Eggplant Salad and Goat Cheese Sandwiches

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How I Know It’s Almost Summer:

  • I want to buy an ice cold can of ginger ale at every bodega I pass. (So cold! So bubbly! So delightful!)
  • People on other blogs are somehow still non-ironically talking about “getting bikini bodies ready” and other bullshit like that. I mean, really? Do peoples’ bodies really fluctuate that much? Mine is the same literally all the time. Also I’ve had burritos for dinner twice this week. Go me. But, good news, I’ll probably look exactly the same in my bikini as I did last year!
  • (Is that the wrong attitude towards fitness?)
  • I need to find my tire pump. So I can use my bicycle. And get nervous every time I use it that it will get stolen again. Meh, I’ll just walk.
  • What do professional people even wear in summer? Do people who wear panty hose need to wear them in July also? How about people who run a theater summer camp in Midtown? What do they wear? Asking for a friend.
  • Our oven is only getting turned on for Daniel’s every few day need to re-season his cast iron pans. Easy dinner, please, present yourself.
  • Oh, fancy that! Look at this here recipe! Easy dinner personified (no oven needed). It starts with a lazy eggplant salad, like caponata but I feel like that’s something people argue about on the internet so I’m keeping this non-partisan with “salad”. Also my Grandma makes the best caponata and someday I hope to post her recipe here :).  Pile that salad on some soft bread spread indecently with goat cheese, topped with a kerfluffle of fresh herbs, call it a day. 
  • Also, ice cubes (to go back to that original heading). I refill our dumb ice trays so much more when it becomes pleasant in the world! (We’re talking temperature here, not general atmosphere of living in the world right now.)
  • Damnit I should go out on a positive note. SUNDRESSES!

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one year ago: herby sunchoke gorgonzola salad 
two years ago: grilled pineapple and homemade baked bean tacos and ginger coconut rice

Eggplant Salad and Goat Cheese Sandwiches

A Swanky Original

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 eggplant, cut into bite-sized chunks
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tomatoes, cut in chunks (don’t get rid of juices!)
½ tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dried basil
Squeeze or two of fresh lemon juice
s&p

Bread – I used an Italian focaccia-like loaf, cut into big squares
Sliced tomatoes (optional)
Goat cheese, at room temp
Fresh parsley

Heat a big skillet (for which you have a lid) and olive oil over medium-low heat. Add onion and cook for about 7 minutes, until they’re beginning to brown. Increase heat to medium and add eggplant, salt, and pepper. Cook for about 12 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until eggplant has started to brown and become jam-like. Partially cover the pan for short increments to speed this along.

Next, add garlic and cook for two more minutes. Then add tomatoes, their juices, and the tomato paste. Cook for 3 minutes, or until tomatoes start to break down. Next add the sugar, red wine vinegar, and basil. Give it all a good stir and cook for another 2 minutes, until flavors have combined. Squeeze in lemon juice, and hit with another dose of salt and pepper. Taste it and flavor to your liking.

Take eggplant salad off heat while you prep other ingredients. Cut bread and toast if desired (my bread was super fresh, but on day two it will certainly help!). Chop up your parsley and thinly slice the tomatoes. Spread a thick layer of goat cheese on one slice. Follow with tomatoes, eggplant salad, and parsley. Yum!

**Extra eggplant salad is delicious mixed with spaghetti and olive oil for a quick dinner. Or with crackers for snack the next day…

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Vaguely-Lebanese Deconstructed Stuffed Eggplant with Yogurt Sauce

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In the past month I’ve done more writing than I have in years. Since college, or maybe even before. When I press CMD+N, my 16th Word document opens and I’m reminded how much I am stressing out my computer (sorry!). Each of these 16 documents have headings like “Lidia interview” or “Stu monologue” or “the underwear scene”.

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These pieces of writing are all based on stories and interviews I’ve conducted at two different Upper West Side senior centers over the past three months, and are leading to two original plays, which both happen to be about New York City. The seniors are grateful we are listening to their stories and crafting these scenes of their lives, but I also am so excited and grateful that I’m actually getting paid to listen, to learn, to create, to encourage. I’ve heard handfuls of stories about coming to America, old and new traditions, standing up to sexism, the importance of family, and the most adorable love stories. It’s fun to write scenes in each individual’s voice (although that’s a whole lot harder in Spanish!), have them read them, and make edits and suggestions. A truly collaborative process. (Until it’s not fun anymore, like when they keep changing the details of a story, or insist you put in that one line that doesn’t move the story along and is actually quite confusing…)

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These words come easily enough to me, as I feel I am just a mouthpiece through which others can see their experiences. Harder, sometimes, to write as meaningfully about the stuff I consume. I mean, eating happens multiple times a day, how often do you get to write scenes about a marriage proposal over a slice of pizza or about finding worms while shelling peas in Panama?? Here we go — this eggplant was bonkers good. Delicious, nutritious, and super easy. Filling, leftoverable, good warm or cold! Adjectives! I got this! Sorry about the super long title! (but you were intrigued, right? Adjectives!)

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one year ago: tatsoi and tofu stir-fry with soba noodles and kale caesar salad
two!! years ago: rhubarb, chickpea, and spinach stew with cilantro-lemon yogurt sauce (guess it’s a yogurt sauce time of year!)

Vaguely-Lebanese Deconstructed Stuffed Eggplant with Yogurt Sauce

adapted from food network 

1 big eggplant, in bite-sized pieces
1 red pepper, in bite-sized pieces
2 shallots, unpeeled
5-8 garlic cloves, unpeeled
Generous ¼ cup olive oil + extra to drizzle
¼ cup pine nuts
½ cup Greek yogurt
¼ cup dill, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Big drizzle pomegranate molasses (optional)
½ cup cilantro leaves
s&p

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On 1 big or 2 smaller roasting sheets, mix together eggplant, peppers, shallots, and garlic cloves. Toss with the olive oil and sprinkle with s&p. Roast for 30-35 minutes, stirring once, until the vegetables are browned and tender, and the shallots and garlic are soft and smooshy. (#technicalterm) Once they’ve cooled a bit, peel shallots and slice into thin rings.

Meanwhile, toast pine nuts in a small skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently. This should take about 3 minutes. Set aside. To make dressing, mix together Greek yogurt, chopped dill, a drizzle of olive oil, lemon juice, and pomegranate molasses, if using. Smoosh roasted garlic cloves into the yogurt dressing.

In a big bowl, combine eggplant, pepper, shallot rings, most of the pine nuts, and cilantro leaves. Mix in yogurt dressing. Sprinkle remaining pine nuts on individual portions. I recommend serving with couscous for the full deconstructed stuffed eggplant dealio.

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Sweet&Spicy Chinese-ish Eggplant and Cubanelle Peppers

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My love affair with all food Asian goes far and deep. The night I graduated from high school we went to Minado, an enormous and yet high-quality all-you-can-eat sushi and seafood buffet that’s always packed to the gills (ha). I have brought three boyfriends there, who have all had to gain the stamp of Minado Success before being fully accepted into the family.  My parents bonded over late-night dinners in college at Moon Villa in Boston’s Chinatown. We ate it MINIMUM once a week growing up, and had a lovely relationship with Vanilla, the hostess at our favorite local joint. We are part of the ranks of Jews who consume their beloved sesame chicken and wonton soup on Christmas, albeit in a tiny town in the White Mountains, apres-ski. Heck, my Dad even had Chinese food at his Bar Mitzvah. It runs deep in the veins.

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What I’ve discovered about New York Chinese food is that when it’s good, it’s very good. And when it’s bad, it’s AWFUL. In the suburbs, all Chinese food is fine. It’s not authentic, but you don’t expect it to be. It’s tasty and reliable versions of the same sort of food, usually for cheap, and always plentiful. Here, it’s a different story. You can either go to Chinatown and go to a specific regional restaurant and get fantastic food, or you can go to the take-out joint on the corner and have belly aches all night. Where is the suburban happy medium?! Why do literally all Brooklyn Chinese restaurants suffer from the everything-tastes-like-oil-and-uses-the-same-gloopy-sauce syndrome? It’s so disappointing, time after time. Thank goodness we have Thai, Japanese, Korean (and Turkish, Italian, Israeli, etc) aplenty to fill the void, and Chinatown is just one quick train stop away. On all other nights, there’s bastardized homemade “Chinese-ish” food.

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This pepper and eggplant dish is a freaking delicious version of above mentioned bastardized Chinese. It’s probably not something you’d ever get served in Chinatown but if I ate it at your house I’d be ecstatic. It’s salty and sweet and spicy and oily (but not too much) and crunchy and easy, too! Don’t you dare skimp on the fried garlic&peanut topping, or you’ll have serious regrets. Serve with brown rice and never suffer through gloopy mushrooms over overcooked and oil-shimmering lo mein again. Amen.

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one year ago: spicy micheladas for drowning your autumn-relates woes and kabocha toasts with caramelized onion-maple jam to celebrate them

Sweet&Spicy Chinese-ish Eggplant and Cubanelle Peppers

adapted from taste with the eyes 

2-4 T canola oil
1 small eggplant, cut into small cubes
2 cubanelle peppers (I had them around from the CSA but feel free to use a handful of shishitos or plain old green bell pepper), cut into thin strips
salt
1.5 T soy sauce
1 T rice vinegar
1 heaping t toasted sesame oil
1 scant T sugar
1 t cornstarch
1 t red pepper flakes
4 cloves garlic, sliced as thin as possible
¼ c peanuts, roughly chopped

Heat two medium-sized pans. Add a tablespoon of oil to each. Add pepper strips to one and eggplant cubes to the other. Cook peppers on medium-high heat for 7 minutes, stirring frequently, until blistered and softened. Sprinkle with salt when done and set aside. Cook eggplant on medium heat for 9-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened and starting to brown. Add more oil to eggplants if necessary, as they like to suck it all in immediately.

Meanwhile, make your sauce by combining soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, sugar, cornstarch, and red pepper flakes in a small bowl and mixing. Set aside.

When eggplant is done, pour in the sauce. Cook for two minutes on medium high heat until it smells amazing. Add peppers and cook for about five minutes on lowish heat to let all flavors come together.

While that cooks, heat a small pan to medium high heat. Add 2 t canola oil. Add garlic slices and saute, stirring frequently, until garlic is nutty and golden brown, about 2-3 minutes. Drain on paper towels and coat with salt.

Top individual portions of eggplant and peppers with fried garlic and chopped peanuts. Serve with brown rice. Repeat until you wonder where the food has gone…

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Roasted Eggplant and Pepper Soup with Orzo

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As soon as that well-deserved mythical short-lived apparition called Spring in New York City appears, I notice my fellow city-dwellers in what can only be called trendy clothes. Gone are the layers of coats, grandma hats, tights-under-leggings-under-jeans, and here is…fashion. As someone not particularly privy to this world of fashion, due to a combination of genes, money, and just not caring very much, I still feel the pull to present myself as, well, presentable. And instead of rushing to a thrift shop or *gasp* an actual store with regulated price tags and employees who are really freaking good at folding, I head to the strange and wonderful world of the back of my closet.

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And so this is how, year after year, I find myself wearing this same dumb light purple, zip-up, three-quarters sleeved, stretchy-fabric abomination. Originally purchased circa 2005 at Marshalls/TJMaxx, the shirt has since made an appearance in my senior yearbook photo and whenever I try something high-waisted.

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Today is one of those days. Today I feel 10 years younger, stressing out about my geometry test and writing notes to the cute boys who would play poker during class as our batty teacher Mrs. Corbasero looked the other way and I memorized lines for my Starring Role of the Moment, and I angstily daydreamed about moving to New York City and Living the Life, which probably involved frosting for breakfast and a movie star boyfriend. Well, 10 year ago me, frosting for breakfast leads to expensive dental appointments and actors (tend to) suck as boyfriends. Try soup instead. (And programmer-climber-photographers.)

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leftover vegetable-skin detritus has taken over the table.

This soup is goooood. For dinner or breakfast or whenever. It tastes freaking delicious and doesn’t give a shit about your 15-year-old (or 25-year-old) insecurities. Also I didn’t follow a recipe, so who needs math now, Mrs. Corbasero?

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Roasted Eggplant and Pepper Soup with Orzo 

a Swanky original

3 bell peppers (I did 2 red and 1 green)
1 large eggplant
olive oil
1 28-oz can whole peeled tomatoes
3 sprigs rosemary
1 head garlic (or ¾ of a head, if that’s what you’ve got…)
1 large onion, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 T sherry
½ c dried orzo
1.5-2 c veggie broth
¼ c parsley, roughly chopped, plus extra for garnish
1 big T tahini

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Okay, you’ve gotta roast 4(!) separate vegetables. But don’t worry; it’s easy! Stick all trays in the oven at the same time.

  1. Arrange whole peppers on roasting tray. Stick in oven. Turn peppers every 12 minutes or so with tongs. Don’t worry when skin darkens. Peppers are done when they’re completely charred, anywhere from 35-50 minutes. Out of the oven, wrap peppers individually in foil and let sit for about 10-15 minutes, or until cool enough to handle. Peel, discard skins, and roughly chop. Two peppers will be pureed for soup; 1 should be reserved to give texture (if that’s your kinda thang…)
  2. Cut stem and bottom off eggplant. Cut in half lengthwise. Score inch-thick diagonal lines across eggplant halves, careful not to pierce skin. Working quickly, rub olive oil on scored flesh; about 1-2 t per side. Place on roasting sheet, cut side down, and stick in oven. Eggplant is done when skin is puckered and flesh is soupy and browned. Depending on the size of your eggplant, this could take anywhere from 20-40 minutes. Check frequently! After eggplant cools for 5 minutes or so, scoop flesh into a bowl; discard skins.
  3. Cut garlic head in half lengthwise. Rub with olive oil and s&p; wrap in foil. Toss in oven (on eggplant or pepper tray) for 45-60 minutes. When cool enough to touch, smoosh out individual roasted segments and add to eggplant. Discard skins.
  4. Drain canned tomatoes, reserving liquid. Cut tomatoes in half; place on a third roasting tray with rosemary, a drizzle of olive oil, and s&p. Cook for about 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes are a bit browned and shrunken. Discard rosemary.

Meanwhile, heat a large pot with 1 T olive oil to medium-low heat. Add onions and a big t salt and sauté for about 10 minutes. Add carrots; cook for another 10 minutes. Add sherry, scraping up any browned bits that have stuck to the pot. Keep on a low flame until ready to use.

In small saucepan, cook orzo according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Once all parts are ready, it’s blender time! Combine: eggplant, roasted peppers (reserving one to give the soup some texture), half of roasted tomatoes, most of onion-carrot mixture, 1.5 c broth, and parsley. Puree until smooth, adding extra broth and s&p as needed.

Pour pureed soup over remaining onion-carrot mixture in big pot; add sliced roasted peppers, chopped roasted tomatoes, tahini, ¼ c tomato liquids, s&p. Simmer together until warmed through.

Serve topped with orzo and chopped parsley.

Bengali Egg Curry (Dimer Jhol)

wpid598-DimurJhol-21.jpgwpid594-DimurJhol-19.jpgThis meal came about, as some of the best ones do, by a neutral reminiscence about an ex. Unfortunately for Daniel, my vegetarian Jewish New England upbringing does not hold a candle cuisine-wise to a particular carnivorous Bengali, shall we say, companion of the past.

But tradition, schtradition, I say (or, as my fiddling ancestors say, tradition, TRADITION!)! This lady can make dimer jhol as well as the next Brooklyn transplant!

And away we went!

wpid558-DimurJhol-1.jpgwpid562-DimurJhol-3.jpgIt turned out…good. Delicious, even! Sneak-out-of-the-fridge before breakfast delicious! Tasty enough to share with you, vast blog readership, and to implore you to attempt!

wpid566-DimurJhol-5.jpgwpid588-DimurJhol-16.jpgwpid582-DimurJhol-13.jpgBut, alas, it wasn’t the egg curry of his past. Wrong consistency, slightly different flavors, not as spicy. I’ll blame the peppers but I won’t be defeated! To a future of delicious and inauthentic egg curries! Hurrah!

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Bengali Egg Curry (Dimer Jhol)

from Foodolicious Pictured

canola oil
4 eggs, hard boiled and peeled
2 medium potatoes, cut into big chunks
½ an eggplant, cut into big chunks (an unnecessary but delicious and addition)
1 onion, sliced
4 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 inch ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 green cardamom pods
¼ t whole cloves
2 bay leaves
2 inches cinnamon stick
1 jalapeno, diced
2 tomatoes, food processed to a paste
1 t chili powder
½ t cumin powder
¼ t turmeric powder
cilantro, roughly chopped

Heat ½-inch of canola oil in a medium pot. Fry potatoes for about 15 minutes, until beginning to turn golden but not totally cooked through. Remove with a slotted spoon or a spider onto paper towels. Add eggplant to oil and fry for about 6 minutes. Remove to paper towels. Cut slits on hard boiled eggs and fry for 5ish minutes, until blistered all over and turning colors. Remove to paper towels.

Meanwhile, saute onion in a big pot for 7-8 minutes on medium low heat. When slightly browned, take off heat. Put in food processor with garlic and ginger. Process until it forms a smooth paste.

Then, heat 2 t oil in that same big pot over medium high heat and add cardamom pods, cloves, bay leaves, and cinnamon stick. Toast for about 30 seconds. When fragrant, add the chopped jalapeno and onion/garlic/ginger paste from blender. Cook for about a minute, then add tomato puree. Cook for 3 minutes, or until oil starts to separate.

Next, add chili powder, cumin, and turmeric. Stir to coat. Add 1 cup of water, a healthy sprinkle of salt, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add eggs, eggplant, potatoes, and garam masala. Turn heat to low, and cook for 10-12 minutes more. Top with cilantro and serve with rice (this recipe was amazing!).

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