Sicilian-Style Baked Eggplant Roll-Ups – 7/67

EHKCE

How to combat the 6 Weeks Til The Wedding nervous energy:

  • Wine. Wine helps.
  • Be nicer to Daniel. We’re both doing lots of things. I am better at some and he is better at others. Good to remind myself of that.
  • Now would be a really good time to find that “my personal fitness routine” that I hear other people talk about but … it’s just so cold outside. All I want to do is eat cheesy things and cuddle. My body is my body and my body likes cheese and this is what my cheese-loving body will look like at my wedding.
  • See and connect with married friends to see how to make this easier for myself, and see what ideas and decorations we can stealimean borrow.
  • Continue to see friends for dinner, meet my fiance for randomly fancy cocktails just because it’s Wednesday, go to salsa classes, cook healthy things, don’t eat a whole wheel of brie. You know, keep life going.

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What not to do:

  • Spend hours on Pinterest. Boo Pinterest.
  • Spend hours on Etsy. Boo Etsy.
  • Keep procrastinating booking a makeup person.
  • Plan a giant month-long work trip the week after the wedding. Whoops, can’t help that one.

I’m  going to keep reminding myself that however this day turns out, I will be surrounded by my favorite people in the world, in my favorite city in the world, and will probably get to dance a lot, eat a bit, and hug a whole lotta people.

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So, back to one of those tips I gave myself — cooking! Here’s what we made for dinner last night, straight outta my bridal binder cookbook. This was really delicious! Might simplify it next time, doing more a lasagna style bake than the roll-ups. A little fussy but still doable on a week night (plus, leftovers for days!). Here’s how I did it.

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one year ago: nothing of note but I made this chickpea curry this week for a quick pantry meal and it was soooo good 
two years ago: erm, nothing, how about a mango mezcal margarita? (this would be a great wedding cocktail!)
three years ago: roasted tomato and kasha bowl
four years ago: butternut-tahini mash

Sicilian-Style Baked Eggplant Roll-ups

thanks to my friend Rachel

¾ cup golden raisins
2 eggplants
Tablespoon or two olive oil
8 oz fresh mozzarella
½ cup pitted kalamata olives, roughly chopped
½ cup basil leaves, torn
24 oz jar prepared arrabbiata sauce (I used most of the jar)
3.5 oz jar prepared basil pesto (I used most of the jar, probably about ¼ cup)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Fresh parsley
2-3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

Soak golden raisins in warm water. Set aside for at least 15 minutes, then drain.

Slice eggplants the long way, so you have 8ish long slabs per eggplant. Brush with a bit of olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and grill on a flat pan until tender, about 2 minutes/side.

Preheat oven to 400F. Spoon about ⅓ cup arrabiata sauce into the bottom of a 9-inch square baking dish.

Set aside about two-thirds of your eggplant slices (the longer, most supple ones). Finely chop the remaining slices and put in a big bowl. Add to this bowl: a couple tablespoons chopped fresh mozzarella (about ⅓ of your mozz log), olives, basil leaves, most of the raisins, red wine vinegar, ½ cup arrabbiata sauce, some salt and pepper.

Lay eggplant slices out on your cutting board. Spread a dollop of basil pesto over each slice. Put a spoonful of filling on the larger end of each eggplant slice, then roll up. Place rolls in prepared dish, seam-side down.

Spoon more sauce over the rolls, then cover with slices of fresh mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle with remaining raisins and any remaining basil.

Bake for 25 minutes, or until bubbling and melty. Remove from oven and top with lots of fresh parsley and pine nuts.

I served it with pasta but it likely could stand on its own as a meal. Yum!

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heh, I seem to be an expert at taking up how ever much space is available. Thanks hairy-arm Daniel for this shot 😉

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Kasha Bowl with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

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It’s always the small things you miss most when traveling. Mealtime independence (and people always respond “poor you, having to eat out three times a day”. But REALLY people, I like scrambling my own eggs and eating cold leftovers for breakfast sometimes!). Having reliable wifi in the bathroom so I can check Facebook while…brushing my teeth. Being able to flush toilet paper directly down the pipes instead of depositing it in the trashcan next to you. Cheese.

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I came home craving every trendy healthy thing in New York, aka things in bowls. Healthy grain bowls, veggie soup bowls, fruit-adorned breakfasts in bowls, tahini-y mushy eggplant in a bowl, lots of brown rice and Asian flavors and roasted veggies and toasted seeds and crunchy raw vegetables and pickled things, preferably in bowls. I am a walking stereotype of instagrammable food culture. #sorrynotsorry.

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Since my NYC return, I’ve met up with many friends who have greeted me with, “Looks like you ate so well on your trip!” I look at them, confused, wondering where they gleaned this information. Because, yes, I literally don’t know how to Not eat well (and by well right now I really just mean plentifully), but I wouldn’t say my time in Guatemala was the epitome of this. They respond that my Instagram food pictures looked amazing (which I just attribute to the beautiful woven tablecloths that adorned every table), what great vegetarian options there were, etc. What they don’t know is that Every Meal I Didn’t Post on Instagram consisted of corn tortillas, overscrambled eggs, mayo-y boiled vegetables, and bean mush. Hence my excitement in returning to the world of Extreme Bowl Culture.

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And hence this very simple lunch I’ve been dreaming about since approximately one week into my trip, or you know, since before Thanksgiving. This meal riffs on a snack I used to assemble for lunch during long shifts at Bakeri, comprised of easy ingredients we always had prepped. I bought my kasha at a Polish deli for very cheap, but I’m sure you can find it in the bulk section at any health store. Kasha is a fancy name for toasted buckwheat, which it’s a bit nuttier than the untoasted variety. Kasha is brown; if it hasn’t been toasted yet it will be green. You can assemble everything beforehand; the salad is just as good warm as it is at room temp. Feel free to add parmesan or feta to de-veganize this. A handful of baby salad greens would also be a nice addition.

one year ago: hot honey pizza with roasted broccoli and red onion and bengali egg curry 

Kasha Bowl with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

a Swanky original
serves 1 hungry person at lunch

scant 1 c kasha, uncooked (this will make more than you need; cooked kasha keeps well when covered in the fridge)
2 cups water
1 cup cherry tomatoes
3ish tablespoons olive oil, separated
1 onion, sliced thin
handful of kalamata olives
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
hot sauce if you’re feeling it
s&p

To make buckwheat: Bring water to a boil. Add kasha. Simmer for about 10 minutes, or until tender. Strain.

To roast tomatoes: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place tomatoes on a baking pan and cover with a healthy drizzle of olive oil, plus s&p. Roast for 12 minutes, stirring halfway through. Tomatoes will be crinkly, puckered, juicy, and blistered when done. Mmm.

To “caramelize” onion: I am no expert on this, as I always get impatient and try to turn up the heat. But do as I say, not as I do: Heat enough olive oil to coat the bottom of a large skillet on medium heat. Add onions and a big pinch of salt. Cook on medium-low at the highest, stirring occasionally, for EVER, or until tender and sweet. Or don’t, turn the heat up, and embrace the charred onion bits, just like me. 🙂

To assemble: Mix together about ½ cup cooked kasha (or more) (or less), cooked tomatoes, caramelized onions, and olives in a BOWL (or a platter first cause it’s pretty). Mix together about 1 tablespoon olive oil and the balsamic vinegar; season with salt and pepper. Pour dressing over salad. Add hot sauce if you want a kick. Commence eating.

 

“Everything Summer” Garden Kale Salad + A Summer Meal

 

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My Grandpa Ronny, a self-made first-generation American and a proud storyteller, grew up in NYC. When I moved to Brooklyn three years ago, I felt compelled to track down some of the places he often mentions in his stories.

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sister drinking date

First up was McSorley’s Ale House, one of the oldest bars in the city, where the floor is covered with straw and there are only two drinks you can order: dark beer or light beer. Supposedly, Ronny once did a headstand on a table in the back room while drinking an entire beer. Who knows if the story is true, but when I went with my sister we scanned some of the photos on the wall, seeing if his story had made it into the bar’s lore. McSorley’s is wonderfully atmospheric, and I’ve been a handful of times. Good choice for a storied bar, Grandpa.

The other place always mentioned is the Rockaways, the beach retreat where he’d spend summers in a bungalow and became a lifeguard when he was older. Today the 95th street stretch (and beyond!) of the Rockaways has turned into a newly recreated hipster “staycation” destination — the boardwalk has been transformed by a famous fish taco stand, bike rental booths, smoothie stalls, Bolivian street food, and the always popular game, corn hole.

And man is it fun! Today was my first trip there, taking the A all through Brooklyn and eventually coming out onto a lovely expanse of ocean and beach, so different from the New York I’ve grown accustomed to. Gone are the cheap bungalows and immigrant-owned amenities, but still tangibly present is the natural beauty and freedom so easily lost on our forgotten concrete blocks. Pretty sweet for a Thursday. Sorry I didn’t go sooner!

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Anyway, in honor of finally visiting my Grandpa’s childhood summer getaway, here is the  delicious, garden-fresh summery meal we enjoyed last night. Special thanks to the roommate’s community garden membership for the herbs and tomatoes. 🙂

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“Everything Summer” Garden Kale Salad + A Summer Meal
barely adapted from from A Sprouted Kitchen

Salad:

  • 1 small bunch kale, ribs removed and torn into small bite-sized pieces
  • 1-3 T fresh mint
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 2 T olive oil, divided
  • 1 small head lettuce, washed, dried, and torn into bite-sized pieces
  • roughly 2 cups freshest possible tomatoes; I used a combination of just-picked cherry tomatoes sliced in half and slices of HUGE tomato (also just-picked)
  • 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, cut in half
  • half a crispy apple, cut into matchsticks (although cherries or nectarine slices would be great too!)
  • 1/8-1/4 c red onion, diced tiny
  • 1/4 cup feta, crumbled

For dressing, mix together:

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 t dijon mustard
  • 1.5 T apple cider vinegar
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • s&p to taste

Put freshly washed kale in a bowl. Add mint, roughly torn, and 1 T olive oil, lemon juice, and s&p. Using your fingers, massage kale for a couple minutes, until greens lose their rigidness and turn a richer shade of green.

Add bite-sized lettuce leaves. Pour in salad dressing and mix thoroughly. Then add all the ingredients, give it a good whirly mix, and serve!

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The whole meal. all delicious individually though perhaps not greater than the sum of its parts.

We ate this salad alongside:

  • In Sock Monkey Slipper’s Herbed Zucchini-Feta Boats. My thoughts: Add cumin and roasted red peppers to the feta-herb mixture in the food processor for a bit of added sweetness. Don’t be shy with the fresh herbs. Use panko instead of regular breadcrumbs for extra crispiness! Needed at least 40 minutes to bake in my oven. Just as delicious with yellow summer squash as with zucchini.

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  • Smoky Mushroom Toasts: Sauté 1/4 c tiny diced onion in 1 T melted butter. Add 10 oz white mushrooms, cut in half and then very thinly sliced. Sprinkle with pepper, fresh thyme, and smoky hickory salt. Mushrooms will let out juices. Take off heat when juices evaporate and mushrooms are browned, about 10 minutes. Serve atop toasted and buttered bread. I used day-old bakery whole wheat oatmeal bread and it was deeelicious.

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  • Pine nut couscous (from a box!)
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ahh, summer…