Soft and Crunchy Eggplant

eggplant2 3.30.13I decided to make eggplant balls. I hadn’t made them in a very long time. And with eggplant on my mind, they were sounding really good.

And so simple. An eggplant, some seasonings, a little filler.

Specifically…

1 medium eggplant, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch rounds, cooked in salted boiling water for about 5 minutes, til tender, then drained in a colander to cool. After squeezing out excess water, you can dice the slices, or, if you have a food processor, you might puree some and then dice some, for a combo texture. I mashed it with my hands and got a nice pulpy texture.

To the eggplant, I added 1 minced garlic clove, a teaspoon of dried thyme, 1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese, ground black pepper, and 1/2 cup of bread crumbs.

I used dried thyme, but this is definitely a nice place for chopped parsley and/or chopped basil. I almost bought some, but decided to see what might still be kicking in the garden instead, see if the sage might be a possibility. But no, it was kind of wintered out. And I didn’t see any oregano, which sometimes winters through, too. So I went with dried thyme.

The 1/2 cup of bread crumbs seemed to be enough to create something that would hold together, but, of course, this is something to play by ear. You might need more or less, depending on preference and the size of the eggplant.

After tasting for seasoning, I added one egg yolk. I used just the yolk, because it was my way of getting half an egg’s worth. A whole egg would’ve been too much moisture for my mix!

I placed the bowl with the mix in the fridge to set. You could also shape the balls first, then put them in the fridge to set. For about a half hour to an hour.

I brought about a 1/4-inch of oil in a pan to heat over medium heat. I used a mix of canola and extra virgin olive oil. If I’d had just a plain olive oil, that’s what I would’ve used, but since I didn’t, I mixed the other two.

While that heated up, I shaped the eggplant mix into small balls and rolled in plain bread crumbs to coat. I turned the oven on to low, so I’d have a warm place to keep one batch while I did the second batch, and lined a baking sheet with paper towels.

Each batch only took about five minutes or so to cook, turning them around in the oil as they browned. Then I drained them on the baking sheet and put in the oven to keep warm.

And I sliced lemon wedges to serve alongside.

I got to serve the eggplant balls on a beautiful platter a friend brought me back from Germany when she was in Europe several years ago, which has, yup, images of eggplant on it!

I am so glad I made these. I’d forgotten how good they are, all soft and pulpy on the inside, and that nice crunchiness on the outside.

I think I’ll be making these again very soon.

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One Eggplant to Start

eggplant 2 3.23.13Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant. To quote the wonderful title of an essay written years ago by the late writer Laurie Colwin in Home Cooking, her collection of food essays.

That was me one day this week. When I was sure there was nothing in the house to eat…or, at least, that I’d feel like making. Because I’d been sick, and was basically in reheating/microwaving/leftovers mode, having had soup three times, two of those times my own leftover celery and rice soup from last week.

But I needed something more, something that felt like a whole meal.

There wasn’t really nothing in the house to eat, but I had allowed the contents of the refrigerator and cabinets to dwindle. Except for basics and some odd and end that might catch my eye when shopping, I hadn’t restocked. Intentionally. My husband was out of town most of the past couple weeks, I didn’t need much, and it seemed a nice opportunity to give everything at hand a chance to be used.

So I opened the fridge, and there it was, an eggplant. One of the odds and ends I couldn’t resist buying the week before.

And so there I was. Alone in the kitchen with my eggplant. Deciding what else to pull out.

And one by one I set them on the table. The eggplant. A package of prepared beets. A head of garlic. Some romaine. A few very limp-leaved scallions. Blue cheese and gorgonzola that might or might not still be good. Fresh dill left over from last week’s post. A couple of eggs.

Roasted eggplant. Salad. Omelet.

I turned the oven to 400° and cut the eggplant into 1/4″ vertical slices. Tossed those together in bowl with three cloves of minced garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper, and then laid the slices on a baking sheet I’d lined with parchment paper. I slid the tray into the oven. Roasted for 15 minutes. Turned the slices over, and roasted for about another 10 minutes.

While they were cooking, I threw out the small bit of blue cheese. Yes, you can tell when blue cheese is bad. It shouldn’t be fuzzy!

The gorgonzola had some iffy parts that I tossed, but there was enough in good shape for me to use. So when the eggplant slices were done, I crumbled a little over the slices. And then sprinkled some chopped dill over them for some green. Back in the oven for a few minutes to melt, and then took that out.

For the salad I ripped a few romaine leaves onto a plate. Sliced two of the beets and arranged the slices through the romaine. A little chopped scallion and chopped dill sprinkled over. Salt and pepper. A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Very pretty.eggplant 4 3.23.13

I draped a few eggplant slices next to the salad, and sprinkled the crispy garlic bits over top of both, particularly the salad.

I added some chopped scallions to two beaten eggs and made a quick omelet.

The salty richness of the gorgonzola was nice with the softened eggplant. And every bite or so, a little dill did come through, especially when I combined it with a bite of the salad, which also had dill. And every time I eat beets I am reminded how much I really like them, their light, fresh taste.

The garlic bits were amazing. They got crispy after a half hour in the oven, and just added a great garlic crunch.

The little time and effort it took to make roasted eggplant, a simple salad, and a very basic omelet did this sick girl a world of good.

Celery and Rice Soup…Alas, Without Biscuits

celery 2 3.16.13I must confess. Biscuits look good, but didn’t taste good.

And I’m not sure why. It might be a baking powder issue. Did I miscount teaspoonfuls? Maybe.

Did I use too much dill? Not sure.

Possibly due to the capers. Since they’re jarred in vinegar, maybe the vinegar reacted with the baking powder.

I took a bite of the celery. That seemed fine.

Those are the things I mixed in with the dry biscuit ingredients: thinly sliced celery, a tablespoon of capers, a tablespoon of chopped dill, a little lemon zest from the half lemon I had left from the soup. They are ingredients that go well together, and I thought they’d work here, having successfully added a few herbs to biscuits before.

Ah, well. I’ll try again another time, and maybe that’ll clear up what happened here.

Still, the soup came out just fine.

Celery and rice. Light and easy.

Into a pan heated with enough oil to coat it, I added one small onion, thinly sliced, and three minced garlic cloves. I let them soften in the pan, then stirred in four cups of thinly sliced celery, and salt and pepper. Allowed the celery to cook and begin to soften.

I stirred in a cup of brown basmati rice, and let it cook a little, not quite browning, because liquids were being released from the vegetables, but, still, the rice releasing its lovely aroma. Then I poured in six cups of vegetable stock, and tossed in half a lemon, seeds removed. Lid on the pot, heat up to high. When it came to a boil, I reduced the heat to low and let it all simmer for about a half hour while the rice cooked.

I tasted from time to time, because I wanted the lemony back note, but didn’t want it to become too sharp. When the rice was cooked, I took the lemon out.

Even without the biscuits for accompaniment, a really nice soup. Light, uncomplicated, and the roundness of the lemon flavor complementing tender celery.

Celery Chips

celery 3.9.13Potato chips. Sweet potato chips. Kale chips. Any-vegetable chips.

So, celery chips, too.

It was a night for easy. Trader Joe’s Latin Style Black Bean Soup simmering on the stove, and some thinly sliced celery in a 400° oven, with the idea of something crispy to sprinkle on top.

It could’ve been crispy onions. It could’ve been crunchy tortilla chips. But celery is my focus for a few weeks, so I tried that.

I turned the oven on to 400°. While it heated up, I sliced several celery stalks thinly and at an angle, just to get a longer slice. Tossed them with just a little extra virgin olive oil to coat, and a little salt and pepper. Spread them in one layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Slid them into the oven. Heated the soup on the stove.

Didn’t know how long they would take, so I kept an eye on them, checking on them every ten minutes or so. Turns out 37 minutes at 400° is too long! Got caught up in a conversation with my husband, and, when I remembered to check them, found black celery slices with hints of green, rather than the other way around, which is, after all, what I really wanted.

Fortunately, all the slices hadn’t fit on that pan, so I had some left, and I tried again. This time, 20 minutes did it.

They weren’t crispy like chips, but a mix of crispy parts and toothier parts, with a hint of light celery remaining in the deeper, more concentrated taste it had cooked into. I liked them.

Stirred them into my bowl of soup. Hadn’t had this Trader Joe’s soup before. It has some chipotle, which gave it a nice kick. And these little crisped-up celery bits gave a great flavor and texture complement.

Bloody Mary Salad

celery 4 3.2.13Celery can be stuffed with cream cheese or peanut butter. It can be sliced into sticks for a go-to snack. It’s great for dipping. It adds lightness and crunch to salads. It shows up in celery soda. It’s a classic as a soup starter along with carrots and onions. It can be used every day of the week in a different way, and, still, I am amazed at how often I will use celery for whatever reason I bought it and then leave it to languish in the vegetable drawer for weeks until I either have to throw it out or trim off the bottom and put the limp stalks into a glass of water to revive them.

But this week I was faced once again with a full bag of celery just as I needed to choose a new ingredient to play with for the next three weeks. So, celery it is.

Once I decided on celery, a Bloody Mary came to mind, even though I can’t remember the last time I had one. And that led to combining tomatoes and celery, which are terrific together. I looked at a couple Bloody Mary recipes for some flavoring ideas for this salad. It’s not so much a deconstructed Bloody Mary, more that it echoes some of its notes.

Into a bowl:

  • 8 ounces of grape tomatoes, cut in half
  • 3 celery stalks, sliced thinly on an angle, and some chopped fronds
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 3 tablespoons olive tapenade (the jar I have is a mix of kalamata, black and green olives)
  • handful of chopped parsley
  • olive oil to coat
  • lemon zest and juice from one lemon
  • something for a little kick: a little hot sauce, crushed red pepper…I had cayenne pepper, so I added a couple shakes of that
  • and, just for fun, a tablespoon of vodka
  • salt and pepper

Combine and eat.celery 1 3.2.13

This salad was delicious. Crisp, bright, a good sharpness. We enjoyed it as a side with pasta and thin slices of sautéed tofu.

But you can see its possibilities. It can be added to salad greens for more of a full-course salad. It can be tossed in with pasta or another grain for a cold pasta/other grain salad. It can be warmed through, and become a delicious sauce for pasta or other grain. It can fill a good hoagie roll, along with cheese, for a great sandwich. A topping for crostini.

Bottoms up.