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

Leave a comment

 

“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!

Advertisements

This gallery contains 5 photos


2 Comments

“There are only ten minutes in the life of a pear when it is perfect to eat.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson’s thoughts on enjoying the perfect pear may be true for raw pears, although I think his window is a little narrow.  My new favorite way to enjoy pears is roasting them, which I will tell you about in a moment. 

I try to walk most days, and enjoy listening to podcasts on my iPhone while I walk.  I subscribe to a number of podcasts, several which have to do with my favorite subject-food.  Here are some I highly recommend:

These podcasts are all hosted by Lynne Rossetto Kasper, who is an American food writer and radio journalist out of Minnesota.

The Splendid Table– hour long program which is “public radio’s culinary, culture and lifestyle program which celebrates food and its ability to touch the lives and feed the souls of everyone.”
Key 3– a series of discussions with great cooks about the 3 techniques or recipes that they think everyone should know
How to Eat Supper/How to Eat Weekends– short shows {around 10 minutes or less} based upon the 2 books

After I baked a couple batches of Mocha Truffle Cookies Saturday, I turned off the oven and popped in some fruit.  “What’s that?,” you say.  Putting the fruit in after the oven is turned off?  Yes indeed!  I popped some pears into the oven for about 50 minutes, and what emerged was tender, juicy fruit ready to eat in a variety of ways.  Look at the gorgeous browning that occurred in that short period of time. 

roasted pears

close up of roasted pears

Roasted pears in bowl

The first time I tried this, I roasted Bosc pears and Granny Smith apples, thinly sliced.  My husband thought they needed a little something extra, so he drizzled just a bit of local honey over the fruit, and a touch of freshly ground salt.  As most of us know, a little salt complements the sweetness of fruit.  I sprinkled the fruit with sliced almonds after it came out of the oven, and we enjoyed it with some dark chocolate.  Delicious!  I have also just put the fruit in with no extras, and that’s good too.  Plain yogurt is excellent topped with roasted fruit, nuts, cinnamon and a sprinkle of cacao nibs. 

yogurt with roasted pears

yogurt with roasted pears close up

I got the idea for roasting with the oven off from the podcast How to Eat Weekends {episode from 6 October 2011}.  If you listen to the podcast, you will hear about many other foods that you can roast, but I haven’t tried anything other than apples and pears {yet!}.  The beauty of this method is that it is energy efficient, it is tasty and you can use fruits or vegetables that may not have stellar flavor if eaten raw {think tomatoes, apple or pears that may be a little mushy, etc.}. I hope you will listen to this podcast and then try roasting some of your own fruits and vegetables.  It is quick, easy and delicious! 

Roasted Pears

 Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and fill with thinly {about 1/4 inch} sliced pears.  Slide into the oven after you’ve turned off the heat and let the fruit “roast” for about 50 minutes.  You can drizzle the fruit with honey and sprinkle with a little salt and nuts if you like.  I didn’t put the nuts on before roasting, but think I will start doing this.  Enjoy plain {warm or cold}, with dark chocolate or over ice cream.   

Just for fun-perhaps you will find your city in this list of culinary winners from Saveur Magazine

Bon appetit!


1 Comment

“The old Romans having expelled physicians out of their commonwealth, did for many years maintain their health by the use of cabbages, taking them for every disease.”  16th century historian

Welcome to my 3  5 9 day post.  Yep, it took 9 days for me to get this written and posted.  Why??  I have no idea!!  No good reason though, that’s for sure.

I worked late last night {Monday}, so took the opportunity to sleep in a little later than usual, which was nice.  It was a breezy “2 blanket night,” the first one for quite a while.  This morning has been one of those putz around the house mornings where I suddenly realized that my walk would have been significantly cooler had I left earlier.  Podcast selected, I popped in my ear buds, put on my hat, sunglasses and shoes, ready to go.  Open door. . .it’s raining!  You might wonder how I could not have known that.  Weather-wise, we live in a very interesting place.  Dark gray clouds may gloomily loom out one window, with a gleaming blue sky out another window, just 20 feet away.  So often, the gray clouds that hang around our house do not drop rain; I would certainly like a bit more rain, as would our plants.  Funny thing to say, from someone who lived in the Pacific Northwest for over 20 years!  The clouds are splashing rain this morning, and I am enjoying every minute of it.

I’ve had half a cup of green tea, and now it looks like a good time to walk.  Be back soon.

I’m back!  More sprinkles soon after I returned, so I guess my timing was pretty good.  Actually, my walk was timed perfectly, as was my choice of routes.  I found a fallen Meyer lemon {I LOVE Meyer lemons!}, which is a cross between a regular lemon and a Mandarin orange.  Meyer lemons have not been available in the United States until fairly recently, and may not be found everywhere.  If you are a lemon lover, and you see Meyer lemons, buy some; they are so delicious.  I come from a long line of lemon eaters, and I can tell you that my mouth is watering right now.  I love lemons sprinkled with salt-so good {not great for the enamel on your teeth, but so tasty}.  Meyer lemons have a floral quality to them, in their flavor and their aroma.  They are thin-skinned, so you can eat the entire lemon.

Meyer lemon wedgeClick here to read a short article/hear a short interview about Meyer Lemons.  I also found a pommelo.  The owner of the pommelo tree told me a few weeks ago that I could pick what I could reach; score!.  I was thrilled to find one that had blown off in the wind, to my good fortune.  Pommelos are similar to grapefruit, but their fruit is not as soft as a grapefruit, and the flavor is a little different.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

To be continued, tomorrow!

Wednesday- No fallen fruit today, nor rain, just a beautiful blue sky & gentle breeze to keep us nice and cool.

Let’s talk about cabbage.  I love cabbage!  By all accounts, my mom makes fantastic coleslaw.  Even though I like all of the ingredients in her coleslaw, I never cared for it as a kid.  She always gave me a bowl of cabbage with nothing on it, before she mixed in the dressing.  My dad loved her coleslaw because it doesn’t have a sweet dressing.  Here is her recipe.

Mom’s Coleslaw

4 cups finely shredded cabbage
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp grated onion
Salt and pepper to taste
Celery seed to taste {my mom says that it is important to use celery seed for best flavor}

My mom always grates her cabbage in a blender, with water, which makes a very fine shred; she said that her mom liked it that way.  After processing in the blender she drains the cabbage well, so the dressing will not be watery.  You can shred your cabbage however you prefer.  Mix the remaining ingredients and mix with the cabbage.  Chill until ready to serve.

My preferred way of eating cabbage has always been cooked, as in corned beef and cabbage, minestrone soup, borscht, etc.  And then I discovered roasted cabbage.  OMG!  Roasting cabbage gives it a depth of flavor that raw cabbage cannot ever hope to achieve.  It is quite delicious, and I have to restrain myself from eating the entire head of cabbage after it emerges from the oven, roasty-toasty brown with soft centers and crispy edges.  Sprinkled with fresh lemon juice, roasted cabbage is delectable and just waiting to be eaten, leaf by leaf, standing up by the stove, where you have put it to cool.  If you manage to have any leftovers, I also find it delicious cold or at room temperature.

Roasted Cabbage with Olive Oil & Lemon
recipe adapted ever so slightly from eat.repeat

1 head of green cabbage
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper
Freshly squeezed lemon juice

Pull off the large outer cabbage leaves.   Wash the head of cabbage and dry well.  Cut the cabbage in half, and then cut the halves into fourths, leaving you with 8 wedges.  Try to keep a bit of the core on each wedge, so that the wedges have a better chance of staying together.  Put your cabbage wedges on a sheet pan lined with foil.  I like to line my sheet pan with foil to make clean up a little easier.  Brush the cabbage with olive oil and sprinkle with freshly ground salt and pepper.  Roast in a 400 degree oven for 30-40 minutes, flipping the wedges about halfway through.  Roast until the cabbage is browned, even to the point of the edges being crispy brown {much tastier this way!}.   Sprinkle cabbage with lemon juice & eat hot, warm, room temperature or cold.  Yum!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Bon appetit!


3 Comments

“Cheese – milk’s leap toward immortality.”  Clifton Fadiman

Before we get to tonight’s dinner, these quesadillas, I have some lovely flower pictures from today’s walk to share with you.


And now for the quesadillas!

quesadilla on plate

There are quesadillas, and then there are quesadillas worth eating.  If you would like a quesadilla that is more than a white flour tortilla filled with melted cheese, then keep reading.

Our quesadillas are filled with cooked spinach or Swiss chard {a lot of it}, roasted peppers & cheese.

We love quesadillas and have been tweaking our current recipe for over 5 years, and think they are now just about perfect.  There have been several versions of this recipe, each change making an improvement on an already good thing.  It is our favorite meal to cook, and one we make weekly.  This is truly a “team meal” for us.  I prep everything and my husband does the cooking.  While he is cooking, I clean everything up so that we only have 2 plates to wash when we’re finished eating.  We are a well-oiled machine when it comes to making quesadillas!

Before I get into the details of how to make these scrumptious quesadillas, I should tell you about the tortillas we use.  We eat food that is good for us {at least 95% of the time}, so it was important to find tortillas that are healthy and taste good.  Often times, breads that are healthy taste like cardboard, or if you’re lucky, hay.

Perhaps you have had the unfortunate experience of buying tortillas for a recipe, and then having them go moldy in the refrigerator.  These are the tortillas that we like & here is how we take care of them so they are ready when we want a quesadilla or a wrap.

Fresh Tortillas in Bag  These are tasty tortillas that we can feel good about eating!

blog freezing tortillas  Stagger your tortillas on a cookie sheet & freeze.  They will curl a little, but you can easily put them bag into the bag you bought them in.  They won’t stick together like they would if you just put the whole bag in the freezer.  I used to separate them with a piece of wax paper; totally unnecessary!  When you are ready to use them, put them on a plate, and flip them a few times while they thaw, so that they aren’t as curled.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Quesadillas with Spinach {or Swiss chard} & Roasted Peppers

This is more of a guideline than a specific recipe, as far as amounts are concerned.  Feel free to adjust quantities & ingredients to your liking!

2 large whole grain tortillas

2 quarts raw spinach or Swiss chard, washed carefully and thoroughly dried, then cut into strips {I mince the stems & sauté them with onions, jalapenos & garlic}

Peppers, cut so that they are in relatively flat pieces {bell peppers, poblanos or Anaheims are all great here}; we use 1 bell pepper, or about 3 smaller size peppers

1/2 small onion, finely diced

1 jalapeno, finely diced {add more or less depending on how much heat you like}; or you can use dried red pepper flakes, Serrano peppers, etc.

3 cloves garlic, minced & allowed to sit for 10 minutes {to achieve the health benefits}

Approximately 4 ounces of cheese, thinly sliced {we like Gruyere because it is a delicious low fat cheese that melts well}

The most time consuming part of this recipe is the prep; once everything is sliced and diced you are ready to put your quesadillas together.

Spray a large pan with pan spray, and then add a film of olive oil.  Sauté the peppers over medium heat, until they have a bit of color and are beginning to get tender.  They do not have to be completely tender.  Remove peppers to a plate lined with a paper towel, and blot to absorb any extra oil.

In the same pan, sauté the onion, jalapeno, garlic and stems over medium heat until almost tender. Add the leaves and toss everything together for about a minute, or until leaves are just wilted.  Remove from the heat.  The leaves should be glossy, dark green and gorgeous.

You are now ready to put your quesadillas together!

Place tortilla on a dinner plate.  On half the tortilla, place the cheese, top with peppers and then the greens. Spray a skillet {we use cast iron} with pan spray and then film with olive oil.  Fold the tortilla in half and put in the skillet preheated to medium to medium-low.  The objective is to crisp the tortilla, heat everything through, melding the cheese with the greens and peppers, without burning the tortilla.  Flip the quesadillas several times;  if you flip one, flip the other.  My husband, the quesadilla cook, said he flips them at least 3 or 4 times.  Adjust the heat so that they do not brown too quickly on one side.  Serve them with the cheese on top, so gravity can draw it down through the greens and peppers.

Cut into thirds or fourths & eat immediately.  I cut the quesadillas with my kitchen shears, cutting through the top tortilla first, and then cut the bottom tortilla with the filling; this ensures the filling not squishing out when you cut them.  We eat ours with Tapatio Hot Sauce {a lot of it!}, and sometimes with a little sour cream or plain yogurt {ok, I sometimes put plain yogurt on mine}.

Notes:
My husband says that a nice glass of red wine is really nice while you are cooking these, and I concur!
* We tried soft goat cheese in these, but weren’t crazy with the results.  We love goat cheese, but not here.
* Go easy on the oil-you don’t want your quesadillas to be greasy.
* Be sure your greens are thoroughly dry, so that they aren’t too wet {soggy quesadillas not great}
* Use a sturdy tortilla.  We tried brown rice tortillas, and while they were super tasty, they cracked right down the middle when we folded them.
* The first time you make these, you may want to make a thinner quesadilla, for ease in turning.  They can be a bit tricky to turn over.
* Jarred roasted peppers are fine!  Before we moved to Maui, we used the jarred piquillo peppers from Trader Joe’s.
* I LOVE a good mouth burn, and usually get one with these quesadillas.  But if you don’t, leave out the hot peppers, simple as that.
* If your quesadilla is a little spicier than you like, sour cream or plain yogurt cools it off very nicely.

Bon appetit!


4 Comments

“Large, naked, raw carrots are acceptable as food only to those who live in hutches eagerly awaiting Easter.”  Fran Lebowitz

I’m okay with raw carrots, I really am.  But I think carrots really sing when they are cooked.  They belt out their ultimate deliciousness when they are roasted.

You know how roasting vegetables caramelizes them and makes them nice and sweet?  And tender and delicious?  Well, dribble some coconut oil and a heavy dusting of Moroccan spices into the mix and you’ve got a winner.  I would be proud to serve these vegetables to anyone.  Next time I will add some chunks of onion and garlic.  Make a lot, because you will not want to run out.  Consider yourself warned!

Roasted carrots and potatoes with Moroccan spices final
Roasted Potatoes & Carrots with Coconut Oil & Moroccan Spices

1 large potato {peeled if not organic}, cut into chunks
3 large carrots {peeled if not organic}, cut into chunks
1 medium onion, cut into chunks
Coconut oil
Freshly ground salt & pepper
Moroccan Spice Mix {recipe below}
2 cloves of garlic, mashed into a paste

Cut the potatoes, carrots & onions into pieces that will cook in about the same amount of time.  Put in a bowl large enough to comfortably {& neatly} toss the vegetables with the coconut oil & seasonings.  Start with about 1 tbsp. of coconut oil; if that coats all the vegetables nicely, then that’s enough-you don’t want greasy vegetables.  Season with plenty of freshly ground salt and pepper, and a generous dose of the Moroccan Spice Mix.  Line a sheet pan with foil, then spray with pan spray to prevent sticking {I used coconut oil spray}.  Arrange the vegetables on the pan in a single layer.  Roast in a 375 degree oven, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes.  You can leave them in for a while after they are tender, because they will turn a lovely golden brown, which makes them super tasty.  When they are golden brown, put them back into the big bowl.  Add the garlic paste and mix it all up.  The heat from the vegetables will cook the garlic and impart a delectable garlic flavor.

Serves about 3 roasted vegetable lovers

Moroccan Spice Mix

2 tsp ground cumin {preferably whole seeds toasted, then ground}
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp chili powder  {I used my homemade chili powder; use whatever chili powder you like}
1 tsp sweet paprika
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
Pinch of ground cloves
Mix it all up & store in a tightly lidded jar.

Homemade Chili Powder

3 T sweet paprika
1 T ground cumin {preferably whole seeds toasted, then ground}
2 T oregano {preferably Mexican}
1 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder {yes, there is the occasional use for garlic powder!}
1 whole dry ancho chile, broken up
1/2 tsp celery seed
1 tsp coriander seed

Put all ingredients into a small food processor or blender, and process until the pieces of ancho chile are ground.  Store in a tightly lidded jar.

Bon Appetit!


Leave a comment

Would you pack this vegetable in your lunch?

You know, when you get your first asparagus, or your first acorn squash, or your first really good tomato of the season, those are the moments that define the cook’s year. I get more excited by that than anything else.” by Mario Batali

Raw asparagus in glass final

Asparagus is one of the definitive signs that spring is finally here, along with buttery daffodils, sweet peas and fragrant lilacs.  I don’t notice the change in seasons so much in Maui. Even though the weather does change discernibly in the spring and fall, it isn’t as striking a change as it is in the Pacific Northwest, where we lived before making the wise decision to move back to the Hawaiian Islands.  I’m not aware of daffodils or lilacs growing in Maui, but asparagus makes a springtime appearance at the farmer’s market.  When asparagus comes to you directly from the farmer, you have beautiful dark green spears, just waiting to be roasted in a hot oven, steamed and then adorned with freshly made mayonnaise or aioli or made into a silky soup.  Before we get to the recipe, let us go back to the title of this post.  Would you pack this vegetable in your lunch?  I think you know what I’m referring to here-the totally normal malodorous after effects of eating asparagus.  You may think that you do not have pungent pee after you eat this springtime delicacy, but in fact you do.  However, according to Web MD, only about a quarter of the population has the gene that allows them to detect asparagus’ sulfurous amino acids that break down into smelly chemical components in everyone.  People have noticed this phenomenon for centuries. In 1913 French novelist Marcel Proust noted that asparagus “transforms my chamber-pot into a flask of perfume.” A British men’s club is purported to have put up a sign that said, “During the asparagus season, members are requested not to relieve themselves in the hat stand.”  I am one of the lucky 25% who has the gene and just in case the person who follows me into the ladies’ room does too, I usually choose to enjoy my asparagus at home.  How about you?

Roasted Asparagus with Lemon & Thyme

1 pound asparagus washed & dried, ends trimmed {I snap the stems off at their natural breaking point.}
Extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground salt & pepper
Fresh thyme sprigs
Thin slices of lemon, halved

Put asparagus on a cookie sheet & drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Roll the asparagus around so that the spears are filmed with oil.  Don’t put too much, or your asparagus will be greasy.  Season with salt & pepper, and then distribute thyme sprigs over all.  Top with thin slices of lemon.  Roast in a 375 degree oven for 7-15 minutes, depending on how thick your asparagus is.  I start checking for doneness around 7 minutes.  I like the asparagus to be tender, but not so tender that it bends when I pick it up.  Be sure to eat the lemon slices with the asparagus {if you have organic you can eat the rind too-it’s good for you}.

Roasted Asparagus final