The bounty is really piling on at the moment: cucumbers, peppers, eggplant, summer squash, carrots, beets, tomatoes, green beans, cabbage, parsley and basil, onions, garlic, salad mix, strawberries, cherry tomatoes....whew! Next-on crops include melons, chile peppers, and shallots (if I can get them cleaned pronto).
What to do with eggplant? Eggplant tends to be one of those fruits that people either really love or don't, but I often find that those in the 'not a fan' camp are mostly just unsure of how to prepare it. Eggplant's 'meaty', hearty texture makes it a welcome addition to stir-fries and pasta dishes. It's also fabulous when grilled. For beginner eggplant consumers, I always recommend baba ghanoush, a traditional Arabic dish that is deliciously simple to make and simply delicious to eat. Others may like to incorporate eggplant into their pasta sauces and lasagnas.
Baba ghanoush (from Kitchen Garden magazine)
makes 3 C.
About 1 1/2 lbs. eggplant
4-6 garlic cloves, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 C. roasted sesame tahini (a sesame seed spread that can be found in most natural food sections, or you can make your own by roasting your own sesame seeds and adding a bit of sesame and olive oils until the desired consistency is reached)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
3/4 tsp. toasted whole cumin seed
2 Tbs. finely chopped fresh parsley
In a lightly oiled dish, roast the eggplants under a broiler or on the grill (for a more smoky flavor), turning frequently, until they are very soft and the skin is blackened, about 30 min. (about half that time for the thinner 'Japanese Long' types). To ensure they cook thoroughly, start roasting them as far from the broiler as possible; when the eggplants become soft, move them closer to the flame/element to blacken the skin. This is essential for great flavor. Once cooled, peel the eggplants and drain them in a colander. Spin all ingredients, except the whole cumin seed and parsley, in a food processor until smooth. Before serving, stir in the toasted cumin seed and garnish with fresh parsley. You can vary this recipe by blending in a couple of tablespoons of plain yogurt; or try stirring in some chopped fresh tomato at the end. This fabulous dip is often eaten with pita or other flat breads, but is also great as a vegetable dip or served with fresh crusty bread.
Roasted Eggplant Marinara Sauce (from Sunset magazine)
prep and cook time: about 1 1/2 hours
makes about 12 C., enough for about 8-12 servings
2 lbs. eggplant, rinsed, ends trimmed, and cut into 1/2" chunks
3 Tbs. olive oil
3 Tbs. minced garlic
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper
1 onion (about 1/2 lb.), peeled and diced into 1/4" pieces
About 4 lbs. tomatoes, chopped
2 Tbs. chopped fresh basil, or 2 tsp. dried
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 - 3/4 tsp. hot chile pepper flakes
1. In a 12" x 15" baking pan, mix eggplant with 2 Tbs. oil, 1 Tbs. garlic, salt, and pepper. Bake in a 400'F oven, stirring once, until fruit is browned and soft, 30 - 35 min.
2. Pour remaining oil into a 5-6 quart pan over med. heat. when hot, add onion and remaining garlic. Stir frequently until onion is very limp, 5-8 min.
3. Add tomatoes, basil, sugar, oregano, chile flakes, and roasted eggplant. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes have broken down slightly and mixture is thick, 35-40 min. Add more salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot over your pasta noodle of choice, garnish with fresh chopped basil or parsley, grated Romano or parmesan cheese and fresh crus
ty bread. Stirring in a 1/4 C. of ricotta cheese at the end is also a nice addition for a creamier version of this recipe.
Caponatina (Rose Troia McCormick)
(an Italian spread that is nice to have on hand in your refrigerator for a quick appetizer served with sliced fresh bread; or spread it on the bread slices, top with grated Romano or parmesan cheese and place under the broiler until browned)
1/2 - 3/4 C. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large eggplant (or about 3 C.), cut into small cubes
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1/4 C. parsley
2 C. diced celery
1 Tbs. sugar
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. salt
pepper to taste
1 C. tomato paste
2 large tomatoes, peeled, diced
1 C. water
1/3 C. red wine vinegar
1/2 - 1 C. green or black olives (Kalamatas are nice, avoid canned black olives)
1/2 C. toasted pine nuts
Heat oil over med. heat; saute garlic and celery. Remove. Saute eggplant, onion, green pepper and cook on low heat for 10 min. Add tomato paste, tomatoes and remaining ingredients (except pine nuts) and cook until soft. Let cool, then stir in the pine nuts. Keep refrigerated until needed.
Labor Day weekend often means picnics with family and friends. This coleslaw recipe would surely be a welcome addition to the table!
Thai-Style Cabbage Slaw (Sunset magazine)
makes 8-10 small-plate servings
3 Tbs. lime juice
2 Tbs. Asian fish sauce (or sub. with 2 tsp. salt, adding more at the end to taste)
1 Tbs. sugar
1/2 - 3/4 tsp. hot chile pepper flakes
6 C. finely shredded green or red cabbage
1/2 C. onion, slivered
1/2 C. chopped fresh mint leaves
1/2 C. chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 C. chopped roasted, unsalted peanuts
salt to taste
In a large bowl, mix lime juice, fish sauce, 2 Tbs. water, sugar, and chile flakes. Stir in cabbage and onion. Just before serving, stir in herbs, peanuts, and more salt to taste.
For nice picnic side dish, try this peanut cucumber salad:
Peanut Cucumber Salad (Sunset magazine)
1/4 C. rice vinegar
1 tsp. sugar
about 1/2 tsp. salt
about 1 1/2 lbs. cucumbers, sliced very thin
1/2 C. unsalted, roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
In a large bowl, combine vinegar, sugar, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Add sliced cucumbers to the dressing and mix to coat. Add more salt to taste and sprinkle with peanuts.
This week marks the last of the green beans, so here is a final recipe worthy of trying before they are all gone!
Hot Sichuan-Style Green Beans (Sunset magazine)
about 8-10 small-plate servings
serve hot of at room temperature
1 lb. green beans
2 Tbs. soy sauce
1 Tbs. rice vinegar
2 tsp. sugar
1/4 - 1/2 tsp. hot chile pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. ground white pepper
1 Tbs. vegetable oil
2 Tbs. minced garlic
2 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
1. Cut rinsed, trimmed green beans into 2-3" length pieces. In a small bowl, mix soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, chile flakes, and pepper.
2. Heat a 10-12 frying skillet over high heat. When pan is hot, add beans and 1/4 C. water. Cover and cook, stirring once, until beans are bright green and slightly crunchy, 3-4 min. Uncover and cook until any remaining water has evaporated.
3. Reduce heat to med.-high, adding oil, garlic, and ginger to pan; stir until green beans and garlic are lightly browned, 1-2 min. Stir soy mixture and add to pan; bring to a boil and stir until most of the liquid has evaporated and the sauce thickens and coats the beans, 2-3 min. Pour into a serving dish.