Maui Girl Cooks

“One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.” Luciano Pavarotti

Eggplant Tricolore

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“Gleaming skin;  a plump elongated shape;  the eggplant is a vegetable you’d want to caress with your eyes and fingers, even if you didn’t know its luscious flavor.”  by Roger Verge

Although it is a vegetable {actually, it is a fruit, but that’s another discussion} with varied preparations, eggplant parmigiana is the quintessential eggplant dish for many, however it is not one of my favorite ways to enjoy eggplant.  My mom used to sauté eggplant slices until they were golden brown, and I loved eating them with catsup {not a kid thing…I still love catsup & so does my husband}. Sometimes I roast thick slices of eggplant & happily enjoy them dipped into organic catsup.  I prefer Italian Globe eggplants, over the other slender varieties {Thai, Indian, Japanese, etc.}.

Eggplant is one of those foods that, I suspect, prompts strong feelings.  While I have not researched this matter, I think people tend to love or hate eggplant.  The Flavor Bible {have you seen this book yet?} describes eggplant’s taste as “bitter,” a taste which does not have as many fans as sweet, salty, sour, etc.

Many years ago, Erika, a friend & coworker, introduced me to vegetarian food by way of Laurel’s Kitchen, a book from which I prepared & enjoyed many dishes.  In fact, it was my “go to” cookbook for a long time.  I made Laurel’s falafel recipe & had my first taste of Middle Eastern food, which I now consider the cuisine I most want to eat.  Which brings me back to eggplant.  One of my new favorite ways of enjoying eggplant comes from Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook Plenty.  It is quick to make, stunning on a platter & super delicious.  Regardless of your feelings toward eggplant, I am of the opinion that you should make this recipe; just try it.  I think Eggplant Tricolore may have the power to turn you into a lover of eggplant.  Perhaps the dressing balances the eggplant’s inherent bitterness, which makes this a dish that goes down easily, like a fine wine.  My husband & I can polish off 2 eggplants in one sitting!

If you make this, snap a photo & send it with a comment on how you liked it.

Eggplant slices ready for roasting

Eggplant Slices Ready for Roasting

Roasted eggplant slices

Roasted Eggplant Slices

Eggplant Tricolore 2

Eggplant Tricolore

Eggplant Tricolore {and more}
adapted from Plenty {Ottolenghi}

2-3 medium eggplants {preferably Italian globe variety}

olive oil

Maldon sea salt & black pepper

1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 3/8” dice

10 cherry tomatoes, quartered

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

3 1/2 tbsp capers, plus 1 tbsp of the caper brine

5 oz. top-quality buffalo mozzarella

1 cup picked coriander {cilantro} leaves

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Cut the eggplants widthwise into 3/4-inch-thick slices.  Place the slices on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil.  Brush them generously on both sides with plenty of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast in the oven for 25”-35,” or until the eggplants are soft and golden brown.  Allow to cool down.

Mix together the bell pepper, tomatoes, vinegar, capers, caper brine and 2 tbsp of olive oil.  Set aside for at least 30” {the mix can be kept refrigerated for several days; the flavors will deepen over time}.

To serve, arrange the eggplant slices, slightly overlapping, on a serving dish {a meat platter is the perfect size for 2 medium eggplants}.  Break the cheese up and scatter on top.  Spoon over the dressing and scatter with the cilantro.  Enjoy!

Notes:

  • I always use extra virgin olive oil
  • I always use freshly ground pepper
  • Maldon salt is worth seeking out, but you can substitute another crunchy salt such as Fleur de Sel
  • yellow or orange peppers work best color-wise, but use what you have
  • I have used tomatoes other than cherry tomatoes, with excellent results
  • The eggplant can be roasted up to a day ahead and refrigerated
  • I have always used lebni {Lebanese kefir cheese} instead of mozzarella & it is delicious.  Soft goat cheese would also be delicious!
  • Salting eggplant for 30” or so is supposed to draw out the bitterness, but I usually do not do this.  Possibly this is valuable for older eggplants with large seeds, but ours come from the farmers’ market and are recently picked.
  • You can use fresh basil instead of cilantro if you desire
  • This is great with a glass of red wine!

Eggplant Tricolore 1

Bon appetit!

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Mediterranean Goat Cheese Dip

”You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces – just good food from fresh ingredients”– Julia Child

When asked to bring something to a party or potluck, I always offer up dessert, usually something with chocolate, but not always.  Occasionally though, I am asked to bring something else. Once, a long time ago,  I was asked to bring something totally boring, but necessary. . .plates. . .gasp. Luckily that hasn’t happened again, because I like to share something delicious, and I think there are enough people who don’t want to buy or prepare food that they can bring the boring but necessary stuff.  I have never had a “go to” appetizer, so if asked to bring one, I would rifle through cookbooks and other sources of great recipes for something to make; preferably something that would be a real hit and something unique.  I am here today to tell you that I now have a “go to” appetizer!  It is quick & simple to make & quite addictive to eat.  Carrol, one of the nurses I work with, brought this dip to work one day.  I was among many who could not stop eating it; thankfully, it was one of the occasional days that we weren’t super busy.  It’s a flexible recipe, more of a plan really, so you can take it in different directions, depending on your tastes and the ingredients you have in your pantry.  We almost always have the ingredients I’ve outlined here, so this dip can be ready quickly for any occasion.  I’m taking this dip to a Christmas Eve gathering this evening with some Hawaiian Chip Company’s Sweet Potato and Taro Chips.  These chips are fabulous, not greasy or too salty, but pretty much perfect.  When you are in Maui, you can find them for the best price at Costco.  I made the dip in Washington State when I was there in October, and served it with Trader Joe’s Fig and Kalamata Olive crackers, also very good.  Some day soon I plan on making homemade crackers, which I look forward to eating with this dip.  

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Mediterranean Goat Cheese Dip

Soft goat cheese 5 oz. {approximately}

Garlic 2 cloves, finely minced

Red pepper flakes, as many as you like

Chopped kalamata olives {I used 14}

Julienned sun dried tomatoes {I used 14}

Fresh herbs, chopped {I used basil & cilantro}, reserve some to sprinkle on top {I used about 3 tbsp}

Freshly ground pepper

Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling over top

Place goat cheese at the bottom of your bowl.  Lightly mash it down with a fork to make an even layer.  Top with minced garlic, red pepper flakes, chopped herbs, olives, tomatoes, several grinds of pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.  Sprinkle with reserved herbs.  Let dip sit out for about an hour at room temp for best flavor.

Notes:

  • Quantities are for a round bowl 5 1/2” in diameter.
  • Cream cheese may be used if you prefer it to goat cheese.
  • You can use sun dried tomatoes that are not packed in oil.  If you use oil packed, soak for 5” in hot water, then blot on a paper towel.

 Bon appetit!


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“The secret of good cooking is, first, having a love of it… If you’re convinced that cooking is drudgery, you’re never going to be good at it, and you might as well warm up something frozen.”  James Beard

Hummus

If you think you don’t like hummus, perhaps you have only had store bought varieties, too stiff and poorly seasoned.  I must admit, I haven’t tasted much packaged hummus; there probably are some good ones, however, I  prefer to make my own hummus from freshly cooked garbanzo beans.  Of course, you can use canned beans, but I have found them to be a little more al dente than I like.  They are best when they are nice and soft, ready for a whirl in the food processor with garlic, olive oil, lemon, tahini and seasonings. The beans take awhile to cook, but it isn’t hands-on time, so you can be doing whatever you like while they simmer away on the stove. For me, cooking a pot of beans is kind of therapeutic, like making risotto, kneading bread or watering plants.  Homemade hummus isn’t difficult to prepare and the results are worth any effort required. People are favorably impressed if you show up at a potluck with a gorgeous platter of hummus with tasty garnishes {especially if you make homemade pita bread!}.  As promised in my last post, here is my hummus recipe.

Hummus 

1 ½ c cooked garbanzo beans {I always cook my own, because they are much better, but you can use canned.}
3 cloves garlic, minced
Scant ¼ c tahini
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil {I use quite a bit more, for a smooth & silky texture.}
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp kosher salt

 Puree all ingredients in the blender or food processor until really smooth.  I like to spread it out on a platter and drizzle extra virgin olive oil over it.  Sprinkle with chopped tomatoes, kalamata olives and cilantro {any or all are good}.  Eat with pita bread, or whole wheat flour tortillas that you brush with olive oil, cut into eights and then bake at 350 until semi-crisp.  Also good with fresh fennel Fennel Bulb or sliced cucumbers.


Freshly Cooked Garbanzo Beans

1 cup garbanzo beans, cleaned & soaked {you don’t have to soak them, but they will take longer to cook}
Aromatics: 1 onion, quartered, 2 parsley sprigs, 4 garlic cloves
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
6” piece of kombu, or a few pinches asafetida, optional {I love to eat the cooked kombu}
1 ½ tsp salt

Cover garbanzo beans with 2 quarts fresh water & add remaining ingredients.  Simmer until completely tender, but not mushy.  I start checking at around 45”.  Let the beans cool in the broth.

Wilted Dandelion & Arugula with Walnuts & Beets

We enjoyed the plate of hummus with homemade pita bread and this salad of Wilted Dandelion Greens & Arugula with Walnuts & Beets.  Dandelion greens and arugula are supposed to very good for you, so we are eating them regularly.  They are kind of bitter, which is what makes them good for you.  When you eat them with something sweet like beets, it somewhat neutralizes the bitterness, and they are quite tasty prepared this way.  This recipe is adapted from Deborah Madison’s excellent cookbook Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone {I love this book!}

Wilted Dandelion Greens & Arugula with Walnuts & Beets

Dandelion greens and/or arugula, about 1/2 pound
1 large garlic clove, mashed into a paste with 1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 large shallot, minced
4 tsp sherry vinegar or aged red wine vinegar
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper

Whisk together the garlic paste, shallot, vinegar & olive oil.  Heat the vinaigrette in a small skillet until it sizzles.  Pour over the greens & toss with plenty of freshly ground pepper.  Top with toasted walnuts, cooked beets & a grating of Gruyere or Jarlsberg cheese.  It’s delicious with just the cheese, but the walnuts & beets add a bit of crunch & sweetness.

The first time I made this, we were too full to eat it all at dinner.  I put the leftovers in the refrigerator, not knowing how delicious they would be cold the next day.  I think I probably like them leftover as much, if not more, than freshly made.  Who would have thought?

Aloha & Happy Cooking!