September 28, 2010
When I haven’t thought about what to make for my lunch; I throw together whatever I have in my kitchen. I absolutely love sweet potatoes. I have just about converted from regular potatoes to sweet. If you haven’t you should try it. With this salad, I didn’t have any lettuce at home, so I bought some from the cafeteria at work and added it to my salad.
Roasted Sweet Potato, Pepper, and Black Bean Salad
1 roasted sweet potato, cubed
½ cup black beans, rinsed
¼ cup red onions, diced
½ cup grilled eggplant, diced
1 cup romaine lettuce, torn into pieces
1 cup spinach
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
Pour into Mason jar and shake.
Toss together all the ingredients, add the vinaigrette and enjoy!
September 22, 2010
I can honestly say I never ate eggplant before I joined the Peace Corps. The only recipe I had ever heard it used in was eggplant parmesan. It appealed to me, but I still never ordered it at a restaurant. I know most people are the same. They don’t know how to cook it nor think it takes very good. At my flat in Fiji, I was blessed with four eggplant bushes in my yard. I could pick it every day and would still have some leftover. Eggplant was frequently curried by the Indo-Indians and fried by the Fijians. I began to love eggplant and started cooking other dishes with it.
I went to the Bluegrass Farmer’s Market yesterday for the first time. It’s located on Richmond Road in the Pedal Power parking lot which is right across from my work. There were only 3 tents set up but I was pleased with what I found. I bought mushrooms, green peppers, eggplants, and white raspberries. The farmer selling the eggplant asked me how I was going to cook the eggplant. I told her my many recipes and different ways to prepare it. She grows it and doesn’t even cook with it, it amazed me. I loved sharing my recipes and I even shared some of my Peace Corps experience. She definitely didn’t want to stop talking. I pulled myself away and jetted home to make my eggplant and mozzarella smashed sandwiches for my date that night.
Smashed Eggplant and Mozzarella Sandwiches with Sun-dried Tomato Pesto
1 large eggplant
1 block mozzarella cheese
½ cup sun-dried tomatoes (I didn’t buy oil-packed but it works)
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 fist-full of fresh basil, chopped
2 whole wheat baguettes
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
Salt and Pepper
Eggplant can be bitter, so it’s always a good habit to salt the slices and let the bitter juices come out before cooking. Slice the eggplants into ½ inch pieces. Salt both side and set aside. After 15 minutes, rinse and pat dry. Place the sun-dried tomatoes in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Heat a grill or in my case, a George Foreman. Spray both sides of the grill with olive oil and place the slices on. Let cook for 5 minutes or until eggplant is squishy. Remove from grill. The tomatoes should be re-hydrated now. Remove from water and squeeze out excess water. Put the sun-dried tomatoes, garlic cloves, and 2 glugs of EVOO in a food processor and process until it forms a thick paste. Add salt, pepper, and the basil and pulse several times more. Place aside. Shred the mozzarella and slice the baguettes. Smear the sun-dried tomato pesto on each side of the bread. Place the cheese and cooked eggplant in between. Smash with your hand. Put the entire sandwich back on the GF and close. I then put a cast iron pan on top to smash it even more. (This is my version of a Panini press.) Cook for 1-2 minutes.
I hope this recipe gives you the guts to try eggplant sometime! Please let me know if you do.
September 15, 2010
I ate curry so much while I lived in Fiji, I have only cooked it once since I’ve been home and that was for my brother. A few weeks ago, my friend Matt, asked for my help with his class project. His group was assigned India and since I lived and breathed Indian customs for two years, I told him I’d teach him how to make curry. And to make it even more interesting, he hadn’t tried any Indian food before.
I decided on two simple recipes: chicken curry and tomato chutney. I would also cook white rice to accompany the dish. Matt wanted the recipe to be as authentic as possible, so I tried my best. I had bought Indian spices previously at the International Grocery Store off Richmond Road. I purchased garam (hot) masala, turmeric, black mustard seeds, and whole cumin. I also told him we would only be cooking with bone-in chicken. There is no boneless, skinless chicken in Fiji, believe me. Most locals purchase a whole frozen chicken and have it cut into pieces by the butcher or they chop it themselves. I decided on two bone-in chicken breasts for our recipe since it was only for the two of us. The recipe below is for 4-6 people.
The tomato chutney is meant to be added to the chicken curry like a condiment. Just mix in a little chutney with each bite or mix into the rice. I like lots of curry sauce and chutney with my rice. It makes it easier to stick together, especially when you are eating with your hands.
The curry turned out great, just like I remembered. The smells wafting through my apartment definitely took me back to my host family’s house. Matt loved the food and ate it traditionally with his hands. He is definitely a fan of Indian food now.
3 lb whole chicken fryer, cut into pieces
1 garlic bulb (yes that’s right!)
1 medium onion, diced
1 TB black mustard seeds
1 TB whole cumin
2 tsp gingerroot, peeled and chopped
2 tsp turmeric
3 TP garam masala
4 TB oil
1 cup cilantro, chopped
Salt to taste
Using a large heavy pan, heat the oil over medium to medium high heat. Add the mustard and cumin seeds to the oil. When the spices start popping, add the diced onion. In a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic, ginger, and chilies together. Add salt to make a paste. After the onions start softening, add the garlic mixture. Cook for 2-4 minutes, being careful not to burn the garlic. Put the garam masala and turmeric in a small bowl and add water to make a runny paste. Add to the pan. Stir quickly and watch the heat, this will burn very fast if you are not careful. Add the chicken pieces and stir. 1-2 minutes later, add water to the pan. This will help make the sauce for the chicken and rice. Cook the chicken until tender. After removing from the stove, add the cilantro.
1 can whole peeled tomatoes
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp whole cumin
1 small onion, chopped
1 TB oil
Heat the oil over medium heat. Add the mustard and cumin seeds. When they start to pop, add the onion. In a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic and chilies together. Add salt to make a paste. After the onions start softening, add the garlic mixture. Cook for 2-4 minutes, being careful not to burn the garlic. Add the tomatoes, crushing and mashing them in your hands as you add them to the pan. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Stir in sugar and simmer for 5 minutes.
September 10, 2010
Little did I know I was going to time warp myself back to Fiji. I felt myself straining to comprehend his words, I had to consciously talk more slowly, and I started speaking to him like I spoke to locals in Fiji. It turned into broken English and my British accent came out again. I wasn’t frustrated at all. It actually put a smile on my face because I felt like I was at the movies in Fiji again. He also choked me the entire night with his cologne. I am not big fan of cologne, I like a guys natural scent....I don’t see this going anywhere, but it was fun. I totally recommend the new Barrymore flick, Going The Distance. It was very funny and romantic.
I'm going to Knoxville for the weekend for Megan's 29th birthday. I am so excited! Until next time...
September 9, 2010
Last night, I made a fantastic pasta dish and wanted to share my recipe. This dish is just made for one person, but I did have leftovers. It could easily be doubled. I discovered these tasty chicken sausages at Meijer. The brand is All Fresco and they have several varieties. The sausages have no artificial ingredients, preservatives, or nitrites. I have only tried the sweet Italian style, but Meijer also carries sweet apple and sun-dried tomato. I also purchased the eggplant and sweet red pepper in my recipe at the Richmond Farmer’s Market. I encourage you to buy local ingredients if you are able.
Spicy Marinara and Chicken Sausage Rotini
1 Al Fresco sweet Italian-style chicken sausage, halved
1 handful organic baby spinach, chopped
1/2 eggplant, sliced
1 sweet red pepper, sliced into strips
1-2 cups homemade marinara sauce
Sun dried tomato and basil feta cheese
Red pepper flakes
Whole wheat Rotini pasta
I love grilling on a gas grill but now that I’m at my new apartment, I must rely on my George Forman. I like grill marks on my food and I just think it tastes better. I grilled the sausage, eggplant, and pepper on the GF for 5-7 minutes. While it is grilling, combine the marinara sauce, spinach, and 2-3 shakes (or more!) of the red pepper flakes in a pan and simmer. After the items are finished grilling, cut into bite-size pieces and add to marinara sauce. When the pasta is cooked, combine with sauce, throw on some feta and you are set for dinner! The spicier the better!
September 1, 2010
I had 2 free tickets to a Legends game that needed to be used, so I met him at Applebee’s ballpark. Let’s just say, it was one of the most boring dates I’ve been on in awhile. As soon as I greeted him in the parking lot, I had a feeling it was going to be weird. Awkward Moment #1 He didn’t act excited or anything, he hung his head and didn’t speak. We proceeded to get our tickets, food, and seats. It was actually the best seats I’ve ever had at a Legends game, right on the 3rd base line, six seats back. Awkward Moment #2 We sat down and he just sits there and stares at the field. He doesn’t engage in any conversation, so I chip in here and there just to see if he will talk. Nope. Then he asks me if there is just seven innings in a baseball game. I guess I’m a baseball snob, but I couldn’t believe he didn’t know how many innings were in a game. He supposedly goes to Reds games all the time, so how did he miss that? It seemed like the longest game ever. I went to the bathroom and actually contemplated ditching the game and leaving, but I didn’t. I wouldn’t want it to happen to me, so I erased the thought from my mind.
The game ended and we walked out to our cars. I said my breezy goodbye, got in my car, and peeled off. Awkward Moment #3 Within minutes of leaving the ballpark, he texts me and says, “I have a question lol what did you think of me?” I replied “LOL”…
Some might think another bum date would cause me to rethink the whole online dating scene. But not me, it makes for great stories to tell.
Another one down…batter up!