WIAW 39

Monday's Meals - www.inhabitedkitchen.comAnd it is Wednesday – time for What I Ate Wednesday!

For anyone new, I join Jenn at Peas and Crayons in a weekly round up of one day’s food. I find it interesting, as it shows what I am really eating, not just what I am writing about – and, at the same time, it’s a way to show the way that the recipes I write about fit into my daily life. You’ll see leftovers and how I use Convenient Food and the everyday meals I don’t otherwise talk about.

Breakfast - pork & beans, corn muffins - www.inhabitedkitchen.comSo, this was Monday, this week…  We had eaten some commercial pulled pork the day before, and had leftovers. I used a little of that in cooked pintos for my beans in the morning, skipped the eggs (what eggs? We were out of eggs… <blush>  bad foodblogger, no bis… er… egg…) and finished the corn muffins I’d made the day before. The pork was highly seasoned, and went well in the beans, flavoring them nicely.

Lunch - quick chili - www.inhabitedkitchen.comThe cold front had come through – yes, I keep talking about temperatures, but they’ve been jumping up and down with no rhyme or reason…  We have lettuce, but no other salad vegetables, really, so I’m sliding over to side salads, not lunch salads…  I pulled out some of the chili meat I made a little while ago, and mixed it with pintos and entirely too much tomato paste. OK – I’ve written before about taking the little cans and essentially dividing them in 3? I fill 2 little ice cube containers, and use the rest. For a nice big pot of soup, or a stew, that works beautifully – sometimes you don’t even really taste the tomato as such, it just adds a richness…  For chili for 2 people? That’s much too much tomato paste. It drowned out all the other flavor. There was a sort of… nostalgic… feel to it… It tasted like many a bowl of cafeteria chili I’ve eaten. Perfectly edible, not actually horrible, but… not actually good, either. I had this temptation to go find Fritos…   (I wasn’t actually planning this as a day to show you how imperfect I can be – but I seem to have done a good job of that!) I’d been thinking of making a salad, but settled for an apple (no picture…) since the new, fresh apples have flavor and bite and cheered me right up.

Dinner - chicken, beets, and collards - wwww.inhabitedkitchen.comI did a bit better for dinner. This was Monday – Clear out the Vegetables to make room for More Day! So I cooked the huge bunch of collards (with chipotle in adobo, but also a bit of bacon.) We’ve been acquiring beets… For some reason, we seem to get them one or two at a time, which isn’t really enough for the two of us, since they don’t mix well into other foods. Other years I’ve left them down in the crisper drawer and watched them dry up and wither… this time I’ve been accumulating them in the vegetables keeper, which has worked much better. So I had half a dozen golden beets (which, come to think of it, I might have been able to mix with other things… turning everything golden isn’t as off-putting as turning everything scarlet. I need to remember that next year.) We did like them alone, though – sweet, not as earthy as the red beets.

And I’m in that brief time period when I can use my oven without baking us, as well as the food – so I baked drumsticks. No treatment or seasoning, just put them on the baking rack. (If I didn’t have a pan with a rack like that I’d put them flat on a pan, but this let them sit up out of the fat.) It was a so-called family pack, so I have more for future use – I’ll be using them for lunch. I do like cold chicken…

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Simmered Eggplant

Simmered Eggplant - www.inhabitedkitchen.comYou may have gathered that this was a good year for eggplant, in our CSA…  Our farmer specializes in a wide variety of types – the big purple ones most people are used to, sure, but also the long thin ones, round ones the size of oranges, and lovely lavender streaked baby ones. And this seems to have been a particularly productive year for the latter – we’ve been getting them every week.

Baby Eggplant - www.inhabitedkitchen.comNow, for years I didn’t like eggplant – but all I’d had were the big ones. Then, at Greenmarket, I met the slender Japanese ones, and found the texture (which had put me off) was totally different – more silky than mealy/mushy. And I learned ways to cook them that didn’t just simmer them to a pulp, or let them absorb all the oil I was trying to saute them in (but not always actually brown in it…)

I was sure I’d learned this technique of slicing for simmered eggplant from a Japanese cookbook I have, but when I looked a few years ago to check something, that wasn’t what it suggested at all! I don’t know know if I actually read it somewhere else (but I haven’t been able to find it) Assosrted mini eggplant - www.inhabitedkitchen.comor misunderstood something, or just made it up all together – but it works well, so I don’t care (well, other than to attempt to give credit where it is due…) I’ve been doing this for years, usually with the long thin eggplants, and liking it, and it worked very well indeed with the baby ones I have now. (I don’t think it would work as well with the big ones more typically in supermarkets. On the other hand, the recipes they work well in – parmigiana, baba ganoush, and so on – don’t work as well with the smaller ones, I think. The higher ratio of skin to pulp in the small ones hurts the texture in those dishes.)

I suddenly realized that I had not shared this last August, when the season was beginning, but if anyone else is still getting them, and running out of ideas…

The basic idea is to slice them from one end, keeping the other intact, and then letting them open like a fan on the plate. It is pretty, it lets them cook thoroughly, but it seems to help avoid mushiness… I simmer them in some flavorful liquid, and the cutting shape also lets the eggplant absorb all that flavor without being overwhelmed by it.

Slicing eggplant into fans - www,inhabitedkitchen.comAfter washing them, I took each one and cut off the cap at the end. Then I did one of two things, depending on the shape. With the mini, um… eggplant shaped ones (Well – they are just like the big purple ones, just tiny!) I used the stem end as the fan handle, so to speak. I left it intact, and sliced down the center, then again on each side (if it was thick enough.)  I used the stem as the intact end as it is often firmer than the blossom end, and less likely to fall apart.

Cutting eggplant fans - www.inhabitedkitchen.comThe round ones were cut in essentially the same shape, but I found it easier to place the cut end down and slice down the center to near the end, still leaving the base intact. This was simpler than trying to hold a little ball still while I cut!

Simmering eggplant - www.inhabitedkitchen.comThen I put them in a pan with a little broth. This time I was serving them with a beef dish, so I used a little beef broth – but other times I’ve used chicken, or vegetable, or just water with soy sauce or other seasoning. (Simmering some dried shiitake mushrooms and soy sauce for about 5 minutes first, to make a mushroom broth, and then using that is a very nice variation!) I brought the broth to a simmer and then stirred it gently every minute or two, just to turn the eggplants over. I didn’t cover the vegetables with broth, so I wanted to make sure all sides were in the broth at some point. After a few stirs, I covered the pan, but continued to check and stir every 2-3 minutes. All told, it simmered about 10 minutes, with the frequent stirring.

Simmered eggplant - www.inhabitedkitchen.comIn this case, I drained off the broth and used it in the other dish I was cooking. You can do that, or you can remove the eggplant and cook the broth down a little, then serve it over the vegetables and any rice or potatoes you serve with them.

Unfortunately the simmered eggplant loses its lovely color – so many vegetables do! – so it is not as pretty when cooked as one might wish. It certainly tasted good, though. The thin slices allow the eggplant to absorb flavor from the broth, without being overwhelmed by it. The texture was soft and silky, not mushy at all.

This was the dish that brought me around to liking eggplant… I hope you enjoy it!

Simmered Baby Eggplant - www.inhabitedkitchen.com

Simmered Mini Eggplant

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Simmered Mini Eggplant

Small simmered eggplant, cut in a fan shape, cooks to a delicate softness without becoming mushy.

Ingredients

  • Assorted small eggplants - either mini, or thin Japanese.
  • 1/2 c broth

Instructions

  1. Take each washed eggplant and cut off the cap. Carefully slice down the middle, leaving the stem end intact. Slice again on either side of the original slice, if it is big enough, as many times as needed for even slices, so that the eggplant can be opened into a fan shape.
  2. Place in pan with broth. Bring to a gentle simmer, and stir occasionally, to turn the eggplant so that all sides are in the broth at some point.
  3. Simmer 10 minutes until cooked to taste.
  4. Remove eggplant, and, if desired. let the broth boil a moment to thicken it for use as a sauce.
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Freezer Chili Meat

Quick and Easy Chili - www.inhabitedkitchen.comI do like to periodically make a few quarts of chili, and freeze some to have on hand. (Hmmm… I thought I’d written about that – I’ll have to, this winter!) It reheats beautifully,  I freeze different sized containers so I have single and double meals, I always have something he can fix, or that we can carry to gaming. It’s a good standard practice.

But right now, practically the only thing I do not have in my freezer is room. We’re still going to need fast convenient meals, I’m coming into my busy work season (when I’ll be coming home late and tired) and I really want meals on hand, but… Continue reading

How Not to Work with Historic Recipes… Buckwheat Pancakes

Buckwheat Pancakes - www.inhabitedkitchen.comThe pancakes are really good… so if I were just doing this for myself, I’d be happy. But to share with you people? Um…

OK, let’s start here. I have quite a few vintage-to-antique cookbooks dating as far back as the late 19th Century. I have cooked from them for years, so I’m used to the sometimes more casual approach to measurements that some of them have. (I also, for fun, work with recipes dating back to the 13th century, which have even more casual measurements – if any – and everything in between. And some of my friends, who have done that with me, are laughing as they read this…) When I was writing about buckwheat, I went back to the old books, and found a really interesting recipe for buckwheat pancakes. Continue reading