Eggplant “meatballs”

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With the holidays just around the corner, I am sure that you are starting to freak out over what to serve for your holiday cocktail party, work potluck or what to serve when your favorite vegetarian comes to dinner.

I have been playing around with some recipes to make eggplant into “meatballs” (without the meat).   My adventure in the kitchen started this summer.  I took a few wrong turns, but I think that I finally have these perfected.

These are baked, so they are quite healthy.  Serve hot out of the oven as an appetizer or main course with a tomato sauce.

 

Eggplant “meatballs”

 

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 white onion, minced

1 large eggplant

1 cup water

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Fresh flat leaf parsley

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup bread crumbs

Salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and dried oregano and/or basil

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper

Heat a large skillet over medium.  Add olive oil and onion, salt, pepper, pepper flakes and oregano.  This should become aromatic.  Add garlic and eggplant that has been cubed (with its skin) and cup of water.  Reduce down to low and cook for 20 minutes.  The water will reduce down and you are then left with a pan filled with a soggy mess.   Allow this to cool for a few minutes.

In a large bowl, mix grated cheese, a handful of chopped parsley, eggs and breadcrumbs.  Add in eggplant mixture and stir.  Add more breadcrumbs if the mixture is too moist.    You then must refrigerate the mixture for 15 minutes (trust me, I skipped this in my trial runs.  It makes all the difference).  Roll into balls.

Place the eggplant “meatballs” on the baking sheet (don’t forget the parchment paper or else they will stick)  Bake for 30 minutes.  I like to flip them over after around 15 minutes to get them crisp on both sides.

Shakshuka

 

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Shakshuka [shahk-SHOO-kah] originally comes from North Africa.  A Tunisian dish with eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce.  In my research of the history of this dish, it turns out that it is also popular in Israel, where they eat it for breakfast. Each country seems to have its own variation.

This is a new favorite.  I have been playing a bit with the traditional recipe and added some new things: feta, spinach and chickpeas (this really gives it some extra heft and protein).
It couldn’t be any easier to make.  A one pot wonder so easy clean up.
Shakshuka
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion (thinly sliced)
1 large red pepper (seeded and thinly sliced)
2 cloves of garlic (minced or thinly sliced)
1 tablespoon of ground cumin
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
Pinch of Cayenne pepper (I use more than a pinch)
1 large can (28 ounce) of chopped tomatoes
Salt and pepper
6-10 eggs
Feta cheese (about a cup, add more if you like, but be careful as it is salty)
Cilantro
1 bag (frozen) or 1 bunch (fresh) of spinach
1 can of rinsed chickpeas
 
Heat oven to 400 degrees.
In a large cast iron pan (that can be put into the oven) saute onions and peppers together with the olive oil on medium heat for around 15 minutes.  Add garlic, spices and tomatoes and simmer for a few more minutes.  Add spinach and chickpeas. You want some of the water to evaporate and the sauce to be on the thick side.  Stir in 1/2 of the feta cheese.  Crack the eggs over mixture, season with salt and pepper and bake for around 7-10 minutes.  You want the eggs to set and not over cook (to the point that the whites are no longer translucent). Sprinkle with cilantro and the feta cheese.

Summer cooking

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I haven’t shared a recipe in a while.  Last night, I was looking to create something tasty, satisfying with some summer colors and flavors.

Simply steam asparagus and top with poached eggs (soft boiled or fried work too).  I added some beautiful sweet cherry tomatoes from the farmers market and a bit of avocado.  Pepper, Maldon salt (my go to salt) and lemon zest.  I like to keep the eggs a bit soft so that that the yolk breaks over the asparagus creating the perfect sauce.

Ideas for your next meal or pretty enough for a dinner party.  Bon appetit!

Carrot Orange Ginger Soup

Carrots

When I wake up on Saturday mornings, the first thing I think of is getting to the farmers market (well, after my coffee). Wandering the stalls to chat with the vendors and see the freshest produce of the season.  This week, baskets of carrots caught my eye and making a soup came to mind.  Sometimes not having a recipe can lead you to do something creative in the kitchen.

This soup couldn’t be any easier to make.  It is a go-to that keeps for days. Perfect to pack for lunch or something to look forward to when coming home after a long day.  Bon appetit!

 

Carrot Orange Ginger Soup

1 pound of carrots (about 6 large carrots)

4 cups stock (I use my own homemade stock – see here)

1 yellow onion

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 clove of garlic

3 tablespoons minced ginger

Juice from 2 oranges (I use navel oranges)

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Preheat oven to 400 and roast carrots for around 20 minutes.

In a large stock pot over medium heat, warm the oil and then add in the chopped onion and chopped garlic.  Saute for around 5 minutes until onions are golden and translucent.  Add the stock and roasted carrots, orange juice and ginger.  Simmer for 10 minutes.

In a blender or food processor, blend the soup in batches.  Serves 4-6 people.

You can garnish with orange zest or herbs if you desire.

STRAWBERRY RHUBARB CRISP

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This past weekend at my neighborhood farmer’s market, the strawberries were perfection.  Perfectly ripe.  Sweet as candy.  I could smell the fragrance from aisles away.  I think that I was so intoxicated by the smell and taste – I ended up purchasing an entire flat (12 baskets).  Strawberries for breakfast, strawberries for a snack, freezing some to make smoothies.  I still had more than I knew what to do with, so I decided to make a strawberry rhubarb crisp to bring along to Sunday brunch with friends.
I looked up a few recipes that had a lot of sugar, so I decided to tweak a few things, like cutting the sugar by adding in an orange instead. Here is my version.  You could serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream -or just enjoy by itself.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

6 stalks of fresh rhubarb, cut into 1 inch pieces

3 baskets of fresh strawberries, hulled and halved

1 cup of brown sugar

Zest of one orange

Juice of one orange

1 cup + 1 tablespoon of flour

pinch of salt

1 cup of oatmeal

1 stick of butter (at room temperature)

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, toss the strawberries, 1/2 of the brown sugar, orange zest and orange juice with 1 tablespoon of flour.
Pour this mixture into a large buttered baking dish (I used a large, shallow Le Creuset).
In another bowl – or the can use the same one (which I did to save on the mess), add the rest of sugar, 1 cup of flour, salt, oatmeal, butter and vanilla.  Combine the mixture until it forms a crumble-like consistency. Sprinkle evenly over the fruit, and bake for 1 hour.  The fruit should be bubbling and the crumble a golden brown color.  I made this the night before, covered it and left it at room temperature.  I imagine it would be excellent right out of the oven – still warm and bubbling. This served 8 people by the way.  Enjoy!

GOAT CHEESE

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To really know me well, you have to know that I love goat cheese (or chèvre or whatever you want to call it.)

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I love the tart flavor and consistency.  When I found out that I could tour a goat cheese farm in the French countryside, I was beside myself.   As you can see from the photo, I really do take my goat cheese eating pretty seriously, as I came home from the farm with all of this loot!  Goat cheese that was soft, aged, coated in pepper, spices and shallots.  I had the best cheese tasting of my life!   The one thing that I noted in my tasting was that these cheeses tasted much less salty.  I later learned that goat cheesees are often heavily treated with salt to prevent decay.

SWEET POTATO GNOCCHI

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I have been back in the kitchen again lately.  The chill in the air makes me want to stay in and just be cozy.

For a while I have been making ricotta gnocchi.  But I wanted to change it up a bit.  I noticed sweet potatoes the other day at the farmers market, and thought about marrying the sweet potato with the ricotta to make a sweet potato gnocchi.   As for what you put on top of it: I always like to leave those decisions to you.  I took two bunches of kale and sautéed with shallots and garlic.  I then added some Italian sausage and red pepper flakes for a bit of a kick.  You could do a version with a brown butter and sage or mushrooms.  I love to have a base recipe and then be able to play with it depending on my mood and the available fresh produce.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi

For the gnocchi:
3 red- skinned sweet potatoes
1 container of fresh ricotta (whole milk)
1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
2 cups of all-purpose flour

Wash and dry the sweet potatoes (keeping the skin on), prick them with a fork and bake for around 45 minutes.  (I hear you can microwave them faster, but I have never had a microwave so I am not sure how long I would suggest if you are using this method.)  Cut the baked potatoes in half (length wise) and scoop out the flesh into a large bowl.  Discard the skin.  These are going to be some hot potatoes – so let them cool down a tad before burning your fingers.   Using a fork, mash the sweet potatoes until then are not lumpy.   Then add in the ricotta, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.  Stir thoroughly.   Then add in the flour – 1/2 a cup at a time.

Lightly flour your work surface and roll the dough on your surface or between your hands into long snakes.   Then cut into equal pieces.  Repeat until you have completed the large ball of dough.
I had a baking sheet (with some flour) on the side to place the cut gnocchi.  You can use the back of a fork to create a tine mark if you like.  I personally skip that step.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add gnocchi slowly (don’t just dump the whole tray in at one time!).  The gnocchi floats to the top and cooks in about 1-2 minutes.

Remove with a slotted spoon and you are ready to serve.

Let me know what you think.  This is going to be my new go to fall dinner party recipe for sure!

SEMI-HOMEMADE PASTA

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I have been back in the kitchen lately.  Experimenting and playing around.

My latest creation is sort of a twist on homemade pasta.   I don’t really have the patience to make fresh pasta dough – so my solution is to pick up already made flat sheets at my local pasta shop.    You can let your imagination run wild with fillings.  I sauteed mushrooms, kale and fresh corn and then added an egg yolk to the center.   I took the egg white and mixed with a little water and made a wash and then covered the bottom layer with another layer of pasta to make a large ravioli-like pocket.   They didn’t take too long to cook (maybe 4-5 minutes) in boiling water.  I wanted to make I didn’t overcook the yolk so that – as I cut into the pasta – the yolk would still be runny.  A touch of browned butter on top before serving and you have a pretty simple meal.

Sometimes nothing hits the spot like bowl of pasta.  Don’t you agree?

SMASHED ROASTED POTATOES

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People often ask where I learned to cook.  My grandmother and mother were both amazing cooks and I have such fond memories of time spent with them in the kitchen as a child.

 
When I was a teenager, one of my best friends in New York did a lot of catering for events and parties.  I spent hours in her kitchen helping and immersing myself.  While our cooking styles and flavors are very different, I always love asking her for new ideas and secrets.  I love listening to what flavors and spices she is using and then taking her ideas and changing things around a bit to customize the recipe to make it my own. This is a potato recipe that has recently turned into a huge favorite.   I made them last weekend and am already craving them again!

SMASHED ROASTED POTATOES

I like using baby Yukon Golds.  But you could use red potatoes too.
Boil the potatoes until they are almost soft (keeping them a bit firm is ok – as they are still going to cook longer in the oven).
While the potatoes are boiling, preheat your oven to 400-450 degrees.
Lay the potatoes out on a parchment-lined baking sheet.   (At this point you could wait and continue the rest of the cooking for a dinner party and serve them hot).   I then use a water glass (nothing fancy) and a press down each potato until it is slightly smashed down.  Drizzle with olive oil.
Bake for 20 minutes.  (Toss them and check on them after about 10 minutes.)   The skins should get nice and crispy.   Finish with coarse sea salt and pepper and a fresh herb.  I have made them a few times with flat leaf parsley.  This weekend I had chives.   You can also add some roasted garlic for a nice kick.

Enjoy!

Salmon with Spinach

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I haven’t shared a recipe for a while.

As you know, I try to keep things relatively simple in the kitchen.  Easy and healthy are my goals these days.

Last night, I made this — and it is defiantly going to be added into my repertoire of go-to recipes.

 

I preheated the oven to 400 degrees (I like to cook things on high heat).

Then I lined a cookie sheet with parchment paper and add heaping bunches of fresh spinach.

I then placed salmon fillets (with some salt and pepper) on top of the spinach, and topped the salmon with chopped up olives with garlic and tarragon.

10 minutes in the oven.  A few minutes to rest after cooking.  The result was tasty and filling.

 

Hope that you had a good weekend!

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