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My Beautiful Aubergines

Almost too beautiful to eat...

Nearly black and glistening, almost too beautiful to eat…

Sorry!  “Eggplant” simply does not do justice to this lovely vegetable (well, technically a fruit).  I’ve tried a different (to me) method of preparing them for dishes like Aubergines Parmesan and Moussaka.  I trimmed the tops and bottoms, sliced them into lengthwise slices, about 1/3″ thick but instead of frying up the slices, I brushed each side lightly with olive oil and baked them at 400º until browned, turning once.

This was far easier than frying them, uses less oil and took only about 20 minutes.

This was far easier than frying them, uses less oil and took only about 20 minutes.

After they were all browned, I made three Moussakas, one for now and two for later.  I baked two in baking dishes lined with tin foil and froze them.  after they were frozen, I took them out of the baking dishes and stored them in the freezer.  This winter I’ll just take off the tinfoil and put them back into the baking dishes for an easy meal.

Moussaka, ready for the freezer.

Moussaka, ready for the freezer.

Moussaka is a dish I first encountered in Greece many years ago.  It’s a ground meat,tomato and onion filling between precooked Aubergine (eggplant) slices and topped off with a custard of milk eggs and feta cheese, plus seasonings.

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Making the Most of Your Garden: Spectacular Salade Nicoise

Salade Nicoise with pan seared tuna steaks

Salade Nicoise with pan seared tuna steaks

When the garden is in full production I love to make Salade Nicoise.  Here I’ve showcased green beans, grilled baby squash, cherry tomatoes, baby cucumbers, lettuce, baby beets and squash blossoms stuffed with herbs and chevre.  I have adapted Julia Child’s recipe but this is more a matter of assembly than cooking.  The base is a French style potato salad (boiled in their jackets, peeled and tossed first with minced shallots, white wine, then vinaigrette), then you just arrange everything else.  I make my vinaigrette in a mustard jar that still holds the final bits of mustard the knife can’t coax out.  This gives me a handy jar to shake it in.  The vinaigrette is the remains of the mustard, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, minced garlic and herbs (I used basil for this one).  I add hard boiled eggs cut in half, drizzled with the vinaigrette and topped with a bit of anchovy.  The green beans are tossed in vinaigrette just before placing them on the lettuce and you drizzle it over everything else.  Top it off with a few black olives (Nicoise, if you can find them), sprinkle capers and parsley over the top, et voila!

The platter I use is a huge antique feather-edged Leeds one that I found at a flea market.  I only use it for this and for New England Boiled Dinner.

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Lettuce and Asparagus – an Abundance of Riches

Hmmmm… What to make with the asparagus….  There’s the lovely asparagus/salmon/pesto/tortellini dish… or a frittata with caramelized onions, asparagus and cheese…. or maybe I’ll pan roast it for a side dish…   You know what??  I have enough to do all three!  Yay!

Tortellini with salmon, asparagus, red and yellow peppers and pesto sauce.

Tortellini with salmon, asparagus, red and yellow peppers and pesto sauce.

Asparagus and caramelized onion frittata

Asparagus and caramelized onion frittata

Pan roasted...simple and delicious.

Pan roasted…simple and delicious.

I have also put out a call to neighbors to come get some lettuce.  It will lose its sweetness if it gets hot and it’s perfect now.

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This is the lettuce I wintered over in the cold frame. My transplants from the cellar are now ready to start picking and my first planting is up! Help!!

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Pizza from Leftover Sourdough Starter

Even Charlo loved it!

Even Charlo loved it!

I have always hated having to discard some of my sourdough starter when I give it its weekly feeding.  It offends my Yankee sensibilities, but if I didn’t discard some I’d end up with a bathtub full of starter in a few months.  I try hard to plan it so I don’t have to discard any by baking bread or English muffins but every so often it is unavoidable.    Such was the case last week when I had an extra cup of starter after its weekly feed.  I had seen an article by the King Arthur Flour people about using it for pizza crust but their recipe used some of their “Pizza Dough Flavor” and added regular yeast, which I thought unnecessary.  It also used starter that was liquid, whereas I had long ago converted mine to an easier (for me) to manage “Biga” form, similar to bread dough.

A word about my starter.  I visited friends in Montana in 2002 and the husband had created his own starter using grapes. This yeast is less sour than the typical starter which I think is made from the type of yeast used in beer.  I begged him and he promised to send me some.  The first package arrived foaming furiously through the seams in the box and our mailman expressed his doubts as to whether or not it was safe to leave with us.  I wasn’t able to salvage that batch but the second arrived without mishap and my sourdough experience began.  It’s like having another pet.

I tried adapting the King Arthur recipe to my Biga and made the most fabulous pizza dough we have ever eaten.  The link is to the original recipe.  I left out the pizza dough flavor and the yeast and I changed the water to 1  1/4 C (+/-) cool water.  I used bread flour because that is what I use to feed my starter.  Other than these changes to accommodate my Biga, follow the link.  If you have liquid starter, just follow the King Arthur recipe link and you will be amazed.  (Not to mention you’ll be happy not to throw any of your hard-working starter away.)

This is the prebaked crust.  I made it on a cookie sheet.  It's a little tricky to stretch out, but if you proceed a little at a time and let it rest for five or ten minutes between stretchings, it will reach the edges of the cookie sheet (or whatever) in three or four tries.  I prebaked the crust for about 8 minutes because I hate soggy crust.

This is the prebaked crust. I made it on a cookie sheet. It’s a little tricky to stretch out, but if you proceed a little at a time and let it rest for five or ten minutes between stretchings, it will reach the edges of the cookie sheet (or whatever) in three or four tries. I prebaked the crust for about 8 minutes because I hate soggy crust.  I then brushed the top with olive oil and the topped it.  I took it off the cookie sheet for the second baking and just set it on the oven rack.

When it came out of the over after the second bake, the bottom looked like this; lovely, brown and crisp.

When it came out of the over after the second bake, the bottom looked like this; lovely, brown and crisp.

After the olive oil I spread pizza sauce over all, sprinkling it liberally with red pepper flakes.  I then added a layer of mozzarella, then thinly sliced pepperoni sausage and topped it with shredded Parmesan.  I baked it at 450º until the top was browned and bubbly.

After the olive oil I spread pizza sauce over all, sprinkling it liberally with red pepper flakes. I then added a layer of mozzarella, then thinly sliced pepperoni sausage and topped it with shredded Parmesan. I baked it at 450º until the top was browned and bubbly.

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First Parsnips of the Season

Yum!!

Yum!!

We finally had a light frost a couple of days ago.  Frost sweetens winter vegetables like parsnips so I decided could at last harvest some and be confident that they would be tender and sweet.  I chose a simple preparation, just “slabbed” and sauteed in butter until the sugars caramelized and they were easily pierced with a fork.  After enduring months without parsnips, I didn’t want anything fancy, anything that might distract me from their delicate flavor.   I believe parsnips are vastly under-appreciated.  They are best straight from the garden of course, but lacking that, try some from the market.  You may find a new fall favorite.

I also hope none of you thought I was “down” with my Memories of Berlin post.  One son called and told me it seemed so, but I guess I was just being reflective.  Not to worry!  I’m happy!!

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Experimenting with Vegetarian Lasagna

Summer Squash Vegetarian Lasagne

Summer Squash Vegetarian Lasagne

I’ve been trying out new ideas for vegetarian lasagna during these days of vegetable abundance.  I build on my basic lasagna, which has a tomato sauce and a cheese layer with the pre-boiled Barilla lasagna noodles but I’ve been varying a layer for which I would ordinarily use a meat mixture, trying out different combinations of vegetables.  I came up with a winner a couple of nights ago.  Always on the lookout for another way to use my yellow summer squash, I first sweated chopped onions in olive oil until they were golden, then added chopped (unpeeled) summer squash, salted it and sauteed it until it lost all its extra moisture and began to brown.  I then added minced garlic, chopped green pepper and red pepper seeds.  I decided to try using Herbes de Provence for my herb mixture.  I continued to saute this mixture until the green pepper softened, adding more olive oil when needed.

I built the lasagna with a layer of half the tomato sauce spread evenly on the bottom, a layer of the noodles, then spread out the sauteed vegetable mixture and topped it with another layer of noodles.  I next mixed ricotta cheese 2/3-1/3 with feta cheese and added more Herbes de Provence, salt and an egg, mixed that well, and spread it out for the next layer.  I covered that with another layer of noodles and spread the remaining tomato sauce on the top.  I tented a loose layer of tin foil over it and baked it at 350º  (the tinfoil as I didn’t want it to dry out on top but I did want extra moisture to be able to evaporate).  When I could pierce the lasagna easily with a fork, I added shredded mozzarella cheese on the top and put it back for about 10 minutes to melt the cheese and brown the top a bit.

The result was a light but filling dish.  I served it with a kale salad, some crusty bread and white wine.  I chose a baking dish that fits my toaster oven, so as not to heat up the house.  Obviously amounts of the ingredients will vary with the size of the container and it’s always a good idea to make two (one for the freezer) when you make something a little more time consuming like this dish.

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First Chanterelles of the Season!

Here's the initial haul, unadulterated and ready to be cleaned.

Here’s the initial haul, unadulterated and ready to be cleaned.

Facebook friends will know that we found Chanterelles on our morning walk around Ocean Point, here in East Boothbay.  I just happened to notice them along side the road and then we checked some of our secret spots from previous years and found enough for a lovely mushroom tart, which we had for supper (having gorged ourselves at lunch at a local restaurant with one of our neighbors…shhh!)  I can’t begin to say how satisfying it is to enjoy something foraged from the wild.

 

After cleaning, we had about $20.00 worth, if you could even find them in a store.

After cleaning, we had about $20.00 worth, if you could even find them in a store.

Here's the tart.  I used frozen puff pastry and a simple mixture of the mushrooms, Vidalia onions, Swiis and Parmesan cheese, chopped dill and a dash of vermouth.

Here’s the tart. I used frozen puff pastry and a simple mixture of the mushrooms, Vidalia onions, Swiis and Parmesan cheese, chopped dill and a dash of vermouth.

Yum!!

Yum!!

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