Category: Homemade Cheese

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

Bacon Caprese or Make Cheese While the Sun Shines

Bacon Caprese or Make Cheese While the Sun Shines

While food trends wax and wane (Remember cupcakes?), I never-ha!-fall into the kitschy traps other foodies do.  I did make gingerbread cupcakes for Super Bowl a couple of years ago, but I would have done that anyway.  And you aren’t reading about pork belly here, though I’ve nothing against it.  But I fall off the wagon a bit about bacon.  While I am definitely NOT a bacon fanatic (and it’s on menus in quite odd places), my husband definitely IS.  But he has been a bacon fanatic since Eisenhower was president.
His favorite movie moment is in “Grumpier Old Men,”

Grandpa: What the… what the hell is this?
John: That’s lite beer.
Grandpa: Gee, I weigh ninety goddamn pounds, and you bring me this sloppin’ foam?
John: Ariel’s got me on a diet because the doc said my cholesterol’s a little too high.
Grandpa: Well let me tell you something now, Johnny. Last Thursday, I turned 95 years old. And I never exercised a day in my life. Every morning, I wake up, and I smoke a cigarette. And then I eat five strips of bacon. And for lunch, I eat a bacon sandwich. And for a midday snack?
John: Bacon.
Grandpa: Bacon! A whole damn plate! And I usually drink my dinner. Now according to all of them flat-belly experts, I should’ve took a dirt nap like thirty years ago. But each year comes and goes, and I’m still here. Ha! And they keep dyin’. You know? Sometimes I wonder if God forgot about me. Just goes to show you, huh?
John: What?
Grandpa: Huh?
John: Goes to show you what?
Grandpa: Well it just goes… what the hell are you talkin’ about?
John: Well you said you drink beer, you eat bacon and you smoke cigarettes, and you outlive most of the experts.
Grandpa: Yeah?
John: I thought maybe there was a moral.
Grandpa: No, there ain’t no moral. I just like that story. That’s all. Like that story.

So last week when I shelled out the big bucks for a pound of Nueske’s bacon at the butcher counter at Widmer’s for the summer BLTs, I didn’t blink.  In fact, I kept cooking that bacon daily to make sure it was all used before any stray pieces went bad.  You know how good your house smells when you cook bacon (Try it when you have a for sale sign out front..)?  Well, my house still smells like that.  The scent is fixed in the rugs and on the dogs, who can’t stop walking around with their noses up in the air.  Dave acts the same way.  And if there’s a fine layer of fat sprayed all over my stove, he doesn’t wipe it up.  “A little bacon grease never hurt anything.”

In the middle of that bacon for breakfast, bacon for lunch spree came a trip to the Saturday Farmer’s Market in downtown St. Paul.  For all of you who’ve never been, this is the most beautiful market in the United States.  The food that you can’t buy there doesn’t need to be bought.

Spring market bounty

Perhaps I exaggerate.  But not by much.  At the market, I gently loved a few more Minnesota tomatoes enough to coax them out of their owner’s hands and came home to make cheese for caprese.

(See how on my Dinner Place blog.)  But that bacon called.  And before I knew it, I’d fried up the last of it to tuck in between the caprese layers.  Not only that, I threw the haricots verts in a pot of boiling water for two minutes, drained them and topped them with a dop of herb butter.  (Here’s how Ina does this. Why should I reinvent the recipe?)  I couldn’t resist making a beautiful salad of the entire thing with the beans in the middle.

I don’t see a reason for putting up a recipe for the caprese either; here’s one from epicurious.com. Just add the bacon!   I will say this about my caprese:  I place the salad on a bed of spinach and I squeeze lemon over all and dust the whole thing liberally with ground sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper.  I then drizzle not too much of my balsamic vinaigrette over everything but the green beans, which are already well-seasoned with the herb butter.  Lemon on the beans–yes.  One of my favorites.

 

Love summer, my friends.

Two-Dog Kitchen and Around the ‘Hood

The end of August isn’t the end of summer, but there are signs.  The flowers look too tired to continue blooming, despite fertilizing and watering.  The road crews appear in a big hurry to get it all done.  There are Christmas decorations out in a few stores.  I’m looking for a guy to plow my driveway.  Acorns are dropping and the squirrels are very squirrely. The big tubs of mums are for sale at Ace.  Our floor refinishing (and installation in the kitchen) is scheduled so that we can do it while windows can remain open.  And, of course, in Minnesota, it’s State Fair Week!  (Half a million sticks for food used so far.  And if you don’t know what that is, it’s anything edible that will stay on a stick.  See what you dream up.)

Neighbor’s Victory Garden (from my driveway)

I close today with lovely news!  I am now newly employed as a choir director at Prospect Park United Methodist Church, which is a church just across the line in Minneapolis.  I’m thrilled, excited, and don’t have words (right) for how light my heart is.  Watch this space for news of their fine singers and what fun stuff we’re up to.   Thanks be to God.  And:  thanks to all who supported me and prayed for my employment.  Cyberhugs as you
Sing a new song,
Alyce