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Eggplant Relish Pasta Sauce/Crostini

28 Aug

Leftover pasta tossed with eggplant relish and feta

Anyone who knows me is aware of my love of purple, so it should come as no surprise that when I saw bright purple mini-eggplants at the farmers market, I had to buy a couple.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have a plan for what I would actually do with them, so a week or so went by before I got around to finding a recipe to use them in.  Luckily the eggplants were still usable, and I found a very yummy-sounding recipe in Emeril Lagasse’s “Farm to Fork” for Eggplant Relish Crostini.  I had some miscellaneous pasta leftover, so decided to use this relish type thing as a topping/sauce for pasta instead of on bread.  There are lots of rumors about eggplant being hard to get right as it can remain bitter when cooked, but this was pretty simple, and absolutely delicious.  The eggplant shrinks down a lot, so it doesn’t make a huge amount, and next time I will definitely make more and buy some bread to make the crostini.  I used sundried tomatoes instead of roasted red peppers because I had those in my fridge, but the tomato flavor really came through and were one of the highlights of the dish, so I would use them again instead of red peppers.  This does have a quite long list of ingredients, but most of the ingredients are fridge/pantry staples anyway, so this could be an easy weeknight dinner or a great party appetizer served on toasted bread.

Eggplant Relish Crostini/Pasta Sauce
Adapted from Emeril Lagasse’s Farm to Fork
Makes about 3 1/2 cups relish

Equipment: Knife, peeler, frying pan, wooden spoon,

Ingredients
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 pounds eggplant (about 2 large), peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup sundried tomatoes stored in olive oil (about 3 from a jar)
1 1/2 tablespoons basil leaves, finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons finely chopped nonpareil capers
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper/red pepper flakes
Crumbled feta cheese for garnish
French bread brushed with olive oil and toasted (for crostini)

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large frying pan or skillet over medium-high heat.  Add half of the cubed eggplant and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  Cook, stirring often, until eggplant is tender and caramelized, about 8-10 minutes. Remove to a bowl and repeat with the remaining eggplant.  Set eggplant aside until cooled to room temperature.

Add all of the remaining ingredients to the cooled eggplant (except feta and bread, if using), and stir gently to combine.  Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.  Set relish aside for at least 30 minutes to allow flavors to mingle.  To serve, toss with pasta and top with crumbled feta, or serve on toasted rounds of bread drizzled with olive oil and topped with feta.

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Corn Risotto and Stuffed Risotto Balls

23 Jul

Fried risotto balls!

I have been seeing delicious corn recipes all over the place recently- charred corn salsa, corn tacos, grilled corn with feta, but yet when I impulsively bought two ears of corn at the farmers market I was at a loss for what to do with them. I decided to make risotto, and threw in some snow peas for good measure.  The fresh corn goes well with creamy risotto, and both the corn and the snow peas add a crunch to the finished dish.  In addition to the Parmesan that goes into pretty much any risotto, I crumbled feta in right at the end and sprinkled some on top of the risotto.  It was a delicious and filling summery dish, and (bonus!) I was able to make fried and stuffed risotto balls with the copious leftovers.

Yum corn risotto

Since risotto is a dish that needs to be made in large amounts I am always able to make at least three meals out of a batch, but this time I decided to play around and make risotto balls stuffed with mozzarella and fried.  The result was arguably even better than the risotto was when I first made it.  The cold risotto is mixed with breadcrumbs, egg, and more herbs, then a cube of mozzarella or other melty cheese is placed in the middle of a golf-ball sized risotto ball, and they are rolled in more breadcrumbs and fried to golden brown perfection.  These would make a great appetizer or starter at a party, but for me, several of them made an extremely satisfying dinner.

Fresh Corn and Snap Pea Risotto
Serves 6

Ingredients
6 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 1/2 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup fresh corn kernels (from 2-3 ears of corn)
5 oz snow peas, chopped
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/2 cup crumbled Feta chees
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

After chopping the vegetables, bring the chicken stock and bay leaf to a simmer in a medium saucepan.  In a large pan heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions to the oil and sautee for 2-3 minutes, until softened.  Next add the rice and cook until opaque, about 3 minutes.  Add wine and cook until absorbed, another minute or so.  Then begin adding the stock, 1 cup at a time.  Add each cup of stock and cook over medium heat until absorbed, stirring frequently.  When the stock is absorbed into the rice add the next cup, and continue until all of the stock is gone and risotto is cooked, about 25 minutes.  Stir in the Parmesan, butter, basil, and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Crumble the feta into the risotto and mix in, then sprinkle plates with more feta if desired.

Stuffed Risotto Balls
Adapted from Giada de Laurentis’ Everyday Italian

Ingredients
Serves 4-6 (I assume as an appetizer, as I ate all of mine.)

2 cups cooked and cooled risotto
1 1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
2 eggs, beaten
4 ounces fresh mozzarella, diced into 1/2 inch cubes
Vegetable oil for frying

Put 1 cup of breadcrumbs in a shallow dish.  In a bowl combine 1/2 cup of the breadcrumbs, the risotto, Parmesan, basil, and eggs.  Mix to combine, and then begin to form the balls.  With damp hands take about 2 tablespoons of the risotto mixture and shape into golf-ball sized balls.  Make an indent in the center of the risotto ball and add a cube of mozzarella, then cover the whole.  Roll the risotto balls into the breadcrumbs to coat. In a large saucepan, add about an inch of vegetable oil.  Heat over medium-high heat until about 350 degrees- to test without a thermometer fry a piece of bread in the oil, it should brown in about 2 minutes.  In batches, fry the rice balls, turning occasionally, until golden brown- about 4-5 minutes.  Take out of the oil and drain on paper towels before serving.

Homemade Pico de Gallo and Guacamole

8 Jul

Yum Pico!

This post is well past due, as Mexican food is one of my favorite cuisines (the margaritas may have something to do with this), and guacamole is my favorite Mexican condiment.  I first made this for a barbecue a few weeks ago, and made it again for camping this past weekend.  Although fresh guacamole really doesn’t keep more than 24 hours, it worked well for camping, as I made the pico de gallo and then brought the whole avocados, so all we had to do campfire-side was cut and mash up the avocados and mix the whole thing together.  Some of our group was napping in our tent during the guacamole making/eating, and we only very half-hardheartedly yelled down the path to tell them about it.  Hey, no one wants to share guacamole.  It’s not like they starved, I promise- camping meals included lamb burgers, greek salad, bbq chicken, spicy sausages, and chocolate chip/walnut/raisin cookies.  Clearly we don’t mess around when it comes to food, even if it does have to be cooked over a fire.

Buttery Avocado Deliciousness

To make the pico and guac, you just have to chop up some vegetables and herbs, season with lime and salt, and mash with very ripe avocados.  Although I am sometimes weary of lots of heat, the jalapenos do add a great extra kick to the pico, and they don’t make it overly spicy at all, especially if you take out most of the membrane and seeds.  The most important thing for both of these is to taste and adjust the seasonings at least once- our resident Cali-girl Alicia was an expert at getting the perfect lime to salt to avocado ratio, and you can be too as long as you keep adjusting the flavor until you have perfect guacamole.  Just be careful not to set the plate down unattended, this stuff goes pretty fast.

Pico de Gallo
Makes one small bowl

Ingredients
3 Roma tomatoes, diced
1/3 onion, diced
1-2 jalapenos, diced (seeded and de-membraned if you’re spice-adverse)
1/2 bunch cilantro, or to taste
Lime juice from half a lime
Salt to taste

Chop up all the ingredients and add to a medium sized bowl.  Use less cilantro if you want, just discard the stems and chop up the leaves roughly. Mix together, add lime juice and salt to taste.  Pico will keep in the fridge for a few days.

Guacamole
Serves about 4

5 whole avocados
Pico de Gallo
Lime juice from half a lime
Salt to taste

Cut the avocados in half lengthwise, and take out the pit (I use a knife to stab it and rotate, but assume no responsibility if someone chops off their hand with this method).  Scoop out all of the avocado flesh using a spoon, and place all of the avocados on a plate.  Mash with a fork, but leave chunky.  Add a pile of pico de gallo to the avocados and mix together.  Season with lime and salt to taste, and add more pico if desired.  Keeps 24 hours, covered with clingfilm in the fridge.

Summer Vegetable Pastas

20 Jun

Pasta with Prosciutto, Snap Peas, Mint and Cream

Taking a break from the plethora of potluck recipes (don’t worry, they will be back- I made amazing grilled ricotta chicken and homemade guacamole for our BBQ this weekend), I thought it would be nice to showcase some summery pasta dishes, using the fresh spring vegetables that are miraculously avaliable everywhere now.  Plus, clearly I can’t go a week without making some kind of pasta concoction, and I figure the addition of mounds of veggies helps me justify eating half a pound of pasta in one sitting.

So many vegetables- Pasta wtih Snap Peas, Asparagus and Goat Cheese

The first recipe is for pasta with prosciutto, snap peas, cream and mint, and I immediately bookmarked it when I saw it on Food 52 a couple of weeks ago.  Not only did I already have prosciutto in the fridge, but I love snap peas, AND it gave me an opportunity to use the first of the mint in our ever-burgeoning herb garden.  It may seem like this has a lot of things going on, but all of the flavors compliment each other nicely, and the snap peas add a crunch which is unexpected in a pasta dish.  I enjoyed that the mint added an extra fresh springy flavor, but if you don’t love mint in savory dishes this would be almost as delicious without it.  Despite having quite a few ingredients, this really just requires some chopping and then throwing everything into a pan, and it came together in pretty much the time it takes to boil and cook  the pasta.

After my discovery of this great combination of flavors I used leftover snap peas and some asparagus I had in the fridge for another summer-inspired pasta dish.  I was out of prosciutto and omitted the cream in this dish, but added goat cheese and fresh basil (also from our herb garden!) for an even simpler version.  Both recipes come together in under half an hour and are great uses of summer vegetables, so go down to your farmers market and get shopping!

Our herb garden! The basil is doing slightly better than the parsley. The mint is separate as apparently it is mean and overtakes everything.

Pasta with Prosciutto, Snap Peas, Mint and Cream
Adapted from Food 52
Serves 4

Equipment: Saucepan, frying pan, wooden spoon or spatula, knife

Ingredients:
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 pound prosciutto shank, finely diced (regular thin prosciutto works too)
4 shallots or 1/2 onion, minced
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 pound fresh snap peas, chopped
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
3/4 pounds small pasta such as farfalle, penne, or orechiette
Salt and pepper to taste

Begin by chopping your vegetables. Put a pan of salted water on to boil.  Add pasta whenever it is boiling, but start to get your sauce ready in the meantime.  Do this by heating the olive oil over medium heat in a frying pan- when it is warm add the garlic and cook for 3-4 minutes, until fragrant but not burnt.  Add prosciutto and cook an additional 3-4 minutes (if using thin prosciutto cook only 1-2 minutes).  Add the shallots or onions and cook until they are beginning to soften, 3-4 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

With about 3 or 4 minutes left until the pasta is ready, add the peas to the frying pan.  After 2-3 minutes add the cream and quickly bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Add the cheese, stir in, and reduce heat to low.  Drain the pasta when it is ready, and toss everything together in a big bowl. Add the chopped mint, garnish with more Parmesan cheese, and adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Pasta with Snap Peas, Asparagus, and Goat Cheese
Serves 2

Equipment: Saucepan, frying pan, wooden spoon or spatula, knife

Ingredients:
6 oz fresh snap peas (really however much you want- I used half of a 12 oz bag), chopped
1/2 bunch fresh asparagus, tough ends discarded and then chopped
1 clove garlic
4 oz goat cheese
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/8 cup grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Put salted pasta water on to boil and chop your vegetables.  Add the pasta to the water when it is boiling, and heat up olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat.  When the oil is warm add garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Next add the snap peas and asparagus, and cook for another 2-3 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to the vegetables.  Turn down the heat if the vegetables begin to brown while you wait for the pasta to cook.  Drain pasta when it is ready, reserving some of the pasta water.  Immediately toss with the vegetables, goat cheese, basil, and Parmesan.  If the sauce needs thinning add some of the pasta water, and add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve immediately with more Parmesan to garnish.

Fingerling Potato and Tuna Salad

12 Jun

Dinner! Or lunch! Or a snack! This works for everything.

I found this recipe on Serious Eats and immediately bookmarked it because it is made almost entirely of ingredients that are lurking somewhere in the depths of my very messy fridge or cabinets.  I don’t usually eat canned tuna, but after this I was reminded how versatile and tasty it is- I got the good-quality stuff packed in olive oil, but I’m sure regular old canned tuna would work just fine.  This isn’t a recipe for you if you don’t like quite strong flavors, as it includes red onions, capers, and the tuna, but since the potatoes make up the bulk of the salad the other ingredients aren’t too overwhelming, and all complement each other nicely.  This was delicious as a dinner served warm, and every bit as good straight out of the fridge the next day.  I simplified this a bit from the original, which called for multiple bowls and carrots and onions pretty pointlessly boiling with the potatoes to flavor them.  I’m making this salad again right now for lunch this week, and added some asparagus that I bought today to the mix to spice things up a bit and make it even more summery.

Fingerling Potato and Tuna Salad
Adapted from Serious Eats
Serves 2-3 (The original says 4, so apparently I eat twice as much as they anticipated.)

Equipment: Saucepan, bowl, knife
Ingredients:
1 bay leaf (optional)
1 pound fingerling potatoes, scrubbed
1/2 cup olive oil
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 can tuna in olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped capers
1/2 red onion, finely diced
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Small handful arugula
1/2 bunch asparagus, chopped (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Put potatoes in a large pot of salted water and bring to a boil with a bay leaf if you have one.  Boil until tender, then drain and slice.  Toss with olive oil and vinegar in a large bowl.  Drain tuna and add to the bowl, along with the chopped onion, capers, asparagus, and parsley. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and more olive oil or vinegar if needed.  Add the arugula and toss together.  Serve warm or keep in the fridge and serve cold.