Eggplant Stacks with Mozzarella and Basil Pesto

I've never been a huge eggplant fan. It's not that I have had much of a chance to try any...I guess I just never really considered cooking with them. That is, until our CSA started putting them in our share. I've done a few things now that I have loved with eggplants, and now I seek them out: roasted eggplant spread with tahini, eggplant parms, and now this concoction.

I love that eggplants have a hearty, meaty feeling to them that makes them a good vegetarian main dish. Start with one large eggplant and slice into 3/4 inch disks like so:

Coat each disk in flour, dredge in 2 beaten eggs, and dip in a bread crumb mixture. Lay on parchment paper.

Fry breaded disks in a hot pan with a half inch of olive oil, about 3-5 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. With a large eggplant, you will need to do this in batches.  While the eggplant was browning, I mixed together a quick hand-crushed pesto--chopped basil leaves, chopped garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. I layered the eggplant stacks like so: eggplant, pesto, mozzarella, tomato, eggplant, pesto, mozzarella. I broiled each stack in the over until the cheese browned. I topped it with a single basil leaf and served it will the potato gratin. A simple, refreshing and pretty summer meal.


Easy-Peasy Potato Gratin

I finally had to face it. Potatoes were taking over our kitchen. Red, russet, white and waxy. We'd been receiving a few every week in the farmshare, but I just hadn't had the heart to turn the oven on. You see, our old apartment was on the third floor. The kitchen had a minuscule window that barely opened. The ceiling fan made feeble attempts to cool things off. It just wasn't an appealing thought: sweating over the stove to make mashed potatoes just to sit down, continue sweating, and eat them. No thanks.

Cue: new apartment! Big windows! Nice, new kitchen! FIRST FLOOR BREEZE! The potatoes no longer seemed like a threat, but an opportunity. I love me a good bowl of mashed potatoes, but I wanted to do something else. Like I always do when I want to steer away from my favorite recipes, I consulted Mark Bittman's brilliant book, How to Cook Everything. It's not kidding. I could spend hours with that thing. I found a sublimely simple recipe for a potato gratin. Here is my adapted version:

Potatoes: 4-5 large, any kind you like (I used several kinds)
About a cup of good cheese. I used Jarlsburg.
Whatever dried herbs you like. I used rosemary and a fines herbes blend.
Warmed cream or milk (or combination), enough to come 3/4 of the way up to the top potato layer.
Salt and pepper.

Preheat over to 375 degrees. Scrub potatoes and thinly slice. I use a mandoline to get uniform slices. In a 9 x 13 in. oven-safe pan, place down one layer of potatoes, overlapping slightly. Lightly salt and pepper this layer. Sprinkle a handful of grated cheese over the layer and then gently sprinkle on spices. Repeat the layering of potatoes, salt and pepper, cheese and herbs until everything has been put in place. Gently pour the warmed cream or milk into the side of the pan until it barely reaches 3/4 of the way up to the top potato layer. Bake approximately 45 minutes until top is lightly browned and a knife can easily pierce the potatoes. Enjoy!

First layer of potatoes, cheese, herbs and salt and pepper.
Browned cheesy, creamy, potato-y goodness!


The Jam Plan (Albino Currants)

For those of you who are Friends fans, you will appreciate the title. For those of you who aren’t, well…moving on!

A couple of weeks ago we got some albino currants in our CSA. I’ve never cooked with fresh currants before, so I decided to try my hand at a jam. We had some delicious lemon-rosemary bread, so I decided to tailor the recipe to go with those flavors. I trolled around on the internet trying to find something I liked, but I didn’t. So I just tossed some things together and waited patiently for the results:

Rosemary Currant Jam
1 pint of currants, picked over and rinsed
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
½ tsp crushed, dried rosemary
2 tbsp (or more to taste) sugar
1 tsp cornstarch


Using a potato masher, pulverize the currants. Put currants in a small pot and cover with water. Add herbs and 1 tbsp of the sugar. Bring to a dull boil and let simmer for about 15 minutes. Taste for sweetness, and add more sugar if needed. In a small bowl, whisk about a tablespoon of water with the cornstarch until smooth, and add mixture to the currants to thicken. Continue to simmer for 10 more minutes. Add water or more cornstarch to get the consistency you like. Chill and serve with toast or over yogurt.

Finished product! Breakfast.


Blast from the past! Parnsip Purée and Sweet Potato Chips

In the fall, our farmshare (Enterprise Produce) provides a plethora of autumnal storage crops, including parsnips and sweet potatoes. Parsnips, which look sort of like albino carrots (and are a relative of the carrot) actually have a greater nutritional content than carrots. Sweet potatoes are also a powerhouse for fiber and vitamins…though in this incarnation maybe not so much.

Anyway, one cold autumn evening last year I looked into the pantry. All I saw were a bunch of boring root veggies and potatoes, and I felt despair coming on.

Until I recalled seeing a recipe for parsnip purée over at Jane Spice.

Jane is known for adding flair and flavor to the seemingly most boring veggies, creating dishes with lots of interest and color. I adapted her recipe to make a warming, nourishing and spicy soup.

For the sweet potatoes, I decided to take a stab at my recently purchased mandoline slicer. If you don’t have one, go out and get one. Now. It will change your life. We fried up some crispy sweet potato chips in some neutral oil, tossed with sea salt and black pepper, and plated with the soup to add some crunch!

Parsnip Purée (adapted from Jane Spice)

¾ pound parsnips, peeled and chopped
1 large zucchini chopped
1 medium onion, chopped finely
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 quart vegetable stock (I make my own…I will write a post about that at some point. Easy, economical and incredibly useful.)
½ tsp coriander
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp turmeric
¼ tsp chili powder
1 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and soften for three minutes. Add the garlic and the spices and stir over at high heat until combined before adding the parsnips, zucchini and stock. Season to taste. Bring to the boil and simmer until the parsnips are soft, then liquidize to a smooth consistency (I used a blender. An immersion blender or carefully utilized food processor could work too).


Settling In

Well, here we are! We are in our new place (thanks to the moving help of some amazing friends) partially unpacked and surrounded by a sea of boxes. I have pretty much unpacked the kitchen (of course!), because that was the first thing I needed to get back to a feeling or normalcy. I've missed cooking in the past couple of weeks as we have prepared for the move. It's been a lot of pizza and Groupon meals, which has been lovely, but I am ready to get cooking again.

We received albino currants in last week's share, and I decided to put some currant jelly on the stove while I unpacked. I've never made jelly before, but I decided to throw some ingredients together and see what happens. I will post results later this week. In the meantime, a shot of the lovely little currants:

Albino Currants


Decadence, Paris Style

Sometimes the most enjoyable meals are the least preparation heavy.

In the spring of 2006 I studied abroad in Paris with two of my best friends in the world, Niki and Katie. We lived in a lovely (ha) little apartment for several months, during which we enjoyed countless types of cheese and many a bottle of champagne. Our time in Paris was incredibly enriching in many ways, and food always seemed to be a focal point. It was a pretty decadent semester.

Recently Katie and Niki came over to enjoy a girls’ night. To relive old times, I whipped up a favorite drink of ours from Paris, Kir Royales. The kir royale is an adaptation of the traditional kir (white wine with crème de cassis), a common aperitif. It is pink and bubbly and delicious. Along with some tasty local cheeses from the Kick*ss Dairy Bar, I made some yummy dipping oil for our bread. Enjoy!

Kir royales
Crème de cassis

Fill a champagne flute or goblet with champagne. Add about 2 tsp of crème the cassis, or enough to turn champagne pale pink.

Parmesan-garlic oil
1 c. good olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 c. grated parmesan (or other hard cheese—asiago would work well too!)
1 tbsp fresh, chopped herbs (whatever you have on hand)
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix together in a small bowl. Serve with sliced French bread and a array of cheeses. Enjoy the decadence.

The lovely ladies, Katie and Niki (Nous devons retourner!)


The Big Move

Devin and I moved in together last summer. I had worked for over two years at the New Britain Museum of American Art in CT and was ready for a change of scenery. He had just been accepted to the Kennedy School and was making the move from the 'burbs closer to school. After a little over a year of dating from 2 hours away (and racking up thousands of miles on our cars, not to mention thousands of minutes on our cell phone bill!), we decided to take the plunge and make the move together. We ended up living with a friend for a year, but now that was are headed down the aisle, we decided it was time for it to be just the two of us (well...and George and Grif, our two cats.)

So we are making the move today...we are staying in our same neighborhood, the bustling Davis Sq. in Somerville. We love it because we are so close to my work and Devin's school without feeling cramped and crowded in the city. Our new place has a little porch and backyard, is about a block away from our cupcake store/CSA pick-up, and has a big kitchen. What more could we want?

Over the next few days, we will be cleaning, painting, and slowly setting up our new home. And then I'll be back in the kitchen!