Friday, August 19, 2011

Dear Eggplant,

Eggplant Stacks

Curried Coconut Eggplant with Potatoes

Fried Eggplant layered with Vegetables

Eggplant Tomato Casserole
with a side of avocado salad and tostones

Eggplant Sautéed with Tomatoes

Dear Eggplant,

There's a lot we need to talk about. We've been spending so much time together lately, and there's still so much you don't know about me, nor I about you. We should really get everything out in the open. So, here it goes.

I know I'm using you in peculiar ways that you may or may not be comfortable with, but I think you should be proud of yourself for being so dynamic and open to new ideas. Honestly, I had no idea you could bend, broil, bake, and fry so luxuriously. Of course it has been hard for you, especially since I've virtually ignored your needs and desires, without consulting you before I begin to peel and slice you up. I've been selfish, I admit it. It's that when I'm with you, I lose control. Everything becomes cloudy and the next thing I know, I'm reaching into the oven and I see what I've done to you. Cut open and bleeding for the whole world to see, and me, shameless, mouth-watering with the flavors that I know are coming to me. It's pathetic, really, and I just can't seem to stop.

But, eggplant! Oh, eggplant! The color of your skin reels me in, but it's your flesh that makes me sweat. Full of Fiber, Potassium, and Vitamin B-6, I know you'll help keep me strong throughout the day. And the many ways you move! - Eggplant Parmesan, Eggplant Stacks, Curried Coconut Eggplant with Potatoes, Eggplant Tomato Casserole, Sautéed Eggplant, and Eggplant Lasagna. The sheer breadth of your range is a gluten-free lady's dream.

Enough! You know too much already.

With love and devotion,

Lizzy Loo


Eggplant Stacks

The fiance and I make this dish quite often. It's fast, easy, cheap, and it always tastes fresh and light. 

2 large eggplants, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds
1/4 cup salt, plus more for seasoning
extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
freshly ground black pepper
3 large tomatoes, cut into 1/4 inch slices
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/2 pound mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/4 inch slices

The first and most important thing I have learned about cooking with eggplant is its preparation. You MUST salt the eggplant before you use it. This step sweats out some of its naturally bitter juices and the eggplant becomes tender. To do this, place your slices in a colander that's resting over a large bowl.  Sprinkle the salt generously on each slice, and let it rest for about an hour.

Salting the eggplant.
This eggplant is sliced length-wise. For the purposes of this particular recipe, make sure you cut your eggplant in rounds, so they are small circles!

After the hour is up, preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Wash the eggplant in cold water to get rid of the excess salt. Place each eggplant slice in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet. Brush one side with olive oil and then again with balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper. Prepare another baking sheet by lining it with aluminum foil and drizzling it with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Arrange the tomato slices in a single layer, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and top it off by adding the minced garlic.

Bake the tomato slices until they are soft and starting to brown, which is about 10-15 minutes.

Bake the eggplant slices until they are tender and well browned, which is about 20-30 minutes.

Once the eggplant and tomato slices are cool enough to pick up with your fingers, it's time to make your stacks! Layer 1 eggplant slice, 1 tomato, and 1 slice of mozzarella cheese on one of your baking sheets. Return them to the oven until the mozzarella begins to melt. Top with chopped basil or oregano for an elegant look and a fresh taste! Serves 3-4.

a buen tiempo!

Curried Coconut Eggplant with Potatoes*

This Southeast Asian dish is one of my favorites. It is a perfectly filling vegetarian meal, but feel free to add a protein of you like! You'll be transported far, far away with this ethnic beauty.

2 medium to large eggplants (2 to 3 pounds total)
1 tablespoon neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 tablespoons sliced garlic
3 large tomatoes, cored, peeled, seeded, and chopped (canned are fine! include the juices)
3 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 1/2 cups coconut milk
freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
minced fresh cilantro leaves for garnish

First, peel the eggplant and cut it into 1/2 inch cubes. Salt the eggplant, as explained in the previous step. After it is salted, make sure to rinse it in cold water to get rid of the excess salt.

Put the oil and mustard seeds in a large, deep skillet with a lid over medium heat. Cook the seeds until they begin to pop, which is about 2 minutes. Add the remaining spices, the ginger, and the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the ginger and garlic soften, about 5 minutes.

Next, add the tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, coconut milk, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Turn the heat down to medium-low and cover. Leave it for about 30 minutes, only stirring once or twice, until the potatoes are just about tender.

Finally, uncover and turn the heat back up to medium. Add more coconut milk or water if the mixture is dry. Cook, stirring occasionally, until both the eggplant and potatoes are very tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in the lime juice, adjust the seasoning, and garnish with cilantro.

Serve over rice or with tostones! Serves 4.

a buen tiempo!

Fried Eggplant layered with Vegetables*

This dish is like Eggplant Parmesan, but instead of cheese, you use cooked vegetables. It is so full of flavor and different textures that it is sure to impress even the toughest critic! 

2 medium to large eggplant (2 to 3 pounds total)
extra virgin olive oil as needed
All-purpose flour (gluten free) for dredging
Ground black pepper
1 carrot, diced
2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and diced
20 cloves of garlic, peeled
2 celery staks, chopped,
1 large onion, diced

2 cups Fast Tomato Sauce:
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 1/2 to 2 pounds canned tomatoes, drained and chopped (3-4 cans)
freshly ground black pepper

First, peel the eggplant and slice it into 1/2 inch slices, lengthwise. Salt the eggplant, as described in the first recipe above. Make sure to wash the eggplant afterwards in cold water to get rid of the excess salt.

Second, make and reserve Mark Bittman's Fast Tomato Sauce.  Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion when the oil is hot and stir occasionally until it softens, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes begin to break down and the mixture thickens, which is about 10-15 minutes. Adjust the seasonings and set it aside.

Now it's time to fry the eggplant! Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, dredge the eggplant slices in flour one at a time, shaking off the excess flour before frying them. Put them in the pan, but don't crowd them - you'll have to fry the eggplant in batches. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until they are golden brown. Add ground pepper to the slices as they cook and add more oil to the pan as needed. Lay paper towels on a large plate to drain the eggplant slices of the extra oil when they are done cooking!

Once you have fried all of your eggplant slices, keep the oil in the pan and the heat on medium.  Sauté the carrot, red bell peppers, garlic, celery, and onion for about 10 minutes - until they are all soft and tender.

Finally, lightly oil a baking dish. Pour some of the tomato sauce into the bottom of the dish, and layer with eggplant slices. Now add a layer of the sautéed vegetables and another layer of tomato sauce. Repeat until all the ingredients are used up!

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes. Top with chopped parsley for garnish! Serves 6-8.

a buen tiempo!

Eggplant Tomato Casserole

This dish is another one that is easy on the budget and on time. We loved this casserole - the layers of cheese makes it irresistible and its subtle flavors complement the richness of the tomato sauce.

2 large eggplants, sliced in 1/2 inch rounds
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cans of diced tomatoes
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 handful of olives, pitted and chopped
1 pound mozzarella cheese, grated

First, slice the eggplant into 1/2 inch rounds. Salt the eggplant, as described in the first recipe above. Make sure to wash the eggplant afterwards in cold water to get rid of the excess salt.

While the eggplant is salting, make your tomato sauce. First, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, and let it cook, stirring occasionally, until it softens, which is about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and olives and stir for about 30 seconds. Next, add the cans of diced tomatoes, undrained, and stir. Sprinkle in salt and pepper, and bring the tomato sauce to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 20-30 minutes.

Once the eggplant is salted and the tomato sauce is made, it's time to assemble the casserole! Lightly oil a baking dish, and pour in a small layer of the tomato sauce. Arrange the eggplant rounds in a single layer. Add another layer of tomato sauce, and then add a layer of grated mozzarella cheese. Repeat the layering until all the ingredients are used up.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. The dish should be bubbling hot, and the cheese on top should be nicely browned! Serves 6-8.

a buen tiempo!

Eggplant Sautéed with Tomatoes*

I've been savoring this dish all week for lunch, complemented by a side of rice and beans. Perfectly vegetarian, and not missing the meat for one second.

1 1/2 to 2 pounds of eggplant
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3-4 cloves of garlic
1 medium onion, diced
2 cups chopped tomato (canned works fine)
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup or more chopped basil leaves

First, peel the eggplant and cut it into 1/2 inch cubes. Salt the eggplant, as explained in the first recipe above. After it is salted, make sure to rinse it in cold water to get rid of the excess salt.

Put the olive oil, onion, and all but 1 teaspoon of the garlic in a large, deep skillet, over medium heat. After 2 minutes, add the eggplant and stir constantly until the eggplant begins to release some of the oil it has absorbed, which will be about 5 to 10 minutes.

Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the eggplant becomes tender, which is about 30 minutes. Add the chopped tomato, and stir occasionally until all the tomato breaks up, for about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 5 more minutes.

Sprinkle with pepper and salt, if necessary. Stir in the chopped basil leaves and serve! Rice is a great side to accompany this dish, as well as tostones! Serves 4.

a buen tiempo!

*The recipes with a star (*) are taken from the 10th Anniversary Edition of How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Delicious Date Nights - Skirt Steak Salad

Waiting for the "Tropical Storm Emily" has proved to be the most boring two days, ever. I almost don't care how petty this sounds, I've been sitting and waiting for the excitement of my first almost-hurricane  in Santo Domingo, and I can't take it anymore. Is it coming or not? The fiancé called me this morning, explaining how I should "tape up the windows" to prepare for the insane winds that were a'coming, but no, we've only had so much as a little bit of rain.

After a month of running running running, some downtime was definitely needed - but I get restless in the blink of an eye. I'm already bored writing this post.


I've been keeping myself busy by cooking, a lot. The Skirt Steak Salad has been one of the fiancé and I's favorite. I made it for an at-home date night, with martinis to match! The salad itself is light but filling enough thanks to the thinly sliced (and perfectly seasoned) steak. I made a big batch, assuming we would eat only half. As we were drinking and talking and laughing, we got carried away. By the time we looked back down in the salad bowl/my caldero, there were 3 tiny pieces of steak left and a few sprigs of arugula. It was divine.


Skirt Steak Salad

2 slices of gluten-free bread (Whole Foods' Prairie Bread is my favorite) or 1 entire gluten-free bagel (Glutino brand bagels are amazing), cut into bite-size pieces
1 tablespoon extra virgen olive oil
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 red onion, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick rounds

1 lb. skirt/flank steak, cut into 4 pieces
3 tablespoons your Favorite Steak Seasoning (I went for it and used Garam Masala. Surprisingly - or not? - it was a perfect fit.)
2-3 tablespoons butter or butter substitute
salt and pepper

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgen olive oil
5 ounces baby or wild arugula

First, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the gluten-free bread with 1 tablespoon oil and Parmesan cheese on a baking sheet, and then season with salt and pepper.  Also place the chopped chunks of onion, cut-side down, on the baking sheet and drizzle with oil. Bake the bread until it is golden brown,  about 7-10 minutes. Remove the bread pieces and let the onions roast for another 10-15 minutes, until the cut surfaces are golden brown, but not burned.

Second, on 1 side of the steaks, liberally season with your seasoning-of-choice, along with salt and pepper. Rub 1 tablespoon of butter on this side. Flip your steaks and season again with salt and pepper, and then rub in the butter. In a large skillet, heat 1 teaspoon of butter on medium heat. Cook each side for 3-4 minutes and remove. After they have cooled, about 5 minutes or so, thinly slice the steak by cutting against the grain at an angle. This step is important, especially if you are tempted to skip it because you've never done it before. Look at your skirt/flank steak. Do you see those lines running through it at an angle? Those lines are fibers that are very difficult to chew through. By cutting against the grain, you are cutting through those fibers and making the steak more tender and easy to eat.

Finally, in a large bowl, whisk together the dijon mustard, vinegar, and 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the arugula and season with salt and pepper. Add onions, steak, and croutons and toss to mix together. Top with more grated Parmesan cheese!

a buen tiempo!