Grilled Eggplant with Caramelized Onions and Tomatoes

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This is such a simple recipe and I’ve made versions of it three times now in the last week. Eggplant grows very well here and they are in the height of their season right now. Grilling the eggplant in a healthy amount of olive oil does something just magical to them. Switch out the tomatoes for all sorts of other compliments – pesto, cooked figs, bacon. NOM.

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Grilled Eggplant with Caramelized Onions and Tomatoes

Ingredients:
2 eggplant, stems removed, sliced width-wise in 3/4″ slices
1/2 cup + 1 Tbs olive oil, divided
salt and pepper
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
1 large sweet onion

Instructions:

Instructions:
In a heavy skillet over medium heat, add a tablespoon of olive oil and the onions. Cook and stir frequently until caramelized, about 15-20 minutes. If the onions start to brown too quickly, turn down the heat and salt them a little.

While the onions are cooking, heat a BBQ grill to medium. Aim for about 350-400 degrees. Brush the eggplant slices with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the slices in a single layer on the hot grill, working in batches if needed. Grill for 4-5 minutes a side and remove.

Arrange the grilled eggplant on a serving platter and top with the soft onions once they’re perfectly done. Scatter the tomatoes over the top and drizzle with balsamic. Eat at any temperature.

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Roasted Cauliflower with Figs and Mint

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This is the most wonderful side dish. The flavors are familiar, but surprising together. Buttery, well roasted cauliflower with soft figs, sharp balsamic, and bright mint. Do it.

Roasted Cauliflower with Figs and Mint
Wildly adapted from Food Network Magazine

Ingredients:
1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets (about 8 cups)
1/4 cup + 1 tsp olive oil, divided
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
6 dried figs, coarsely chopped
Salt and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
2 Tbs aged balsamic vinegar

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Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Put the cauliflower florets on a baking sheet, drizzle over the 1/4 cup olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Toss a bit to coat and evenly spread the cauliflower on the baking sheet. Transfer to the oven and roast, stirring once with a spatula, until golden brown at the edges, about 20 minutes.

Into a skillet, add the teaspoon of olive oil with the garlic and figs and cook until they’re softened, about 3 minutes.

Transfer the hot cauliflower to a serving bowl and add the fig and garlic mixture, the mint, and balsamic vinegar. Toss to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary and serve warm or at room temperature.

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Roasted Basque Peppers

The Treasure Valley region where I live in Idaho along the Oregon boarder has a very close-knit, active Basque community. Nearby Boise has one of the largest Basque populations outside of Spain. The Basques are the oldest living ethnic group on the European continent, yet have never managed to have a country of their own. Yet they have survived as a culture and incorporating that rich history of traditions into this area has made us more diverse, interesting, and valuable, I believe.

But this is a post about peppers. This is hearsay, but I understand that local farmers grow these peppers from seeds that were brought here specifically from the Basque region. I had them for the first time at one of my favorite restaurants, Epi’s. They are served whole and fried as a side dish to anything you order. They are unlike any other peppers I’ve had before and luckily, most peppers grow beautifully in our Idaho sun.

These particular peppers originated from the Basque region of Spain. I believe these are Gernika peppers. Gernika is a Spanish pepper that is long and without any heat. It is often served fried or stuffed with cheese or other fillings. Served on a plate all their own, pimientos de Gernika are typically fried in olive oil with garlic until they’re shriveled and slightly browned. Slightly bitter, these peppers are great with steak or on their own as a ración (small plate), eaten with a cold beer.

I found this recipe of sorts from the local independent paper’s website and was intrigued by the idea of roasting the peppers whole instead of frying them. So, with my weekly big vegetable roast, I did a pan of the Gernika peppers, sprinkled only with a bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. They roasted, uncovered, for 45 minutes at 400 degrees. Sprinkled with salt, they were served with dinner that night. Afterwards, I removed the stems and seeds and chopped them up for easy use through the week. I’ve especially loved them with my eggs in the morning. Mmm!

New Potato Salad

I really had to resist my characteristic food fussing with this lovely potato salad. I kept thinking of things to add and had olives, green beans, and hard boiled eggs out and ready to go. But I’m proud to say that I tasted before adding the accouterments and had the self-regulation to stop at it’s perfect point. I think this dish stands tall in it’s simplicity. It’s bright and light, but still has complexity and the substance you expect from potato salad.

New potatoes are just young potatoes of any variety that haven’t converted all their sugar to starch. I prefer the small red and purple varieties over russets and “baking” potatoes.

Scale the recipe up or down depending on how many potatoes you have, not how many you have to feed, because this is the sort of thing that gets better the next couple of days and you’ll want it again and again. Also, this is ideal to make ahead for a picnic or potluck. What could be better summer fare?

New Potato Salad
Adapted from Gourmet, August 2006

Ingredients:
4 lb small potatoes, preferably new potatoes, halved or chopped in 1″ pieces
3 tsp salt, divided
1/2 small, sweet onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
3 Tbs whole-grain mustard
2 Tbs white-wine vinegar
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
6 Tbs olive oil
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley or cilantro, chopped

Instructions:

Cover potatoes with water by 1 inch in a large pot, then bring to a boil with 2 teaspoons salt. Simmer, partially covered, until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes, then drain. Put the potatoes back in the empty pot. In a small bowl, whisk together the onion, mustard, vinegar, pepper, and remaining teaspoon salt, then add oil in a slow stream, whisking until emulsified. Add to the pot of potatoes with the parsley or cilantro and toss well to combine. Transfer to a serving bowl. Serve warm or even better, cover and refrigerate for at least a few hours. Bring to room temperature to serve.

More Summer Vegetable Roasting

With the heaps of tomatoes, zucchini, and peppers making their way from gardens and farm stands to my kitchen, I’m relying on lots of salads and roasting to use up great quantities at a time.

To make this more of a simple ratatouille, I used more tomatoes than any other single ingredient. Beyond that, be free with the additions of peppers, squash, eggplant, garlic, and/or herbs. And of course, be more than generous with the olive oil.

I like to roast on parchment paper for easy clean up. Cut everything in similar sized pieces, toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and dried herbs (I used herbes de Provence) and coat everything well before distributing evenly on a parchment lined baking sheet. Roast at 375 degrees for an hour and a half to two hours, stirring a couple times throughout. You’ll know when it’s done. It should be reduced considerably in size, soft and nearly jam like in the caramelized places.

Simple, roasted veg like this is the essence of summer, concentrated. Serve as a side dish, top on bread or meat, or hearty sauteed greens, like kale. I like it cold from the fridge on big slices of roasted chicken or turkey breast.

Peach Cherry Crisp

Day 6 of no added sugar or artificial sweeteners. Holy mother, what a beast. I’m in the thick of the detox and not feeling super wonderful about it yet. The best advice I know to conquering what you battle is to “not feed the dragon”. This means that while giving up sugar, my body won’t make progress and break the psychological habit if I just replace this sugar with that sugar. This is why I have to quit honey and stevia too. Only fruit is in. But even that can be a crutch … and for now, it’s one I’m going to lean on. So I’m bending my own rules. I’m replacing sugar with fruit, which my mind still reads as sugar. While it’s not ideal, I’m not off the wagon.

Let’s just ignore the fact that for my dad’s b-day party yesterday, I made this …

and this …

I didn’t even lick the fudge frosting gooing over my finger as I frosted. Not a crumb touched my lips, but it was a battle of will. One I hope I won’t even have to think about in a few weeks.

Sugar is strong stuff. I wish I would just up my kombucha and sauerkraut until the cravings are gone, but instead I made this mind-blowing, way more than satisfying, sweet summer peach cherry crisp. For my first week, I am accepting the sugar crutch in fruit form and hoping to cut back as my body gets more fat-adapted at burning my stores for fuel instead of simple carbs and the sugar.

Side note, I ran 3 miles today and felt incredible. It was great to pop on the treadmill and be done with my workout in 30 minutes. I feel strong and healthy, despite the sugar sadness.

I made this crisp with Kerrygold butter from grass-fed cows, but you could make the recipe paleo by using coconut oil instead.

Peach Cherry Crisp

Ingredients:
2 cups peaches (about 2 small), diced into 1/2″ pieces
1 1/2 cups cherries, pitted and halved
1 Tbs quick-cooking Tapioca
Juice of one lime (about 2 Tbs)
1/2 cup pecans (almonds or macadamia nuts would also be yummy)
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
2 dates, pitted
1/4 cup butter or coconut oil
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbs coconut flour

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use a bit of butter or coconut oil to grease an 8″x8″ pan. In a medium sized bowl, mix together the peaches, cherries, tapioca, and lime juice. Pour the fruit into the prepared pan. In a food processor, mix the remaining ingredients and pulse until it’s an even, crumbly mixture. Sprinkle the topping on the fruit and distribute evenly. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the fruit is bubbly and the topping is browned. Serve as is or top with a bit of yogurt or coconut milk.

Quinoa Tabbouleh

This is extraordinary… healthy, crowd friendly, delicious, and easy. I doubled the recipe to take most to a potluck. The flavor is bright and summery. I had a big bowl tonight with a cold, sliced chicken breast I baked Friday. Thank heaven for leftovers and summer salad dinners.

Quinoa Tabbouleh
Adapted from Bon Appetit, June 2012

Ingredients:
1 cup quinoa, rinsed well (extra credit if you soak it overnight)
1 1/4 cup water
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 cucumber, peeled, seeds removed, and cut into 1/4″ pieces
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved or 2 large tomatoes, cut into 1/4″ pieces
3/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint

 

Instructions:
Bring quinoa and water to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until quinoa is tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Meanwhile, whisk lemon juice and garlic in a large bowl. Gradually whisk in olive oil. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper. Spread out quinoa on a large rimmed baking sheet; let cool. Transfer to the large bowl with dressing and mix. Add cucumber, tomatoes, and herbs to bowl with quinoa; toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

 

Everyday Eats – Chicken and Sweet Potato Layer Bake

This goes under the “everyday eats” category because it represents the daily quest to do something interesting and delicious, when I’m hungry, with what I have.

Days ago, I’d roasted the sweet potatoes and cooked a whole chicken in the slow cooker. Once the chicken was cooked, I let it cool, removed the meat from the skin and bones and shredded it for various uses through the week. I put the bones back in the slow cooker, covered them with water and a couple tablespoons of vinegar, and got 3 quarts of lovely broth after it simmered away for an evening. I froze the broth and didn’t have specific recipes for the chicken or sweet potatoes at the time. It’s the opposite of a menu plan. I know I won’t let the good ingredients go to waste and it makes it easy to eat these healthy options, especially when I’ve taken most of the work out of the meal ahead of time.

This isn’t a recipe in a strict way. Try it with ground beef or turkey. Use black beans instead of meat for a vegetarian version. Sub sliced olives for the goat cheese to make it paleo. Use a homemade salsa instead of my cheater enchilada sauce if you have some. The options are endless. This makes 2 – 8″x8″ pans or 1 – 9″x13″. I like making the two pans at once because I don’t have many people to feed and the other can be frozen for another meal.

I’m growing to love cooking this way. When I have quality, whole foods already prepped and waiting for me, it’s only a matter of flavors to make it a meal. The focus is on the ingredients, not on a recipe, which is a great way to cook when you don’t want to spend the day cooking.

Chicken and Sweet Potato Layer Bake

Ingredients:
3 roasted sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced in 1/4″ rounds
1 Tbs coconut or olive oil
12 oz (about 20) baby portabello mushrooms, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 Tbs cumin
4 cups chicken, shredded
1 can (28 oz) green chile enchilada sauce
1 bunch cilantro, minced
5 oz chevre, crumbled

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large skillet over medium heat, add the oil, mushrooms, onion, salt, and spices. Saute until all the moisture has evaporated and the mixture is fragrant and browned, about 10-12 minutes. Remove from heat. In a mixing bowl, combine the chicken and cilantro. Add the mushroom mixture and combine. Lightly oil 2 – 8″x8″ pans. Pour 1/4 cup green chile sauce in each. Make a layer of sweet potato slices in each pan and then top with the chicken mixture. Pour 1 cup green chile sauce over each. Add a final layer of sweet potato slices, top with another cup (each) of green chile sauce, and crumble the chevre on top. Bake for 30-40 minutes until heated through. Top with more chopped cilantro to serve.