Vaguely-Lebanese Deconstructed Stuffed Eggplant with Yogurt Sauce

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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”.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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…)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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!)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAdeconstructed stuffed eggplant-9

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Advertisements

Kale Caesar Salad

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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…)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

…UNTIL TODAY!!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

…you knew that was coming.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Roasted Beets and their Greens with Mint Yogurt Sauce

wpid70-BeetSalad-16.jpg

Life is a like a bowl of expensive, organic potato chips at a rooftop party in Williamsburg. You never know if you’ll end up with sriracha, honey mustard, or plain (ew). Or like a cooler of beer in the dark–will it be Narraganset (cheapasses), Tecate (sufficiently low brow), or Weihenstephaner (overachievers)? In either case, you don’t have much say in the matter so just eat or drink it you asshole and take in that insane city view.

BUT you do have a say in brunch.

wpid44-BeetSalad-3.jpg

It’s so tempting to wake up late, put on my baggy (trendy?) jeans, and sample one of the plethora of (definitely trendy) brunch places around. I live a 15 minute walk from probably forty brunch options, offering anything from traditional Brazilian to high-brow Balinese to funky Colombian to outdoor, farm-to-table Brooklyn meets Australia. With new places popping up every weekend, it’s easy to feel like you’re “falling behind” on brunch. Which is dumb. Sampling more restaurants does not give you status.

But today it was BEET DAY. And so we set the beets a roasting and strolled to the farmers’ market for dill and eggs and the local Polish deli for rye toast and yogurt.

wpid72-BeetSalad-17.jpg

This was a very very good decision.

Our humble salad is unexpectedly tastier and more filling than the sum of its parts: sweet roasted beets, a tangy onion vinaigrette tangled into quick-boiled beet greens, and a spiced minty yogurt sauce. The onions mellow in the vinegar til they’re drunk and swooning. The yogurt tries to overwhelm our earthy beets with its tang, but, “Hell no,” the beets say, as they retain their characteristic sweetness and decide to co-exist platonically and peacefully. The beet greens seem massive and overwhelming and then a quick dunk in boiling water reduces their volume by approximately a zillion percent and they say “oh fine, we’ll share the spotlight. And then all this dill gets dropped on top and says I GO WITH EVERYTHING and all the veggies concede.

So for a perfect weekend: honey mustard chips, Tecate cans, and beets. Followed by watching El Mundial at a language meet-up group gathering, fixing up my bike, and discussing plans for a juggling workshop (truth).

Roasted Beets and their Greens with Mint Yogurt Sauce
Adapted from the New York Times

wpid50-BeetSalad-6.jpg

Ingredients:
3 beets and their greens, chiffonaded (see below for how-to!)
3 T fresh dill, snipped

Vinaigrette:
3 T red wine vinegar
1/3 cup red onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, finely diced
1/2 t ground cumin
1/2 t ground coriander
dash cayenne
salt and pepper
4 T olive oil

Yogurt:
1 small container full-fat Greek yogurt (about 1/2 cup)
1 small garlic clove, finely diced
2 T mint, chopped
1/2 t ground cumin
1/2 t ground coriander
dash cayenne
salt and pepper
1/2 T olive oil

Cook the beets:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Wash beets well. Trim off beet leaves and stringy pointy bit at other end. If beets are different sizes, cut some in half so they’re roughly the same size. Place in a single layer in a baking dish and fill with 1-2 inches of water, enough to mostly submerge. Cover with foil and cook for an hour to an hour and a half, or until fork tender. Once done, carefully drain the water and let cool. When cool, peel beets and watch fingers turn bright pink. Cut into small wedges.wpid46-BeetSalad-4.jpg

Chiffonade, Clean, and Cook the greens:
Separate leaves from the pink stems, which you can discard, and cut leaves into thin ribbons. (I like the “roll and slice” method: pile about 5 leaves, roll them into a cigarette shape, and then slice rounds.) Dunk all these leaves into a big bowl of cold water, smoosh around for a minute, scoop out greens, and pour out water. Repeat until water in bowl is clean (2-4 times). Boil cleaned greens in a big pot of salted water for about 2 minutes, or until just wilted. Drain, rinse with cool water, and then squeeze to get rid of extra water.
BeetGreenSteps

Make the vinaigrette:
Combine red wine vinegar, onion, and garlic in small bowl and let stand about 5 minutes. Add rest of ingredients and mix with a fork.wpid66-BeetSalad-14.jpg

Make the yogurt:
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.wpid68-BeetSalad-15.jpg

To finish, dress the beet greens with 1/3 of the vinaigrette. Put another 1/3 of the vinaigrette on the beets. Plate those two, spoon yogurt mixture on top, and sprinkle dill over everything.

insta beet&greens

Leftover vinaigrette is great with scrambled eggs or for spinach salad!

DISCLAIMER: All photos but the last one taken by Daniel and his fancy camera. My apologies to anyone who can’t bare to see posts go back and forth between lovely, edited photography and the iPhone version.