Japanese Grilled Eggplant

So for the blog I usually tend to stick with recipes for complete meals, whether it's an entree, a soup/stew or salad. But I made a great side dish tonight that I had to share.

It's a Japanese-style grilled eggplant that Joe and I both loved. I served it along with the soba noodles with spinach I blogged about a couple weeks ago. They complemented each other perfectly and made a tasty, healthy Asian-inspired vegetarian meal.

Japanese Grilled Eggplant
  • 2 large or 4 small eggplants
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon ginger root, grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup scallions, sliced
Preheat an outdoor grill or stove-top grill pan and spray lightly with some cooking spray. Slice the eggplants on the diagonal into 1/2-inch-thick pieces. Grill, turning as needed, until lightly charred and tender, about 7 to 9 minutes. Remove to a serving plate.

In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, lemon juice, vinegar, ginger, and garlic until blended. Drizzle over eggplant and then sprinkle the eggplant with scallions.

Tunisian Vegetable Stew

File this recipe under "makes your house smell like a Berber spice market." Tantalizing, no? This dish is a lovely Tunisian vegetable stew from one of my favorite cookbooks. I've made it a few times myself and have even coerced my Mom into preparing it at home during one of my visits.

Tunisian cuisine is an exotic blend of Mediterrean and desert ingredients. According to good ol' Wikipedia, lots of cultures have had an influence on its food: from Phoenicians, Arabs, and Turks to the French and the aforementioned Berbers. When you add all those together, you get tasty concoctions seasoned with coriander, cinnamon, hot peppers, and citrus. Of course, they're best served with a side of couscous, the national dish of Tunisia.

Tunisian Vegetable Stew
From  Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cups thinly sliced cabbage
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 green bell pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Cayenne pepper to taste
  • One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • One 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/3 cup currants or raisins (I had both, so I used a combination)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Feta cheese
  • Cooked couscous (I used whole wheat)
In a large skillet, saute the onions in the olive oil for 5 minutes, or until softened. Add the cabbage, sprinkle with salt, and continue to saute for at least 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the bell pepper, coriander, turmeric, cinnamon, and cayenne to the skillet and saute for another minute or so. Stir in the tomatoes, chickpeas, and currents and/or raisins, and simmer, covered, about 15 minutes, until the vegetables are just tender. Add the lemon juice. Serve on couscous topped with feta.

Roasted Autumn Vegetable and Noodle Toss

Dinner tonight was the kind of meal where I mess up tons of stuff, yet everything ends up turning out great anyway. But seriously, I screwed up repeatedly. I realized too late that I had no foil for wrapping the garlic; I threw it in the oven anyway, and it made little difference (well, maybe it got a little charred, but so what?). Then the garlic wouldn't mash into the fine paste I wanted, but the fact that there were big chunks of roasted garlic in the sauce was kind of awesome. And I forgot to reserve the pasta cooking water until it was almost too late.

But ultimately, this ended up being one of those really great dinners that's filling, has an intriguing blend of spices, and is actually really healthy on top of it all. I guess you could call that fool-proof.

I promise there are lots of veggies in here - they just all fell to the bottom!

Roasted Autumn Vegetable and Noodle Toss
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, sliced 1/2-inch thick
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • One small head of garlic, top sliced off, wrapped in foil
  • 12 oz uncooked egg noodles
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (reduced-fat if you prefer)
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • Cayenne pepper to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 450 F.  Spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray and place onions, carrots, and squash on it. Drizzle vegetables lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with a big pinch of salt. Roast the vegetables along with the foil-wrapped garlic for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare noodles according to package directions, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water. In a large saucepan, stir together sour cream, broth, cinnamon, ginger, cayenne and reserved cooking water. When vegetables are done, remove garlic from the foil and squeeze the flesh out of the skin into a small bowl. Mash garlic and whisk into sauce. Stir in roasted vegetables. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Add noodles and toss with sauce. Season to taste and serve.

Greek-Style Spaghetti Squash

When I was in college, we sometimes were served spaghetti squash in big trays in the Adams House dining hall. It was usually plain or accompanied by a lackluster marinara sauce. Oh, and it was dry. And unseasoned. I wasn't really that into it, so I never really thought about making it at home until I saw a big bin full of beautiful yellow spaghetti squashes at the grocery store last week.

I'm glad I decided to give it a chance, because I loved this recipe. It's so healthy, easy to make, and delicious. You just have the squash going in the microwave while you make the quick sauce on the stovetop. The whole thing can be done, start to finish, in 15 minutes. And it's waaayyy better than that stuff you get in the dining hall.

Greek-Style Spaghetti Squash
  • One large spaghetti squash
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup scallions, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • One 14-oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp freshly grated lemon zest
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese
Pierce squash with a fork in several places; place on a microwave-safe plate. Microwave on high, turning squash over every 3 minutes, until tender, about 12 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes. Cut squash in half lengthwise and scrape out seeds.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add scallions and garlic; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add diced tomatoes, chickpeas, oregano, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Increase heat to high and bring to a slow boil. Using a fork, scrape strands of squash into skillet with tomato-chickpea mixture. Cook, stirring, until squash strands are well coated; remove from heat and top with mint and feta.

A Pair of Mexican Desserts

You may have noticed that I haven't yet posted a single dessert recipe on this blog. I've been trying to stay healthy lately -- actually, I've been on a diet and have lost over 10 pounds (woot!). But tomorrow evening, I'm heading to a dinner party, and I've been charged with the task of bringing dessert. Needless to say, I'm pretty psyched for the opportunity to bake.

The dinner party is going to be Mexican cuisine -- guacamole, salsa, tacos, the works. So I obviously wanted to bring something that would fit the theme. The first thing that came to mind was Mexican chocolate. Holy smokes that stuff is delicious. Bittersweet chocolate with cinnamon and ground chilies. Yes, please.

So I made this Mexican chocolate tart. Chocolatey cookie crust, cinnamony and slightly spicy chocolate ganache filling, and cinnamon-spiced pecans. Say what?!

And of course, why bring one dessert to a party when you can bring two?! Just for kicks, I also made a batch of delicious Mexican wedding cookies. Crumbly, sweet, with a gorgeous nutty vanilla flavor. The perfect way to end a meal with friends.

Mexican Chocolate Tart with Cinnamon-Spiced Pecans
From Epicurious.com

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 1 large egg white
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon golden brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups pecan halves
  • 1 cup chocolate wafer cookie crumbs (about half of one 9-ounce package cookies, finely ground in processor)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 (3.1-ounce) disk Mexican chocolate (such as Ibarra), chopped
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Cayenne pepper to taste
For pecans:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray. Whisk all ingredients except pecans in medium bowl. Stir in pecans. Spread in single layer on sheet, rounded side up. Bake until just browned and dry, about 10 minutes. Cool on sheet. Separate nuts, removing excess coating. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.
For crust:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Blend first 4 ingredients in processor. Add melted butter; process until crumbs are moistened. Press crumbs into 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom, to within 1/8 inch of top. Bake until set, about 20 minutes. Cool on rack. 

For filling:
Bring cream to simmer in medium saucepan. Remove from heat. Add chocolates; whisk until melted. Add butter, 1 piece at a time; whisk until smooth. Whisk in vanilla, cinnamon, salt, and cayenne. Pour filling into crust. Chill until filling begins to set, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Arrange nuts in concentric circles atop tart. Chill until set, about 4 hours. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover loosely with foil and keep chilled. Serve tart with whipped cream.

Mexican Wedding Cookies
From The Joy of Cooking
  • 1 cup pecans
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, plus more for dusting
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
Preheat oven to 350 F. Spread pecans on a microwave safe plate. Cook uncovered in the microwave on high power for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. They will be very aromatic and feel hot to the touch, but they should not brown. Cool, then grind them finely in a food processor

Grease or line 2 cookie sheets. Beat butter, 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, salt, and vanilla with a hand mixer or in a stand mixer until well blended. Stir in the ground pecans and the flour. Stir until well blended. Shape into 1-inch balls and arrange about 1 inch apart on the cookie sheets. Bake, 1 sheet at a time, until the cookies are lightly browned, 12 to 15 minutes. Let stand briefly, then remove to a rack to cool. Roll the cooled cookies in confectioners' sugar.

Curried Chickpeas and Tofu

This is one of those meals that was incredibly easy to photograph because it's just so pretty and colorful. Sometimes I have to take a dozen shots before I get a photo I like, but with this one it was just one click and I was done.

On top of that fact (which I realize is probably not particularly relevant to anyone who may be reading this), this dish is also very tasty and a total snap to prepare. Start to finish, 20 minutes, tops. It's so simple that you can have a side dish going at the same time -- as you can see from the picture, I chose some simple steamed green beans.

Curried Chickpeas and Tofu
From Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced 
  • 1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil (use 2 if you are not using a non-stick skillet)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • Pinch of cayenne (optional, but great)
  • 1 cake tofu (3/4 pound), pressed for about a half hour (if you have time) and cut into cubes
  • 2 cups undrained cooked chickpeas (one 16-ounce can)
  • 2-3 tomatoes, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • Chopped fresh cilantro 
  • Plain yogurt
Saute the onion and garlic in the oil until the onions are translucent, stirring occasionally. Stir in the spices. Add the cubed tofu and cook for a minute or so, stirring constantly. Add the chickpeas and about 1/2 cup of their liquid, and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and continue to cook until thoroughly heated. Serve topped with cilantro and/or yogurt if you like.
Variations: Vegans can feel free to omit the yogurt or to use soy yogurt instead.

Fontina and Roasted Eggplant Pita Pizzas

I'm not entirely sure how to classify this recipe. It's extremely easy, but it's not quick, since it requires 45 minutes of roasting vegetables. However, if you've already got the vegetables roasted -- say, from having this the day before -- making leftovers couldn't be quicker.

One thing is clear, though. This recipe is super delicious, and the way it makes your house smell while the garlic is roasting simply cannot be described. Oh, man. So amazing. It'll make you want to roast garlic every night of the week.

 Fontina and Roasted Eggplant Pita Pizzas
  • 1 medium red onion, sliced into thin rounds
  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 1 bulb (note: not clove) garlic
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 large wheat pitas, split in half crosswise
  • 1/2 cup canned tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup fontina cheese, grated
Preheat oven to 450 F. Coat a sheet pan with olive oil cooking spray and spread onions on it; set aside. Prick eggplant all over with a fork. Coat garlic bulb with cooking spray; wrap in foil. Roast eggplant (unwrapped) and garlic (wrapped in foil) until very soft, about 45 minutes. Add onion to oven for last 20 minutes of roasting. Remove vegetables from oven and reduce temperature to 400 F.
Peel and mash eggplant; set aside. Squeeze garlic from its skin. Set pita rounds on a baking sheet and spread each with some garlic. Top with tomato sauce, eggplant, fontina and onions. Bake until crisp on the edges, about 15 to 20 minutes. Serve hot.

Roasted Eggplant and Chickpea Soup

When the weather is cold, I crave two things:
  1. Soup.
  2. Roasted stuff.
So I was pretty psyched today when Joe made me a roasted eggplant and chickpea soup for dinner. What?!

This recipe is from what I like to call Martha Stewart's "weeknight magazine" -- Everyday Food. They did a whole feature on roasted soups, but I immediately flagged this one for immediate preparation. I'm glad I did, since it's really delicious. Roasting the veggies gives it a nice full flavor, and a swirl of yogurt adds just the right amount of tang. A sprinkle of fragrant fresh oregano tops it all off.

Roasted Eggplant and Chickpea Soup
  • 2 medium eggplants, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced medium
  • 2 garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 6 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • Fresh oregano
  • Plain yogurt
Preheat oven to 400 F. In a large bowl, toss together eggplants, onion, garlic, and 4 teaspoons oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer in a roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet, leaving a wide strip of empty space at one end. In the bowl, toss chickpeas with 2 teaspoons oil. Transfer to empty space on sheet. Roast until eggplant is golden and cooked through and chickpeas are slightly crunchy, about 35 minutes.
Set chickpeas aside. Peel garlic and add to a medium pot, along with eggplant, onion, and broth. Bring mixture to a simmer over medium-high. With a potato masher or back of a wooden spoon, mash some eggplant until soup is thick and chunky. Stir in chickpeas and season to taste with salt and pepper. To serve, top with fresh oregano and plain yogurt.

Creamy Root Vegetable Stew

Finally! October has arrived, and there are a lot of reasons why it's my favorite month of the year. For example: cool weather, fall foliage, pumpkins, Halloween, scarves and tights, football, baseball... the list goes on and on. Oh, and fall food is in full swing -- at the farmer's market today, the bins were overflowing with gorgeous squashes, apples, onions, and tons of root veggies.

So for dinner tonight, I made a delicious root vegetable stew that's perfect for celebrating the start of my favorite 31 days. It's creamy, thick, filling, garlicky, herby, and just all-around wonderful on a cool night.

Creamy Root Vegetable Stew
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 3 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary
  • 2 1/2 cups diced Yukon gold potatoes (about 1 pound)
  • 2 1/4 cups diced peeled rutabaga (about 3/4 pound)
  • 2 cups diced peeled turnip (about 2/3 pound)
  • 1 1/4 cups diced peeled parsnip (about 1/2 pound)
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Crusty bread, for serving
Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add onion to pan; cook 5 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and rosemary; cook 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Stir in potato and next 5 ingredients (through the 2 cups water). Bring to a simmer; cook, covered, 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Place 3 cups soup mixture in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Return to pan. Stir in cream, pepper, and salt. Serve with bread.