August 31, 2011

Eggplant Caponata

There is an excellent restaurant near my office called Casa Nonna, that makes a delicious version of eggplant caponata. (Well, everything they make is delicious. I force my friends to go there all the time.) I thought it might be fun to try to make my own caponata with my CSA eggplants. Unfortunately, I went to the grocery store before I looked at recipes, so I didn't have all of the ingredients that most of the recipes called for. I did find one recipe from the NY Times that matched up with the ingredients I had on hand, but I ended up referencing five other recipes for method and other ingredient suggestions.

I was really pleased with the results. I was a tad impatient when cooking the eggplant, so the larger pieces didn't cook fully, but other than that, I thought it was a great first try!

Eggplant Caponata
Adapted from the New York Times Diner's Journal, Giada's Caponata, Jamie Oliver's Caponata, A Veggie Venture, Bell'Alimento, and Mario Batali's Molto Italiano
Make 4 or 5 cups

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 small onions (or 1 regular size onion), diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium and 1 small eggplant, diced (about 3 cups)
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes (with juice)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
5 tablespoons capers, chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

1. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until onion is translucent, 3-4 minutes. Add the eggplant and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Add the raisins, oregano and tomatoes to the pan. Simmer over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens, 10-15 minutes. Stir in the vinegar, sugar and capers and let cook for another 1-2 minutes. Taste for seasoning.

2. To serve, I like to toast slices of whole wheat baguette, drizzle a little olive oil on them, top with caponata and then sprinkle a pinch of flaky sea salt (such as Maldon) on top. The caponata will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for almost a week.

August 30, 2011

Red Wine and Porcini Risotto

When Hurricane Irene was battering the outside of my house this weekend, all I could think of was having something warm, rich and comforting inside of my house. (Side note: who ever would have thought that DC would experience an earthquake and a hurricane in the same week!?) (Another side note, or maybe more of an observation: it is not fun, nor dry, to walk a dog in a hurricane. Sorry Patton, next time you are on your own!)

Moving on...

I had a package of dried porcini mushrooms that I have been wanting to try and I remembered that great red wine risotto I made over the winter. I used the same recipe from Food 52 as my starting point and adapted it for what I had in the fridge and pantry. It ended up being a great hurricane dinner!

Red Wine and Porcini Risotto
Adapted from Food 52
Serves 4


1 oz package dried porcini mushrooms
5 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided use
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided use
3/4 cup diced 1/4 inch thick salami (or pancetta or bacon)
1 onion, diced
1 cup vialone nano rice
3/4 cup red wine
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
leaves from a couple sprigs of fresh thyme

1. Soak the mushrooms for at least 20 minutes in boiling water. (The water need only be boiling when you first pour it over the mushrooms.) Carefully remove the mushrooms from the water and squeeze any excess water from them. (Hang on to the mushroom soaking liquid in case you need more liquid for your risotto - just be careful not to stir up the dirt that would have settled to the bottom of the bowl.) Chop the mushrooms.

2. In a saucepan, bring the stock to a low simmer and maintain the simmer while making the risotto.

3. In a large skillet, heat one tablespoon of butter and one tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the salami and cook until starting to crisp. Add the mushrooms and continue cooking until the salami is crisp and the mushrooms are golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

4. Add one tablespoon of olive oil to the fat already in the skillet. Saute the onion until soft. Add the rice and continually stir for about two minutes. Add the wine and stir until it has evaporated. Reduce heat to medium low.

5. Add 1/2 cup stock to the rice and stir until it has been absorbed. Continue adding stock in this manner until you have about 1 cup of stock left. Add the salami and mushrooms back to the skillet, stir to combine, and continue adding stock until the rice is al dente. It should be creamy, with a little bite, and never mushy. The amount of stock you will need depends on your rice, and a host of other factors.

6. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining two tablespoons of butter, the cheese and the thyme. Taste for seasoning and serve immediately.

August 29, 2011

Black-Bottom Cookie Bars

Even though you wouldn't necessarily know it by reading this blog, I generally prefer making bars to cookies because they usually require less time and effort. (Who's lazy? This girl!) When I found this recipe on the blog Bake or Break, I thought it sounded perfect: regular cookie, chocolate cookie, no mixer required and an 8x8 pan (if you make a 13x9 pan full of cookie bars, you have to eat a 13x9 pan of cookie bars!).

It turns out this recipe is from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food special summer issue, which I don't remember seeing at the grocery. The bars eventually turned out good, but they needed about 50 minutes in the oven, instead of the suggested 25-30 minutes. The butter also started to pool on top of them towards the end of their epic cooking. I actually blotted them like you might blot a piece of pizza. If I made these again I would absolutely cut back on the butter.  I also found them to be a little overly sweet, so I would probably cut back on the sugar too.

August 27, 2011

Tomato Sauce

Ever since I started reading food blogs a couple years ago, every once and awhile the blogosphere becomes all a flutter about Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter. (Seriously, just google "Marcella Hazan tomato sauce onion butter" and see the thousands of hits.) Hazan is widely considered to be responsible for introducing Americans to real Italian cooking and while I am obsessed with Italian food, I had never tried one of her recipes. With just over two pounds of tomatoes from my CSA wasting away on the counter, I decided it was high time I tried this tomato sauce recipe, which practically everyone proclaims to be the absolute best.

Hazan's recipe is special because it contains only 4 ingredients: tomatoes, onion, butter and salt. You don't even chop the onion, just cut it in half and throw it in the pot. I followed Food 52's instructions for this recipe because they tell you how to skin the tomatoes. I was always a little hesitant to use a recipe that calls for skinned fresh tomatoes because I thought it would be complicated. It certainly is not complicated. Messy, yes, complicated, no. (Food 52 does not tell you to cut an "x" in the bottom of the tomatoes before blanching them, but I had remembered reading that somewhere, so I did "x" all of them. It made peeling off the skin super easy and I would recommend doing that.)

The recipe instructs you to simmer the sauce for at least 45 minutes, and then continue simmering until the sauce has reached your desired consistency. Mine was no where near thick at 45 minutes, so I added another 20 minutes to the timer.

At 65 minutes, it was also not thick, but I stopped timing it and just let it continue simmering. I was also getting super hungry at this point, and kept thinking, I wonder what that onion tastes like. So I fished out a small piece and tried it. Yum! It was rich and tomatoey. Hazan's recipe tells you to throw away the onion when your sauce is done, but I couldn't justify throwing away something that has been simmering along for at least an hour and a half, infusing itself with deliciousness. So I fished out all of the onion and cut it into large chunks and threw it back into the pot. And because I can't leave anything alone, I decided that I should add some fresh thyme leaves and a Parmigiano-Reggiano rind that has been in the freezer for awhile. The sauce was still pretty thin, so I thought, why not just cook my pasta in the same pot? So in went the remainder of a box of ditalini (probably less than half a pound).

A couple minutes later I ended up with a thick, rich, fresh and cheesy pasta dinner. It was comforting, satisfying and stick to the ribs good. And although I deviated from Hazan's original recipe, hopefully she would be a little proud that I was able to adapt it and make it my own.

August 25, 2011

CSA Week 12

In Week 12's CSA bag, we have:

another mystery yellow item! (This one looks different than last week's mysterious yellow watermelon though.)
salsa kit (tomatoes, tomatillos, onion, green pepper, garlic, jalapeno)

August 24, 2011

Veggie Pancakes

As you can see, the sun has started setting earlier, which means my "photography studio" doesn't get much natural light. Back to the dark cave photos!

My friend Allison sent me a recipe for Roasted Eggplant Feta dip that I really wanted to try with my two CSA eggplants, but I was so engrossed in earthquake coverage on the news that I didn't make it to the grocery store to get the feta. Luckily, I found an interesting recipe for Potato Eggplant Pancakes on a blog called That's Just Me. I threw in the green pepper I had and was going to add the fennel too, but it ended up being all stalk. :(

I really liked these pancakes and feel like they are a good way to use up lingering vegetables. I especially liked that I didn't have to peel the potatoes or the eggplants! Next time I would start with only two eggs, as I thought three were too many and I think that a dollop of creme fraiche or herbed mascarpone on top of the pancakes would have made them even better.

Vegetable Pancakes
Adapted from That's Just Me
Makes 8 5-inch pancakes


4 small potatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 small eggplants, cut into 2-inch chunks
1 onion, quartered and layers separated
1 small green pepper, cut into 1-inch chunks
Extra virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
2-3 large eggs (see my note above)
1/4 cup whole wheat flour

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2. Toss vegetables with a tablespoon or two of olive oil, some salt and pepper and spread on a baking sheet. Roast until fork tender, 30-40 minutes, depending on how big you cut the vegetables. Let cool slightly.

3. Transfer the vegetables to a food processor and blend until well combined, but some chunks remain. Transfer vegetables to a large bowl and stir in eggs and flour.

4. Heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a large skillet/saute pan over medium heat. Add a scoop of the mixture to the pan to form a pancake (I was able to cook two at a time). Lower heat a little if the pancakes are browning too quickly. Continue cooking all of the batter and serve immediately.

August 18, 2011

Mystery Yellow Item


Not much of a mystery anymore! This is the juiciest, sweetest watermelon I have ever tasted. And call me crazy, but I tasted a hint of vanilla. Delicious!

August 17, 2011

CSA Week 11

Colorful group!

In Week 11's CSA bag we have:

fennel (the most wackadoo looking fennel I have ever seen)
mystery yellow item! My guess is a yellow melon, but it could be the dreaded spaghetti squash! Although it doesn't have a stem like a squash, so hopefully we are spared. I was supposed to get watermelon, but that certainly does not look like a watermelon. I guess we'll see when I cut into it.
tomatoes, green zebra tomatoes and cherry tomatoes
peppers (I am slightly frightened by even having hot peppers in my house. They will be departing soon with a one-way ticket!)
the cutest little eggplants

August 13, 2011

Spiced Vegetable Soup

The temperature dipped below 90 for about the first time in two months, so naturally my thoughts turned to soup! Honestly, I just wanted to use up some of the vegetables from my CSA.

I found this recipe for Curried Potato and Vegetable Soup on Simply Recipes and figured I had most of the ingredients, so could easily adapt it to work for me.

Unfortunately, I had a couple disappointing moments with the vegetables. When I cut into the fennel (from week 9), it had spoiled, so into the trash it went. Then, all three ears of corn had worms in them! Imagine my surprise when I was shucking them (luckily over the trash can) and a big fat nasty worm is staring at me! I screamed and dropped the corn into the trash. Poor Patton thought I was being attacked. So, no corn for my soup. And one of the potatoes (also from week 9) was a mushy mess. Ultimately, this soup turned out really well, especially with the addition of my Italian secret ingredient! See my recipe below to find out what it is!

One note on turmeric - be careful with it! It turns everything porous yellow: wooden spoons, countertops, skin, you name it!

Spiced Vegetable Soup
Adapted from Simply Recipes
Makes a ton!


4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 onions, diced
2 small green bell peppers, diced (one of the lighter green peppers from this week's bag was all nasty on the inside)
4 carrots (each about 6 inches long), peeled and diced
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds (I would be tempted to try a full teaspoon next time)
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
3 garlic cloves, minced
5 small potatoes, peeled and diced (if I had had more potatoes, I definitely would have used more)
4 cups vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 yellow summer squash, diced
1 15.5oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
4 oz mascarpone (the secret ingredient!)
1/2 cup chopped cilantro (it turns out I received cilantro in week 9's bag; I originally incorrectly identified it as parsley)

1. In a large pot (I used my 5 1/2 quart Le Creuset), melt the butter over medium high heat. Add the onion, pepper, carrot and fennel seeds. Cook, stirring regularly, until the onion is soft. Add the turmeric, garam masala and mustard seeds. Cook for one minute. Add the garlic, cook for 30 seconds, stirring continuously.

2. Add the potatoes, vegetable broth, water and salt. Increase the heat to high to bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Simmer uncovered for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Add the summer squash, cook for 5 minutes. Add the chickpeas, cook for an additional 5 minutes. Taste a couple of the vegetables to make sure they are all cooked through. Remove from the heat and use an immersion blender to puree half or 3/4 of the soup. Stir in the mascarpone and taste to adjust seasoning. Garnish with the cilantro.

August 11, 2011

CSA Week 10

In the bag week 10 is:

purple basil
yellow summer squash
cherry tomatoes
peppers (question to anyone who knows more about peppers than I do: are those light green peppers in the front hot peppers??)

August 9, 2011

Roasted Beet Farrotto II

I think this recipe is one of my favorite finds of 2011 (so far). Longtime readers will remember I first had this dish at Babbo during my NYC birthday trip in March. Then I recreated it at home about a week later. It can certainly be considered a winter dish, but after the last couple of days I have had, all I wanted was to spend some time in the kitchen and create something warm, hearty and comforting. The first thing that came to mind was this farrotto.

I decided to add an onion to the recipe seeing as the farm my CSA is from is having a "bumper crop" of onions this year and I have a ton lying around the kitchen. My original recipe is here and my updated recipe is below.

Roasted Beet Farrotto II
Adapted from myself and Mario Batali


12 oz baby beets, peeled and diced (I used what my CSA gave me, but you could obviously use regular size beets and I think a full pound would work well)
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
1 1/2 cups farro (I felt like the proportion of beets to farro was a little off. If you use a full pound of beets, then this should be the correct amount of farro; if you have less, like I did, I would recommend decreasing the farro to 1 1/4 cups or even 1 cup.)
1 large onion, diced
1/2 to 3/4 cup vegetable stock (The original recipe calls for chicken stock, but I had veggie stock open in the fridge, so I wanted to use it up. And now the recipe is vegetarian!)
Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Toss the beets with a tablespoon or two of olive oil and some salt and pepper. Spread on a baking sheet and roast until tender, about 35-40 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and toss with pomegranate molasses. Set aside.

3. Meanwhile, bring three cups of water to a boil in a small saucepan and add one teaspoon of salt. Cook the farro in boiling water until tender, but not fully cooked, about 14 minutes. Drain the farro and set aside.

4. While the farro is cooking, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat (I meant to use butter, but absentmindedly used the olive oil that was already sitting on the counter). Add the onion, some salt and pepper, and cook until soft, 5-8 minutes. Add the cooked farro, the veggie stock (start with 1/2 cup) and the beets to the onion and cook over high heat until the farro has finished cooking, about 2-3 minutes. Add more stock if the mixture gets too dry or the farro has not completed cooking when all the stock is absorbed. Remove from the heat, mix in some cheese and taste for seasoning. Serve warm with additional cheese.

August 3, 2011

CSA Week 9

In week nine's CSA bag we have (clockwise from left):

baby beets
parsley cilantro
cherry tomatoes

Someone has already taken a liking to the fennel!

August 2, 2011


If I can just squeeze myself underneath this air conditioner, I know I can get outside!