Babbaganoush (Roasted Eggplant Dip)

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Spring break is…over.

I don’t know what I am going to do when I am working a real job without any of these academic breaks. A problem for future not, not present me.  Present me is just looking forward to having a week without having to teach or work.

I’ll went home to Houston for the break, and besides the joys of seeing my family, I love trying lots of new food places in Houston.  Last time I was in Houston for the winter break, mom and I went to a Lebanese restaurant and I ate some great food- including babbaganoush.

So what did I do then? Found Cook Illustrated’s recipe, put it on our Christmas Day menu , and chowed down. And I have been dreaming about eating it again ever since.

Babbaganoush is very similar to hummus but using eggplant instead of chickpeas.  Creamy roasted eggplant, tahini, and parsley pairs wonderful with pita bread or pita chips. This dip can be served cold or room temperature, so it’ll be a great dip to help cool down once the weather actually starts warming up

BABBAGANOUSH
Barely Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

INGREDIENTS

2 large eggplants
1-1 1/2 tablespoons tahini
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for serving
3 cloves roasted garlic
Chopped fresh parsley

DIRECTIONS

Preheat grill over high heat for about 15 minutes. Lower the heat to medium-high heat. Place eggplants on grill and cook for 15 minutes, rotating 3 times (for 45 minutes total). Remove from grill and let cool slightly. Peel eggplant skin and remove meat from eggplant.

Place eggplant, tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic in a food processor. Process until smooth. Let sit at least 30 minutes before serving. Top with parsley and additional olive oil. Serve with pita bread or pita chips

Vegetable Lasagna

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Well, my friends, we made it to 2014.  Last month was full of a lot of holiday cheer, gift giving, butter, and sugar.  But we made it to the other side.  So now it’s time for lots of gym memberships, work outs, and healthy living.  I definitely indulged a lot this holiday season, but everything in moderation right?  I balanced out my bowl of frosting with an apple, so it all evens out.

While New Year’s isn’t particularly my favorite holiday (I spent New Year’s Eve night contently at home after picking up subs, watched my dad light a few bottle rockets at midnight, and went to be shortly after), I do like the idea of a fresh start.  I don’t make formal new year’s resolutions, but here are some of my goals for this year:

1. Read 60 books for pleasure

2. Present my second year project and get my masters

3. Be more flexible

While my eating is pretty much good most of the time, I do sometimes make the choice to indulge.  And now I am happy to make the choice to bring back some more veggies.  This vegetable lasagna hit the spot- a little decadence of pasta and cheese mixed with some delicious veggies.  Perfect for a meatless meal and a good way to start this new year off.

VEGETABLE LASAGNA
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

INGREDIENTS

For the Tomato Sauce:
28 ounces tomato sauce
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 bay leaf

For the Cream Sauce:
2 cups cottage cheese
3/4 cup half and half
3 ounces grated Parmesan
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

For the Lasagna:
Salt and pepper
3 globe eggplants, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
Olive oil, for sauteing
3 summer squashes, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
6 portobello mushrooms, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup kalamata olives, chopped
1/2 cup grated mozzarella
12 lasagna noodles

DIRECTIONS

For the Tomato Sauce:

Combine tomato sauce, sugar, oregano, parsley, basil, and bay leaf in a saucepan over medium high heat. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer until thickened, about 20-30 minutes. Cool slightly.

For the Cream Sauce:

In a bowl combine cream cheese, half and half, Parmesan, cornstarch, salt, and pepper. Set aside.

For the Lasagna:

Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease a 9×13 baking dish.

Toss eggplant with 1 teaspoon of salt. Line a plate with paper towel. Place eggplant on top. Microwave for 10 minutes, until soft and shriveled, rotating halfway through. In a large bowl mix eggplant, summer squash, and mushrooms together.

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add about 1 tablespoon of olive oil, about half of the garlic, and half of the vegetable mixture. Cook until vegetables are browned, about 6-8 minutes. Transfer to bowl and repeat with the remaining vegetable mixture. Set aside. Mix olives in with vegetable mixture.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook lasagna noodles 2 minutes less than al dente. Drain and set aside.

Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of the prepared 9×13 pan. Place 4 noodles in an even layer on top. Spread half of the vegetable mixture on top. Then spread half of the cream sauce on top. Repeat the process (4 noodles, 1 cup tomato sauce, remaining vegetables, remaining cream sauce). Complete the final layer by placing 4 lasagna noodles on top, the remaining tomato sauce, and the mozzarella cheese. Bake until warm and bubbly, about 35 minutes. Cool on wire wrack for 20-30 minutes. Cut and serve

Serves 4-9.

Eggplant Veggie Burger

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Some days while I am in the kitchen, I am just doomed for disaster.

The day I made this veggie burger the fire alarm went off, a bag of sugar fell over and spilled in my cabinet, and  an almost full bag of chocolate chips fell all over the floor.  Apparently bad things do come in threes.

When those chocolate chips fell all over my kitchen floor, I am pretty sure my neighbor just heard me repeat “Oh my god.  Oh my god” for about five minutes as I stood in my kitchen with my hands over my face.  Serenity now!

After I cleaned up several of my messes and frantically fanned my fire alarm with a towel while standing on a shaky chair, I got to sit down and take a bit of this veggie burger.  The only good part of that evening was that this veggie burger turned out to be DELICIOUS.  I have had a few veggie burgers, mostly legume based, but had never made my own before.  I know we have all had our share of bad veggie burgers, but this is not one of them.  I saw this veggie burger on The Best Thing I’ve Ever Eaten, and I was intrigued with its eggplant and cheese base.   To Google I went, and this veggie burger recipe I found!

This burger is meaty (without any actual meat), cheesy, herby, and wonderful.  While I am still not over the best beef burger I ever ate, I really enjoyed this veggie option. It is no replacement for a thick, juicy burger, but it is a wonderful alternative for any vegetarian or anyone who just loves eggplant.

EGGPLANT VEGGIE BURGER
Adapted from the Farm Cafe

INGREDIENTS

For the Burger:
2 eggplants, 1/2 inch pieces
1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 shallots, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

For Toppings:
4 ciabatta rolls, cut
Caramelized onions
Whole grain mustard
Goat cheese

INGREDIENTS

Put eggplant in a large skillet over medium. Cook until beginning to soften, about 5-7 minutes. Stir in olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook until mostly softened, 15-19 minutes. Stir in shallots and garlic. Season against with salt and pepper if needed. Cook for an additional 3-4 minutes.

Reserve 1/4 of the eggplant mixture. Take the other 3/4 of the mixture and transfer to a food processor. Process until smooth. In a large bowl, combined the pureed eggplant, the reserved chunky eggplant mixture, panko breadcrumbs, Gruyere cheese, and parsley. Stir together. Using your hands, press into 4-5 patties. Place patties on a plate and freeze for 15 minutes to let patties set.

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Grease pan with oil or butter. Fry patties to get a brown crust, about 2-4 minutes per side (depending on burger thickness). Place on ciabatta bun and top with caramelized onions, whole grain mustard, and goat cheese.

Makes 4-5 veggie burgers.

Crispy Gnocchi and Eggplant Carbonara: Improv Blog

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Everyone, it’s confession time.  Please don’t judge me, don’t shun me, don’t imprison me in a church tower and force me to ring the church bells for the rest of my days.

I hate bacon.

There.  I’ve said it.  The secret is out.

I want to like bacon (eh, not really), and in fact in the past I used to like bacon.  But  I just don’t like it  anymore.  It’s not even that I just don’t care for it, it is I actively dislike it and avoid it at all costs.  Like if I see a dish with bacon on it at a restaurant, I will tell them to keep that bacon away from my plate.  And restaurants put bacon on everything nowadays.  Discrimination to my non-bacon liking people.  But let’s not get political today.

Really, you all should be happy that I don’t eat bacon since it means more bacon for the rest of you.  But my dislike of bacon presented a problem for this month’s Improv Challenge.  We were tasked with making a dish with a classic ingredient pairing: bacon and eggs.  I could not bring myself to buy an entire package bacon, so I figured instead I would choose a recipe that could easily include bacon  but could also easily exclude bacon.

But then I got a craving for carbonara (even though I have never really eaten it before).  Often if a recipe includes bacon, I just leave it out.  Easy enough.  But then there are dishes like carbonara, where bacon is such a crucial, defining ingredient.  After a little brainstorming, I decided to be a rebel and make a carbonara without bacon.  A vegetarain (if you still eat eggs) no less!  And I used gnocchi and eggplant instead of the traditional pasta.  Really, I changed enough from the traditional carbonara recipe, I’m not sure if you should even call this dish carbonara.  But I am anway, so there we are.

This dish is delicious and nontraditional.  Gnocchi are lightly fried so that they are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.  And of course coating them in butter never hurt anyone.  Then they are coated in a rich, cheesy, eggy sauce. Eggplant is roasted and added to the gnocchi so that it breaks down slightly to contribute even more to the richness of the sauce.  This dish tastes decadent but won’t do horrible damage to your waistline.  Perfection.  And completely worth burning your tongue eating straight from the pan.

And sometimes really good tasting food just doesn’t look pretty.  Eat it anyway.

Thanks to Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker for hosting the Improv Blog Challenge.  Make sure to check out the rest of this month’s entries.

CRISPY GNOCCHI AND EGGPLANT CARBONARA
From Cinnamon Freud
INGREDIENTS
1 large eggplant, cut into chunks
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons butter, divided*
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups dried gnocchi
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup cottage cheese
For serving: freshly cracked black pepper, grated Parmesan

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Spread eggplant in a single layer on top of paper towels.  Sprinkle with salt.  Let stand at least 20 minutes.  Pat dry.  Toss eggplant with 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Season with salt. Spread in single layer on baking sheet.  Roast for 20-25 minutes, until tender.  Set aside.

Heat a large pan over medium-high heat.  Add 1/2 tablespoon butter and onions.  Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5-6 minutes, until softened.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 1-2 minutes.  Remove from pan.  Add 1 tablespoon of butter to pan and let melt.  Add gnocchi and cook for 3-4 minutes.  Flip and cook an additional 4-5 minutes, making sure they are cooked through.  Add eggplant and onion mixture to pan.  Remove from heat.

In a small bowl whisk egg and cottage cheese together.  Add to pan and quickly toss to coat pasta mixture.  Stir until cheese melts and egg cooks through.  Top with freshly cracked black pepper or grated Parmesan if desired.

Serves 3-4.

*If you want to use bacon, I would fry up 4-5 pieces before cooking the onion.  Cool and crumble the bacon and set aside.  Cook the onions, garlic, and gnocchi in the bacon grease in the place of butter.  Stir in bacon bits at the end of the recipe.



Warm Greek Eggplant Salad

It is a magical time of year with the holiday spirit all around us, when people are friendlier (and tip more).  I am full of winter and holiday cheer around this time- that is until I start trying to take pictures of dinner.  My new apartment was only so-so as to lighting even when I ate dinner while the sun was out, but now that it is dark when I get home, it is even worse.   Now, I love the dark normally- I am one of those people who love overcast days and sometimes gets annoyed by the sun- but this is unacceptable.

Basically, take all this rambling to mean this: the picture may not always look the most appetizing, but sometimes ugly food can be very tasty.  And this is.  Since it’s cold outside, I usually want something warm for dinner, so the typical cold lettuce salad just won’t work.  However, this warm eggplant salad with cabbage, onions, and olives fits the bill.  And on the plus side, you get to turn on your oven as some additional heating power.  I discovered this combination out of necessity having to clean out my fridge.  I wish all my household chores were this delicious.  For some reason, cleaning the bathroom and mopping the floor doesn’t give my mouth the same tasty reward.

And for all my fellow students out there working on papers and exams like me, use this recipe as a quick dinner break to fuel you up for more studying.

WARM GREEK EGGPLANT SALAD
From Cinnamon Freud
INGREDIENTS

1 eggplant, sliced in 1/2 incch thick
1/2 cup dry wheat berries
3/4 cup water
Salt
1/2 small cabbage, chopped
1/2 red onion, thinly slice
4 ounces kalamata olives, sliced
4 cloves roasted garlic
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 tablespoon dried dill weed
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Spread eggplant in a single layer on top of paper towels.  Sprinkle with salt.  Let stand at least 20 minutes.  Pat dry.  Toss eggplant with 2-3 tablespoons olive oil.  Spread in single layer on baking sheet.  Roast for 20-25 minutes, until tender.  Set aside.

In a small saucepan, combine wheat berries, water, and a pinch of salt.  Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer.  Simmer for 15 minutes, until no water remains.  Set aside

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat.  Coat pan with olive oil and add cabbage.  Toss, cover, and cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add red onions and olives.  Cook an additional 3-4 minutes (or until your onions reach your desired doneness).  Stir in wheat berries.

In a small bowl, mix together yogurt, dill, and Worcestershire sauce.  Spread yogurt sauce over warm eggplant.  Pour cabbage and wheat berry mixture on top.

Serves 2.

Chickpea and Eggplant Salad

After my foodie adventure in Austin, I came home inspired but in desperate need of a detox.  After a few days of splurging, including many donut holes, a few pounds of smoked meat, and several cones of ice cream, I needed vegetables ASAP and wanted to eat something light and refresing.  I was also feeling inspired by Austin’s vegetarian culture.  Every restaurant we ate at had gluten free and/or vegetarian options.  I am not giving up meat any time soon (I love it too dearly), but I love a good vegetarian dish.  It can leave you full and satiated but not overly stuffed.

This dish is simplicity at its best.  There is no sauce or dressing, but the dish packs great flavor.  Each vegetable shines through and compliments the others.  It’s lemony, cheesey, vegetarian goodness in a bowl.  A perfect side dish or even a main dish.  Austin would be proud.

CHICKPEA AND EGGPLANT SALAD
From Cinnamon Freud
INGREDIENTS

1 eggplant
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 leek, rinsed and chopped
1 cup chickpeas
15-18 Brussels sprouts, chopped
Salt, to taste
Lemon pepper, to taste*
1/2 ounce Romano cheese, grated

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 375°F.

In a large colander, spread eggplant in a single layer.  Sprinkle liberally with salt and let stand at least 20 minutes to draw the bitterness out.  Wipe clean with paper towel.  Coarsely chop the eggplant and mix with 1-2 tablespoons olive oil.  Spread eggplant on baking sheet in a single layer.  Roast for 20-30 minutes, until tender and golden brown.  Set aside and let cool.
In a large skillet over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon butter.  Add leeks and cook for 5-7 minutes, until slightly cooked.  Add eggplant, chickpeas and Brussels sprouts.  Cook for 5-6 additional minutes, until Brussels sprouts are cooked and brown on the outside.  Season with salt and lemon pepper to taste.  Remove from heat and stir in Romano cheese.  Top with additional olive oil and cheese, if desired.
Serves 2-3.

*I use Mrs. Dash Lemon Pepper and love it.  You can also substitute lemon zest and freshly ground coarse black pepper to taste.

Eggplant Calzone

This is not delivery, nor is it DiGiorno.  It’s better- much better.  Homemade pizza is so much better than your local chain delivery or your store bought frozen pizza.  Now, those pizzas are a perfect fix when you need a quick, easy meal, but when you have a little more time, homemade pizza is completely worth the extra effort.
Homemade pizza is not hard at all, just requires a little waiting often for your crust.  A homemade calzone only involves one additional step: fold your pizza dough over your toppings.  And instead of putting your pizza sauce inside, you use it as a dipping sauce.  Eggplant is a perfect filling for calzones: it’s soft and tender.  And if you eat your vegetable for dinner, it’s a perfect justification to eat a lot of cheese.
EGGPLANT CALZONE
From Cinnamon Freud
INGREDIENTS
For the Dough:
1/2 cup water, 110°F
1 package active yeast
1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
For the Tomato Sauce:
3/4 cup tomato sauce
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
For the Calzone:
1 medium eggplant, sliced
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
2 ounces fresh mozzarella
Italian herbs
INGREDIENTS
For the Dough:
In a bowl, combine water, yeast, and sugar.  Stir together.  Let sit until foamy, about 10 minutes.
In a separate bowl, combine flour and salt.  Pour yeast mixture over top and stir together with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms.  Transfer dough on to a lightly floured cutting board.  Knead until soft and elastic, about 10-15 minutes.  Divide dough into two pieces. Let rise in a warm place until approximately doubled in size.
For the Tomato Sauce:
In a saucepan combine tomato sauce, granulated sugar, oregano, and basil.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Reduce heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes, until sauce is thickened.  Set aside and keep warm.
For the Calzone:
Preheat oven to 475°F.
Layer your eggplant in a single layer on paper towel.  Sprinkle liberally with salt and let stand for at least 20 minutes.  Wipe away the excess moisture.  Chop into bite-size pieces.  Toss with olive oil and spread in single layer on a baking sheet.  Bake for 10-20 minutes (will vary depending on the size of your eggplant), until cooked through and tender.  Set aside.
Prepare your pizza stone or baking sheet.  Roll dough out.  Spread ricotta cheese on half of the pizza, leaving a border at the edge.  Sprinkle eggplant and mozzarella on top.  Season with salt and pepper.  Carefully fold your pizza dough on top of your filling and roll the edges up to seal.  Brush the outside with olive oil and sprinkle Italian seasonings on top.  Bake for 15-18 minutes, until golden brown.  Serve with tomato sauce
Makes 2 calzones.

Eggplant Caponata Pasta

Besides food, one of the other great loves in my life is television.  These two great loves are united in a great show on ABC: The Chew.  Its description of a daily talk show about food may seem silly or boring, but this show is great.  The hosts are a great mix of fun personalities and their themed episodes are often fun and campy.  It’s a great show to watch for entertainment and great recipes and techniques.

This recipe is from the oh-so-Italian Mario Batali.  Pasta is topped with a sweet and tangy tomato eggplant sauce.  A definite repeat for an easy Italian dinner.  Make it while watching The Chew (weekdays at noon on ABC).

EGGPLANT CAPONATA PASTA
Adapted from Mario Batali
INGREDIENTS

2 eggplants, chopped
Olive oil
8 ounces linguine
1 red onion, coarsely chopped
1 cup crushed tomatoes (or substitute any tomato sauce)
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons capers, drained
1/4 cup currants
Salt and pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Spread eggplant in a single layer on top of paper towels.  Sprinkle with salt.  Let stand at least 20 minutes.  Pat dry.  Toss eggplant with 2-3 tablespoons olive oil.  Spread in single layer on baking sheet.  Roast for 20-25 minutes, until tender.  Set aside.

Cook pasta according to instructions.  Set aside.

In a large skillet over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Add onion and cook until tender, about 7-10 minutes.  Add crushed tomatoes, granulated sugar, cocoa powder, cinnamon, anchovy paste, red wine vinegar, capers, and currants.  Bring to a simmer and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Add eggplant and cook until warmed through, 3-5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve sauce over linguine

Serves 4.