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

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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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Kale, Sumac, and Crispy Rice Salad – 6/67

img_1086img_1084This marks the first dinner cooked and consumed in our new apartment! (Technically it’s not the first meal because we found a pot and made oatmeal this morning, but this is certainly more exciting.)

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I always think eating take-out for a week will be a fun treat, and then it happens and my body says WHOLE GRAINS and my stress level say I NEED TO CHOP SOMETHING INTO PERFECTLY SMALL BITS. But then my new apartment says…knives? cutting board?! pan and pot?!? You think you’re going to find all that in our unpacked rubble?

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But here we are, four nights in, and we made it happen! This was a fairly easy recipe to get started on, or so we thought. Turns out making crispy rice in a cast iron skillet with no working exhaust fan is a surefire way to set off your fire alarm. Neighbors, I promise, I can cook! I will usually leave our floor smelling tasty and delightful! This was just an unfortunate beginning!

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Daniel and I absolutely devoured this salad. It may have to do with being the first homemade thing in a week, but I doubt it. It’s really a refreshing and delightful combo of flavors. The citrus + sumac is the perfect coating for the kale, the crispy rice complements the dates ideally, and I had to stop us from wolfing down the whole thing so I could bring leftovers for lunch the next day. Even though we didn’t make the rice crispy enough (dang fire alarm scared us from generating any kind of smoke for the rest of the evening), it was one of my most delightful salad experiences in recent memory. Thanks, Karen, for a beautiful meal to remember as the first cooked in our new home.

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one year ago: I still owe us a New Years post from this year, but here is lucky Black Eyed Pea Stew from years past 
two years ago:
miso ginger kale salad (kale salad theme! January!) 
three years ago:
nothing of note, but I just finished this book and I highly recommend it
four years ago:
Bengali hardboiled egg curry

Kale, Sumac, and Crispy Rice Salad

½ cup brown rice
One bunch kale
1 lemon, zested and juiced
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 lime, zested and juiced
1 tablespoon sumac
1 teaspoon runny honey (love this wording)
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus drizzle
6-7ish dried dates, diced
3 scallions, chopped finely

Bring some salty water to a boil and add your rice. Cook, uncovered, for just over half an hour, until rice is cooked and most of the water has evaporated. Taste to make sure it’s done, then drain extra water. I would give it a good rinse next time to get rid of any starch.

Meanwhile, separate kale leaves from their stems. Discard stems and shred kale. Place in a big bowl with lemon zest and juice, a bit of salt, and a drizzle of olive oil. Massage for a minute or so, until kale has wilted and greened a bit. Set aside. (Karen said she usually whacks her kale with a rolling pin to help tenderize it. I’ve never tried this method before, but couldn’t find my rolling pin, so it will have to wait til next time)

Heat a large cast iron skillet. Once it’s hot, dry-fry the rice (aka no oil!) for a minute or two to get rid of any moisture. Remove from the pan, and return pan to the heat. Add 1 tablespoon of coconut oil to skillet and add half of rice. Fry until lightly browned and crispy crispy (or until you set off your fire alarm and get apprehensive about new neighbors). Remove from pan onto paper towels and sprinkle with salt. Repeat with second tablespoon of coconut oil and second half of rice.

To make dressing, combine lime juice and zest, sumac, honey, olive oil, a bit of salt, and a grind or two of pepper in a jar with a lid. Give a good shake.

Into bowl of kale, add crispy rice, dates, scallions, and dressing. Toss to mix and dive in!

Whole Orange Dressing Bulgur Salad – 5/67

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At the beginning of this week, Daniel and I made a gigantic to-do list that encompassed moving tasks, wedding tasks, cooking tasks, New Years Eve planning tasks, and general life errands tasks. I am happy to report that we have been gleefully and regularly checking things off the list all week. It’s amazing what can get done when we don’t have to go to an office. And how good checklists can make me feel. So, so good.

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We’ve finalized a rehearsal dinner venue and schedule, bought Daniel a wedding suit, started packing, did laundry, planned a NYE menu, and here I go now, checking off “blog salad recipe”. Progress!

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This is such a smart way to make salad dressing. Just peel an orange (next time I would zest it first to add even more punch) and stick in the blender with the other usual dressing suspects. Loud noise for a moment, and ta-da, an aromatic, sweet elixir to punch up any salad ingredients you have around. I’ll be sure to keep this one on rotation as we approach that time-of-year-when-all-things-healthy happen. 

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The original recipe was called Moroccan Spinach Salad, but I’m not sure I have enough authority to call this Moroccan. It also called for pistachios instead of pepitas — maybe that’s what pushed it towards Moroccan? Anyway, Moroccan or not, this is a delicious combination of flavors. Happy eating in 2019!!

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one year ago: gochujang pasta salad
two years ago: buffalo caramel popcorn
three years ago: quichon de verdures (Mayan veggie stew)
four years ago: hot honey pizza with roasted broccoli

Whole Orange Dressing Bulgur Salad

from my Aunt Ingrid, thanks!

Salad
1 cup cooked bulgur
½ cup dried dates (I didn’t have quite enough dates so added some raisins too)
½ cup toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1 orange, peeled and sectioned
1 or 2 peeled and shaved carrots (I added this on Day 2, hence no pics, but it added a lot!)
Baby spinach

Dressing
1 peeled orange (next time would add a bit of zest too!)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup fresh cilantro stems and leaves, roughly chopped

To make dressing: Combine first four ingredients in a blender (or food processor). Once dressing is smooth, add cilantro and pulse a couple times until broken up. Taste and adjust seasoning.

How I would make salad next time: combine all salad ingredients, besides spinach, with dressing. Mix in spinach leaves when ready to eat (maybe with a bit extra olive oil/vinegar/sprinkle of honey). (I ate this for lunch for three days and wished I added fresh spinach each time.)

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Ooey Gooey Brownies – 4/67

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For some reason, these brownies are part of my family’s Thanksgiving tradition. There is nothing remotely Thanksgiving-y about them. They have chocolate, fluff, and peanut butter — nary a mention of pumpkin, a sprinkle of spice, or a slice of apple to be found. The other incongruous thing about these “ooey gooey brownies” is that they’re from Cooking Light, circa 2000. So that means a) my Mom’s been making them for 18 years and I’ve never helped make them (oops) and b) they are trying to be healthy? The recipe calls for skim milk, fat free sweetened condensed milk, and an egg white. Brownies just don’t seem to be the place to cut down on calories. So I used full fat milk, a whole egg (#yolklove), and I could only find regular sweetened condensed milk, so that’s what I used.

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These brownies definitely don’t suck. The ooey gooey ness gives them that home baked allure, all oozing chocolate, creamy goodness, just on the right side of “do you eat this with your hands or a fork” that makes people want to go in for a second. They were certainly a hit at the holiday party we brought them to.

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But! I kinda want to play with this recipe when I have a moment. It leaves an awkward amount of leftover sweetened condensed milk, which I think could be easily incorporated into the brownie batter. I’m not sure we need to cook the brownie base twice. My marbling sucked. And I definitely should remake it in the right sized pan, oops. When I have another chance to give desserts to a crowd, and am not ashamed to use so many store bought products, I’ll play around. Will keep you posted on #projectblasphemy. 

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(Also I’m not reaching for the scraps as much as I normally would because we have two things of candy cane ice cream and two things of hot fudge from Ample Hills that Daniel and I made together(!) at a recent workshop in the freezer/fridge (respectively). This shit is gooooood. I wish I could live on ice cream.)

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one year ago: not much in these categories today, since I managed to update my blog a mere 6(!) days ago…
two years ago:
…but I did return to this zoodle recipe recently and still love it
three years ago:
anyone have a good hot sauce recipe? asking for a friend/wedding party favor
four years ago: 
mushroom and farro stuffed acorn squash 

Ooey Gooey Brownies

From my mom, originally from Cooking Light in September 2000

¾ cup sweetened condensed milk, divided
¼ cup butter, melted
¼ cup milk
1 box devil’s food cake mix (I think it was 15.25 oz)
1 egg
Fluff – didn’t measure, but I used half a 16-oz container (originally recipe calls for 1 ¾ cups or 1 7-ounce jar, but that seemed fussy to measure and Target only had giant containers)
About ½ a package peanut butter chips, divided
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 13 x 9-inch baking pan with cooking spray and set aside. (My pan was 14 x 10-inch, which led to a slightly too shallow brownie.)

In a big bowl mix together ¼ cup sweetened condensed milk, butter, milk, cake mix, and egg. Press ⅔ of the batter into your prepared baking pan. I found that pressing the batter with wax paper coated with cooking spray made this simple. Bake for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine ½ cup sweetened condensed milk, fluff, and about ½ – ¾ cup peanut butter chips in another bowl. Stir together until smooth.

Take brownie pan out of oven, and spread fluff mixture evenly on top. Dollop spoonfuls of remaining brownie batter over the fluff layer. Use a knife to swirl the layers together. (I failed at this, as I may have used too much brownie in bottom layer, and remaining batter was too tough to swirl. Alas.) Sprinkle top with another ¼ cup or so of peanut butter chips. Return pan to oven and cook for another half an hour, or until fluff layer starts to brown. Cool completely in pan before cutting with a sharp knife.

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A Very Good Lentil Salad – 2/67

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Daniel decided very last-minute to make something for his “Lyftsgiving” celebration. (Update! He works at Lyft!) I was 100% sure he was going to swirl some harissa into store bought hummus, give a drizzle of olive oil, and call it a day (my recent favorite party trick), but instead he wanted to do a recipe from the binder (awww). He woke me up to ask if we had cardamom for the lentil salad he was making. (We did.) I love you, honey, but I never expected to be woken up by you telling me you’re making lentil salad.

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It turned out great! Daniel added a couple extra things to Nina’s base recipe to bulk it up a bit. Good riddance, last batch of CSA radishes. Until next year! 

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Update: I was looking forward to eating leftovers of this salad all weekend but someone had to leave them at work on Thursday, then stayed home sick on Friday, so here we are on Saturday and we’re still sans lentil salad. Hmph.

one year ago: nothing of note – but last week I made the most amazing broccoli by steaming it, then stir frying in a bit of sesame oil and a lot of ginger. Mmm.
two years ago: soy-dashi simmered kabocha squash 
three years ago: sweet/spicy Chinese peppers and eggplant stir-fry
four years ago: Indian spiced cabbage and onions

A Very Good Lentil Salad 

(Originally called “The Best Lentil Salad, Ever”. I mean, it was delicious, but I just don’t know if I’ve had enough lentil salads to deem this one the BEST.)

From Nina, from the blog My New Roots

Cook up 2 ¼ cups Du Puy lentils (known for their ability to stay intact even after a long simmer) in 4 ½ cups of boiling water. (This took about 15 minutes – Daniel just followed the cooking instructions on the bag, being sure to keep them al dente.) When done, rinse in cool water.

Meanwhile, prep the salad mix-ins. He added one diced red onion, ⅓ cup capers, ½ cup raisins (chopped a bit), a handful of diced radishes, one diced and seeded jalapeño, some crumbled feta, and a couple handfuls of torn baby spinach. Meant to add some basil, but whoops, that’ll have to be for leftovers. Put everything in a big bowl.

To make dressing (seems like a lot of ingredients, but it comes together quickly and is mostly just spices), combine in a jar and shake: ⅓ cup olive oil, ¼ cup apple cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, 1 tablespoon mustard, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, ½ teaspoon turmeric, ½ teaspoon ground coriander, ¼ teaspoon cayenne, ¼ teaspoon nutmeg (actually he forgot this and it was still great), salt and pepper, plus a bit of ground cloves and cardamom (we only have whole seeds for those, so Daniel ground a bit up in the molcajete and I’m not sure about quantities. The dressing ended up very floral, a little cardamom heavy.)

Combine everything in the big bowl and season to taste! Lunch for dayyysss (or Lyftsgiving side for a night.)

 

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Tortellini, Spinach, & “Sausage” Soup – 1/67

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Dear blog followers, all 7 of you, what would you say if I changed this up a little bit?

This past weekend, I was delighted to be surrounded by the wonderful women in my life at my bridal shower. It still seems sorta surreal, the feeling of 35 women from all moments of my life answering Ilanna-related trivia questions and getting to know each other over silly games. There were cousins (flying in from Michigan!), aunts (Vermont!), grandmas (well, they’re local…), generations-old family friends (Toronto!), Daniel’s amazingly supportive family (Texas!), and a smattering of my friends from middle school, college, and life in New York City. The only word I can use to describe the weekend is faklempt — overwhelmed by love and kindness and good wishes. Thanks, mom and sister, for putting this all together.

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The brunch will live on by the recipe book these women put together for me, filled with holiday favorites, easy dinners, and lots of desserts. I’m so lucky to have this collection of recipes (and new kitchen implements and ingredients) to cook from for the next forever. (Although it’s not exactly like I’m a little country Pollyanna who’s never cooked a meal and is now forced to make dinner every night for her new husband, who then scolds her for overcooking the chicken. Actually, to be honest, I probably would overcook chicken if I tried to make it since I have no idea how. Well then.)

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All this to say, Daniel and I want to cook every recipe from this new binder by our first anniversary. By March 16, 2020, we will have made all 67(ish) dishes so lovingly bestowed on us. I’ll try to blog them. We’ll see how quickly this fails (please don’t hold it against me if this is the only one.)

To start, tortellini “sausage” spinach soup! Easy and perfect for this day, the first day I had to break out my giant winter jacket. I took a couple liberties with it. Reminds me of the meals we’d make in college in my senior year apartment 🙂 

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one year ago: tapado (coconut fish stew) (also this totally wasn’t a year ago, but… it was in 2017?)
two years ago: mizuna miso soup (soup theme!!)
three years ago: butternut and black bean stuffed poblano peppers
four years ago: cheesy bulgur risotto with broccoli and tomatoes 

Tortellini, Spinach, and “Sausage” Soup

4-6 servings

Saute one chopped onion in olive oil in a big pot until it’s soft, about 10 minutes. Add 2 cloves minced garlic, 1 or 2 chopped carrots, a big pinch of red pepper flakes, some smoked paprika, and some veggie sausage, cut into small chunks. (I did two “sausages”, though the recipe called for a pound, and it was enough.) Cook for another 10 minutes or so, until sausage is browned and carrots have softened.

Add: 32 ounces broth, a 28-oz can crushed tomatoes, a bunch of chopped basil, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then cover and turn down heat. Simmer for 25 minutes.

Add a 9-oz package of refrigerated tortellini and two big handfuls of baby spinach. Cook for 7 minutes, uncovered, until tortellini is soft. Serve each portion with extra basil and grated parmesan.

Thanks to Daniel’s cousins Michele and Robin for the base recipe and the bowls! 1 down. 66 to go.