Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Stuffed Eggplant

Here is yet another recipe of my own creation designed to clean out my fridge. I am doing great though, and have almost used all of the leftover produce, cheese and other accoutrement's that I had. So hopefully, I can get back to making other fun stuff in the next couple of days.

This is also our fourth vegetarian meal in row! Not bad considering hubby is an avid meat eater. I wanted to stuff my eggplants with rice, but all of the recipes I could find used some sort of mince, or had indian spices...that is, they were stuffed with a pilaf. This would be fine, but I didn't think that would allow me to use my tomatoes, herbs and mozzarella. So, I devised this recipe after looking through tons of others. Again, I'm not going to write it out carefully, as I threw in whatever I had and didn't measure anything. Feel free to omit or add anything you like.

I had 2 small white eggplants, which I pierced and then boiled for about 20 minutes. I then cut them in half and scooped out the middle flesh. In the mean time I cooked some basmati rice, about 1/4 to 1/2 cup and sauteed some onions, garlic and some peachy momma hot peppers. I then added the onion mixture to the rice, then added some lemon juice, chopped heirloom tomatoes, bread crumbs, an egg, grated Parmesan cheese, pine nuts and some fresh herbs (thyme, oregano and basil). The eggplant halves were then stuffed with the rice mixture, placed in a baking dish and covered with pasta sauce (I used jar marinara/napolitana), but you could use fresh. I just wanted to use up what I had), some slices of fresh mozzarella and a bit more grated Parmesan cheese. Baked for about 20-25 minutes at 375F, then served with arugula dressed with lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper.

Really tasty. Even better than I expected. I think this is quite a good vegetarian recipe and you could use the stuffing for anything. I had some left over and used it to stuff a tomato, but you could also do a pepper or a squash.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Ratatouille Risotto

I love risotto. I love to eat it and I love to cook it. I think it is very hard to make a bad risotto and I love that you can make it as simple or as complicated as you want and it never fails to please. Its my ultimate comfort food. I can even get my hubby to eat things he hates like salmon and mushrooms if I put them in a risotto. Its also great for cleaning out the fridge, which is why I came up with this recipe tonight.

I mentioned yesterday that I have an abundance of squash this week, but I failed to mention that I also have loads of eggplant. I think I got five this week!! These are not your regular purple type, I got white ones, green ones and mauve and white ones. All a lot less bitter than the regular, which makes them a bit easier to cook.

Obviously squash and eggplant are the basis of most ratatouille's, hence the name for this one. I won't put up an in depth recipe as I think most people know how to make a basic risotto and really, you could omit or add anything you wanted to, to this one. I have to say though, this tasted even better than I expected, it was really good.

So, in short, I cut up some onion and sauteed with some garlic in olive oil. I added the arborio rice and then some white wine and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Then I put in a small can of diced tomatoes. I could have used fresh, but I don't have that many this week and want to use them for something else. Once the liquid had been absorbed, I started to add my chicken stock. You could use vegetable if you wanted it truly vegetarian.

In the meantime, I sauteed the squash, eggplant and a large, fresh ancho pepper for a bit of kick. These veggies were added to the risotto just before the last of the stock had been absorbed. Then finally I tossed in some fresh herbs from the garden (oregano, thyme and basil). I served hot with some crumbled goat's cheese on top. Delicious!!!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Curried Squash Soup

I found this recipe in my Good Food, Fast cookbook by Martha Stewart and I decided to try it to get rid of some of the excess summer squash that I got from my CSA this week. The original recipe is for zucchini, but I had crookneck and courge longue de Nice.

I found that the soup was a little watery for my taste. I think if I made it again I would use less water. So, depending on how you like your soup, you may want to play around with the amount of water. Because I found it watery, I added a small amount of single cream at the end to give it a bit more body and I think this was a nice addition.

I wouldn't rave that this was the greatest soup I ever had, but it was pretty good (although hubby didn't like it). However, it was a good way to use up your excess squash. I think this makes more than the 4 serves that Martha suggests.

Curried Squash Soup
(Serves 4-6)

1 tbs olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
course salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp curry powder
1 1/2 pounds squash, sliced 1 inch thick
1 baking potato, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
1/4 cup single pouring cream (optional)
1/3 cup sliced almonds for garnish (optional)

1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and a tbs of salt. Cook, stirring constantly until onions are soft, then add garlic and curry powder. Cook for another minute, stirring, until fragrant.

2. Add squash, potato and about 4 cups of water (less if you want it thick). Bring to boil, then simmer for 10-15 minutes until vegetables are tender.

3. In batches, puree the soup in a blender until smooth. Pour back into the pot to warm through, then stir in the cream if desired. Serve warm or cold.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Baby Shower Bash

A colleague of mine is having a baby sometime around the 15th of this month (well, his wife is having the baby) and so we decided to throw him a baby shower on Tuesday to celebrate. It was my job to bring the sweets so I made two different types of cake. The first is a peach upside down cake from I made this to get rid of some peaches I had picked up the other day that I hadn't eaten in time and everyone absolutely raved about how wonderful this cake was. I also thought it was very good. The link above is to the recipe and I followed it exactly, so I won't republish here. I did want to make them individual, but having never tried this recipe before, I didn't want it to be spoiled and inedible for my coworkers, so I just stuck to the recipe as it was, however if were to try again, I think I would give the individual ones a go.

I will say that I used a candy thermometer to measure the sugar, as I can never tell by eye whether or not it is at caramel stage or hard crack stage etc. This is the most accurate way I know of to do that, so make sure that your sugar is really caramelized properly in the first step, or I don't think it will work so well. This is about 338F or 170C. Do make sure you watch it carefully though, because the time from caramel to burned is only a couple of seconds. I learned this the hard way as I turned my back on the first batch I made for just a few seconds and it burned. Its not easy getting super heated sugar out of your pan and clean up is a bitch, so try not to do this if you can avoid it!!

The second dessert I made were s'mores cupcakes. I made a hybrid of a bunch of different recipes I had seen for these to come up with this recipe and I think it turned out really well. Hubby thought they were great, as did everyone at my work. There was none left, so that has to say something.

The only thing I will say about these is that I decided to make s'mores cupcakes so I could use my new kitchen torch (a super cool and super nice gift from my parents), however I quickly learned that butter and flame don't mix very well. I didn't think about this at first as the majority of the icing is made from marshmallow. I thought I could "roast" it under the kitchen torch, but the small amount of butter in there was not having a bar of that. So, the marshmallow topping went un-roasted....kind of a if you wish to roast yours if you make these, then omit the icing and just stick a real marshmallow on top and roast away!! These still turned out great and the icing was yummy, so whatever floats your boat, it will be great either way.

S'mores Cupcakes
(makes 24)

graham cracker base
2 cups graham cracker crumbs from actual crackers, not the box ones (I used teddy's)
1 stick of butter melted
chocolate cake
any chocolate cake recipe you like (I used betty crocker for this one due to lack of time)
marshmallow icing
1 stick butter, room temperature
1 cup confectioners sugar (icing sugar)
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/2 tub if marshmallow fluff
teddy grahams for decoration
graham cracker crumbs for decoration (can be from box)

1. Place the crumbs and melted butter for the base in a bowl and mix. Spoon a small spoonful of the base into the baseo f greased cupcake patties and press down with the back of the spoon.

2. Prepare your cake mix and divide evenly among the cupcake patties (about 2/3 full each).

3. bake for directed amount of time in the chocolate cake recipe, then remove from the oven to cool. Peel away the patty liner.

4. Cream the butter for the icing until fluffy. Add confectioners sugar a 1/4 cup at a time and beat until fluffy each time. Beat in the vanilla until incorporated, then dump in the marshmallow fluff and beat until creamy and mixed in. Transfer to a pastry bag (if desired) and pipe onto cupcakes. Top with teddy grahams and a sprinkle of graham crumbs.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Just when you thought all of the summer squash was gone, along comes another wave!! Yes, that's right, I am once again drowning in squash from my CSA, with an enormous, nearly two foot long, courge longue de Nice as well as a bunch of yellow crooknecks and other squash. I need to do something other than ratatouille and other sauces, so I decided to do a chocolate zucchini cake. I guess this can not "technically" be called a zucchini cake as used half of the courge longue de Nice squash, but it is in the same family, so I am not being nit picky about it.

The recipe actually comes from Clotilde over at Chocolate and Zucchini, so I won't repost the recipe. However, I did not use her nutty topping, instead going with a chocolate fudge icing. The cake is moist and you can't taste the squash at all, so its a good way to use it up if you have a lot. It makes the cake nice and moist. The recipe for the icing is below, but I will say I only made a half batch and that was enough for one cake.

Chocolate Fudge Icing

1 stick butter
1/2 c. cocoa
1/3 c. milk
1 lb. powdered sugar
1 tbsp. vanilla

Melt butter, add cocoa and boil 1 minute. Add remaining ingredients and beat until smooth. Spread while warm.

Salmon Burger with Avocado Salsa

This is my last Thursday evening of eating my favourite foods, as hubby has his last class tonight. I usually use these nights alone to eat things that he doesn't like, such as indian food or seafood, so I won't be able to do that any more. These yummy goodies will be relegated to when we eat out....very sad!

Tonight I made a recipe from Delicious magazine (vol 4 issue 7) and it certainly lived up to that name. This was a really simple and quick recipe that was very fresh and great for warm weather, especially if you like salmon.

Salmon Burger with Avocado Salsa
(makes 4)

600g fresh organic salmon fillet, skinned
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 tbs flat-leafed parsley, finely chopped
1 tbs dijon mustard
1 small egg white
1 tbs olive oil
2 english muffins, split in half
1 cup watercress sprigs
avocado salsa
2 ripe avocado's
2 tbs lime juice, plus lime wedges to serve
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 long green chilli, seeds removed and chopped
2 tbs chopped coriander leaves

1. Roughly chop salmon into pieces and place in the bowl of a food processor with the shallot, parsley, mustard, egg white, salt and pepper. Pulse very briefly, only 3-4 times until the fish is roughly chopped but not pureed. Divide the mixture into 4 and with hands, form into large patties. Place on a tray and refrigerate for 30 minutes to help them 'set'.

2. For the avocado salsa, place all the ingredients, except the lime wedges, in a bowl and gently combine.

3. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Sear the burgers for 1-2 minutes each side, turning carefully, until cooked to your liking.

4. Meanwhile, lightly toast the muffin halves. Top each with watercress, a salmon patty and a spoonful of avocado salsa. Serve with lime wedges.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Barbecue Chicken

This is a Martha recipe from Good Food, Fast and was actually pretty good. I served this with the quinoa salad I made a few weeks ago, which has become a bear household favourite. This recipe was quick and easy and very tasty. This was also my first time cutting a whole chicken and my technique leaves a little to be desired, but it did not affect the taste.

Barbecue Chicken
(Serves 4)

1 tsp hot sauce
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
3 tbs dijon mustard
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup ketchup
1 cut-up-chicken (3lbs)
1 tbs vegetable oil
salt and pepper

1. Heat grill to medium. Simmer hot sauce, vinegar, sugar, molasses, mustard, garlic and ketchup in a small saucepan over medium heat until reduced to about 1 1/4 cups (5-7 minutes).

2. In a large bowl, toss chicken with vegetable oil and season well with salt and pepper.

3. Place chicken on the grill. Cover and cook, turning frequently until chicken registers 165F (about 10-15 minutes). Uncover the grill, continue cooking and basting frequently with the sauce until chicken is glazed thoroughly (3-4 minutes more). Serve with remaining sauce.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Dominican Chimichurri Burger with Poppy Seed Fruited Slaw

Growing up in suburban Melbourne, I did not really come into contact with a lot of Latino food. In fact, the closest I came was at our local Taco Bill, but later in life, that was more for the Margarita's than the food. Therefore, I am not that familiar with a lot of Latino foods and don't cook it very often, if at all. So, I was kind of disappointed when I picked up the September edition of Gourmet, to find that it was dedicated to Latino foods, but I decided that it would be good for me to learn more about this exotic (at least to me) food.

I was fortunate enough in the last two years to travel around central and Eastern Mexico for two weeks and to try some authentic Cuban in NYC and Miami. I am still getting used to the flavors, but decided to dip my toe in the water (so to speak) for tonight's dinner and make these Dominican Chimichurri burgers from the September Gourmet edition. They were very nice, but were extremely messy!! Just make sure to have loads of napkins handy.

I decided to serve this burger with the poppy seed fruited slaw from the September 2006 edition of cooking light. Both hubby and I are not huge fans of coleslaw, but this one was pretty good. I don't think you need as much dressing as the recipe provides, but that's just my taste. Enjoy!

Dominican Chimichurri Burgers
(makes 4)

1 1/4lb ground beef
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup cilantro
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tbs Worcestershire sauce
4 hamburger buns, split
2 cups thinly sliced cabbage
1 carrot, coarsely grated
1 small red onion, cut into rings
1 tomato, sliced 1/4" thick
2 tbs ketchup
2 tbs mayonnaise
1 tbs yellow mustard

1. Mix together beef, onion, bell pepper, garlic, cilantro, oregano, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 tsp each of salt and pepper. Form into patties.

2. Heat the grill, then cook the patties (about 8 minutes) turning once. Toast buns.

3. Meanwhile, cook cabbage and carrot with 1/4 tsp salt over medium high heat, until wilted, about 2 minutes. Oil pan again and sear onion and tomato until slightly charred.

4. Mix ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise. Place burger, cabbage mixture, tomato and onion on the burger bun. Top with sauce and remaining bun. Serve with salad.

Poppy Seed Fruited Slaw
(Serves 6)

1/2 cup orange sections
1 cup halved seedless red grapes
1 package of cabbage and carrot coleslaw
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbs minced onion
3 tbs cider vinegar
1 tsp poppy seeds
4 tsp canola oil
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp salt

1. To prepare coleslaw, chop orange sections. Combine oranges, grapes and coleslaw in a large bowl.

2. To prepare dressing, combine ingredients and whisk until sugar dissolves. Add to cabbage mixture and toss well. Cover and chill for 30 minutes before serving.