Saturday, January 15, 2011

How to prepare lovely aubergine (eggplant)

Hard to imagine anything worse than undercooked, tough, bitter, inedible eggplant.
So please, if this has been your experience in the past, forget it now.
The eggplant recipe below is both easy and delicious.

The secret: two steps.
A prep bake in the oven. Then a short fry in a pan.
You can do the oven part whenever you have a little time and the oven is hot.
Then, when it is convenient, finish it off.


an aubergine
a little olive oil
salt, pepper and maybe some cajun spices

1. cut off end of aubergine, slice in half lengthwise, throw in hot oven skin up for 18 minutes, let sit.
2. when cool, slice aubergine into two inch (about) pieces
3. spice a large, non-stick frying pan (that's right! salt, pepper and put cajun spices in the pan), then drizzle in a little olive oil on a medium-high heat, throw in aubergine pieces
4. let fry quietly until brown, then turn over (about 3-4 minutes)
5. turn off heat, let sit. put in serving dish and cover under dinner.

Uncover! Makes lovely side dish with meltingly creamy interior!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A book we recommend for people who love to cook : HEAT by Bill Buford

When does passion veer into obsession?

Why would a middle-aged writer test his physical and emotional limits in the kitchen?

What does it mean to prepare and eat food--for oneself, for others....

How does a modern urban American learn to create authentic Italian food?

We don't usually recommend books, but we liked this one so much that we simply must mention it:

HEAT An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany : by Bill Buford

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Wonder of Beans

Is there anything more miraculous than beans?
A little water and they multiply like loaves.
Take the lowly kidney bean, for example. Price? Pratically nothing. Buy them dry and forget about them for ages. They're still good.
And then, in the winter, when it's cold and miserable and you want comfort, dig for those beans in the back of your cupboard like burried treasure. One pound transforms, with a little help from its friends (carrots, celery...) into three lovely dishes, each different, tasty and a pleasure in its own way.


First, soak the suckers! Overnight. In a big bowl of water.
Next, add a can of peeled tomatoes, some water and a chicken bouillon cube and bake (or simmer, as you prefer) for an hour or two.
That's all prep. Now put away in the fridge somewhere until needed.


WHAT YOU NEED (for all three dishes)
a carrot, peeled and sliced
a little celery, chopped, if possible with leaves
a touch of rutabega, chopped, if you've got somechicken stock (or 1/2 bouillon cube and 2-3 cups of water)
thyme and rosemary
feta, vinegar and oil (for the salad) and, if you have it, some chopped red bell pepper
hamburger and chile spice (for the chile)
and a hand mixer or blender (for the soup)
Heat chicken broth, throw in chopped veggies and some of your cooked beans; boil, turn off and...
for SALAD, 
with a slotted spoon, remove some of the beans and veggies and place in a bowl, add chopped onion, feta, vinegar and olive oil
for SOUP, blend and serve (with chopped fresh herbs on top if you have them)
for CHILE, fry hamburger, add spices, add the remaining beans and their liquid, cook 20 minutes and serve!

Needless to say, you'll want to space out serving these three dishes. They're all good, but don't serve them all at once!!!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Succulent oven-baked beef bourguignon

This one pot dish is tender and rich. Perfect for family or company on a harsh winter night.

2 lbs beef from an inexepensive cut, in medium sized pieces
3 slices of bacon, chopped (lardons)
4 onions, halved (or a dozen tiny onions)
4-6 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 celery sticks, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 lb mushrooms, sliced thin, either fresh or frozen
a little oil and butter
some peppercorns
2-3 cups of water
1/2 chicken bouillon cube
1/2 bottle of dry red wine
1 bay leaf
salt, pepper, pinch of flour
a large thick bottomed stove and oven proof pot with a lid 

(in an oven proof pot) 
Heat a little oil and butter in the pot, throw in the bacon and beef and brown on all sides
Remove beef  and add onion, carrot, celery, garlic and mushroom, fry lightly
Sprinkle flour, salt and pepper on beef and stir.
To pot pour in wine, water, add 1/2 chicken bouillon cube, bay leaf, thyme and stir, making sure nothing sticks to the bottom
Add beef and cover, bring to boil briefly
Heat oven to 360°F
Remove pot from stove and place in oven for 2-3 hours.  (The meat will be tender after 2 hours; but the sauce will be thicker and more intense at 3)
Turn off oven and let sit in warmth until you are ready to serve (No rush--you can serve this several hours later.  It only gets more tender!)

Remove the peppercorns, bay leaf and thyme,
Serve with steaming hot rice or your favorite pasta!

It's astonishing how easy and delicious this dish is.  All you need is a little time.