28 October 2016

Recipe review: Food & Wine's grilled eggplant involtini

I buy eggplant because they look fantastic at the store, and then I have to do something kind of special with them to convince people to eat them (ahem). So, this Food and Wine recipe from their August issue sounded great, because 1) we are grilling every weekend the weather allows it until the snow starts to fly and 2) it sounds delicious. It WAS delicious, but be forewarned, it's a bit labor intensive, especially if you weren't already going to grill and just happened to have room to throw some sliced eggplant on there at the end. But if you're trying to do something special, and if you already like eggplant Parmesan, you should keep this  in mind.

My slight alterations are built into the recipe below.

Grilled Eggplant Involtini

Serves 4

6 pounds tomatoes
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup chopped basil leaves
1 cup cooked long-grain white rice
2 medium Italian eggplants, sliced lengthwise 1/4 inch thick (about 36 slices)
1 cup shredded fresh mozzarella cheese (8 ounces)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for sprinkling

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Using a paring knife, core the tomatoes and mark an X on the bottom of each one. Add half of the tomatoes to the saucepan at a time and blanch until they begin to soften and the skins are wrinkled, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer the hot tomatoes to a work surface and let cool slightly, then peel and coarsely chop. Working in 2 batches, puree the tomatoes in a food processor; you should have about 9 1/2 cups of puree.

In the saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the onion and a generous pinch of salt and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened and beginning to brown, 8 minutes. Add the tomato puree and the red wine bring to a boil. Simmer over moderately high heat, stirring frequently, until the tomato sauce is thickened and reduced to 5 1/2 cups, 5 minutes. Discard the basil and season the sauce with salt and pepper. Let cool slightly.

Light a grill or preheat a grill pan. Brush the eggplant slices with oil and grill over moderately high heat, turning once, until tender and lightly charred, about 4 minutes per batch. Transfer the eggplant to a work surface and season with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 350°. In a large bowl, combine the rice with 1 cups of the tomato sauce. Fold in the 1/2 cup of the mozzarella, chopped basil and 1/2 cup of the Parmesan. Season the filling with salt and pepper.

Spread a thin layer of the tomato sauce in the bottom of each of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Dollop about 2 tablespoons of the rice filling near one end of each eggplant slice and roll into a tight cylinder; arrange in the prepared baking dish, seam side down. Spoon 1 cup of the tomato sauce over the involtini and top with the remaining 1/2 cup of mozarella and a little more Parmesan. Bake the involtini until the filling is hot and the sauce is just ­bubbling, 15 to 20 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

21 October 2016

The easiest (guest-worthy) pasta dish you will ever make

This is one-pot pasta at its best: in the amount of time it takes to cook the pasta, you end up with a creamy, comforting dish that rivals any crappy take-out you're considering picking up on your way home from work.  Last-minute drop-ins? It works for that, too. 

Creamy Pasta with Mushrooms
Serves 4
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
3 tablespoons sliced sun-dried tomatoes
4 oz. cream cheese
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1/2 pound fettuccine pasta

Bring a pot of well-salted water to boil.  Cook the fettuccine according to package directions together with the sliced mushrooms. 

When pasta is al dente, drain the pot, reserving about a ½ cup of water.  Stir in the garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, and cream cheese, along with about 2 tablespoons of the pasta water to start.  You should have a creamy sauce; if it’s too thick, keep adding more pasta water, one tablespoon at a time.  Then stir in the Parmesan cheese and chopped thyme and serve.

14 October 2016

Fall edition: favorite blogs

You can keep your pumpkin spice, I love me some cider in October!  Tried-and-true Sunset magazine has a lovely little post on how to cook with cider. I especially love   the sparkling root vegetable smash.

The First Mess (besides having an adorable set of sketches), has my current favorite recipe for squash, which I grow every year to please others, but often struggle to eat happily. The crispy squash bowl with dill cream is perfect and easy in every way, and it is my go-to lunch whenever I'm home to cook it.

It's from last year, but this one-one chicken autumn chicken dinner is the easiest way to throw all the best of fall in the oven at once (and the most comforting, and the best for last-minute entertaining...)

One can dream...here's 20 beautiful European destinations for fall travel. And since it's post-tourist season, I hear the housing's cheaper...

Closer to home, the Rockies offer some pretty spectacular views, too, as does the Midwest!

07 October 2016

Last-ditch summer recipes

I don't know where you all are coming from as you read this, but here in the Rockies, it's still (sort of) summer, and I am scooping up every tomato, squash, and peach I can!  If you're in the same boat, or you're able to get your hands on some discounted, imperfect produce nearby, here's what I'm making this weekend:

Tomato Pie: a Southern favorite lightened up a bit here with the removal of all the mayo (?!?!) There's still a ton of cheese, though...

Serves 6

1 whole wheat pie crust, prebaked
4 large tomatoes
1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons green onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 375 F. Cut the end of the tomato off, and scoop out the seeds (this will keep your pie from being too watery). Once the seeds and the majority of the juice have been removed, cut the tomatoes into disks. Next, combine the cheddar, mozzarella, green onions, salt, and Greek yogurt in a bowl. Line the tomatoes directly on top of the crust. Sprinkle the basil on top of the first layer of tomatoes. Layer any leftover tomatoes on top of the basil. Top with the cheese, Greek yogurt mixture. Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top. Bake at 375 until cheese is melted and bubbly, about 30-35 minutes.

Allow to cool about 10 minutes before cutting.

Happy Hour Snacks
Zucchini Rounds

Makes 8 servings

2 zucchini
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil (about 24)
3 ounces goat cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Slice zucchini into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. (You should have about 24 slices.) Lay out on large platter; season with salt and pepper.

Place a sun-dried tomato on each slice, then top each tomato with a pinch of goat cheese. Sprinkle tops with chopped chives, and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil; serve.

Super Quick Peach Galette    

Serves 6-8

1 whole wheat crust (refrigerated roll-out variety)
1 lb peaches, about 4 medium, not overly ripe
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 tablespoon butter

Slice peaches into 1/2″ thick slices. Place peaches in a medium bowl and sprinkle with flour, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla. Stir gently with a spatula just until combined.

On a sheet of parchment paper, roll the dough into a 12″ circle. The parchment paper makes transferring and cleanup a cinch! Place the parchment paper and dough into a rimmed baking sheet.

Arrange the peaches in circles over the dough working from the outside in. Leave a 1.5″ to 2″ dough border. Discard any excess juices from the peaches, or your galette may overflow. It will be plenty juicy without the extra syrup. Dot the top of the peaches with small chunks of 1/2 tbsp butter.

Fold the edges of the gallette up and over the peaches, pinching the overlapping edges together to form a nice seal. Try to patch up any cracks in the dough. Bake for 18-22 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the peach juices are syrupy. Let sit 15 minutes before serving.