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 😉

Kale Caesar Salad

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I’m going to admit some things:

  1. Basically 7% of my sock drawer contains actual pairs of socks that were sold as a unit. It is a jumble of colors and styles that are “good enough” to be thrown together. Socks are usually in shoes anyway, and if the shoes come off, you have to assume you’re in good enough company to not have others giving too much a shit about the matchingness of your socks. Also, it’s sandal season.
  2. I went on a mile-long run (1.2 miles actually) like 3 days ago and my legs still hurt. Not totally proud of that one…
  3. I don’t really like kale.

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Okay, it’s not that I don’t like ANY kale. It’s pretty delicious sauteed halfway to another planet with lots of balsamic vinegar and oil (a la my college roommate). Also pretty good in a white bean soup with lots of parmesan (coming soon!). It’s just that I’ve never gotten my mind around enjoying raw kale. (Oh, I did blog about it once before here, but shh, this one is better…)

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…UNTIL TODAY!!

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…you knew that was coming.

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THIS salad NEEDS kale! The dressing is thick, the accoutrements small but mighty and oh-so-garlicky. They are desperately in need of a substantial green that won’t back down! Here, kale and my mysterious CSA “red garner” were the only of the batch up to the Greek-yogurt-laden-Caesar-dressing-challenge. This salad is so simple and so tasty. I wished we made a double batch. Recipe came from Erin Gleeson’s gorgeous Forest Feast cookbook (gifted to me by my beautiful cousin! shoutout!). I substituted her pan-fried polenta squares (which sound delicious and I can’t wait to try someday…) for my 2-day-old Bakeri focaccia fried to oblivion with olive oil and tons of garlic. Needless to say, it was just the salty and crunchy bite the salad needed.

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new! happy anniversary, me!
one year ago: Rhubarb, Chickpea, and Spinach stew with Cilantro-Lemon Yogurt sauce

Kale Caesar Salad

adapted from the Forest Feast cookbook

½ bunch kale, chifonnaded (or another substantial green) (see here for chiffonade how-to pictures)
small handful pine nuts
¼ c shredded parmesan
2-day old focaccia, cut into small squares
1-3 T olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
about ½ t fresh thyme, chopped
salt to taste
about ½ batch dressing (recipe below)

Dressing:
⅓-½ c olive oil
2 T Greek yogurt
juice of half a lemon
1 big clove garlic, quartered
1 t dijon mustard
s&p

For dressing: Blend all ingredients together until smooth. I used an Immersion blender and it took less than a minute.

Toast pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium-high heat, stirring fairly constantly to ensure they don’t burn. Set aside.

Warm up 1-2 T olive oil in same skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and saute until pungent, about 30 seconds. Add focaccia squares and another drizzle of olive oil. Add thyme and a big pinch of salt. Toss constantly until squares are crunchy and browned on all sides, adding additional olive oil they seem dry. Lower heat if croutons begin to burn. Take off heat when done and set aside.

Mix kale, pine nuts, and parmesan cheese with dressing. I started with about ½ the batch of dressing and added a bit more. Toss with tongs until evenly coated. Top with croutons and enjoy garlicky kale caesar nirvana (without the obnoxious yet ubiquitous $18 pricetag).

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Spicy Lemon Fregola with Artichokes and Caramelized Onions

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A February defined by performance, something a bit rare these days. A month full of those moments–when an audience member is excited with you, sad with you, surprised by you. When you feel your intentions and delivery and energy hit their mark and transform.

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This past month I’ve given a handful of performances of Amelia and Her Paper Tigers, a theatre for young audiences production I co-created about Amelia Earhart. It’s moments like when the little girl in the front row turns 180 degrees around in her chair to follow a prop going into the audience and then gasps with delight, or when a seasoned older theater-goer sheds a tear as Amelia stilts offstage for the last time and we are all left to wonder about her final moments and her legacy, that keep the acting dream alive. It’s so exciting to breathe life into a story I find so compelling. (Read more here!)

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Also this month, Cuban salsa has strengthened its grasp on my heartstrings (and schedule). That infectious audience energy when we nail an up-in-the-air move, or perform a long turn pattern in complete synchronization, or break into an intricate group move is so necessary for a good performance. We recently came back from San Francisco, where we had the opportunity to perform for what felt for the entire Cuban Salsa world. Hundreds of people from all over the country, and Mexico, Cuba, Italy, etc. The energy of this event was pure electricity and camaraderie; everyone excited to learn, observe, meet people, and, of course, dance. In the past week I’ve taken ladies rumba styling, salsa with Afro, group rueda classes, advanced casino partnering, ladies suelta, and most recently a crash course on son from the masters, Yanek and Karelia. I’m excited by how far I’ve come (two years ago I would’ve thought that previous sentence was pure gibberish) and what my body can do–adapt to new rhythms, styles, extended positions. It’s powerful.

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As such, not much cooking has occurred. This simple artichoke and fregola dish from Ottolenghi’s Plenty More was definitely the tastiest thing (and perhaps only things more complicated than scrambled eggs and one misguided cooking-while-sick soup attempt) to come out of my kitchen in February. In his liner notes, Ottolenghi calls this dish unphotogenic, and no picture appears. Well, Internet, may I present to you the not-stunning but certainly not ugly deliciousness of fregola artichoke pilaf with a bold and powerful jalapeño lemon sauce (page 82).

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These are the first pictures taken with my new camera (Olympus E-PL5). for the site! Daniel has been instrumental in taking and editing photos up to this point; I’m hoping to begin taking on some of the responsibility from here on out. Any tips would be appreciated 🙂

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Spicy Lemon Fregola with Artichokes and Caramelized Onions

barely adapted from Ottolenghi’s Plenty More

2 T olive oil
1 very large onion (or 2 small), cut into thin strips
1 T butter
about 11 ounces artichoke hearts (I used one and a half cans), liquid drained, each heart cut into sixths
9 oz fregola (about 1 ¼ cups) (you can substitute Israeli couscous or mograbiah)
2 ½ c veggie stock
1 ½ T red wine vinegar
¼ c kalamata olives, pitted and halved
¼ c toasted pine nuts (or almonds if you aren’t me)
chopped parsley to garnish
s&p

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large saute pan. Add onions and ¾ t salt and cook for at least 10 minutes (more like 13-14), stirring occasionally, until caramelized. While onions cook, place stock in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil.

When onions are done, add butter. Stir until butter melts. Next, add the boiling veggie stock, artichoke hearts, fregola, and 3 good grinds of black pepper. Give everything a good stir, then cover and cook over low heat for 18 minutes without stirring. (Apparently stirring leads to gumminess and starch build up.) At 18 minutes, liquid should be mostly absorbed (you can give a tiny peek). Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 10 more minutes.

After 10 minutes, add the red wine vinegar, olives, and pine nuts, and stir everything together gently. Serve with a big dollop of Lemon-Jalapeno Sauce (recipe below) and extra chopped parsley to garnish.

Lemon-Jalapeno Sauce

3 jalapenos, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
1 c parsley, coarsely chopped
1 T fresh lemon juice
3 T olive oil
1 preserved lemon, (or use my cheat: cut lemon (skin and all!) into thin slices and sautee with olive oil over medium low heat for 5 minutes; then add 1 t sugar and 1 t salt. Add water if sticks. Voila!)

Combine all ingredients in food processor. Blend until smooth!

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Mushroom, Olive, and Farro Stuffed Acorn Squash

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This was one of those nights that Daniel decided he didn’t feel like eating vegetarian and would make himself a side of meat from the Homesick Texan cookbook he (aptly) received for his birthday. He chose something that sounded delicious and we ventured out to our two local grocery places (one better for fresh produce, the other better for (ridiculously overpriced) happy meats and fancy cheeses…) around 7:30, and came home and got to work. A slight misunderstanding of the recipe meant that the carnitas actually had to simmer for three hours, a bit of a formidable cooking time when my proposed squash would take under an hour.

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But, stubborn and dedicated as he was, we ended up making both and eating around, oh say, 11:30. (I wish I could say that was rare.)

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This squash was out-of-control good! All my favorite flavors in the filling, which is perfect for lunch the next day. (Double the filling recipe! You won’t regret it!) And acorn squash is just the cutest little squash there is. A ridiculously tasty, cute squash. Also out of our kitchen that night: aforementioned carnitas (which smelled pretty darn good) with a tomatillo-avocado salsa (delicious with just a spoon!) and Dorie Greenspan’s perfect lemon poppyseed muffins. Recipes available upon request 🙂 Happy cooking!

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Mushroom, Olive, and Farro Stuffed Acorn Squash

adapted from What’s Cooking, Good Looking

serves 2

1/2 cup farro
1.5 cups water
pinch of salt
1 acorn squash
olive oil
s&p
1T olive oil
½ a large white onion, chopped small
1 big clove garlic, minced
2 T pine nuts
4 big button mushrooms, chopped small
1 t soy sauce
3 T chopped kalamata olives
2 T parsley, finely minced
¼ cup crumbled feta

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Combine farro, water, and salt in a medium sized pot and bring to a boil. Cover, turn heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes. At this point, water should be absorbed. (If not, drain excess water once farro is sufficiently chewy.) Set aside.

Meanwhile, cut acorn squash in half horizontally. Scoop out the seeds. Trim off the very top and very bottom using a very sharp knife so the squash halves can sit upright on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Bake for 25- 30 min, or until a knife cuts through easily.

While squash bakes, heat olive oil in a largeish pan. Add onion and garlic and cook over medium heat for about 8 minutes, until onions are beginning to brown. Add pine nuts and toast for 3 minutes, or until they start to brown as well. Next, add mushrooms and soy sauce and cook for 3 minutes, or until the liquid evaporates. Take off the heat and add olives, parsley, feta, and farro. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stuff farro/mushroom mixture into scooped out squash halves and consume!

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