Nom Nom…tomatoes and eggplant

Found another recipe recently that I had to try from Food & WineMarinated Eggplant and Tomato Salad with Buffalo Mozzarella.  What sounded unique about it is that the eggplant is never cooked, it just marinates for a heck of a long time.  Hey, think about it as veggie ceviche, right?

Ingredients

1 pound small or medium Italian eggplants, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick, slices scored on both sides at 1/4-inch intervals — I just picked up the first eggplant I saw
Kosher salt
Black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3 garlic cloves, crushed
3 basil sprigs, plus basil leaves for garnish
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 pounds heirloom tomatoes, coarsely chopped
8 ounces buffalo mozzarella, coarsely torn or chopped (I used a goat gouda)

Directions
-In a colander set over a large bowl, toss the eggplant slices with 1 1/2 teaspoons 
of salt. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour, tossing occasionally. — I actually let that sit for a few hours while I was out

-Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk the olive oil with the vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, basil sprigs, oregano and crushed red pepper; season lightly with salt and black pepper.

-Squeeze all of the water from the eggplants and pat dry. Chop into bite-size pieces. Add to the marinade and let stand for 3 hours, stirring occasionally. — then once this was done I put it in the fridge overnight — was REALLY glad I actually read this recipe thoroughly several times

-Add the tomatoes to the eggplant mixture and toss to coat; discard the basil sprigs and garlic. Transfer to a serving platter and top with the mozzarella and basil leaves.

Make Ahead
The recipe can be prepared through Step 3 and refrigerated overnight. Bring to room temperature before proceeding.

This was pretty good, quite unique. It also looks quite Chrismas-y.  I think it got even better the next day.  And actually, the next day, used it more as a bruschetta and also tossed it in salad. Can’t complain!

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Farmer’s Market Finds

Roamed by the farmer’s market the other day and had to stop when I saw all the great looking heirloom tomatoes.  These guys were awesome.  I knew I wouldn’t be leaving without some.  I had to pick, though, and that was the hardest part.  The one I really wanted was the big orange one behind the the large group of smaller red guys on the right (not in the basket).  But first I had to take it to the scale…1.8 pounds.  WHOA!  Ok, I was not going to pay over $7 for 1 tomato.  I grabbed various colors of the smaller guys.

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Then, next to them were some eggplant I’d never seen before, Fairy Tale Eggplant.  I was told to slice them longways and grill (can’t have a BBQ at my place) or pan sear/cook them.  They had a nice flavor to them, different than a normal eggplant — a bit sweet — and just so fun.

Love the farmer’s market!

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Mykonos Grill

Another restaurant tested…received a recommendation to check out Mykonos Grill in Rockville, MD from a good friend.  I had driven by it countless times (when going to Bed, Bath & Beyond) and was glad to hear it was worth checking out.

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Got there sort of early and the hostess asked if I had a reservation.  No, but was able to get a table for my friend and me.  Within 30 minutes that place was packed!  Wow, this place i obviously popular.

My friend and I split a bottle of Greek Red.  Can’t remember the name of it (no correlation to the amount we drank).

They come out with their warm bread and the super seasoned lemony olive oil — so good!

We ordered some Melitzanosalata right off the bat;  a smoked mousse (no dairy) eggplant froth, olive oil, lemon juice and herbs.  Similar to baba ghannoush.

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Based on their specials that night, we opted to split their roasted Branzino, a whole Mediterranean bass, white moist tender flakes, delicate flavor.  It was so nice.

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The servers were so nice, all the service was great, the place was packed and the dinner just melted in your mouth.  I can’t believe I had driven by this place so many times.  Glad I finally went.

 

Baby Eggplant

Was roaming around the produce section at Sprouts the other day and saw these random purple, oblong-ish things that I didn’t recognize at first.  Stopped and then determined what they were.  Whoa — baby eggplant.  So neat.  They were 1.5″-2″ long and just too good to pass up.  And, they were a whopping 5 for $1.

IMG_1777[1]To cook, decided to slice them in half, longways, season with some Italian herbs, drizzle with olive oil and put on the grill.

IMG_1779[1]Cooked for 10+ minutes, turning once.  So good.  You could eat them in one bite, scoop out the middle, pop the inside out by pressing from the skin.  They had just a bit of a different taste from regular eggplant.  They would be perfect to serve as appetizers because they can totally be finger food.

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African Meat Tastings

When on my trip to South Africa, I was able to try several meats I had never had the opportunity to sample before.  I wanted to take every opportunity I could to go local with what they had.  I was about 50/50 on them.

First was a Kudu loin.  It was served grilled with a cranberry & carrot sauce, spicy parsnip shavings, roasted garlic polenta, and these DELICIOUS, addictive sesame brinjal batons. I didn’t actually know what brinjal was until writing this post and looking it up.  It’s eggplant, just the name they use for it in South Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia (you learn something new everyday).  The meat was very, very chewy.  Glad I tried it, not my favorite.

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Next one I tried was a Springbok Carpaccio.  It was a bit ‘tasteless’ — but still nice to have a wild game carpaccio!

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Third new meat I tried was Ostrich.  Super healthy/lean.  According to the American Ostrich Association (there is an association for everything…), “ostrich is similar in taste, texture and appearance to beef. It’s comparable to beef in iron and protein content, but ostrich has less than half the fat of chicken and two-thirds less fat than beef and pork. Ostrich beats the competition with fewer calories, too. That’s why ostrich is the choice of health-conscious consumers who refuse to sacrifice flavor.” It’s tough to determine if this falls under poultry, game or other, but it is classified as red meat.  What I do know is that I loved it!  So lean, tasty and I wish we could easily get it here!  I did research when I got home and the couple places in the DC-area who used to carry it can’t get it anymore because at last count it was $60/lb.  Ouch!

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The last one I tried that was unique was Warthog.  OMG!  AMAZING!  Get me a warthog farm here in the States.  I can’t begin to describe how flavorful this stuff was.  Unreal.

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Another great part of the trip — some unique food to South Africa, some of which we can’t get here in the States.  Just another reason to go back.

 

Eggplant & Porcini ‘Meatballs’

I love trying new recipes and not long ago I made one that made me remember that I:

-do love cooking

-appreciate that I love cooking

-understand why some people detest cooking

-need to remember to always read the entire recipe before making it for the first time

-will always always always love the kitchen

The recipe was for Eggplant and Porcini ‘meatballs’.  Took awhile to track down dried porcini from stores having them out of stock, to others not carrying them to being in sticker shock.

I started making this at 9am and finally finished around 4pm (no, it was not continuous, and I did make a double batch).  I was lucky to be using and AMAZING kitchen while doing this.

Some of the basic overviews:

-Roasting the eggplant for about an hour — end result below

IMG_1609-Dried Porcini

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-Soak ’em for half an hour.

 

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-You eventually get to chop them, and some onions.

 

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-You sautee those onions with some garlic…ahh, the kitchen smells so good.

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-Throw some canned tomatoes in the blender to make them nice and smooth.

 

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-Add those tomatoes to the onions and garlic.

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-Throw in some parsley.IMG_1608

-This simmers for awhile.  While this is happening you can go back to the eggplant which has had a lot happen to it.

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-Shape into ‘meatballs’.

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-Whip out the pan to cook them.

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-And in the end, you add them to the tomato sauce for a final product…

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These were good.  I think I’m not saying amazing because they took more effort than I was expecting but everybody whowas had them loved them so that’s all I needed to hear.