Eggplant Bruschetta with Heirloom Tomatoes and Fresh Chevre

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I love summer fruits and vegetables, so I am ecstatic that I am now cleared by my doctor to carry heavy bags of produce from the farmers’ market to my house. I made a trip last weekend to the South of the James market and I went a little overboard with vegetable purchases. Everything wonderful is in season right now!

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The haul:

  • Goats R Us roasted red pepper chèvre (so flavorful!)
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Jalapenos
  • Green bell peppers
  • White peaches
  • Zucchini
  • Yellow crookneck squash
  • Tomatoes
  • Green beans
  • Eggplant
  • Cucumbers

I made a ton of great seasonal meals last week, and doing a lot of meal prep (washing, chopping, blanching, etc.) on Sunday helped me out so I could get healthy home cooked meals on the table around a busy schedule. The roasted red pepper chèvre and eggplant inspired me to throw together a quick and easy appetizer on Sunday afternoon.

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This is a flavorful, summery dish that you can put together in about fifteen minutes, which is great for those impromptu summer porch sitting sessions. You know what I’m talking about. When a conversation with friends that starts with “What are you doing tonight?” and “I don’t know, what are you doing?” ends with two friends and a bottle of wine on your patio.

I used oval-shaped eggplant slices in place of baguette slices to make this summer “bruschetta” a bit lighter (and gluten-free, if you’re into that kind of thing). I guess technically that makes it not bruschetta, but I don’t bother with technicalities on sunny summer weekends. If you’re unlike me and you’re getting hung up on the semantics, have another glass of wine and throw some quotation marks around the word “bruschetta.”

Eggplant Bruschetta with Heirloom Tomatoes and Fresh Chèvre

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Ingredients:

  • 1 Chinese eggplant
  • 2 small heirloom tomatoes (I used Green Zebra and a red-green variety I couldn’t identify)
  • 1 oz. fresh chèvre goat cheese (I used roasted red pepper)
  • 1 small handful of fresh basil
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1. Slice the eggplant on a diagonal to make oval-shaped slices, about a 1/4 inch thick.
  2. Heat a grill pan, indoor counter top grill, or outdoor grill. Brush eggplant slices with olive oil, then grill for a few minutes on each side, until eggplant is tender and grill marks appear. Do not overcook or eggplant will get mushy; you want the slices to still be firm enough to hold the toppings.
  3. While eggplant is cooking, slice tomatoes. Stack and roll basil leaves, then slice into a chiffonade.
  4. Remove eggplant slices from grill and set aside until cool enough to handle.
  5. Spread each eggplant slice with chèvre, then top with a tomato slice and basil. Season with sea salt and fresh ground black pepper.

So are you curious what we made with all of the rest of that produce? Here is last week’s meal plan. At the end of the week, when there is still produce left over, I chop it all and throw it in a stir-fry or on homemade pizza.

Breakfast: Blanchard’s Dark As Dark iced coffee, Peach Oatmeal Bars

Lunch: Mediterranean salad with baby greens, cucumber, tomato, olive, and hummus

Dinner:

Noodleless Zucchini Lasagna and baby greens salad

BBQ Tempeh, Green Beans Almondine, and Herb Roasted Fingerling Potatoes

Tomatillo Gazpacho with Fresh Corn Salad (recipe coming soon!) and Black Bean Quesadillas

Yukon Gold White Bean Basil Burgers and Roasted Yellow Summer Squash with Sage Pecan Pesto

 

What tasty seasonal recipes are on your meal plan for this week?

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Mung Bean Pasta

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I have been trying to use my cookbooks more often. My effort has paid off with a lot of new knowledge about ingredients and some great go-to recipes that I never knew I always had, sitting right there on the bookcase in my kitchen. One thing that I was surprised to learn was how healthy mung beans are for you. Featured in my new favorite recipe for Pad Thai from Terry Walters’ Clean Food cookbook, mung bean sprouts are surprisingly nutritious. So when I saw Mung Bean Fettuccine in the grocery store, I had to give it a try.

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The package boasts an extremely high protein and fiber content as well as a high iron content, and states that the pasta is a great gluten-free alternative to wheat pasta. I am not gluten-free. In fact I think gluten is one of my favorite foods, however I am always looking for tasty protein sources so I had to check it out. Mung beans, which are low in cholesterol and high in soluble dietary fibers, can also help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol.

Until recently, mung beans had only entered our household to fill Kyle’s iron palm training bag for Wing Chun (Kung Fu), so it was a pretty big deal to start tossing mung bean sprouts in salads and stir-fry dishes. Experimenting with the fresh, crunchy sprouts was fun, but those beady green beans were a little scary, so it took us awhile to take the next step. Opening this bag of wavy green noodles was intimidating, but we were willing to give it a go in the name of science.

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After cooking and rinsing the noodles, I tasted them plain, and they weren’t too bad. I have to be honest though, they do taste a little… grassy? Because they are naturally chewier than regular pasta, it was pretty easy to get them al dente. However, I thought they really needed some flavor (besides “health food” flavor), so I mixed them with sauteed asparagus and baby bok choy, a soy dressing, and toasted sesame seeds. A drizzle of chili sauce made the meal complete.

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I thought this salad would work well either hot or cold, but I definitely preferred it hot. The noodles were so chewy after being chilled that I had a hard time getting through half of a serving before feeling full. I guess that could be a good thing? It felt weird to me, so I reheated them with a few minutes in the microwave and a generous portion of sambal. Kyle enjoyed the dish both hot and cold, so I guess you will have to decide for yourself!

The flavor combination was very fresh and springy, and versatile enough to work with any type of grain, so I recommend that you try it out even if you substitute a different kind of pasta or rice for the mung bean fettuccine. We are now firmly in the spring season, so break out that bright green asparagus and your favorite set of chopsticks and chow down!

Sesame Mung Bean Fettuccine with Spring Vegetables

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Ingredients:

  • 7 oz. dry mung bean fettuccine
  • 3 Tbsp sesame oil, divided (2+1)
  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 2 baby bok choy
  • 4 green onions
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup liquid aminos or low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp chili sauce (sriracha or similar)
  • 2 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds

Preparation:

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions, rinse and set aside.
  2. Chop asparagus into 1-inch pieces and roughly chop baby bok choy, discarding the ends. Thinly slice the green onions.
  3. Heat 2 Tbsp sesame oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook for 1 minute. Add bok choy and asparagus and saute until tender and bright green, about 3 minutes.
  4. To the vegetables, add garlic and saute for another minute.
  5. In a small bowl, combine the liquid aminos (or soy sauce), brown sugar, rice wine vinegar, 1 Tbsp sesame oil, and chili sauce.
  6. Add pasta and sauce to the pan with the vegetables and stir to combine. Cook until heated throughout. Add toasted sesame seeds and serve while hot.

SOJ Chef Demo 11.03.12

The post is a week late, but the ingredients are still in season, so read on!

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Last week at the South of the James farmers’ market, Chef Sam Baker got inspired by local seasonal ingredients to create healthy and delicious snacks for market shoppers. I had missed a few demonstrations due to wedding festivities and vacation, so I was really pumped to get back in the demo tent for a behind-the-scenes look at the Chef’s creations that day. Chef Sam found inspiration in a stack of large collard leaves from Walnut Hill Farm and a pack of Bombolini Pasta lasagna sheets.

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The Chef planned to stuff the collard leaves and pasta with a mixture of fresh ingredients found at the market. He sautéed a medley of turnips, onion, kale, Brussels sprouts, and apple in oil, and seasoned the filling with salt and pepper. This mixture would go into dumplings that Chef Sam sampled to the crowd.

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Then Chef Sam created a creamy dressing with Night Sky Farm basil and sunflower chevre, oil, vinegar and parsley. He explained that he would normally use a food processor, but given the limited resources at the market he had to quickly whisk the ingredients together to make the emulsion.

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In addition to giving out tips on how to make your own salad dressing, Chef Sam entertained the audience with his original carved root vegetables. The crowd learned a few quick and easy recipes for homemade dressing that beats what you find in the bottle every time.

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Before stuffing the dumplings, the Chef dropped the pasta sheets, one at a time, into boiling water, then removed them after just a few minutes once they were pliable.

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He did the same with the collard leaves. The blanched collard leaves were used in place of pasta to offer some gluten-free dumplings. Chef Sam also used Empress Farm turkey cutlets to make some meat dumplings, and he included just the vegetable filling for a vegan option. There were several versions of dumplings for all kinds of market-goers.

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After filling and wrapping the dumplings, Chef Sam placed them in a pan with oil and cooked them until brown and slightly crispy on both sides, flipping once halfway through cooking.

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The dumplings were warm and soft on the inside while crispy on the outside. Steam escaped from the inside of each pocket when it was sliced open, and the hearty fall vegetables along with the creamy cheese sauce helped shoppers warm up on a very chilly day.

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I never would have thought to use fresh lasagna sheets, cut to size, as dumpling wrappers, but this seemed to work really well. Every time I visit the demo tent I learn something new, and I can tell that I think about dinner differently since starting to document Sam’s adventures six months ago. Besides embracing seasonal ingredients even more than I did before, I think more creatively about how to put them together to put a meal on the table every night. If you have time to stop by on Saturday mornings, it is definitely worth the trip to the South of the James market to see Chef Sam Baker in action.

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Thank you to Bombolini Pasta, Drumheller’s Orchard, Empress Farm, Night Sky Farms, Norma’s Produce, Walnut Hill Farm Produce, and all of our featured vendors for producing this week’s fresh and delicious ingredients!

Not Your Mother’s Pizza Crust

Lately I’ve been telling you all about where we’ve been traveling, and I thought I’d show you what we’ve been cooking since we got home from vacation.

We have had a ton of rain so far this month, with precious few warm and sunny days. This past weekend, I experienced the first night yet this year that was my idea of optimal porch weather. I took advantage of the warm evening by cooking some delicious black-eyed pea burgers to serve al fresco on the balcony.

The birds chirped, the neighbors strolled by on their evening walks, and Kyle and I relaxed in our deck chairs with a couple of cold beers, feasting on black-eyed pea burgers and toasted Israeli couscous salad with roasted vegetables, while eavesdropping on strolling neighbors’ conversations.

Oh, come on. Don’t act like you’ve never done that before.

The advent of the work week brought gray thunderclouds and stifling humidity, followed by afternoon downpours. It’s been a rough start to the week, as is the case with most weeks, and I usually find that I hit my stride in the office around Wednesday. Maybe it’s the great mood that Glee puts me in on Tuesday nights, or maybe by Wednesday I’ve stopped mourning the loss of the weekend and I’ve started to look forward to Friday and Saturday. As I find my groove with work, my cooking becomes less ambitious and more focused on survival than on culinary finesse. Such was the case with tonight’s creation, pizza with brown rice crust.

I use the title “not your mother’s pizza crust” in jest, because while my mom (and probably your mom) offered a bubbly white flour crust on pizza night, Kyle’s mom always had brown rice pizza crusts in the freezer. She cut gluten from her diet for a while and fell in love with frozen brown rice pizza crusts. I tried them once, and they were okay. I wasn’t a huge fan of the brand that she bought, but I have always been intrigued by the idea.

So when my work day shifted 30 minutes later due to a morning cake baking disaster, and a long phone conversation and a multitude of errands caused me to arrive home at 7:58 PM tonight, I gave up on making whole wheat pizza crust from scratch and thought instead about attempting brown rice pizza crust in order to save time. Glee was starting in two minutes, people!

Let me tell you, this crust was fantastic. It’s not like normal pizza crust, and a fork and knife are required, but this was a great departure from the norm for us, and I highly recommend that you give it a try. The bottom of the crust gets nice and crispy, while the top remains soft but toasted. It’s ovo-lacto-vegetarian friendly (not vegan) and gluten-free and it is an excellent way to use up leftover brown rice. While it may not be your mother’s pizza crust, it bears a close resemblance to Kyle’s mother’s pizza crust (which is reason enough to try it), and it just might be your new favorite.

Brown Rice Pizza Crust


Ingredients:

  • 3 cups cooked brown rice
  • 1 egg plus 1 egg white
  • 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella or Italian-blend cheese
  • Pizza toppings

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Beat the egg and the egg white together in a medium sized bowl.
  3. Add the brown rice and the cheese to the bowl. Stir to combine.
  4. Spread the “dough” out onto an oiled 12-inch round baking sheet.
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes, then remove from oven.
  6. Add desired toppings (I used pizza sauce, roasted vegetables, freshly ground black pepper and crumbled goat cheese) and bake for another 8-10 minutes.

If you try out the recipe, let me know how it works out for you. It made me a believer in brown rice crust, but it’s not for everyone, so I’m interested in your take on it.

Farmers’ Market 07.03.10

The weather was beautiful and the market was packed this weekend. Here is a rundown of the great things I brought home:

Tomatoes, Zucchini, Yellow Squash, Onions, Bell Peppers, Eggplant, Red Leaf Lettuce, Basil, Fresh Sunflowers

Photo credit: Heavens Harvest Farm http://www.heavensharvestfarm.com/

I also picked up some “eight ball zucchini” which piqued my interest. I spoke with the farmer and he said that they taste a little sweeter than the long zucchini, and their shape makes them perfect for stuffing. I’ll try them out early this week. Susan at FatFree Vegan Kitchen did a post about them awhile ago. Check out her recipe here.

Saturday evening I went over to a friend’s house to make dinner. I am getting ready to go on vacation so I had to share my fresh vegetables with someone so they don’t go to waste! Barbara is mostly vegetarian and she adheres to a gluten-free diet, so I made ratatouille over brown rice. It is worth mentioning here since it was the first time I have made ratatouille, and I was inspired by a post by Andrea at one of my favorite food blogs, bella eats. If you haven’t found her yet, check her out. Her photographs are beautiful and her descriptions are amazing too. I won’t repost the recipe here because you can find it over at bella eats, or in your Joy of Cooking!

Happy 4th!