Thursday, August 25, 2011

What to do with Eggplant

Today, I managed to get Boy #2 on the school bus without his having cried, dry heaved or broken out in hives. That is progress around here. Kindergarten's not going so well so far. On the way in from the bus stop, I looked at the garden and noticed that three eggplants were ready to go. There are more flowers, but it seems as though I may have planted this a little too late for more eggplants. But, we still have all of September before the heat drops, and may have more later.

My sister in law loves eggplant. She just dices it, pours a little garlicky vinaigrette on it and roasts it in the oven until it gets soft. Her version is delicious, but when it's obviously eggplant, around here that's tantamount to declaring war. I prefer a more subtle approach. Baba Ganoush (or Baba Ganouj) fits the bill.

Baba Ganoush is a Middle Eastern eggplant spread that's perfect scooped up with pieces of pita. This version reminds me of a restaurant I really loved called 5th Runway Cafe. It was a Middle Eastern buffet down near Georgia Tech. Everything they served was wonderful. I'm not sure why the closed, but when I found that out, it was heartbreaking.

There's something so appealing about eggplant

Baba Ganoush
Makes approximately two cups

2 lbs. eggplant
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup tahini (sesame paste)
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt, with a little extra to finish
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
olive oil (optional)
Ground Sumac (optional, found in Middle Eastern markets)

Roast the eggplants in a 400 degree oven for 40 minutes. Don't prick the skin or cut the eggplant. You want it to cook inside the skin, and the liquid to stay in the eggplant. If you're using two larger eggplants (I did three smaller ones), you will want to check at 40 minutes and add more time if they're still too firm. Remove from the oven and let them cool. They should look like deflated soccer balls. Skin the eggplants and place in a colander. You will want to squeeze the juice out of the eggplant; leaving it in makes the eggplant bitter. Doing this in a colander in the sink allows you to catch some of the smaller pieces of eggplant.

Chop two cloves of garlic and add to the bowl of a food processor (blenders are okay too). Add the eggplant, tahini, lemon juice, 1/2 tsp. of Kosher salt, and pepper. Run the processor for about a minute, making sure that the eggplant and garlic are pureed. It will be a thick paste. Use a clean spoon to taste for seasoning. Add a bit more lemon juice or salt to taste. Put the Baba Ganoush in a serving bowl and drizzle with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with a small amount of ground sumac. Serve with pita pieces.

Two notes: Kosher salt isn't the same as Iodized Table Salt. Table salt is saltier. If you don't have Kosher salt, use around half of what the recipe calls for. Tahini is ground sesame seed paste. Like natural peanut butter, the oil rises to the top of the jar. Stir it well to blend before measuring. You want the paste with the oil incorporated, rather than the top layer of oil.

Baba Ganoush begs for some prettifying

The finished product

Friday, August 19, 2011

Back to School, Back to Bread

Boy 1 and Boy 2 are off to school, "Day 5." It wasn't pretty this morning. My five and a half year old isn't into getting up and out. He never was. He's not one of those pleasant sleepyheads who is aware that they're groggy and not ready, but otherwise good natured (maybe that's just a figment of my imagination from seeing too many stupid coffee commercials). No, he's a bear. And I've got to come up with a way to get him excited to be up and out. So, I'm baking Oatmeal bread, so that I can do cinnamon toast in the mornings. I found the recipe here: It's brilliant. It's easy to put together, and it's what I'd call a low-effort recipe. It mostly sits around, waiting. You need a stand mixer with a bread hook, but this recipe otherwise calls for nothing special.

Sitting, waiting. Such patient loaves.

I have friends who have told me that you can buy bread at the store. (Ha, Ha.) Yeah, I get that. But this is so much better, and really not any more effort than going to the store. I like to know what's in the food I'm eating. With this, I know. And, it's a little bit of mental gymnastics for me in the morning to get the day going.

Waiting a little longer, different venue.

Today, I'm going to let the loaves rise a little longer than I would normally on the second rise, because I have a meeting at school. When I get back, they'll go into a 400 degree oven for 40 minutes. As a result of the longer rise, the "grain" of the bread will be a little higher or airier than it would be. But that's okay. It makes for some mighty fine toast.

Quite the muffin top going on here

I took the loaves out at 38 minutes and turned them out onto the cooling rack.

Voluptuous loaves

Let's hope that the cinnamon toast is a good incentive.


Monday, August 8, 2011

Cucumbers of all sizes

Pickling Fool

I'll admit it. I've been pickling all summer long. I saw a friend this morning who indicated I was looking a little peaked today. I admitted to having been up cutting cukes and pickling. My hair is back, I just didn't fix it. Ah, the life! We grew Early Russian cukes this year and had a phenomenal harvest. In July, we grew 105 cucumbers. The vines are starting to slow down in the heat, but we're still getting some good ones, including the monster shown above. I harvested seeds from it for next year. They're that good.

One Week to Go!

One week and kids around here are back in school! More to follow once the first lunch bags are packed.