Category: Eggplant

Grilled Eggplant Lasagna

Grilled Eggplant Lasagna

IMG_7824 So you love summer grilling but are getting a little bit tired of it all.  That pot of chili simmering on the back burner or a chicken casserole in the oven is beginning to sound like something you want. (Smells, good, huh?) Salads truly make you a happy camper, but your mouth is just a wee bit sick of chewing…chewing…chewing. Welcome a new girl on your cooking block:  grilled eggplant lasagna. You might rather think of it as Eggplant Parmesan Stacks or just Eggplant Parmesan–and you can– but as I recently realized: there’s mozzarella in this gorgeous and quick summer dinner.  Which makes it  more like lasagna, right? You call it whatever you like, but make it.

This meal looks and feels like pasta, but there’s no pasta in sight, making it perfect for a gluten-free meal.  Seems a bit like meat, but the meat stayed at the store while the vegetables came home to play. (Scroll down for notes for both G-F and vegan.) There’s little to it but grilling the eggplant and zucchini, topping the eggplant with fresh mozzarella, then layering it all on the plate with warm marinara and shaved Parmesan. A few flakes of crushed red pepper add zing, if you like, and a plate lined with greens tidies the whole thing up and makes it both beautiful and healthful.  Try this, even if you’re unsure about eggplant: Continue reading “Grilled Eggplant Lasagna”

Ina Fridays — Appetizers — Roasted Eggplant Spread

Ina Fridays — Appetizers — Roasted Eggplant Spread


Ina Garten’s appetizers are, like all of her recipes, lovely and luscious, but while making this I kept remembering how often Ina speaks about simple, store-bought appetizers like

  • olives
  • nuts
  • chips
  • cheese

and so on. The show sometimes drives along with Ina into town to pick up the ready-to-go food and I have to admit I’m always jealous of the shops she has available.   Her point is often that if you have too many nibbles with your apertif or sparkler, you’re full.  Not only that, who wants to spend not only the whole day getting ready for company, but making yet another recipe?  I not only agree with her, I follow those rules for entertaining and make things easy on myself.  I’ll also admit I adore potato chips and champagne.

In fact, I looked back at the Food Network site and even found a little video of Ina waxing poetic about three silver bowls filled with purchased goodies for Thanksgiving:  nuts, chips, and caper berries.

Just to get my head on straight (quite a feat), I went to the master book index (all of Ina’s cookbook recipes indexed in one spot) on barefootcontessa.com and discovered that, at least in the cookbooks, there still are quite a few “made” appetizers, starters, or hors d’oeuvres –whichever is your favorite term.  The majority contain protein of some sort–chicken, salmon, cheese, or lamb.  While I’m an omnivore and definitely a carnivore, I rarely choose meat  (good pun, huh?) to go along with a cocktail, mixed drink, or first glass of wine.  I save my protein calories for main courses and usually am happy to have vegetables early on.  So when I came across this gorgeous eggplant mash, I jumped on it.  I thought it would go with a variety of drinks, would be healthy, inexpensive, beautiful,  fun, and definitely in season.  Hungry guests could scoop up the eggplant spread with a piece of grilled pita; slimming friends could use a celery stalk or a big slice of carrot.

There wasn’t much to making it.  Peel and slice the eggplant, red peppers, onions, and garlic.  Mix them up with some olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast for 45 minutes.  No problem to cut the olive oil a little to trim fat calories.  As Ina would say, “How easy is that?”

Dave and I both tasted the just-roasted eggplant mixture and decided we loved it just like that and would serve it another day with rice or a chop sometime.  The recipe, however, called, and I threw the roasted vegetables into the food processor with some tomato paste borrowed from my next-door neighbor.. ((What would we do without neighbors?)

The day was so pretty I took the work bowl outdoors to photograph it in front of my Russian Sage–which is each year but this one typically full of bees.  Only one or two right now. Very sad.

And the finished dish…..

So what did we think?  I have to say we loved it.  I doubled the recipe as I had neighbors coming over for a glass of wine on the deck, but I think I would always double it.  Extras could be used for omelets, stirred into hot pasta, or spooned on top of rice or beans.    One thought:  if you like things spicy, you might add a sprinkle of crushed red pepper.  I like things mildly spicy–I want to taste the food first– and just added a bit — not much– more black pepper as I thought it fit so well with the eggplant.  Try this:

roasted eggplant spread

Makes:   6 to 8 servings


Ingredients:


  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 2 red bell peppers, seeded
  • 1 red onion, peeled
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste


Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut the eggplant, bell pepper, and onion into 1-inch cubes. Toss them in a large bowl with the garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread them on a baking sheet. Roast for 45 minutes, until the vegetables are lightly browned and soft, tossing once during cooking.

Cool slightly.

Place the vegetables in a food processor fitted with a steel blade, add the tomato paste, and pulse 3 or 4 times to blend. Taste for salt and pepper

Readmore at the food network site.

(As this recipe is available online, I thought is all right to share it here as well.)

… … … … … … … …

ALL ABOUT INA FRIDAYS:

The first Friday of the month, food bloggers from many parts of the world join together in posting a favorite Ina recipe.  This month we have appetizers, next month is Salads, Soups and Sides. 

Stop in and see what all of our fine writers are cooking up today or any day:

Are you a food blogger? We’d love to have you! Want to join in one time a month? Email Alyce @ afmorgan53@yahoo.com  or link in to join us once in a while (click on blue oval link button at bottom and follow prompts) only if you’re blogging Ina! No other posts, please?! 
~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sing a new song; cook a new appetizer!
Alyce

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Eggplant-Tomato Salad on Mint Rice with Warmed Mozzarella

Eggplant-Tomato Salad on Mint Rice with Warmed Mozzarella

If you’re a loving cook (and most cooks are), you make your loved ones’ favorite foods.  In fact, you know that what we love — or hate– in some ways defines us.  For instance, I am a chocolate fiend and, if I’m smart, when I’m trying to slim down, I don’t even keep it in the house.  I buy a tiny, perfect piece at the grocery check out (50 calories or so) and I eat JUST THAT ONE.

If I want chocolate cake, I make one for a friend’s birthday and have a piece.  Perfectly happily.  This one was Roberta’s.

Dave’s a baseball nut.  My mother-in-law loves peppermint.  My sister-in-law hates green vegetables.  Roberta has a  life-long love affair with the organ–even has one in her house.  Your favorite color is ____.   My boss “never met an egg she didn’t like.”  Tony’s passion is national parks and scotch; I don’t know in what order.  Artist friend Dan is nutty about bluegrass and my friend Bud waited long years for his Bosendorfer piano.  My sister Helen adores green beans.  Sue loves the beach and anything lemon.  We know who people are (partly) because of these things.

This comes up at my Weight Watcher’s meetings.  People complain and cry (an exaggeration…but nearly) about not being able to have ice cream, margaritas, chips, chocolate, butter, etc.  My comment is occasionally, “You’d better have what you love or you won’t stay on the program, won’t lose weight….because you won’t be YOU.”  It’s actually a pretty well-known fact in WW circles, but it usually needs repeating on a weekly basis.  And no one else ever says WHY you shouldn’t deprive yourself, except that it results in binges.

These little Thai eggplants are often available at Saint Paul farmer’s markets.  If you have small, young eggplant of any kind you probably don’t need to peel them–just wash, trim, and dice.   A little trial and error might be called for.  I did, however, use the regular large, purple eggplant and needed to peel it.  Check out the various kinds of eggplant.

So, in addition to baseball, Dave is crazy about eggplant  Any way. When eggplant is perfect–fresh with tender, deep purple skin– I’m making it as often as I can.  The other night I wanted a salad that I could have for a meal (that Weight Watcher thing) and he could have as a side for his steak sandwich with horseradish sauce while we watched “The Newsroom”, my new TV crush.   I had fresh mozzerella leftover from caprese,  jasmine rice, eggplant, fresh tomatoes, and… this is what transpired, a fusion sort of meal I think you will love.  If you love eggplant, that is.

Sometimes in this blog, I only have to say, “Fried cheese,” though in this case I tempered it with the adjective, “warm.” Try this:

eggplant-tomato salad on mint rice with warm mozzerella

This warm and/or cool salad begins with sautéed eggplant, onions, and tomatoes–seasoned with garlic and lemon rind– that are then spooned into the middle of a ring of rice that has been stirred together with chopped fresh mint, parsley, and spinach. Half-moons of fresh mozzarella are quickly warmed in oil with a bit of crushed red pepper and are then scattered on top of the ring of rice.  Fresh lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil are drizzled at the last second for an instant vinaigrette.  If you have both run-of-the-mill (cooking) and salad (or garnish) extra virgin olive oil, use the better (salad or garnish) oil for the end of the salad vinaigrette.  

Makes  6 servings         Read through recipe before making.

  •  7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • Crushed red pepper
  • 2 cups (approximately) eggplant, peeled, trimmed, and cut into 1-inch dice
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • Kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 medium tomatoes, cut into 1-inch dice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 2 cups cooked jasmine (or other) rice at cold or at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup each chopped fresh parsley and mint
  • 1 cup fresh spinach, shredded
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella (1/2 pound), sliced in half-inch rounds and cut again into 1/2 moons, cold
  • Juice of one lemon (2-3 tablespoons)

1.  In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat for 30 seconds with a pinch of crushed red pepper.  Add eggplant and onions, sprinkle with salt and pepper; cook about 10 minutes, stirring regularly, until quite softened and tender.  Add tomato and garlic, let cook another 2 minutes or so, and remove from heat. Stir in lemon rind.  Taste and adjust for seasonings.
2.  Meanwhile, in a large shallow bowl or on a large platter, using your hands, mix together the rice, herbs, and spinach.  Sprinkle with just a bit of salt and pepper and mix again.  Pushing the the rice mixture out from the center, form a ring to allow room for the eggplant mixture in the middle.  Spoon eggplant mixture into the open space, mounding as needed.
 

3.  Wipe out skillet with towels, add 2 more tablespoons olive oil and heat over medium flame.  All attention as you begin this step:  Leaving room between each piece, place the mozzarella slices in the skillet, sprinkle with crushed red pepper, and heat briefly until warm and just beginning to ooze.  Quickly turn, using tongs or spatula, and repeat on the other side.  Remove from heat and remove the cheese from the skillet and onto the rice, spreading evenly around the ring. Waste no time or you’ll have a skillet full of melted cheese.
4.  Drizzle entire salad with lemon juice and then with remaining 3 tablespoons (best quality, if you have it) extra virgin olive oil.  Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.   Serve at room temperature or cold.  Store leftovers well-covered for up to one day.   Keeps well, according to Dave, who ate all of the rest of it for lunch.

COOK’S NOTES:
* If you prefer, and it’s too warm, grill the eggplant in slices, cut it up afterward, and stir in fresh chopped tomatoes with just a tablespoon or so of minced onion–perhaps scallions–along with only half the garlic.  Continue with rest of recipe. I’m a good guesser and guess it’d work.  Let me know if you try it.
*You can certainly make this recipe with different vegetables (bell peppers? zucchini? yellow squash?) and/or different herbs (basil? thyme?oregano?)

Quinoa is a tasty substitute for the rice.

{printable recipe}


Sing a new song; make a new salad,
Alyce

Grilled Eggplant and Sausage Pasta Made on the Grill

Grilled Eggplant and Sausage Pasta Made on the Grill

 Every summer, I get about half-way through and want…chili.  Pot Roast.  Lamb shanks.  I’m a bit perverse, I’m fond of saying.  I can’t wait for the first grilled chicken and tomato salads.  I’m nuts about burgers on the patio in May with zin.  But there comes a day when salad looks bleh (stick out tongue) and I don’t even much care about that long-awaited burger.  I want something  real.  I want pasta.  And I don’t want it in a restaurant.

So last year, in January (way ahead),  I experimented with a pasta dish that included grilled vegetables and sausage, but I still made a cooked sauce in a pot.  A lot of folks have been interested in that post,  so here’s a continuation…

I had the idea then to create a dish totally done on the grill--much fresher– and I’ve now tried it.  Even the pasta is cooked on the side burner, if you have one.  (If not, buy fresh pasta to cook indoors; it cooks much faster.)  I’ll amend that; Dave mostly tried it.  I designed, orchestrated, cheer leaded, made fresh cheese, and ate it up.  The only true heated cooking I did was to saute some garlic in the microwave and warm the milk to make cheese! (5 minutes)  Do you have to make cheese?  Of course not.  Buy ricotta–fresh if you can get it.  But I’d love it you made cheese.

I lately have been encouraging cooks to just try making an easy, quick fresh cheese.  There isn’t much simpler to do and the brief instructions are below.  I’ll also point out that if you need a lot of ricotta, this is the way to go; you’ll save a bunch of cash.  To purists, this isn’t true ricotta, which is made with all milk; here I add some yogurt.  My idea actually is a riff  (a mistake I made and liked) from a recipe created by dessert guru and Parisian blogger David Lebovitz.  See the original here.  (See my first attempts and info on how to make a firmer cheese here.)

Imagine pasta in the summer and no hot kitchen?   Try this:

grilled eggplant and sausage pasta made on the grill
           serves 4                 

 

 
directions:  (ingredients below)

1.  On the grill’s side burner (or on stove indoors):   bring to a boil a kettle of salted water with a couple of springs of fresh basil and several grinds of black pepper.  This takes a while outside, so start here.  When it boils, add 1# whole wheat linguine.  I like Whole Foods 365 brand; it’s luscious.  Cook until al dente — where your teeth are stopped just gently as you bite into it.  (Read package directions.)
2.  Heat oiled grill to medium heat and add 2 sliced unpeeled Japanese eggplant*, 2 sliced medium zucchini, and 2 large onions sliced.  Grill, watching closely, until nicely browned grill marks appear on one side  and turn.  Continue grilling until vegetables are almost tender.   Remove to a large pasta bowl or pot.  Sprinkle with a bit of kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper and toss.

3.  Grill 4 Italian sausages (buy locally made if you can), turning once or twice, until thoroughly cooked–about 6 minutes on each side.   Remove from grill, let rest a couple of minutes, and slice into rounds about 1/3″ thick. (Juices should run clear.)  Add to the pasta bowl with the vegetables and toss.
4.  Meantime, microwave two minced cloves of garlic with a little olive oil in microwave-safe container on high about 30 seconds.  (I use a 1-cup Pyrex measuring cup.)   Stir into the meat and vegetable mixture.  

5.  When pasta is done, drain well, and add to the meat and vegetables.  Add 2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes or cherry tomatoes cut in half.  Toss with 2-3 T extra-virgin olive oil. (Cont’. below)

                                                 If you’d like to make your own cheese, here’s how:

In 2 qt saucepan, heat 2 c whole milk, 1 c plain yogurt, 1 t salt, 2t vinegar for a few minutes.  When curds form, pour the mixture through a colander or sieve lined with 2 layers of cheese cloth.

Let drain a few minutes.

Et voila…cheese for your pasta

Yum.

                                           

6.  Stir in 2 cups homemade or store-bought ricotta and 1/4 cup shredded fresh basil.  Sprinkle with kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper. a pinch of crushed red pepper and stir well. Taste and re-season.  Serve hot or at room temperature with grated Parmesan cheese, if you like.

    

*If using regular eggplant, choose one that’s 1 to 1 1/2 #, firm, with shiny dark purple skin. Unlike the Japanese eggplant, you’ll need to peel the larger one before grilling.
ingredients list
  • 1# whole wheat pasta (I like 365 Whole Foods brand)
  • sprig of basil for the pasta water, plus 1/4 cup shredded to finish dish 
  • kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 Japanese eggplant, unpeeled, and sliced (or 1 large eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2″ x 2″ pieces)
  • 2 medium zucchini, unpeeled and sliced 1/4″-1/2″ thick
  • 2 peeled onions, sliced 1/2″ thick
  • Canola oil to oil grill
  • 4 Italian sausages
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 4 T extra-virgin olive oil, divided (a bit to cook garlic; the rest to toss with pasta toward end)
  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes or cherry tomatoes cut in half
  • 2 cups fresh ricotta, homemade or store-bought
  • crushed red pepper
  • Parmesan cheese, grated (optional)
two-dog kitchen and around the ‘hood

Summers in Colorado are hot days and cool (sometimes cold) nights.   Wild lightning storms across huge skies.  Stacks of summer reading take me to Italy and beyond.

I adored this.

 Testing recipes for the soup cookbook keep me in the kitchen mornings before it’s too hot.

Grinding spices for the Red Lentil (vegetarian) I’m working on.  How do you spice your Red Lentil soup?

 Neighbors pop by for a drink on the porch or get together to watch a movie in a cool basement.  Friends come for supper to try the soups on the back deck.  So far, I like the Corned Beef-Potato with Irish Cheddar best.  But I’m far from done and even that one needs working on.

Last night off the back deck after the rain we both love and fear due to mudslides.

Giving up on corner grass…planting ajuga and a bit of sod.

Tuck’s fave pose here.

You’re where I want to be, Mom.

Leaving the robin’s nest on front porch light.  Too sweet.
Close-up:  She used our Russian sage.  A work of art by an animal.

Temporary herb garden outside the front door.

Our columbine in Colorado–chooses its own spot.  Illegal to pick.

Our front yard here in the Springs.

On the front walkway—wild yarrow and milk weed I’ve left.  I usually call this the “Primrose Path.”  But I’ve yet to plant primrose this year.

Bees and Russian Sage with my one pot of annuals that must be watered daily or twice-daily.

 Sing a new song,
Alyce

38 Power Foods — Green Peppers — Alyce’s Ratatouille

38 Power Foods — Green Peppers — Alyce’s Ratatouille

IMG_0692

Ah, summer.  Here’s my favorite use for green peppers.   Right after my mom’s stuffed green peppers, that is.

I loved the movie (Ratatouille).
Also “The Big Night”
And “Babette’s Feast”
Try them.   Food movies.  Ah.

I love the real deal better.   If you become a devoted cook, your world will revolve around the seasons.  Stews in winter.  Apple pie in the fall.  Berries in the spring.  And…
High summer: Tons of vegetables at their peak.

Continue reading “38 Power Foods — Green Peppers — Alyce’s Ratatouille”

Pasta with Eggplant and Pancetta

Pasta with Eggplant and Pancetta

What’s in your frig?  Make pasta for a cool fall evening.  Pancetta helps.

We lived for four years in Dayton, Ohio.  How at home I felt there.  The flora and fauna welcomed me warmly (and coldly) as, indeed, the atmosphere felt just like northern Illinois where I grew up.  The summers were wilting (and our air conditioning never worked right) and the winters were damned cold.  Gray.  A long period of waiting for spring was how some approached it.  I felt differently.  I adore late fall; Thanksgiving is my favorite season.  I’m entranced with Advent and greet it positively every year, knowing my walk to the stable will be a new one.  Again.

But, in Ohio, summer seemed to disappear without a trace one wet day in October.  It happened in such a way that a week or two later, you wondered what had happened.  There were weeks of cool, sunny times and God’s great leaves flying.  Lovely Saturdays at the farm watching cider being pressed.  Nights on hayrides with bonfires later for hot dogs.  A morning you dug out the sweaters.  Any time, though, an 80 degree day could still pop up.  Really.  And then, one day on the way to work, you knew that day wasn’t appearing.  At all.  Anymore.  It had been raining for a week or two, getting colder all the time.  It just rained itself right into winter.  And gray it was.

We’re on the edge of that here.  Mostly the days are still perfect.  A light sweater or short jacket needed sometimes.  Flowers still in bloom—somewhat.  The yard is drooping mightily, though, and the window boxes have definitely seen better days.  I broke down and bought mums and pansies, but haven’t gotten them all out yet.  And, truthfully, taking care of the yard (and watering) is beginning to seem like yesterday’s diapers.  But today it’s rainy and there’s no sun.  At all.  Gabby still has her head hanging out by the window in case that German Shepherd or Black Lab has the nerve to walk by on the sidewalk.  But soon she gives up and puts her head down on the rug near my chair.  The other doggies are staying home more these days.

The oven can stay on for bread now.

What will I do with these?

Why does it have to rain, Mom?

Droop.

 A bunch of green tomatoes appeared on the back porch from the gardening neighbor.  We won’t have enough sun or heat to ripen them.   I go around turning lights on during the day.  Think of making a big pot of beef vegetable soup.  Planned activities are a girls’ night at Scusi and then out to a movie.  Not a picnic or outdoor concert or backyard cook-out.  This morning I ordered a long down coat and tall, warm boots.  I’m looking for a freezer so I can make Christmas cookies ahead for Drop in and Decorate.  We’re getting our floors redone before snow flies.  That’s what time it is.

 

Oh, we’re not at the point of storing the patio furniture.   Or of skipping Saturday breakfast on the porch.  But it’s coming.  And I’ve just woken up to it.  I still get up and put on capris and flip flops.  Sometimes I change.  Not always.

Last night, it was cold enough for a filling and warm dinner of whatever’s in frig for pasta.  I occasionally blog these instant meals (and lately I’m doing it often) because that’s how so many of us have to eat.  If we can even get THAT much cooked.  I have friends who are happy to have time to pull out cheese, apples, and crackers because that’s all there’s time or energy for.  But listen, 15-20 minutes will give you this admirable and filling meal.  You’ll be busy the whole time, but you can put on Vivaldi while you do it and you’ll definitely have time to set the table in a welcoming way.
 

Well maybe not quite like this, but why not set an attractive table?

 If you must (and who knows?), throw all of the vegetables in the food processor (except the tomatoes) and get it done even faster.  (Note:  I keep chopped pancetta on my freezer door all of the time.  There’s almost nothing it won’t do.  And, yes, a bit of American bacon will work.)

As this is more a method than a recipe, I write it in steps.  Read it through to understand the process and then make it yourself.  Boil the pasta, fry the pancetta (or bacon or ham), add vegetables, garlic and herbs, put it together and serve with cheese.  So there.  Maybe you need read no further.  But go on.

Pasta with Eggplant and Pancetta  serves 2  generously with a bit leftover for someone’s lunch

1.  Put a covered 10 quart stockpot 3/4 full of salted and peppered water on to boil. Sprinkle with a pinch of crushed red pepper and dried oregano.  Add  1/2 # whole wheat pasta when the water is boiling and cook about 10-11 minutes until al dente.  Drain and reserve.
2.  Meantime, in a large, deep skillet, brown about 1/4 cup of chopped pancetta or bacon.  When it’s crisp, remove it to a plate lined with paper towels.   Leave fat from pancetta in the pan.
3.  Into that same pan, add 1 large chopped onion, 1 large chopped carrot, 1 chopped medium yellow squash or zucchini, 1/2 cup chopped, peeled eggplant, 1/2 sliced or whole fresh spinach leaves,  and 1/2 cup chopped red or yellow pepper.  Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (or more to taste) and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.  Vegetables can be changed to suit what’s in your crisper.  I do think you need onions, garlic, something for bulk like squash or eggplant, and fresh herbs of some sort.
4.  Cook vegetables until they’re softened and add 3 cloves garlic, minced.  Stir and cook for 1-2 minutes.  Add 2 chopped ripe tomatoes (or a cup of cherry tomatoes) and 1/4 cup chopped parsley and/or basil.  Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon dried oregano and 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper.  Return pancetta to the pan and stir well. 
5. Add drained pasta to skillet.  Mix and toss well, using tongs, and taste for seasoning.
6. Serve in pasta bowls with grated  Parmesan or Romano cheese at the table.

Wine:  We had a little Barbera leftover from burgers on the grill, so we drank that.  A big Chardonnay would work, as would Zinfandel or even a Cabernet Sauvignon.  While we think of big reds as the province of big meats, they stand up and support a hearty, vegetable-filled pasta–especially if it’s topped with a strong cheese like Parmesan or flavored with a warm, deep meat like pancetta.

Two-Dog Kitchen and Around the ‘Hood

The singing fellowship:

Choir came to lunch Saturday.  Chicken chili, sangria, brownies.

Good bud Kim all but moved in to the kitchen to keep things going.  Love you, Kim!

Nope, we didn’t sing.  Just visited and ate.  Rested our pipes.

Fall–Time for Grooming.   Didn’t much like it.  But they looked good for the choir.

Exhausted after their baths and trims.  What did we have to do that for? And what’s with the bandanas?

 My life is currently full of playing catch-up at work.  Reading all the fall lectionary texts so I can choose appropriate music.  Off and on for a couple of weeks, the dining room table is full of music, bibles, notes, computer, etc.  I run back and forth trying to familiarize myself with the music library at church.  What’s there?  What’s possible to learn (and do well) with only two rehearsals?  Listening to anthems online. Listening to the choir.  Attending one lectionary study at Cabrini Catholic church  and one Bible Study with the neighborhood women.  Praying for a co-worker, who had to undergo emergency surgery.  Looking at a choir retreat in November.  Dreaming of the cantata much later than I typically do.  And I’m sooo excited and…

 I’m so busy …  Being grateful, grateful, grateful for the opportunity.  Thanks, God.

Sing a new song,
Alyce

Grilled Eggplant-Sausage Pasta with Fresh Mozzerella or What to Cook off the Plane

Grilled Eggplant-Sausage Pasta with Fresh Mozzerella or What to Cook off the Plane

Italian sausage, red peppers, grilled eggplant, onions, garlic…a little fresh mozzerella.  Throw in some pasta and–

Note to readers:  for an updated, totally done on the grill version, please click here

    Coming off a plane, I’m often greeting thoughts like, “Did I leave anything at home that’ll work for dinner?”  I usually stop by the store anyway for fresh produce or something to fix quickly.  Yesterday, as I traveled home from Minneapolis, I remembered a couple of eggplants wilting in the crisper.  Odd phrase, eh?  In other words, they needed to be used.  What else?  Italian sausage in the freezer that I had put in at Christmas, but hadn’t yet cooked.  Sounded like a grilled pasta sauce night to me.  Mid-winter, I often am jonesing for something grilled.  I have two grill pans:  one is a square Calphalon and the other is a large, rectangular cast-iron grill that is flat on one side and ribbed on the other to siphon grease off the food or to provide the ubiquitous grill marks.

  I did run in for veggies for a chopped salad…bibb lettuce, radicchio, cilantro, parsley, red pepper, tomatoes…  I already had a little blue cheese.

Right now, the eggplant is sliced, salted and dribbling its dew (weeping copiously? bawling like a baby?) into a towel.  I’m about to start the pasta water, heat the grill, and start grilling cut pieces of sausage.  Oh, and a Seghesio Barbera’s waiting on the table.  (If you don’t know Seghesio, grab one of their zinfandels next time you’re in the wine shop and try that with grilled sausage and peppers, pizza or anything grilled.)  The recipe isn’t written, but will come together as I cook…and I’ll place it below the pics….  Enjoy!

Slice the eggplant thickly, salt and let drain on toweling.

Ah, California wine.

Ah, Italian tomatoes!

Indoor grilling of cut Italian sausage and eggplant

Sauteed red peppers, onions, mushrooms and tomatoes…a little wine didn’t hurt.

Cook some pasta.

The sauce comes together with the addition of the grilled eggplant and sausage

Adding the mozzerella and fresh basil to the hot pasta.  Mix this with the sauce and…

Vieni a mangiare! (Come and eat!)
 

Grilled Eggplant-Sausage Pasta with Fresh Mozzerella serves 6  (8-10 for a first course)

  • 1# pasta such as penne, mostaccioli, tortiglione or rigatoni
  • 2 T olive oil, divided
  • 1# Italian sausage (sweet or hot), cut into 2″ pieces
  • 1 large eggplant, peeled, and sliced into 1/2-1″ pieces (salted and drained on toweling)
  • 1 large onion, chopped coarsely
  • 1 red pepper, chopped coarsely
  • 8 oz fresh, whole mushrooms, wiped, trimmed and cut into halves
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 28 oz can tomatoes (I like Italian-canned tomatoes)  or 4 chopped fresh tomatoes-in summer only
  • 1/4 c red wine or water
  • sprinkle ea of salt, pepper and crushed red pepper
  • 1 T honey
  • 1 pint container of fresh mozzerella
  • 1/2 c fresh chiffonade (julienned) basil (or 2t dried basil); save out a little for garnish
  • 1/2 c Parmesan, grated (opt)
  1. Bring pot of well- salted and peppered water (10 qts) to boil, reduce heat and hold.  (Bring it back to boil soon as you get part-way through making sauce.) I like 1 T dried or fresh basil in my water, too.
  2. Heat oven to 250 F and place oven-safe bowls or plates in to warm.
  3. Heat grill to medium (10 min) and wipe with an oiled paper towel.  Add sausage and eggplant.
  4. Meantime, heat saute pan with rest of oil and add onion, red peppers and mushrooms.  Cook until nearly tender and add garlic.  Saute together for 1-2 minutes and add tomatoes, wine, salt, pepper, red pepper and honey.  Stir, bring to a boil, and reduce heat.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  (More salt and/or honey will cut the acidity of the wine and tomatoes.)
  5. Bring water back to boil and add pasta.  Cook 11-13 minutes or til al dente. Drain and place back in pot.    Add mozzerella and most of the basil, saving some for garnish. Cover and hold.
  6. When sausage and eggplant are done, chop eggplant coarsely and add both to sauce. Simmer 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings again.  Add sauce to the pasta mixture and stir gently, breaking up large hunks of mozzerella.  
  7. Serve in warmed pasta bowls.  Garnish with reserved basil.  Pass Parmesan, if using.

Cook’s Note:  If you’re making this in the summertime, why not grill all of the ingredients and just use fresh tomatoes (skip wine/water, honey)  for a very light al fresco meal?  You could cook the pasta in the morning before the temperature rises, store it in the frig, and bring it out in time to let it warm to room temp.

      Two-Dog Kitchen or What’s Goin’ on in the ‘Hood:

      Back from Minnesota trip where we almost froze literally; my skin is still peeling.  The day I left Colorado, it was -20 in St. Paul.  We’re not talking wind-chill.  I was so glad Dave wasn’t coming that day.  A 6 hour delay in our airport first….  Hey, I had a wonderful time reading the NYT cover to cover, getting a good start on a novel, enjoying a long lunch, and–not so fun–listening to my fellow travelers talking on the phone all day.  (There are so many private spots in the airport; why?)

      House hunted for the third time! and this time made an offer on a house:

      The view from what might be my new kitchen window.  Lots of birds!!!

      Still job-seeking…like a million? other Americans.  I’m grateful to our president for his positive, healing speech last night. 

      More travel soon….family birthdays, inspections on new houses… and so on.
      Sunny and warm here.  Ah, Colorado!

      Happy 80th Birthday to Gene Morgan!

      Here’s Dave’s Dad, Gene, and his Mom, Lorna, at Emily’s college graduation–all smiles.   

       

      Sing a new song,

      Alyce

      …And the living is easy…

      …And the living is easy…

      I have a friend who just lives for pasta.
      Too bad she didn’t show up last night for this luscious bowl.
      Fresh tomatoes
      Olive oil
      So much garlic
      So much basil
      Brie.  Not so much.  But enough.
      I’ll just have to make it again when she can come.
      She knows who she is.
      Please let my tomatoes keep coming so we can have this again.
      First ripe tomato this year.  Planted Memorial Day weekend.  Ooh.
      This is a summer meal.
      Tomatoes are ripe.
      You can’t cook much because it’s too warm.
      The deck calls you.
      An inexpensive, but lovely white burgundy is cold in the frig.
      It doesn’t overwhelm this meal, but is just so obviously fine to drink WITH it.
      It doesn’t hide flavors and you’re not terribly aware, “Oh this is a fantastic chardonnay.”
      Tomatoes
      Basil
      Pasta
      Grilled corn
      Eggplant
      Old-fashioned garlic bread
      Come on home, honey; it’s summer at Alyce’s.
      And not for long either.  Last night was 57.
      It was 68 at 5pm tonight and windy.
      Then the rain started.
      Eat fresh herbs while you can.
      On to the food…
      This is an old SILVER PALATE recipe; it doesn’t get any better.  It’s on page 79 if you want to look at it; here is my version.  Less salt, smaller portions.  La.
                                          
      Linguine with tomatoes and basil ala Silver Palate
      I think this makes 6 smaller servings, though SP says 4-6 and uses more (1.5 #) pasta
      4 large ripe tomatoes, cut into 1/2″ cubes  (or more if you’d like)
      1 # brie, rind removed, torn into irregular pieces
      1 c fresh basil, cut into strips (save stems)
      3 garlic cloves, minced finely as you can
      1 c extra-virgin olive oil, best you can afford (yes, you can cut back on this if you must)
      1/2 t salt
      1/2 t freshly ground pepper
      1 # whole wheat linguine (I like 365 brand from Whole Foods)
      Combine tomatoes, Brie, basil, garlic and olive oil in a very large bowl.  Add 1/2 t salt and 1/2 t pepper.  Let sit 15 minutes.  Meantime, bring 8 qts of water to boil in a 10 or 12 qt stockpot.  Salt and oil the water.  Throw in the basil stems.  Add some pepper.  Add pasta and boil about 10 minutes, maybe 12 if you’re at altitude like me.  Drain and immediately add to bowl with tomato mixture.  Mix well and serve hot, warm, at room temperature or cold. 

                                    
      And what did we have with this? 
      Well, I had two ears of leftover grilled corn.
      I had an eggplant (cheapola at $1 per right now) that needed to be eaten, so Dave grilled that.
      I had an idea they should go together, so here’s what I did:

      Summer Confetti

      1T olive oil
      1/4 c red onion, chopped coarsely
      1 stalk celer, minced
      Kernels from 2 ears of corn, cut from the cob
      1 eggplant, grilled and chopped into 1/2 ” pieces
      2t jalapeno, very finely minced indeed
      1/2 medium zucchini, chopped into 1/2 ” pieces
      3T mixed fresh herbs (you could use one or many; I used marjoram, oregano, rosemary, parsley and tarragon)

      In a very large skillet, heat oil and add onion. Saute for several minutes until wilted.  Add everything else but the herbs and, stirring frequently, cook for about 10 or 12 minutes until vegetables are softened, but still holding their shape.  Garnish with any fresh herbs and serve hot, warm, at room temp or cold the next day.

      Dessert?  Oh, it’s Colorado peach time!

      So…..

      This was Friday and Saturday night dessert.  David Lebovitz’ Vanilla Frozen Yogurt and Colorado Peaches. 

      Two-Dog Kitchen and/or Around the Hood
          I’ve started a new interim job at The Church at Woodmoor, a non-denominational church up in Monument, Colorado.  I’m directing the choir through Advent.  Come visit!  Worship is 10am.

      At home:

      Skippy’s here this weekend.

      A Saturday run up to Florrisant to the Thunderbird Inn with our neighbors.
      Bison and bottled beer.  MMM.

      Skippy trying to get into the Pinot glass cabinet

      Stuck on the deck–through the glass.
      See the animals in their new on-line movie, a big hit on youtube:
      Sing a new song,
      Alyce