Thursday, September 30, 2010

Eggplant Parmesan

Get ready for lots of pictures. As I loaded up my pictures to iPhoto I realized how much has happened in the last week. This happens to me every week when I go to write a new post so I shouldn't seem so surprised every time. The main recipe for this post was inspired by 99 cent eggplant at the Hamilton Farmer's Market and a bunch of tomatoes courtesy of my Tatone :D
You will also notice the lack of measurements. This is due to the fact that I was hungry and impatient, what else is new.

Eggplant Parmesan

1 very large ripe eggplant
salt
oil
breadcrumbs
quick rolled oats
basil
oregano
parsley
garlic powder
salt
pepper
1-2 eggs

Slice the eggplant into thick pieces (3/4 inch?). Layer slices in a colander sprinkling with salt in between layers. Place a heavy item on top and allow to sit for 30 to 60 minutes to draw out any excess water. Wipe slices dry with paper towel. Lightly grease a baking sheet with oil and preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Mix together about 1:1 of breadcrumbs to oats. (I only added oats becuase I ran out of bread crumbs but it turned out quite nice). Sprinkle basil, oregano, parsley, garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste.



You can hardly see the spices in the mix there and I would probably add more next time. I would say 2 tsp each (basil, oregano, parsley) if you use 1/2 breadcrumbs and 1/2 cup oats. Whisk the egg until mixed. Dip each side of eggplant in the egg and dredge through the breadcrumb mixture to coat well. I didn't bother dipping the sides of the slices (I was trying to conserve breading mixture). Place on the greased baking sheet and bake in the oven for about 7-10 minutes on eat side. Watching carefully that they don't burn.

While this was all happening I was also making some sauce. Very similar to the recipe I posted a while back (found here). With these soft delicious eggplant slices you could layer with some sauce and parmesan and bake some more, OR you could make a sandwich.



The sandwich consisted of whole-wheat toast, eggplant slices, fresh tomato sauce, and parmesan cheese. Adding the cheese to the hot eggplant and sauce allows it to melt without toasting the sandwich further (another time saver). I loved this sandwich and loved how the eggplant turned out. The leftover eggplant was good on its own with some sauce and cheese. If you are wondering, on the side there I had some chicken and roasted red peppers cooked in red wine and balsamic vinegar, probably one of my favourite food combinations.

Now as promised, here is a series of pictures from the past week.

Jenna's Birthday celebration


Carrot Spice Birthday Cake (made by me..isn't it pretty?! haha)


Sweet Potato Quesadilla's from the Bean Bar


BFT....Bacon Fig and Tomato Sandwich

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Chicken Cacciatore

Chicken cacciatore is one of my favourite dishes. I have never been 100% sure what it is exactly but as long as it is a stew with chicken and tomatoes I put it into the cacciatore category. This past weekend I was at my Nonna and Tatone's (Italian Grandparent's) house for dinner and I had mentioned that I had made some cacciatore. "Cacciatore? What made it a cacciatore?" They were interested to see how "Americanized" my version was. I told them how I did it and they nodded in semi-approval. At this point I was really interested as to what authentic cacciatore was. So I asked.

Cacciatore in Italian means "hunter" and chicken cacciatore means a chicken dish prepared hunter style. This dates back to when hunters would go out for days on end to hunt for meat. Their meals would consist of meat cooked with whatever vegetables they could gather and of course, wine. I would say my recipe is quite authentic in this case...minus the hunting part. This makes me happy. I just wish my Grandparent's could have given it a taste, as I thought it was delicious.

This recipe is very easy, so some of the quantities are vague becuase I just threw stuff in. There is a lot of wiggle room here. As long as you use quality ingredients you will get quality results. This is especially true when it comes to the tomatoes.

Chicken Cacciatore

3 ripe plum tomatoes
1 tbsp olive oil
2 chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
cm of chili pepper
2 cloves of garlic
2 small leeks
1 carrot
1 celery stalk
1 small chinese eggplant
roasted red peppers (I used about 1/3 of a ziploc bag full - about 3 Shepard peppers) *
red wine

To remove skin and seeds from tomato:
Bring a pot of water to a boil, leaving enough room for tomatoes. Make very shallow slices all around the tomato to make a cross shape. Add tomatoes to boiling water. Boil until skin starts to peel back, a minute or two. The riper the tomatoes are, the quicker this will happen. Remove from water and allow to cool. Peel off the skin and cut off the tough stem areas.



Cut into quarters. Remove seeds and put into a fine strainer over a bowl. Cut remaining tomato flesh into bite sized pieces. Once all the tomatoes have been seeded, move the fleshy seeds around in the strainer to remove all the juices. Add these juices to the diced tomatoes.

Heat olive oil in saucepan over medium-high heat. Add pieces of chicken breast and cook for 5-8 minutes until almost cooked through.



Add chili pepper and garlic and saute for 3 minutes. Add leeks, carrots, celery, and eggplant.



Cook until vegetables are beginning to brown. Add tomatoes and roasted red pepper.



Once simmering, add a splash of red wine and stir.
Allow sauce to simmer for about 20 minutes, until desired consistency is reached.

almost there...


This can be served on it's own or with any kind of bread or pasta. I had it on couscous with Asiago cheese on top. Delizioso! (yes I had to use an online translator for that)


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Walnut Lentil Burger

Last weekend Jenna and I decided to make dinner together. and to make something new. Trying out a new veggie burger is always fun so that is what we did. This time it was Lentil Walnut Burgers by Angela from Oh She Glows.

Yet another successful veggie burger. Because of the walnuts, it is very moist and has a great texture. Crispy on the outside, and soft on the inside. We made smaller, "slider" sized burgers to have on small pieces of ciabatta bread. A great choice of bread I must say.



This gave us the opportunity to experiment with different toppings.

left: tomato and guac*; right: tomato and pickled banana peppers

* Worst guacamole ever. The last two avocados I have bought have been watery and not oily. MAJORLY lacking in the avocado flavour/texture I love so much. This made the guacamole oh so disappointing. I imagine that real guac would have tasted fantastic on the lentil burger.

I loved having the sliders but next time I would make large full size burgers I think.

Again, I did not change this recipe at all so I wont repeat it here. You can find the full recipe here. I used a real egg not a flax egg (for a vegan option).

With not living at home anymore I can't just walk outside onto the porch and into the garden to get fresh veggies. However, I have been lucky to receive some deliveries. Just yesterday, I got a ton of pears, tomatoes and figs from my Nonna and Tatone's garden. Looks like I will be making some more tomato sauce!

I am beginning to grow quite fond of figs. I never used to like them but this year I have found them quite delicious. I am lucky to have access to such fresh figs that aren't imported from California. I have been eating them raw but have also enjoyed them on bread with cheese as well as in yogurt. Here is a snapshot of my use for figs.

sliced ciabatta bread with asiago cheese and balsamic vinegar*


If I had the time I would have made a balsamic reduction. I will be making some to have with my current batch of figs that is for sure.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Pumpkin Scones

Fall is quickly approaching and pumpkin flavours are in the air. Pumpkin spiced lattes are at starbucks, and...that's pretty much it right now, but SOON pumpkins will be everywhere. I haven't had much experience with pumpkin. I've eaten pumpkin pie maybe twice, never had a pumpkin spiced latte, and never had a pumpkin scone. I love scones and am impartial to pumpkin (due to lack of experience) so what could go wrong. After reading an Oh She Glows post on her Savoury Pumpkin Scones in a Pumpkin Spiced Glaze, Jenna the housemate and I put it at the top of the baking list. The next day they were in the making.

I'm not even going to write the recipe here since it is all in the link above. It isn't a very sweet scone as you can tell from the title, "Savoury." We wanted it on the sweet side so we added the 2 tbsp of sugar (raw sugar) as Angela recommends. The original recipe is vegan, however we used an actual egg so ours was a vegetarian variety. All I can say is these did not last long in this house. Today we were trying to decide how many hours exactly they were in existence for. Not much more than 24 hours that's for sure.



The same night these scones were made, our other housemate Megan went all culinary on us and made a fantastic meal for herself and her boyfriend. I would like to showcase the strawberry bruschetta as it is beautiful and also delicious. One day I will get the recipe from her.



That is what is great about having housemates like the girls I am living with. We feed off of each other in the kitchen and are constantly getting ideas from each other. How lucky am I!

Like I mentioned in my first public post I am always open to suggestions and tips about the blog. What would YOU like the see? As brilliantly recommended by my wonderful cousin Diana I will now label posts as vegetarian (more often then not), vegan, or vegan option (easily made vegan or non-vegan). This makes it easy to search for the posts that meet your dietary requirements!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Kale Chips

I kind of lost track of time this week. Before I knew it, it had been 7 days since my last post. I told myself that once school starts I will make sure I make at least 1 post a week, no matter how busy I get. I plan to hold myself to it.

Today's post is about something that has taken the world by storm. When I say world, I mean my housemates. I decided to make some kale chips about a week ago. The housemates were intrigued. I urged them to try these crispy green chips. After the weird looks and hesitant hands, my housemates tasted the green chips. They loved them!

Kale Chips

1 stalk of kale, fills a big bowl with leaves
~0.5 tbsp olive oil
salt to taste
smoked garlic (or garlic powder) to taste

Wash and dry kale. Remove the leaves of the kale stalk by pulling up on the stalk until the leaf comes off. This is the best way to remove the tougher stem. Put the leaves in a bowl. Toss in olive oil, salt and garlic.

before


Bake in a 425 degree F oven for about 5-10 minutes, tossing half-way through,

almost done


until crispy and browned at the edges. The time to crisp depends on how moist the leaves were.

finito!


These are such a great crispy side to a meal or snack. It is a great way to get a big serving for greens and a salty snack at the same time. I really want to experiment with these with different flavours. I'd love to make a ketchup, BBQ or dill pickle variety. To get these right might take a lot of trial and error but I'm willing to attempt it.

The weather has really cooled down the past few days and has influence my cooking for sure! Expect to see some fall-influenced foods soon!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Baked Foods Equal Comfort Foods

I love when foods are baked in the oven. I am fairly certain that any and all comfort foods are baked for some period of time. Think about it: cookies, muffins, macaroni and cheese, lasagna, chili (not usually baked but I think it would be even more comforting), and many more I'm sure. I had just made some fresh tomato sauce and was really craving cheesy pasta. The only cheese I had on hand was cottage cheese and goat cheese so I worked with what I had. I also had kidney beans cooked up so the next day I finally got to make a dish similar to one I've looked at (ok, maybe drooled over) so many times on 101cookbooks that would use up more tomato sauce.

Tomato and Cheese Baked Macaroni

~1 cup whole-wheat macaroni
~1 cup tomato sauce
1/3 cup cottage cheese
crumbled goat cheese

I tried to make a layered baked pasta but the layers mixed a bit in the oven. I first added half the pasta to the bottom of the pyrex dish. I then added the cottage cheese and mixed it in. Add half the sauce. Add the rest of the macaroni and then the rest of the top. Crumble goat cheese on top. Baked in a 375 degree F oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until it is heated through and slightly crispy on top.



This wasn't the cheesiest pasta dish and would have worked better using mozzarella or ricotta cheese. But, it definitely hit the spot and was a great use for the fresh tomato sauce.

Tomato Baked Kidney Beans adapted from 101cookbooks.com

~1 cup of kidney beans
~1 cup of tomato sauce
1 small stalk of kale, leaves removed from tough stems
1/4 cup cottage cheese
crumbled goat cheese

Into a pyrex dish, add beans, sauce, kale and cottage cheese and mix together. Crumble goat cheese on top. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, until slightly crispy on top. I had the beans with some polenta chips that I made. I am still working on perfecting the polenta chips so I wont share a recipe for those quite yet.



This recipe deviated largely from that on 101cookbooks because I already had sauce made and I dislike cilantro greatly. I even made pesto to go on top (made with parsley) but I forgot about it and never added it on top as Heidi Swanson's recipe suggests.



I would love to one day make the Giant Chipotle White Bean Recipe with authenticity, but this version suited me fine....for now.

Tomorrow is my first official day as a Master's student, wish me luck :)

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Fresh House, Fresh Tomato Sauce

I am now blogging from my new kitchen in my new house! It is a wonderful kitchen with more gadgets and small appliances than any other student house, I am sure. We are now fully settled in, and I am enjoying my last few days of summer before school starts. Along with everything I own, I made sure to bring some veggies from my parent's garden when I moved in. I brought tomatoes, leeks, eggplant, chili peppers, and managed to dry some basil in time for the move.

I had 5 very ripe plum tomatoes on hand and knew I could not forgive myself if I didn't make some tomato sauce at the end of my personal tomato season (no longer right out my back door). I usually rush sauces when making them for myself and do not take the time to do it properly. I figured I would do it differently this time since I currently feel like I have all the time in the world. The sauce turned out pretty good and has been used in two different recipes which I will be posting in due time.

Fresh Tomato Sauce

5 Plum tomatoes
1 tbsp olive oil
1 clove of garlic, chopped finely
1 small leek, chopped
1 cm of chili pepper, chopped finely
oregano (sprinkle to taste)
basil (sprinkle to taste)
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste

To remove skin and seeds from tomato:
Bring a pot of water to a boil, leaving enough room for tomatoes. Make very shallow slices all around the tomato to make a cross shape.



Add tomatoes to boiling water. Boil until skin starts to peel back, a minute or two. The riper the tomatoes are, the quicker this will happen. Remove from water and allow to cool. Peel off the skin and cut off the tough stem areas. Cut into quarters. Remove seeds and put into a fine strainer over a bowl. Cut remaining tomato flesh into bite sized pieces. Once all the tomatoes have been seeded, move the fleshy seeds around in the strainer to remove all the juices. Add these juices to the diced tomatoes.



To make the sauce:
In a medium pot, add olive oil, chili pepper, and garlic. Heat on medium-high for a few minutes until fragrant. Add leeks and saute for 3 to 5 minutes, until soft.



Add tomatoes, tomato juice, and tomato paste. Heat until simmering for 5 minutes.



Remove from heat and use a hand blender to blend the tomato pieces. This can be done as much or as little as you wish. I do not normally do this but wanted a traditional sauce this time. Put blended sauce back on heat and add oregano, basil, bay leaf, and salt and pepper to taste.



Simmer until sauce has reduced to desired consistency, about 15 minutes. Remove bay leaf.

This sauce was very fresh and delicious. It really would not have been the same without the fresh overripe tomatoes. I will miss those guys. I used this sauce to make a baked pasta as well as a baked bean dish. Good comfort food let me tell you.

I'll leave you with a few pictures of the new place and some meals I've created in it.

blogging station #1


blogging station #2


Leeks, Zucchini and Tomato with Black Pearl Medley Rice


Roasted Eggplant and Red Pepper


Dilled Carrots and Beans with Cottage Cheese on Lavash