't ripe, was mass produced and had no flavor, etc.  There is a small chance your palette isn't ready for that flavor yet.  Like why we don't feed babies bitter dark greens as their very first solid food.  It is hard to know exactly the reason why you might not like a particular ingredient, which is why you should always give ingredients a second chance (what I mean by that is..a 20th chance).

With the majority of veggies, whole grains, know all the healthy need to season them.  With some salt. If I were to answer the question, is salt good for me?  My answer would be "yes!"  Aside from all the fancy nutritional explanations of why we need salt...sodium blah blah, electrolytes ya ok.  My reasoning is: it makes healthy food taste good.  Take a bitter vegetable of your choice:  kale, swiss chard, broccoli, brussels sprouts, whatever.  Roast it with and without salt.  Which one are you most likely going to go through the trouble of preparing and eating again?  The salted one!  More info on salt here.  The CDC, FDA, WHO all have articles on SODIUM.  Don't read those.  They assume you eat Hohos and McDonalds everyday.

Sorry.  I have watched two documentaries in the past two days on food.  One made me cry.  Like happy cry, but still.  Ok, I will tell you what made me cry:  "Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead".  Phil stole my heart.

Back to this pizza.  What a perfect summer meal.  I made Pioneer Women's Tomato and Eggplant Pizza a few years ago.  That was my first time putting eggplant on pizza.  This recipe is very similar, but adapted for the middle of the summer.  A few summers ago I also posted on how to grill pizza.

I have made this twice in the past two weeks.  It is my favorite thing right now.  The toppings pair really well with the grilled, charred-ness of the pizza.

Eggplant and Tomato Grilled Pizza
by foodforscot

1 Japanese eggplant
1 bunch of kale, washed, stemmed and roughly chopped
half a pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 whole wheat pizza dough (room temp, mine is from a Brooklyn pizza restaurant)
fresh mozzarella (1 ball), thinly sliced
parmesan cheese, grated
olive oil

Slice the eggplant to make 1/8th of an inch thick rounds. Place in a colander and sprinkle generously with salt. Mix to evenly coat the eggplant with the salt. Let sit for at least 30 minute (up to an hour or so) in the sink to release the water out of the eggplant.

In the meantime, prep the pizza toppings. In a skillet, sauté the kale in some olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and set aside. You can do all of this on the grill or inside on the stove. Next, lay the eggplant out on a kitchen towel. Pat dry (a lot of the salt should come off too). In a hot pan with olive oil or on the grill, sauté/grill each piece of eggplant until golden brown on each side. Do not season. Remove from pan and set aside. In the same skillet over medium high heat, add some olive oil and sauté the halved cherry tomatoes until soften and slightly charred. Remove from pan and set aside.

Preheat the grill to medium high heat. Divide the dough in half. You will want to make two small pizzas, instead of one large one. It is much easier to deal with small pizzas when grilling. I like to roll the dough out on parchment paper. Once the dough is rolled out, I pre cook it on the grill before topping it. Place the dough on the grill with the parchment paper still attached to the top. Then, peel the parchment paper off. Cook for a few minutes until dough is not raw. Flip and cook the other side a few minutes. Remove from the grill, place on a plate or cutting board. Turn heat down to medium low.

Top the pizzas (everything is divided evenly among the two pizzas). First, layer on the sliced mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle with minced garlic. Top with kale, eggplant, and tomatoes. Sprinkle with grated parmesan. Place back on the grill and cook for 5-10 more minutes until cheese is melty and crust is crispy. Watch the bottom of the crust, you don’t want to burn it!!!

(Servings: 3-4, Prep time: 1 hr., Cook time: 30 min., Difficulty: Intermediate)

Printable Version

foodforscot Ratings:

Shanon (taste):  10/10
Scot (taste):  9/10
Effort:  3/5
Dishwashing Effort:  2/5

Friday, July 26, 2013

CSA Meals - Part 2

Week 5 - chives, pickling cucumbers, greenhouse tomatoes (all not part of CSA), red lettuce, escarole, curly kale, swiss chard, cabbage, radishes, hukuri salad turps, garlic scapes, zucchini, cauliflower.  
Week 6 - garlic, carrots, zucchini, cucumbers, pickling cucumbers (not part of CSA), red lettuce, stir fry mix, fennel, broccoli, broccoli rabe, kale, chives (not part of CSA)
Week 7 - pickling cucumbers (not part of CSA), stir fry mix, kale, japanese eggplant, italian flat beans, bok choy, scallions, zucchini, globe zucchini, cucumbers, yellow summer squash, collards, cabbage, cherries and tomatoes (neither part of CSA)

Week 8 - 10 lbs of peaches, blueberries, apricots, field tomatoes, hot pepper (all not part of CSA), cucumbers, eggplant, zucchini, yellow summer squash, green beans, cabbage, red leaf lettuce, swiss chard, collards. 
Another edition of CSA meal ideas.  We have been enjoying our veggies so so much.  I thought I would share how we have been eating them up.  We get GOOD stuff in our CSA and when I go to the market to pick it up, I always end up buying even more.  They don't grow any tree/bush fruit at the farm.  But they bring in fruits from nearby farms (starting now-ish).  This is dangerous.  So are the quarts of heavy cream from a local dairy farm.  But especially lately, I have been adding more veggies that didn't make the CSA that week.  

We are currently in what is known as...the best produce season ever.  I have been refraining from talking about my one true love: the summer tomato.  I planted 10 tomato plants in our tiny plot of land (in addition to carrots, kale, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, herbs, cucumbers, red peppers, habanero peppers, eggplant, pickling cucumbers, zucchini, yellow squash, butternut squash, etc.)  We have like 1 mm^2 of yard space.  So, not everything is happy.  Not to mention, Copper has been very busy killing THREE groundhogs, who have been nibbling where they shouldn't be nibbling.  The first groundhog death was sad for me.  But once I saw a bite out of a cuke...I let nature take it's course...

Anyway, although some of the garden hasn't survived our non-ideal growing conditions (and of course, we can definitely blame our novice gardening skillz), the cream of the crop is our tomatoes.  I care for them nearly equivalently to how I care for Birk.  I check them every day.  I have been tying those babies up.  I have been NOT watering them because it rains too much.  I have been petting them.  I cannnnnnnnot wait for the bumper crop (just learned that phrase).  We are currently enjoying the cherry tomatoes, but in a matter of days, or maybe one week, we will be in the swing of it.  

Alright, that is enough.  Here are some of the ways we have been enjoying the local produce.  Hope it gives you some inspiration for your meals.  

Roasted Beets and Goat Cheese Salad - lettuce, beet greens, pecans, radishes, and roasted beets in a balsamic vinaigrette.

Bok Choy and Garlic Scape Pad Thai - your typical pad thai, but add the veggies.  I added bok choy and another dark green. Instead of scallions, I used garlic scapes.  Some tofu, as usual for pad thai.  I used this recipe, roughly.

Kale, Black Bean, and Corn Taquitos with Guacamole - sautéed kale, black beans, and corn mixed with cilantro and goat cheese, wrapped up in a corn tortilla.  Baked at 400 until crispy.  Served with guac.

Buffalo Cauliflower with Blue Cheese Sauce - Roast some cauliflower and toss with wing sauce.  For the dipping sauce, I mixed full fat greek yogurt with a crumbled blue cheese.  My favorite variety of blue cheese is the soft, creamy kind.  I try to find either a goat's milk blue cheese or a mild brie hybrid.  Jk, I just wanted to sound like an a-hole.  No, actually I am serious, that is the kind of blue cheese that I like.

Pesto and Summer Veggie Cheese Raviolis Salad - Based off of this recipe.  I tossed good quality (you know, not the bad quality kind) little mini cheese ravioli with grape tomatoes, cooked greens, sautéed zucchini, and pesto.  Great hot or room temp.

A Simple Slaw - Cabbage is not the most exciting vegetable out there.  But it is good.  You have to have slaw at least once a summer.  I don't like creamy slaws or creamy salads.  This was just thinly sliced cabbage, salad turnips, cucumber, green onions tossed in some apple cider vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper.  I added some raw escarole.  Don't do that.

Cauliflower, Black Bean, and Avocado Waffle - We made some whole grain waffles.  Scot's special, secret recipe (yeah, I just don't know what it is).  Then we topped them with roasted cauliflower, black beans cooked in chipotles in adobo, shredded mont. jack, avocado and a fried egg.  This only uses cauliflower so WHATEVER.

Apple, Chickpea, Almond Salad - yum.  This was some lettuce, cucumbers, shredded carrots, chickpeas, diced apple, and chopped almonds tossed in a sweet honey and mustard vinaigrette.

Zucchini, Leek, Broccoli Rabe Fritters with a Cucumber Tzatziki Sauce - Take that! If you haven't made fritters it.  Shred the veggies (or finally chop), add some flour, egg, salt and pepper until fritter like consistency.  Fry up in some olive oil.  These fritters had zucchini, leeks, and broccoli rabe (any dark green would be fine).  Tzatziki is a cucumber yogurt suace.  You dice up the cucumber, salt it (liberally) and let is release some of its liquid in a colander for 30  min. - a few hours.  Dry the cucumbers in a kitchen towel (it removes some of the salt too).  Toss with green yogurt and season with pepper.  I added the fennel tops to the sauce too.  I congratulated myself on this dish.    

Tempeh and Veggie Stir-fry - If you don't know what to do with a veggie...stir fry ti up!  This was broccoli, red onion, carrots, stiry fry greens (probably like bok choy type things), and tempeh over brown rice.  The sauce was some weird thing I threw together:  mango habanero jelly, fish sauce, sriracha, ... probably more things.  It was good!  Sweet and spicy.

Fried Zucchini Sandwiches with Cucumber, Tomato Salad -  We got these beautiful globe zucchinis.  I breaded and fried them for a sandwich.  Also topped with lettuce, sliced tomato, thinly sliced red onion and a honey, mustard sauce (dijon, honey, sour cream).  When I lived at home, I ate cucumber, tomato salads daily when my dad's garden was taking off.  It is simply sliced cucumbers, diced tomatoes, thinly sliced red onion tossed in red wine vinegar, olive oil and salt and pepper.  It is what summer is all about.

Kimchi - The best use of cabbage?  Kimchi.  If you aren't familiar it is a Korean condiment similar to sauerkraut...but Korean.  It is spicy and sour and lasts forever in the fridge.  You are supposed to eat fermented things if you want to be healthy.  So think about that.  My little sister helped me make a gigantic batch of kimchi.  I used this recipe.  I am going to make sauerkraut next using this recipe.  Don't think you like these types of condiments?  Try making them.  They are totally different than the store bought stuff.  A friend back in Boulder gifted me some of her homemade sauerkraut, which I used up instantly (like for this pizza).  So good.

Salad with Grilled Halloumi Cheese - salad is diced cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, blanched green beans, lettuce, green onions, with a honey mustard vinaigrette.  

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Thai Millet Salad with Peanut-Ginger Dressing

Happy Birthday to my sister, Jen!!!  

Several years ago, Jen decided to be a vegetarian.  Something about how humans aren't supposed to eat meat.  She rode that out for many, many years.  Recently, due to other allergies, she has started eating some meat again.  It is funny because right around the time she stopped being a strict vegetarian, I started being more strictly vegetarian.  

Luckily, our family eats lots of veggies, so catering to vegetarians is no problem.  And because of Jen (and many of my other vegetarian friends), I have always enjoyed finding and eating delicious vegetarian dishes.  

This is a very easy dish to throw together.  These types of grain/pasta/seed salads are perfect summer dinners.  They don't take a lot of effort.  They are quick, healthy, and don't heat up the house.  

This salad has millet as its grain.  Millet is a popular grain in parts of Asia and Africa and grows well in dry, hot climates.  It is not popular in the US, where is it predominately used as bird seed.  You will see it on occasion in some whole grain bars.  It is on our favorite bread baked at Whole Foods called Seeduction.  By the way, we always have a loaf of Seeduction at home.  

Cooked millet tastes pretty much like any other grain.  It tastes like grain.  It does have good texture.  It could be used any time you are using quinoa or rice (or barley, or couscous...who uses couscous anymore, what happened to the poor couscous?).  I like having a variety of whole grain options.

What else?  The dressing here is delicious.  It is a Thai-inspired peanut-ginger dressing.  I used freshly ground peanuts, but any peanut butter is fine.  If you use a non-natural peanut butter, just keep in mind it will be sweeter.  

Other than that, the salad is filled with whatever veggies you want or have and then some beans.  I used Savoy cabbage and broccoli, since both are in season.  Then, I also used shredded carrots and pinto beans.  For veggies, you could do bell peppers, cucumbers, zucchini (shredded), any cabbage, cauliflower (roasted would be good), any dark greens (cooked), etc.  For beans, I would recommend a white bean or maybe edamame.  Anything other than black or chickpeas, I think.    

Thai Millet Salad with Peanut-Ginger Dressing
adapted from Eats Well with Others

1 cup uncooked millet
2 cups shredded Savoy cabbage
1 head broccoli, chopped
1 cup shredded carrots
1 bunch of cilantro, chopped
4-6 scallions, finely diced
1/2 cup honey roasted peanuts
1 can of Pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup peanuts, freshly ground into butter
2 tsp freshly grated ginger
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp olive oil

Put the millet and 2 cups water in a medium saucepan. Add a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until water is evaporated. Let sit, covered, for 5 minutes.

Toss the millet with the cabbage, broccoli, carrots, cilantro, scallions, peanuts, and beans.

To make the dressing, whisk together the peanut butter, ginger, soy sauce, honey, red wine vinegar, sesame oil and olive oil. Season to taste with salt. Add the dressing to the salad and toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.

(Servings: 4-6, Prep time: 30 min., Cook time: 15 min., Difficulty: Easy)

Printable Version

foodforscot Ratings:

Shanon (taste):  9/10
Scot (taste):  9/10
Effort:  1/5
Dishwashing Effort:  1/5