Roasted Eggplant & Feta Dip, Better-than-Pita Grill Bread, Crudites

by Jennifer

This dip, adapted from Eating Well, is supposed to be an appetizer, but it made a wonderful summer dinner.  My husband doesn’t even like eggplant and had three helpings!  My youngest son declared the grill bread “better than naan”, and that’s saying something.  Serves 4.

Roasted Eggplant & Feta Dip

  • 1 medium eggplant (about 1 lb)
  • 2 TBS red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 oz. crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1 red pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced (optional….I included this, and it was spicy, but delicious)
  • 2 TBS chopped fresh basil
  • 1 TBS chopped parsley
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • pinch of sugar (optional…I included this)

Preheat broiler with oven rack 6 inches away from heat source.  Prick eggplant multiple times with a fork, then place on a foil-lined pan and broil, turning every 5 minutes or so,

until the eggplant’s skin is charred and a knife inserts easily near the stem, about 20 minutes total.  Set eggplant aside to cool.

Meanwhile, combine vinegar and red onion in a medium-sized bowl and let macerate for 20 minutes.  When eggplant is cool enough to handle,

slice it lengthwise and scoop out the flesh into the bowl with the onion and vinegar, and mash with a fork.

Add the olive oil and continue to mash, leaving some texture to the eggplant.

Stir in the remaining ingredients, and serve with grill bread and crudites.

Better-than-Pita Grill Bread – adapted from Gourmet magazine

Keep the grill bread warm in a kitchen towel as you cook them, or you can make them up to a day ahead, cool them completely, and rewarm them, wrapped loosely in foil, in a 350 degree oven until warm.  This recipe makes 10 pieces of grill bread, but honestly, my family of 5 could have happily eaten another 10!

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour plus extra for kneading and rolling
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp yeast
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 TBS warm water
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 TBS beaten egg

Whisk together the flour, sugar, salt and yeast in a medium-sized bowl.

In a smaller bowl, whisk together the oil, water and egg.

Add the liquids to the flour mixture and stir until combined.  Knead the dough, using additional flour to keep it from sticking, for 2 minutes (dough will not be smooth);

transfer dough to a clean oiled bowl, turning to coat, cover with plastic wrap, and place in a warm place for 30 minutes.

Divide dough into 10 pieces.  Heat a ridged grill pan or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat.

On a lightly floured surface roll out one piece of dough at a time into a very thin, roughly 6” round (mine are pretty rough).  Brush the skillet with a little oil and grill one round at a time, about 1 minute per side,

until there are grill marks on both sides and the bread is cooked through.

Transfer breads to a kitchen towel and wrap loosely as you cook the rest.  Serve warm.

Very Full Tart with Caramelized Fennel Salad

by Jennifer

The Very Full Tart comes from Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook, Plenty, and it’s absolutely delicious.  The original recipe called for 7 cherry tomatoes, halved, added to the tart when you add the cheese, which I did not do.  One thing:  my prebaked pie crust shrunk considerably (not enough overhang?), and of course the egg/cream filling spilled over the crust and surrounded it.  The result – no longer a crisp tart crust, but still fantastic!  (Seen here served with Challah.)

Serves 6.

Very Full Tart

  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 yellow pepper
  • 7 TBS olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium eggplant, chopped into 2” pieces
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 small sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 small zucchini, diced
  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 11 oz. pie crust dough (I used the Fool-Proof pie dough recipe, which I made the day before)
  • Fresh thyme leaves from 8 sprigs of thyme
  • 1/3 cup ricotta
  • 4 oz. crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 450 degrees, with one rack in the upper third of the oven and one in the center.  Carefully remove the stem of each pepper, reaching in and cleaning out the seeds and membranes (shake them over the sink, or rinse them out and shake dry).

Place peppers in a small ovenproof dish, drizzle with about 1 TBS olive oil, and place on the top rack in the oven.

In a bowl, toss the eggplant with 4 TBS oil and season with salt and pepper.  Spread on a rimmed baking sheet and place on the center rack;  roast for 12 minutes.

To the eggplant add the sweet potato, stir gently, and roast for another 12 minutes.

Check the peppers;  if the top side is blackened, use tongs to turn them over.

Add the zucchini to the sweet potato and eggplant pan, stir gently, and roast for another 10 – 12 minutes.  Remove all vegetables from the oven, cover the pepper dish with foil to let them steam, and lower the oven to 325 degrees.

While the vegetables are roasting, heat 2 TBS oil in a 10” – 12” saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onions and bay leaves and saute, stirring frequently,

until brown and tender, about 20 minutes.  Set aside, discarding bay leaves.  When the peppers are cool, peel and roughly chop them.

Combine all of the roasted vegetables in a bowl.

Coat a 9” – 10” tart pan with a removable bottom with cooking spray.  Roll out pie dough to about 1/8” thick and transfer to the tart pan, pressing gently into the corners and letting some overhang.

Line the dough with a circle of parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans.  Bake the crust at 325 degrees for 30 minutes;  carefully remove pie weights and parchment paper and bake the crust for another 10 – 15 minutes, or until golden.  (I baked the crust a few hours ahead and let it sit at room temperature.)

Scatter the onions over the tart crust,

then top with the roasted vegetables, sprinkling half the thyme leaves over everything.

Drop teaspoons of ricotta cheese over the vegetables, and scatter the feta cheese.

Whisk together the eggs, cream, salt and pepper to taste;  pour this mixture over the vegetables, sprinkling the remaining thyme leaves on top.

Bake for 45 – 60 minutes, or until the filling sets and turns golden.  Allow to rest for a few minutes before removing tart from the pan and serving.

Caramelized Fennel Salad – adapted from Ina Garten

  • 3 bulbs fennel, halved lengthwise, cored, and thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 TBS brown sugar
  • 1 TBS extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 5 oz. salad greens
  • Red Wine Vinaigrette (see below)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a large bowl toss together the fennel through pepper.

Spread fennel mixture over a large rimmed baking sheet (on parchment for easier clean up) and bake for 30 minutes, stirring halfway through.

Remove from oven and let cool (you can make the fennel up to a day in advance;  let it come to room temperature before serving).  Toss caramelized fennel with the salad greens and vinaigrette;  serve immediately.

Red Wine Vinaigrette:

  • 2 TBS red wine vinegar
  • 1 TBS fresh lemon juice
  • pinch sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Whisk together dressing ingredients;  you can make the vinaigrette in advance and refrigerate — let it come to room temperature before using.

Quinoa Cakes with Eggplant-Tomato Ragu and Smoked Mozzarella, Caesar Salad

by Jennifer

My husband is not crazy about eggplant (and yet, I still continue to cook with it, go figure), but he loved this dish.  You can make both the quinoa cakes and the ragu ahead of time (up to a day, covered and chilled).   Serves 4.

Quinoa Cakes with Eggplant-Tomato Ragu and Smoked Mozzarella – adapted from Gourmet magazine

  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 egg
  • 5 – 6 TBS olive oil, divided
  • 1 1/2 lb. eggplant, cut into 1/2” cubes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 TBS olive oil
  • 1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 TBS chopped parsley
  • 1/4 lb. smoked mozzarella, diced

To make the quinoa cakes, bring the water and salt to a boil, add the quinoa, cover and lower heat to a simmer (medium-low);

cook quinoa for 20 – 25 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed.  Remove from heat and let cool 5 – 10 minutes;

stir in the egg until well-combined.  Cover a baking sheet with plastic wrap and brush wrap with a little olive oil;  brush a 1 cup dry-ingredient measure with olive oil.

Using a spatula fill the cup 2/3 full, packing gently;

invert cake onto the plastic wrap and make three more cakes, brushing the cup with oil in between.

Gently pat down the cakes until they are 4″ in diameter.  Chill in the fridge at least 15 minutes (longer, cover loosely with plastic wrap).

While the quinoa is cooking and you’re making the cakes, toss the eggplant with 1 tsp salt in a colander set in the sink, and let it sit for 30 minutes.  Using your hands, squeeze out any liquid from the eggplant,

then pat it dry in a clean kitchen towel.

Heat 3 TBS oil in a large skillet over medium heat;  cook the eggplant, onion, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper to taste, until the onion is begins to get tender, about 5 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and water, stir, cover, and lower heat to a simmer;  cook for 10 minutes.

You can cool the ragu at this point, and chill it, covered, up to a day, or you can set it aside until the cakes are cooked.

To cook the quinoa cakes, heat 2 TBS olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat (I transfered the ragu to a medium-size pot and refrigerated it until it was dinner time);  transfer the cakes to the pan using a wide spatula coated with cooking spray.  Cook 4 – 5 minutes per side, adding 1 – 2 TBS oil as needed after flipping to the other side.

When the cakes are ready, add the parsley and half the mozzarella to the ragu, stirring just until the mozzarella begins to soften.  Plate the cakes, divide the ragu on top each cake, and top with the remaining mozzarella.

Caesar Salad

This recipe does not contain eggs, and is lower in fat than most.  I made this recipe at the end of Passover, hence no croutons, but it would be even more delicious with some good store-bought or home-made croutons.

  • 1 large head romaine lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces, washed and dried
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 TBS fresh lemon juice
  • 2 TBS fat-free plain yogurt
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 1 TBS Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp anchovy paste
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Whisk together (or process in a mini-processor) the garlic through pepper.

Toss with lettuce, then add in cheese and toss again.  If using croutons, toss them in last.

Baked Rigatoni alla Norma

Baked Rigatoni alla Norma – adapted from Gourmet magazine

by Jennifer

Not only is this delicious and kid-friendly, depending on who your company is, but you can assemble it earlier in the day and refrigerate it;  add about 10 minutes more to your baking time, or until it’s heated through and the cheese is melted and browned in spots.

Serves 6 – 8.

  •  2 lbs. eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 24 – 26 oz. jar marinara sauce
  • 1 lb. rigatoni
  • 1 lb. fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

Toss the eggplant and salt together in a colander;  let sit in the sink for 30 minutes.  Rinse the eggplant, drain, and dry well in a kitchen towel.  Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-hight heat.

When the oil starts to shimmer, fry the eggplant, in three batches, until golden brown, about 5 minutes per batch.  Transfer the fried eggplant to paper towels to drain.  Discard all but about 2 TBS of the oil in the skillet.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the rigatoni until al dente;  drain.

Heat the remaining oil over medium heat and cook the onion until golden brown, about 8 minutes.

Add the marinara sauce and eggplant and simmer for 5 minutes.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the sauce, pasta and half of the mozzarella in the now empty pasta pot.  Spoon pasta mixture into a large baking dish and sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella.

Bake for 45 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and browned in spots.  Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Miso Butternut Squash Soup, Spicy Glazed Eggplant, Stir-fried Bok Choy and Cabbage, Brown Rice

By Jennifer

Miso Butternut Squash Soup, Spicy Glazed Eggplant, Stir-fried Bok Choy and Cabbage, Brown Rice

Miso-Butternut Squash Soup

Adapted from Mark Bittman, New York Times Magazine

I will confess, the first time I made this, I used fresh butternut squash;  this time, I already had steamed and pureed squash from a CSA (Community Sustained Agriculture, i.e. local farm subscription) overflow in the freezer and used that.  In this case, I sauteed the leeks alone, then added the garlic and ginger, then added the defrosted frozen squash and water.

  • 1 1/2 lbs. butternut squash, peeled and chopped
  • 1 leek, sliced length-wise, then chopped, and rinsed in a fine-mesh sieve
  • 2 TBS peanut oil or coconut oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 4” piece of fresh ginger, bark removed, and chopped
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/3 cup miso

Garlic and ginger

Thank goodness for mini-food processors

Process garlic and ginger in a mini food processor.

Washing chopped leeks

Leeks in the pot, softened

Heat the peanut oil in a large pot over medium heat;  add the leeks and squash and cook for about 5 minutes.  If you already have cooked squash like I do, then don’t add it with the leeks but with the water.

Adding ginger and garlic to leeks

Add the garlic and ginger and cook for 1 minute.

Adding squash and water

Add the water (and squash if already cooked and pureed) and simmer until the squash is tender, about 15 minutes.

Miso…you can pick which kind you use

Whisking 1 cup liquid with miso

Take 1 cup of liquid out of the pot and add it to the miso in a small bowl;  whisk well.  Pour the miso mixture into the soup pot.

About to puree soup with immersion blender

Puree, either using an immersion blender, or in batches using a standing blender, pouring the puree into a clean bowl.

Entertaining tip:  This can be made earlier in the day and gently reheated when it’s time to eat.

Spicy Glazed Eggplant

Spicy Glazed Eggplant is ready to serve

Adapted from Gourmet magazine

The original recipe called for Japanese seven-spice powder (shichimi togarashi), which I could not find (although if I still lived in Chicago I could have bought some at The Spice House!), so I settled for a dash of cayenne pepper.  Either way, it was delicious, and even my husband, not a huge eggplant fan, had seconds.

  • 1 1/4 lb. eggplant, ideally Asian, otherwise the longest/thinnest Italian eggplant you can find, trimmed, halved or quartered lengthwise depending on size, then cut diagonally into 1 1/2” pieces
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 TBS mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine)
  • 2 TBS low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly grated peeled ginger (use a box grater or Microplane)
  • dash cayenne pepper
  • 3 TBS peanut oil
  • 1 TBS finely chopped chives (I use kitchen scissors)

Eggplant and salt in a colander

Toss the eggplant and kosher salt together in a large colander and let sit in your sink for 45 minutes.

Eggplant after 8 minutes of stir-frying

Rinse well in cold water, and dry very well using a clean kitchen towel.

Sauce ingredients for eggplant are ready

In a small bowl combine the mirin, soy sauce, ginger and cayenne pepper.

Eggplant after 8 minutes of stir-frying

Heat the peanut oil in a wok over medium-high heat until it shimmers.  Stir-fry the eggplant until browned, about 8 minutes.

Eggplant now glazed with sauce

Add the mirin mixture and stir-fry for another minute or so, until the eggplant is glazed and tender.

Spicy Glazed Eggplant is ready to serve

Serve hot or at room temperature, sprinkled with the chives.

Entertaining tip:  The eggplant can be prepared earlier in the day and kept in the fridge until cooking time.  If you like, you can cook the eggplant up to 2 hours prior to serving;  sprinkle on the chives just before serving.

Stir-fried Bok Choy and Cabbage

Adapted from Gourmet magazine

  • 1 lb. bok choy, trimmed, cut lengthwise in thirds, then thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1 lb. Savoy or Napa cabbage, cored and very thinly sliced
  • 3 TBS. peanut oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tsp. sesame seeds, toasted

Bok choy is ready

Savoy cabbage is ready

Heat a wok or 12” heavy skillet over medium-high heat until a drop of water evaporates instantly.  Pour the oil down the side of the skillet and swirl it around the pan.

Garlic sizzling in the pan

Add the garlic and stir-fry for a few seconds.

Adding the bok choy and cabbage

Add the bok choy, cabbage and sea salt and stir-fry about 5 – 6 minutes, until the cabbage is crisp-tender.

Stir-Fried Bok Choy and Cabbage is ready

Serve drizzled with sesame oil and sprinkled with sesame seeds.

Entertaining tip:  You can clean and chop the greens earlier in the day and store in the fridge.  About an hour before company comes, slice the garlic and keep in a small bowl, covered with plastic wrap, in the fridge.  Sesame seeds can be stored in the freezer until the next time you need them.

Company Coming! 
For appetizers, you can serve the Edamame and Spinach Nori Rolls.

Spinach nori rolls and edamame

Hot fudge sundae, anyone