Wrap Up

roll 4 4.27.13Oh my, but my cold continues. Energy’s low. Fortunately, my husband is back in residence and bought us a few groceries.

And, oh my, again, he brought home kumquats and avocados. Kumquats for a lovely cocktail he makes for us (hmm, I see a mini-series on cocktails in the near future.). Avocados, just ’cause we like ’em!

I don’t get sick often, but when I do, I inevitably check to make sure I’m drinking enough water and eating enough greens. Hydration and energy. So something else my husband brought home was bagged organic kale.

Also tempeh and whole-wheat tortillas.

And with just those few things, this grateful gal made the nicest wraps for the two of us.

Over medium-high-ish heat, I sautéed about a quarter cup of diced onion and a couple minced garlic cloves, getting them soft and browning. Into that I stirred about two-thirds of the package of kale, after chopping that into a good dice, too. Because it’s going into a wrap, and you want good bitefuls, not too-big pieces that pull clumsily away. Cooked all of that down with a little salt and pepper.

After I took the kale mixture out of the pan, I added a little more oil and sautéed a package of tempeh that I crumbled into the oil, and let that brown.

Thinly sliced an avocado.

Took a nice handful of kumquats, sliced each into three slices vertically, then each slice in half, and then diced.

With all those parts ready, I warmed a couple tortillas over the flame on my stovetop, which is my favorite way to soften tortillas.rolls 2 4.27.13

You can lay avocado slices over the tortilla, and then lay the kale mixture on that, or you can lay the kale mix down the middle of the tortilla and then drape avocado slices on that. But on top of those gorgeous shades of green, sprinkle the browned tempeh crumbles and some of the beautifully orange kumquat.

And more than just the beautiful colors together, the flavors and textures mixed so well: soft and savory kale, the nuttiness of the tempeh, butteriness of the avocado, the sweetness/tartness of kumquats, all wrapped in a soft tortilla.

Wrap it up.



Dinner for One

I thought I might do some kind of lettuce wrap this week, in keeping with the idea of wraps and rolls that I started last week. It sounded good. I could make several, and they could be my salad offering for  book group, because it was my turn for salad again. And how pretty, all those beautiful green bundles  piled on a plate.

rolls 2 4.20.13But that didn’t happen.

A long weekend out of town, work, most of my available time focused on finishing my book club book in time for our gathering, and an unexpected cough and cold all contributed to a low-energy, do-the-bare-minimum-to-keep-up week.

So the lettuce wraps gave way to a much quicker salad tossed together after work, and then back out the door to meet my friends.

The next evening, my husband’s flight was delayed and then cancelled, due to storms blowing through, and he was rescheduled on a flight for the following day.

So it was dinner for one.

And in the fridge I had leftover salad. Chopped romaine, sliced onion, grape tomatoes, kalamata olives, crumbled feta, a little oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.

Classic combo, very tasty. And still in good shape, romaine leaves being a little sturdier, so not wilted too much from the vinegar. Plus, I hadn’t used a lot of vinegar.

We had a package of garlic-seasoned naan bread in the freezer. In the few minutes that took to heat up in the toaster oven, I made a quick one-egg omelet.

I laid that on the naan. Heaped a nice amount of salad on that.

And rolled it up.

Dinner. Served.

Wrap and Roll

rolls 2 4.13.13Magnolia trees are blooming, cherry trees are blossoming, forsythias are filling out in yellow. All in what seems an overnight.

A couple of days in the 80s, and spring has arrived.

Farmers market will be open in just a few weeks, and I’ll bring home more things than I can possibly make in a week, as I always do.

But, in the meantime, the cabinets and fridge are still pretty lean in my house, and I’m ok with that. Maybe it’s my way of making room for the new season, I don’t know, but I do know that I didn’t want to go to the store to get anything for dinner.

I had a few vegetables, some tofu. What could I do with those?

And then I saw it. An unopened package of Vietnamese wrappers. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d actually made rolls with similar wrappers.

The first time I’d seen them used was years ago, on one of celebrity cook Nigella Lawson’s first cooking series. I was intrigued that they only needed to be placed in warm water to be made pliable, and then you could wrap things in them!

Well…I could do that.

So I pulled out the tofu, along with a jalapeno pepper, some arugula, half a red bell pepper, and a couple small celery stalks. Also got out soy sauce, rice vinegar, and some oil.

Sliced the tofu into thin planks, about 1/8″ thick and an inch wide, and cut the jalapeno into four vertical slices around its core, tossing the seeds and core. Then cut those slices into thin 1/2″ long strips. Mixed the tofu and jalapeno strips in a bowl with some soy sauce and rice vinegar to marinate a little.

While I heated a pan over a medium heat with a coating of oil, I finely chopped the arugula, red bell pepper and celery in another bowl.

When the oil heated, I placed the tofu and jalapeno strips in the pan, turning them over once, all in about a 10-minute or so period. When they began to brown and get a little glisteny, I added what was left of the marinade, and turned up the heat to more of a medium-high, to reduce the liquid.

I laid out a towel for the wrappers, and poured hot water into a shallow bowl large enough to dip a wrapper into. I happen to have one of those instant-hot water taps at my sink, which can be very useful, as it was here. Otherwise, just really hot water from the tap.

As I said, I hadn’t done this for a while, and forgot how sticky the wrappers can be once they’ve softened. So you may lose a couple at the beginning while you’re getting a feel for it. I had one casualty. It totally balled up, and that was the end of that one. Another one had a couple of tears in it, but I still used it. They also stick to the towel, so lift carefully. Not to put you off using them! Like making crepes, it may take a couple to get a feel how to handle them.

So you lay the wrapper in the water, give it just a few seconds, lift out, set on a towel. I tried moving one wrapper to a cutting board to fill it, but then filled the others on the towel. I decided the less I moved them around, the more chance of success.

Then I added a few pieces of the tofu. On top of that, some of the chopped salad. I pulled one side of the wrap over the filling, then brought in the two ends, and rolled it up.

Slight saltiness of the tofu in soy was tasty with the fresh chopped veggies. Some soy sauce in a small bowl for dipping. I had a nice little meal.

This is one of those things that you could fill with any number of things: cucumbers, scallion, cilantro, carrots. The list goes on. Which is good, because I have more wrappers left in the package!

My Mother’s Eggplant Parmesan

My mother makes this for me almost every time I visit her. eggplant4 4.6.13Or she brings it with her when she visits me. Or she gives it to my sister to bring back to me when my sister visits her.

It’s one of my favorite ways to have eggplant.

And because my mom makes it for me, I hadn’t ever made it for myself.

But sometimes months go by between visits. So I decided to get proactive.

I called my mom for instruction.

This is what she does to make one of the nicest eggplant parmesans ever. It’s nothing like the thick-sliced, thick-cheesed versions you’ll often find in restaurants, which can be absolutely terrific. But this is different. It’s all about thin, layered slices of eggplant that melt into each other.

It takes just a few ingredients, and a little bit of time.


  • One eggplant (I used a large-ish one. I wanted a size that would fill a 9″ x 13″ baking dish nicely.)
  • Flour, to dredge the eggplant into
  • Eggs, to dip the dredged slices into (It took five beaten eggs for me.)
  • Oil to fry in, your choice
  • Grated parmesan cheese
  • A light tomato sauce (For a quick tomato sauce, I often simmer a large can of crushed tomatoes, with a little garlic, salt and pepper, maybe a bay leaf. But, in the cabinet, we had a jar of Trader Joe’s organic marinara sauce. It’s a nice sauce and worked perfectly here, for its light flavor and consistency, and for being just the right amount, with, in fact, a little left over.)

I peeled the eggplant, and then sliced it lengthwise into 1/8″ slices. I’m sure my mother does this with a knife, and I would have, but I happen to have a mandoline now, that one of my daughters got me for Christmas, so I pulled it out. It worked beautifully.

I heated oil, maybe an 1/8″ deep, in a pan over medium heat. And part way through frying, needed to add a bit more.

This is a nice time to pour a glass of wine…or beer…or other, and enjoy the process of dredging each eggplant slice in flour, knocking off the excess flour, then dipping in egg, knocking of excess egg, and laying it into the oil. When it begins to brown on one side, turn it to brown on the other. Then lay each cooked slice on a baking sheet lined with paper towels. A few layers of eggplant slices and paper towels will build up, and you will inevitably take a bite or two of the eggplant as you go along.

And you won’t be disappointed.

You can add salt and pepper to the slices as they come out of the oil if you choose. But it’s not necessary. My mother doesn’t. She feels that just frying the eggplant with the egg coating is flavor enough, and I think I agree, ’cause I seasoned a few slices, and then didn’t with the rest.

Preheat the oven to 350°. Pull out a 9″ x 13″ baking dish.

Spoon enough sauce to coat the bottom. Then drape eggplant slices into the dish. You may need to cut some to fit at one end or another. eggplant3 4.6.13Spoon enough sauce to cover, but never drench. Sprinkle some grated cheese over the top, and continue to layer til you’re out of eggplant. One last handful of grated cheese on top. Cover with foil, and bake for about 45 minutes. Check it. If it’s bubbling, it’s done.

Let it sit a few minutes, then slice into it, and put a generous piece on a plate. A fork glides through.

Yes, you could serve it with a salad. You could serve it with corn, or potatoes, or broccoli, or green beans, or bread, or….

But you may never get that far.

There are variations, of course. You could add the extra step of bread crumbs after coating in egg.

Or you could add mozzarella, or another favorite cheese.

Or you might want to do eggplant rolls. In which case, you could coat both sides of the cooked eggplant in a little sauce, then add your filling, maybe a seasoned ricotta, and roll each slice up. Layer the rolls in a baking dish, and bake as above.

It’s always a pleasure to have my mother make this, but very nice to have this in my own eggplant repertoire now, too!