Simmered Pork and Eggplant

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Simmered pork and eggplant, with Greek inspired seasoning - www.inhabitedkitchen.com

I may have mentioned, at some point, that our CSA farm specializes in growing many varieties of eggplant.

I should explain a few things about a CSA in this area, to people from the rest of the country. In many places, you set up a CSA with a small farmer who delivers all her produce to the farm shares – or perhaps sells a little at her own farmstand on the side… but little or even nothing else. Here in the area around New York City, though, the land itself is so expensive that very few farmers are able to manage on such a small scale. It is very typical to contract with one or more sponsoring organizations to provide a certain percentage or amount for the farm share, and sell at several farmer’s markets, and sell to a few co-ops or other food stores… The farmer we work with has been able to keep a nearly 200 year old family farm  in operation – and under organic cultivation for 30 years! – by selling to co-ops and specialty stores as well as a couple of CSAs.

Which in turn means that we get a much wider assortment of produce than is typical. One reason this farmer has chosen to go this route, rather than sell to the giant organic outlets (which do buy some produce) is that the large stores want them to mono-crop – “A whole farm full of chard!” she said to me once, with disgust. Variety is better for the land, for the business, it makes the farm less vulnerable to crop failure – and, really, it’s more interesting…

Assorted Mini Eggplant - www.inhabitedkitchen.com

So, anyway, they grow a couple of dozen kinds of eggplant. They box them up as an assortment (cases for us, clamshells for stores) – customers like them, there is a Coolness Factor, but it also means that there is a steady flow as the different cultivars ripen, and if one does poorly, another will do well. This gives everyone interest – and makes the crop as a whole more reliable. And I’ve learned to cook eggplant!

Eggplant is one of the very few vegetables where undercooking is more a problem than overcooking. Instead of getting mushy and blah, they become succulent and sweet. Now, the kind of eggplant does make a difference – I like the smaller ones I get now more than the large, often seedy, ones I most commonly see in stores – but variety is becoming more common, and most of these methods will work with those, too.

Simmered pork and eggplant, with Greek inspired seasoning - www.inhabitedkitchen.com

And this recipe definitely does. I forgot to get a pretty picture before the eggplant was cut – Rich kindly cut it for me – but you can see it was a rounder, fuller one, not  one of the long thin Asian eggplants, nor yet the cute tiny ones. I asked him to cut it in bite sized cubes – I had already cut pork loin in bite sized pieces, and thought pork and eggplant would go well together. He also chopped half a large onion (for the recipe I’ll call it a medium onion, but… The whole one would have been much too large.)

Simmered pork and eggplant, with Greek inspired seasoning - www.inhabitedkitchen.com

I heated a little oil in a saute pan, added the onion, and put a large clove of garlic through a garlic press into the oil. When the onion softened, I added the pork, and stirred it around to brown lightly. Then I added the eggplant, and stirred. I was following a vaguely Greek inspiration – they eat eggplant in many recipes – so I also added cinnamon and oregano, and a pinch of salt. (The oregano was one of my small frozen cubes of the herb pureed in oil. You can use minced fresh, or crushed dried, if that’s what you have.) Then I diced 2 plum tomatoes and added them. It still needed liquid, and I would have used broth if I had it, but I haven’t been simmering broth much in the heat – I added water (and it was fine – there was enough flavor in everything else.)

Simmered pork and eggplant, with Greek inspired seasoning - www.inhabitedkitchen.com

I covered the pan, lowered the light, and simmered the whole thing over low heat for about half an hour. Served it over brown rice, and it was lovely. We’re not as used to using cinnamon in savory dishes, but it really complemented the flavors well – I need to remember it more often.

One reason I chose a simmered dish was that I needed leftovers to send with Rich for dinner away from home a few evenings later – and the slow simmered recipes reheat beautifully. I made enough to give myself a night off, too… I do enjoy cooking, but I do enjoy taking an occasional break, too!

Simmered pork and eggplant, with Greek inspired seasoning - www.inhabitedkitchen.com

 

Simmered Pork and Eggplant

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Simmered Pork and Eggplant

Simmered pork and eggplant, with Greek inspired seasoning - www.inhabitedkitchen.com

Ingredients

  • Olive Oil for pan
  • 1 med onion, chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced or put through a press
  • 1 lb pork loin, cubed
  • 1 eggplant, cubed
  • 2 plum tomatoes
  • 1 T fresh oregano, minced (or 1 t dried oregano, crushed)
  • 1/2 t cinnamon
  • salt
  • 1/2 c water

Instructions

  1. Heat oil in large saute pan. Add the onion and garlic, and cook until softened. Add the pork and stir - saute until the pork begins to brown lightly.
  2. Add eggplant, and stir. Add the rest of the ingredients, stir, and cover the pan. Bring to a simmer, then set the heat on low, and simmer for half an hour.
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Simmered pork and eggplant, with Greek inspired seasoning - www.inhabitedkitchen.com

WIAW 78

WIAW 78 - The End of August - www.inhabitedkitchen.com

Wait – it’s Wednesday? I’ve been scattered this week, for some reason…

It’s the end of August? But we just got here! I’ve only been writing about corn for – oh, a month already…

And my friends across the nation are sending children and grandchildren back to school, though in New York we still have another 2 weeks. We have to get the hay in first, you know…  Well, that’s how the schedule started, but now – we don’t have a/c in our school buildings, many of which are as much as 100 years old. We don’t expect children to learn in a brick oven, and we can’t afford to retrofit. June isn’t usually as hot as August, here. And upstate, they are still haying on family farms, with all hands in the fields!

As I said, I’ve been scattered and distracted… I’m sure there’s a brain here somewhere… If I find it and dust it off, maybe it will even work. (I hope so – it’s well past the warranty.) They do tell me that time speeding by is a sign of my advancing age, but I thought surely I had a few good years left!

I have been eating. (Or I’d be worse!) I even took pictures yesterday. Not very good ones – sorry about that.

WIAW 78 - Breakfast - www.inhabitedkitchen.com

Breakfast was a quickie. I’d made a big batch of refried beans (I’m trying to streamline breakfast) but this time, instead of eggs, I added cheese. Lots of cheese. Plenty of ooey-gooey luscious melting cheddar cheese… And I finished the tortillas. I buy a package of 30, I eat 3 at a time, they come out even, right? But Rich has started also eating tortillas instead of bread, and he eats however many he feels like at the moment, which is fine, and I needed to get to the supermarket… So I ate lots of beans.

Lunch was my usual salad. Mixed vegetables and cucumber salad, and beans, and cheese…with rice cakes with peanut butter on the side.

WIAW 78 - Lunch - www.inhabitedkitchen.com

I made a passing reference months ago to the fact that I have started to make kefir. Mostly, that’s beyond the scope of this blog – I’m talking here about finding easy ways and shortcuts for getting food on the table, not about the kind of home processing of food that I find interesting, when I am up to it – pickling, dairying, and so on. But one reason I started making kefir was precisely that it is easier than making yogurt (which I’ve done in the past) because it is much less temperature sensitive, and that making either is much less expensive than buying them in the store.

So I make it – and sometimes I just drink a big glass of it by itself, and sometimes I blend it with fruit, or with, say, cucumbers (now that’s a wonderful and easy soup!) Or I use it in recipes instead of buttermilk (I’ve been using it in both the biscuits and the corn muffins – very good.)  Or I strain it the way you strain yogurt to make Greek Yogurt, and use it the same way. And I save the whey and drink it – a bit funny looking, but I like the tart flavor – kind of an unsweetened lemonade. Or I strain it even more, and press it until it is the texture of feta cheese, and use it in salads or recipes.

Here, you see two uses. I had mixed the strained kefir with sliced cucumbers as a salad, and let them marinate, and then I crumbled pressed kefir cheese over the salad. The kefir that had been with the cucumbers had picked flavor up from them, so it didn’t all taste the same. One of these days I’ll probably write a post about it, if there seems to be interest, but it is a bit of a stretch.

WIAW 78 - Dinner, late August - www.inhabitedkitchen.com

Anyway – dinner! We pick the CSA up on Tuesday evenings, and I have finally started to plan an easy dinner for Tuesday. Ideally, I want to be open to using some of the vegetables at their freshest, but the meal had been sliding later… So now I plan, and sometimes even start, something that is not dependent on the pickup (either without integral vegetables so I can add some later just on the side, or finishing up what we have.) Yesterday, I used this to finish a pot roast we had last week – chopped the meat and cooked carrots, and chopped a pepper and squash to saute.

WIAW 78

When we got the vegetables home, I went ahead with heating the pot roast and rice, and sauteing the squash – and cooked the corn we’d just brought in, and ate that while everything else finished cooking. And went in the kitchen and realized I didn’t take a picture of it… so here is a corn cob, slightly used. Oh, well.

Everything all day really tasted better than it looks. Honest! My pictures have been getting better – when I find that brain again, maybe I’ll remember how.

But meanwhile, thanks for putting up with me, and I hope you enjoy what you are eating! Are you sending children to school? Are you going back yourself? (Many of my friends are teachers, others are themselves students.) Does this change the way you’ll be cooking in the next months, and, if so, is there anything you’d like me to write about (when that brain comes to light?)

Meanwhile – this week Laura at Sprint to the Table is hosting Jenn’s party, so come on over! (As I slide in and pretend I’m not late…)

What I Ate Wednesday - www.inhabitedkitchen.com

WIAW 78 - A Day in Late August - www.inhabitedkitchen.com

 

Sugar Free Peach Shortcake

Luscious, rich, sweet without added sugar, peach shortcake - a wonderful summer treat! www.inhabitedkitchen.com

Well – sugar free, gluten free (assuming you use a gluten free biscuit,) and delicious peach shortcake.

You may have wondered, last Spring, why on earth I felt the need to make biscuits, since, Northerner that I am, I rarely eat them. This is the reason…

I was long an adult before I ever heard of sausage gravy. I know in theory that there are people who eat biscuits with chicken, and I’m sure that’s very nice indeed… I do like them with butter for breakfast. But they’re not a big deal, for me.

Luscious, rich, sweet without added sugar, peach shortcake - a wonderful summer treat! www.inhabitedkitchen.com

Shortcake, though? A shortcake is a biscuit! None of that sponge cake nonsense that bakeries try to palm off on you (because they can make that ahead of time and it keeps – real shortcake must be assembled immediately before eating, or it goes soggy.) You take a biscuit – hot out of the oven is best, or you can split and toast it, or even eat it cold… pile it with fresh, juicy fruit, and slather it with whipped cream. Simple, pure, phenomenal. (You can even make it easier and use what my grandmother called “pour cream” – just pour heavy cream over it without bothering to whip it. That’s good, too.)

Luscious, rich, sweet without added sugar, peach shortcake - and gluten free, as well - a wonderful summer treat! www.inhabitedkitchen.com

And it is a great sugar free dessert. Ripe fresh fruit doesn’t need any more sweetener. I eat, and enjoy, strawberry shortcake, when the berries first come in – but I feast on peach shortcake all summer. We get amazing local peaches around here, tree ripened (which makes a serious difference in quality,) juicy, filling the air with fragrance. They’re wonderful to eat out of hand (juice dripping down your chin,) we enjoy them in cereal in the morning, you really can’t go wrong with them – but peach shortcake is luxury. (And there is no reason not to use other berries or stone fruit – nectarines are lovely – but in my mind, you use ripe, juicy peaches for shortcake.)

Luscious, rich, sweet without added sugar, peach shortcake - and gluten free, as well - a wonderful summer treat! www.inhabitedkitchen.com

So – first you take the biscuits. You can certainly use whatever biscuit recipe you like. I, obviously, use the gluten free biscuit recipe I developed. I do have one note – I have a vague notion that, in the past, I would sometimes use a little cream instead of some of the milk or buttermilk to make shortcakes…  One of the differences I’ve found in gluten free baking is that the flours do not absorb fat as well as wheat does – when I tried that they came out leaden. Stick to the recipe as written.

Luscious, rich, sweet without added sugar, peach shortcake - and gluten free, as well - a wonderful summer treat! www.inhabitedkitchen.com

Then, the fruit. Now, I do have one note about the use of sugar – and a suggestion that may sound odd, but which I find works. In a traditional shortcake recipe, you cut the fruit, then mix it with just a little sugar, and let it rest at least half an hour. This is not, in fact, to sweeten the fruit – though it does so (and can make it annoyingly sweet if much is used.) Sugar – like salt – causes a chemical reaction in food – it pulls moisture out of the cells. People have long used salt (and now, sometimes, sugar) to draw water out of meat and fish to cure it and make it keep better – country cured ham, gravlax…  When you mix fresh fruit with a little sugar and let it rest a while, the result is to draw out the juice, and essentially make its own sauce. If you just cut fruit and put it right on the biscuit, it is still good, but… something is missing… you don’t have the juiciness. (Honey and maple syrup do not have the same reaction. They will eventually draw out moisture, and replace it with their own, but a teaspoon of honey does not give you a bowl of juicy fruit.)

Luscious, rich, sweet without added sugar, peach shortcake - and gluten free, as well - a wonderful summer treat! www.inhabitedkitchen.com

I realized that salt does, in fact, have the same chemical reaction. But we don’t salt fruit – do we? Well… there is salt in the biscuit… You do add salt to sweet recipes – even cakes. A sprinkle of salt will bring out the flavor of the fruit, but should not taste salty… I tried it, and it worked well. I used just the lightest sprinkle, out of a salt shaker – much less than the classic Pinch (which is defined as 1/8 teaspoon…) and let it sit about 15 minutes, here, and the fruit was visibly juicier, with no “salty” taste. (Half an hour – or more – works even  better.) You can skip that step – and you can use a sprinkle of sugar, if it is not an issue for you (it is, for me) but really – try the salt.

Then I whipped the cream. And, running out of hands, did not get a decent picture of the process… I use an old fashioned egg beater, which I find the easiest for small amounts. I don’t like to use an electric mixer for just 2 servings, as it is too easy to overbeat it and go down that road to butter… A balloon whisk also works well, though you need a large bowl. I add a splash of vanilla before whipping – this time I used half a teaspoon of vanilla to half a cup of heavy cream, which gave us plenty of whipped cream for two, and some left over…

Luscious, rich, sweet without added sugar, peach shortcake - and gluten free, as well - a wonderful summer treat! www.inhabitedkitchen.com

So, now, assemble. In each bowl, a biscuit, layered with fruit, and slathered with cream. Heaven.

All the elements can be prepared in advance, and assembled at the last minute, which makes it a good dessert at a dinner party, or a holiday meal (strawberry shortcake is an Easter classic in my family.) It’s delicious and luxurious enough for a fancy meal – and easy and inexpensive enough for a hot August weeknight.  It’s easy to make one, or a dozen. We all need a few desserts like that.

Luscious, rich, sweet without added sugar, peach shortcake - and gluten free, as well - a wonderful summer treat! www.inhabitedkitchen.com

Sugar Free Peach Shortcake

Prep Time: 40 minutes

Sugar Free Peach Shortcake

Luscious, rich, sweet without added sugar, peach shortcake - and gluten free, as well - a wonderful summer treat!

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Bake biscuits, or, if you wish to use already baked, toast if desired.
  2. Slice peaches. Sprinkle very lightly with salt, and mix well, to spread the small amount of salt all over the fruit. Let rest half an hour, tossing occasionally. They will become juicier.
  3. Add vanilla to cream, and whip.
  4. Assemble - place biscuit in bowl, cover with peaches (spooning any extra juice over.) Dollop whipped cream on top.
  5. Serve at once.
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#sugarfree #glutenfree Peach Shortcake - a luxuriouis summer dessert made with fresh juicy peaches - www.inhabitedkitchen.com

WIAW 77 – the All Tomato Edition

Tomatoes for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner! - www.inhabitedkitchen.com

Yes, I eat tomatoes three meals a day  in August… Doesn’t everyone?

Tomatoes for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner! - www.inhabitedkitchen.com

All right, I admit, when I have cereal for breakfast I don’t add tomatoes to that. But a ripe red tomato is wonderful with my breakfast beans and eggs! I was reminded recently of the Full English Breakfast – which is also eggs with beans, and sausage or bacon, and – a grilled tomato. I never have grilled a tomato for breakfast, maybe that’s next… Continue reading

Syracuse Salt Potatoes

Syracuse Salt Potatoes - born as a laborer's quick lunch, become a Central New York fair ground classic. Creamy, moist, and delicious! www.inhabitedkitchen.com

Yes, another post about Central New York, but this time it is not a story about my childhood and farm fresh vegetables… We never ate these when I was growing up. Dad didn’t like potatoes, and if his family had ever eaten these, they didn’t consider them worth mentioning.

But when I was still going upstate as a young woman, I noticed that – very abruptly – every August the local stores would all suddenly absolutely blossom with bags labeled Salt Potatoes – a bag of new potatoes with a large packet of salt. I had heard of them, at the local Fireman’s Fair, and the like… So I tried them – and really liked them! Continue reading