Saturday, February 28, 2009

Quick Eggplant Caponata Appetizer Dip

Eggplant Caponata
A great crush of rich hues, earthy flavors, and
surprisingly little oil. I wish I made a double batch.

Quick Eggplant Caponata - My own recipe

Ingredients

4 cups diced, unpeeled eggplant (about 3 small eggplants)
3 tablespoons salt for draining eggplant
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 stalk celery heart, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons fruit-infused balsamic vinegar (I used fig)
3 tablespoons capers, drained but not rinsed
1/4 cup black, green or assorted oil-cured olives, pitted, then sliced or chopped
1/4 cup pine nuts, tossed and toasted in a cast-iron skillet for 10 minutes
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Fresh parsley or basil leaves to garnish (optional)

Method

In a large bowl, toss eggplant with salt and set aside to leach bitterness and moisture for 1/2 an hour. Meantime, over medium-low heat, gently warm olive oil in a large skillet for about 20 seconds. Add celery, onion and garlic, stirring to combine. Cook until vegetables are soft and translucent, and garlic is golden without burning, stirring occasionally. Rinse eggplant under running water to remove salt; drain, then pat dry. Add to skillet, stir to combine with other vegetables and leave to simmer at least 15 minutes or until eggplant dice has reduced in size. Stir occasionally, but you can allow eggplant to stick and char a little for added flavor. Add tomato paste and water, stir to combine and gently simmer for about another 10 minutes, again, stirring occasionally. Stir in vinegar, capers and olives, covering the skillet and lowering the heat to the lowest setting. Let it simmer and steam for about 5 minutes. Remove cover, test for seasoning, adding caper juice and/or vinegar in small amounts if you prefer more salt or tang. Add pine nuts, sprinkle with black pepper, then spoon into a small bowl and top with optional herb garnish. Serve with crostini, pita chips or small slices of toasted Italian bread. Makes approximately 1 1/2 cups of concentrated dip. Serves 3-4 as a light starter. --

Eggplant Caponata & Pita Chips


This zero-hour post is for Vaishali of Holy Cow! Recipes from a Vegan Kitchen, hosting It's a Vegan World - Italian, and for Rachana of The Gourmet Launchpad, hosting A Healthy Bite.

Key Lime Coconut Cream Tapioca Pudding - Fresh Produce of the Month - Citrus

Key Lime Coconut Cream Tapioca Pudding
First okra, now tapioca - two childhood aversions overcome.
I am so proud of myself...and rather mystified, too.


Key Limes
Key limes are harvested when very green. The more
yellow they become, the more ripe they are.

Key Lime Coconut Cream Tapioca Pudding - My own recipe

Ingredients

1/2 cup small pearl tapioca, soaked overnight under refrigeration in 2 cups of water
4 fluid ounces freshly squeezed key lime juice
1 15-ounce can cream of coconut (not coconut milk, but the condensed, commercially sweetened cream used to make piña coladas)
2 large eggs, well beaten

Method (Consistent, patient stirring is essential for a successful texture)

In a medium-sized, heavy, preferably non-stick saucepan, combine key lime juice, cream of coconut and eggs, beating well with a wooden spoon or plastic-coated wire whisk. Drain tapioca pearls, then stir them into custard mixture. Over medium heat, constantly stir mixture for the next 15-20 minutes. If it threatens to bubble, turn heat down to low, but continue stirring. This will ensure that the eggs will not curdle and the mixture will not scorch. After about 5 minutes, mixture will begin to thicken and the tapioca pearls will begin to somewhat swell and turn translucent. As you get closer to the end of cooking, you will notice that the mixture has thickened considerably to a consistency that easily holds its shape when collected with a spoon. Remove from heat during the last few minutes, but continue to stir as the mixture completes cooking with the stored heat of the saucepan. Transfer immediately to a room temperature bowl to divide for serving while still warm, or place bowl in refrigerator to chill. Pudding will further thicken as it cools. Serves 4 generously. --
Key Lime Coconut Cream Tapioca Pudding

This recipe is for Simona of Briciole, hosting Fresh Produce of the Month - Citrus Fruits, for Marta of An Italian in the U.S., the creator of Fresh Produce of the Month.

Friday, February 27, 2009

REMINDER: MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - EIGHTH HELPING


A quick reminder to let you know that the February event is drawing to a close. This is probably more of a nudge to myself, since I haven't even pulled my own recipe together yet. ; } I am happy to include latecomers, but once the round-up is posted, all subsequent recipes are to be directed to Laurie of Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska, hosting the March edition of MLLA - Ninth Helping. Look sharp for her announcement coming soon. Laurie has chosen an enormously appetizing and fun cookbook for the next random drawing. I am so smitten with it that I have ordered a copy for myself as well as for the winner of the next round.

BIG THANKS to every one of you who has generously sent in dozens of fabulous recipes. I have received so many in the last few days that I am still sorting through them. If I haven't acknowledged you yet, please know that you didn't get lost in my spam filter (I am very meticulous to check it), but just haven't worked my way through all the emails.

The round-up is scheduled for late next week and will include the announcement of that one lucky winner of Cynthia's lovely new cookbook. I'm looking so very forward to it!

Monday, February 23, 2009

WEEKEND HERB BLOGGING #171 - THE ROUND-UP

Thanks to all for making WHB as popular an event as it has been from the get-go. As usual, a great assortment of recipes graces this edition. You'll find some old favorites as well as intriguingly novel ingredients guaranteed to satisfy your taste buds or pique your curiosity. You'll also meet some food bloggers who are new to blogging or just new to Weekend Herb Blogging. Welcome, everyone! Let's get down to dining!

~~~~~~~~

Smokin' rich red jalapeño peppers add mellow
heat and nuanced flavor, all as easy as opening a can.

Chipotles in Adobo Sauce
Ben - What's Cooking?
Columbus, Ohio, U.S.A.

~~~~~~~~

It takes many minces of a variety of vegetables to
generously fill spring rolls, but cabbage is still king.

Mediterrasian Kalitsounia (Spring Rolls)
Maria - Organically Cooked
Hania, Crete, Greece

~~~~~~~~

A fistful of cilantro and green peas turn a fragrant
rice into a simple, yet rousing, bowl of basmati.

Kothamalli Sadam (Coriander Rice)
Nags - Edible Garden
Singapore

~~~~~~~~

Broccoli rabe's bitter memories are a thing of
the past when prepared with crushed garlic,
sweet sausage and delicate pasta.

Shells with Turkey Sausage and Broccoli Rabe
Joanne - Eats Well with Others
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A.

~~~~~~~~

An ancient, obscure grain is a freekeh-n' brilliant bed
for a colorful medley of vegetables and spices.

Green Freekeh (Wheat) Pilaf
Yasmeen - Health Nut
Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.A.

~~~~~~~~

A serendipitous trip to a specialty market yields the
makings of a quick and crunchy dish with Asian accents.

Braised Pac Choi with Mushrooms
Rachel - The Crispy Cook
Schuylerville, New York, U.S.A.

~~~~~~~~

Radicchio and frisée add a bitter balance to rich and robust
grilled meats prepared to celebrate a special day in Greek culture.

Salad of Bitter Greens with Sherry Truffle Vinaigrette
Laurie - Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska
Anchorage, Alaska, U.S.A.

~~~~~~~~

You'll need a deep dish, indeed, to layer thick slabs
of fried aubergine with tomato sauce and cheese
for one of the Mediterranean's most classic casseroles.

Eggplant Parmigiana
Anna - Morsels and Musings
Sydney, Australia

~~~~~~~~

Brine lovers will rally at the double dose from capers and feta tossed
in a salad of tame tomatoes, creamy avocado and sweet, tender shrimp.

Salad of Tomato, Avocado, Feta, Shrimp, and Caper Vinaigrette
Kalyn - Kalyn's Kitchen
Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S.A.

~~~~~~~~

More's the pity some folk just don't take to cilantro,
but more for the rest of us is hardly a pity at all.

Cilantro Salsa
Pam - Sidewalk Shoes
Soddy Daisy, Tennessee, U.S.A.

~~~~~~~~

A specialty dish from Middle East teaches us that the jute rug
underfoot once had leaves that work their charms in the kitchen.

Malokia (Stew with Jute Leaves)
Julia - Grow. Cook. Eat.
Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.A.

~~~~~~~

Bursting with vitality, all spinach needs is a nip
of aromatic vegetables and a dollop of dairy for a
bowl of green brilliance as quick as it is tasty.

Spinach Soup
Seema- My Endeavors
U.S.A.

~~~~~~~~

Crossing plums with apricots is complicated science. Let's
leave the lab coats to wrangle as we tuck into the simple
pleasures of juicy fruit baked under sweet, buttered oats.

Pluot Crumble
Haalo - Cook (Almost) Anything at Least Once
Melbourne, Australia

~~~~~~~~
Overlooked in Western kitchens, charming banana flowers highlight
the beauty and economy of letting no part of a plant go discarded.


Paprika is more than just a pretty face. Turning up
the heat transforms this spice powder into a
formidable flavor to burnish many a classic recipe.

Beef Stroganoff
Katie - Thyme for Cooking, The Blog
Lot et Garonne, France

~~~~~~~~

An enthusiastic gardener tours us through the finer
points of a special culinary green, rarely seen in markets.

Lovely Lemony Sorrel
Sylvie - Rappahannock Cook and Kitchen Gardener
Washington, Virginia, U.S.A.

~~~~~~~~

Apples and raisins aren't just for Thanksgiving and Christmas
when they fill deep-fried dumplings to kick off the Easter season.

Fruit-Filled Fritelle
Cinzia - Cindy Star
Bardolino, Lake of Garda, Italy

~~~~~~~~

Once you note how easy and delightful it is to create your
own fresh herbal breadcrumbs, you will wonder why you ever
bothered to reach for the cardboard box on your grocer's shelf.

Herbal Breadcrumbs
Brii - Brii's Blog in English
Valsorda, Lake Garda, Italy

~~~~~~~~

Tender, tiny arugula is a musky match for
tidbits taken from a tapas bar menu.

Spanish Arugula Salad
Susan - The Well-Seasoned Cook
New York

~~~~~~~~

Please let me know if there are any omissions or corrections. I shall make the changes right away upon notification.

Special thanks
to Haalo for organizing Weekend Herb Blogging since Kayln's departure as mistress of ceremonies. Laurie of Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska is the current host for WHB #172. Do be sure to send her your best and brightest recipes per the requirements established here. Have a great week!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A Taste of Tapas - Arugula Salad with Manchego Cheese, Marcona Almonds & Membrillo Dressing - Weekend Herb Blogging #171

Arugula Salad
Feel like going to Spain but don't feel like leaving your
neighborhood? Grab a bag of arugula and follow me.


Salad-Spun Arugula
Baby arugula is snappy and musky, but not
rank as large, mature leaves can be.


Membrillo Salad Dressing
Membrillo (Spanish quince paste) dressing is fast and foolproof.

Arugula Salad with Membrillo Dressing - My own recipe

Ingredients (per serving)

2 large handfuls (about 3 cups) very fresh baby arugula leaves, washed and blotted dry (snip stem ends to remove any rust)
1/4 cup small chunks of Manchego cheese broken from a wedge with a knife tip

[Marcona almonds, Manchego cheese, and membrillo can be found in gourmet supermarkets, some Latin markets, and online.]

Optional extras

2 tablespoons chopped oil-cured green olives
2 tablespoons chopped red onions or
2 peeled and smashed shallot cloves, lightly grilled for a few minutes in a skillet with 1 teaspoon olive oil

Method

Fill serving bowl with arugula, then top with cheese and almonds, and any extras. Serve with membrillo dressing on side.

Membrillo Dressing (per serving)

Ingredients

2 generous tablespoons membrillo, softened to room temperature (guava paste also works nicely)
2-3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/8 teaspoon salt
A few cranks fresh black pepper

Method

Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl. Pour on salad right before serving. --

This is my contribution to Weekend Herb Blogging #171 being hosted by yours truly. I'll be back tomorrow night with the luscious round-up. Stay tuned!

Friday, February 20, 2009

WEEKEND HERB BLOGGING #171 - HOSTED HERE THIS WEEK


The ever-popular weekly food-blogging event, created by Kalyn Denny of Kalyn's Kitchen and now organized by Haalo of Cook (almost) Anything At Least Once, is being guest hosted here at The Well-Seasoned Cook through February 22. Please check for the rules, as well as what you need to send me, so that I can ensure you are included in the round-up scheduled for posting Monday night New York time. This will be my fourth hosting stint. As usual, the pleasure is all mine.

Thanks to all who have already sent along their recipes.

I'll be creating a dish with tiny, tender arugula. What are you thinking about making?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Stuck on Okra - Cajun Fried Okra with Rémoulade Sauce

Cajun Fried Okra & Remoulade Sauce

Love it or leave it. Nearly everyone has at least one comestible that they would rather push off their plate than push into their hungry mouth. Some would even require the prying open of jaws to remotely entertain the gustatory "horrors" of cilantro, offal, aubergine or eggs. But how many of us have made the valiant effort to broaden one's palate enough to actually enjoy an ingredient once anathema to us? Such is my own case with okra.

It started, as most of these things do, with early trauma. No matter how cute those Campbell's Soup Kids, their charm was lost every time my mother cranked the thin lid off yet another can of gumbo. Gumbo is good stuff, but I couldn't get passed the occasional pallid chunk of mushy okra floating like flotsam amid other, but not nearly as unidentifiable, vegetables. Of course, it didn't help that okra has a reputation for a certain textural quality, whether described in either clinical or vulgar terms, that could hardly help a sensitive seven-year old to be more open minded and forgiving.

But now, as a responsible adult with a food blog to feed, I have found that intractable opinions can sometimes conflict with the spirit of curiosity and the pleasures of sharing new discoveries. While there is no guarantee that I can persuade anyone to try an ingredient out of their comfort zone (we are all entitled to our tastes, no matter the origin), I am a living testimonial that you can cure okraphobia. Now, if only I can get over my fear of spiders.

"Cajun King" Okra
Very fresh okra, home grown by my mother at my
request, Summer 2008. That's how much I love it.
Variety: "Cajun Delight"

Okra 1

Cajun Fried Okra - My own recipe

Ingredients

20 fresh okra pods*, no longer than 4 inches long
2 tablespoon oil
2-3 tablespoons prepared Cajun blackened seasoning (available in your grocer's spice aisle); a homemade recipe can be found here
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)


Method (N.B. - It is critical that your kitchen is well ventilated; open a window and/or use the exhaust fan over your stovetop. Skillet will become very hot. Use of an oven mit to hold the handle is highly recommended.)

Rinse okra pods briefly in cold water, then pat fully dry with paper towels. Cut off stem and tip ends of each pod and discard them. Cut remaining pods crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces (see second photo above), laying them out on a fresh paper towel without letting them touch each other.

Over medium-high heat in a very large skillet that does not have a non-stick finish (cast iron preferred) heat the oil for about 10 seconds until it thins. Add the seasoning, pushing it through the oil with a large metal spoon or pancake turner (do not use plastic).

Blot okra with additional paper towels before adding it to the hot skillet. Immediately begin tossing and turning it to coat each piece. Turn up the heat slightly and continue to toss, turn and flip the pieces; keep them moving to expose all their surfaces to as much heat as possible. You will do this for at least 10 minutes or until the very fine strands of stickiness (they will look like melted sugar threads) begin to dry off and disappear. The pieces can touch each other briefly, but again, keep them moving. Lower heat back to medium-high and begin tossing less frequently so that crispy blackened edges and light scorch marks can develop. Total cooking time will be 20-25 minutes and fully attended; you must devote your full attention. Okra will be done when it has shrunken by at least a third of its raw size and no sticky moisture is evident when you press a fork against it. Remove from heat, sprinkle with optional salt and serve immediately. Some spice mixture will be lost and stuck to the skillet. This will not diminish the flavor. Wait until the skillet partially cools before adding water to clean it; it will otherwise "explode" in a huge head of steam from the stored heat. Serves 2. --

* Tips for selecting and storing fresh okra:

- Choose pods that are firm, unblemished and small (see first photo above). Larger pods are tougher and will contain more of the offending moisture.

- Seek out an Indian or Caribbean grocer. Cultures that routinely use okra in their cuisines will have a high turnover of produce and the best specimens.

- Carefully wrap uncut pods in single layers between paper towels and place in a large unsealed plastic storage bag before placing on an uncrowded shelf of your refrigerator. This improves circulation and minimizes condensation. Keeping the pods intact until just before use prevents leaking of moisture.

- Use as soon as possible, preferably within 2 days. Though still edible, success lies in the freshest pods that are not allowed to sit too long and get soft.

Cajun Blackened Okra

Rémoulade Sauce - My own recipe

Ingredients (to be prepared at least a few hours in advance)

1 tablespoon dried tarragon*
1 tablespoon dried chervil*
1/8 cup very hot water
1/2 cup mayonnaise (reduced-fat varieties** work well, but will be sweeter)
2 tablespoons ketchup **
1 tablespoon robust, stone-ground mustard
1 tablespoon horseradish
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
4-6 drops hot red pepper sauce
1 heaping tablespoon capers, drained and finely chopped
2 heaping tablespoons finely chopped cornichons or other pickles (either sweet or savory)
2 tablespoons raw shallots or red onion, minced
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

Method

Add dried tarragon and chervil to hot water, reserving while you prepare the rest of sauce. In a medium bowl, whisk to combine mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, horseradish, vinegar and hot pepper sauce. Drain tarragon and chervil (they will be partially reconstituted), and stir them into the mixture with capers, pickles, and shallots or red onion. Stir in black pepper. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for a few hours to allow flavors to develop and dried herbs to fulling moisten (if you are using them). Prior to serving, taste for minor adjustments according to your personal taste: salt, tang, heat and sweet can be tweaked with very tiny additions of caper juice, vinegar, red pepper sauce and sweet pickle. Serve alongside the fried okra. Serves 4. --

* If using fresh herbs, double the measures, chop them coarsely and dispense with the hot water. Add them at same time you would the dried.

** Many bottled mayonnaise (particularly those with reduced fat) and ketchup are prepared with high fructose corn syrup. If you are avoiding this ingredient, organic brands generally use natural sugars in their recipes. Please check the labels.
Remoulade Sauce

This post is for Cheryl of Gluten-Free Goodness, hosting Weekend Herb Blogging #170, the latest round-up of the long-running food-blogging event created by Kalyn Denny of Kalyn's Kitchen, and now officiated by Haalo of Cook (almost) Anything at Least Once.

Been There, Done That ~

Indian Spicy Fried Okra (The recipe that converted me.)
Baked Zucchini Fries
Radicchio di Treviso Gratin


Other People's Eats ~

Dried Okra
Okra and Tomatoes
Potato Okra Curry


Sunday, February 1, 2009

ANNOUNCING: MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - EIGHTH HELPING


Since today is Super Bowl Sunday and tomorrow is Groundhog Day, I wouldn't even think that this event announcement could compete with the compelling animal dramas taking place over the next forty-eight hours - except that My Legume Love Affair - Eighth Helping is offering an extra special prize to one lucky random winner, a hot-off-the-press copy of our own blogger buddy Cynthia Nelson's My Caribbean Cookbook: Tastes Like Home. Cynthia has taken her remarkable knowledge of and experience in the culturally diverse Caribbean kitchen and marinated it in the entertaining style we are all accustomed to enjoying on her award-winning food blog, Tastes Like Home. In light of Cynthia's publishing success, I feel especially privileged to be hosting this month's MLLA. The timing couldn't have been more on target!


In keeping with my personal preference when I host this event, there are no restrictions nor a particular theme other than recipes must feature legumes (as in beans, peas, lentils, pulses, peanuts, and the sometimes edible pods they are harvested from) as the central ingredient. Derivatives, such as flours and soy products, are also included. Vegetarian, vegan or not, I leave the choices up to you, always glad for your creativity and naturally good taste. All cultures and courses are welcome.

Please post a new recipe or a newly posted one from your archives, linking to this announcement, with the following details to me [thewellseasonedcook AT yahoo DOT com] by February 28 with MLLA8 in the subject line:

Name:

Name and URL of Your Recipe Post:

Location: Optional

Photo: Optional ( 400 pixels in width or length)

Use of the logo is optional.

Those who do not blog are also welcome to join in for a chance to win. Please send me your name and full recipe details with optional photo and/or location. You will be included in the round-up.

Submissions to other events will be accepted, but please check with those event hosts for their own requirements.

I will post the round-up and announce the cookbook winner during the week of March 1. Latecomers are welcome as long as the round-up has not yet been published.

A special thanks to all of you who have made My Legume Love Affair an event that definitely has legs. UPDATE: I have fleshed out the guest host line-up for 2009. There is still a wait list, but I will fill slots into 2010 for those who are willing. Thank you so much for being a part of the fun and feeding! Do be sure to check out Srivalli's MLLA 7 round-up, scheduled for later this month. Srivalli is very busy at the moment, sorting through over two-hundred recipes!