Baba Ghanouj

Baba Ghanouj

*drool*

I have a thing for baba ghanouj. The Pie only lets me buy it when it’s on sale (though that might have something to do with the fact that we consume large quantities of na’an when we eat it), so imagine my pleasant surprise when I discovered two things. The first is that making the stuff is ridiculously easy, even easier than making hummus. The second, is that eggplants were on sale!

I bought this honker of an eggplant, which weighs in at about 2lb.

Baba Ghanouj

Turn your broiler on to high (or prep your barbecue, because you can grill these babies, too), and roast the eggplant for 30-40 minutes, until the skin is crisp and blackened and the insides are squishy. If you have a big eggplant, poke it with holes and cut it in half. Let that cool completely.

Baba Ghanouj

When it’s room temperature, scoop the innards out.

Baba Ghanouj

I got to bust out my little-used food processor, which I got for free from a friend who was moving away to England. Every time I use this baby I’m always amazed at the marvel that is the food processor. But because I use it so rarely, it’s always a struggle to remember how to put the damned thing together.

Baba Ghanouj

Plop the eggplant innards into your food processor and pulse until smooth.

Baba Ghanouj

Add in, making adjustments for your own taste, a pinch of salt, 2 tablespoons olive oil2 tablespoons lemon juice, 3 tablespoons tahini, and 1 tablespoon minced garlic. Pulse that around as well and give it a taste.

Baba Ghanouj

After the initial taste, I added in some paprika, a pinch of cumin, and some more lemon juice, but of course that depends on your own preferences.

Baba Ghanouj

To serve, drizzle with olive oil and garnish with fresh parsley, pomegranate seeds, red pepper flakes, or whatever suits your fancy, and eat with flat bread. OM NOM NOM.

Baba Ghanouj

Barbecue in a Bottle

This recipe has been adapted with thanks from PickYourOwn.org, who set out all the steps for this delicious tangy tomato goo, including the entire canning process.  For other tips on canning, check out some previous posts here.  I doubled the batch laid out below (of course) and ended up with about 8L of sauce.

In a very large pot, start simmering 5 14oz (796mL) cans diced tomatoes.  This is roughly equivalent to 16 cups or 4 quarts (I did the math).  In one of my batches I substituted one can of crushed tomatoes for diced.  It didn’t seem to make much difference, save I had less seeds in that one.

Once those are going strong, chop and chuck in 4 stalks celery, 2 onions, 3 red peppers, 2 jalapeno peppers, and 2 cloves crushed garlic (or garlic-in-a-jar).

In addition to that, add in 2 teaspoons ground black pepper, 1 tablespoon dry mustard, 1 tablespoon paprika, 1 tablespoon sea salt, and 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper.

THEN add in 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco, 1 cup brown sugar and 1 1/2 cups 5% (white) vinegar.

Remember you can adjust any of these flavourings to suit your own tastes.  I added extra cayenne and brown sugar, as well as a few dobbles of sweet chilli sauce and a can of tomato paste.

Simmer everything for about 30 minutes or until it’s all softened.

Now here you have two options.  If you have tremendous patience, you can run the cooked sauce through a food mill, which will remove the seeds and give you a lovely velvety smooth sauce.

If you’re me, you can use an immersion blender

Tomato sauce will end up everywhere, and you will still have seeds in your slightly chunkier sauce, but you will end up with more sauce for preserving.

All you have to do at this point is cook down your processed sauce until it’s the consistency that you like.  Just keep an eye on it and stir frequently to avoid burning.  Remember that the sauce at this point is thick enough to interfere with proper convection so stirring is essential.

Pour into sterilized jars and can according to your canner’s instructions.  And that’s it!

Not the Whole Enchilada

My dad and I have taken to trading off on dinner duty.  Today, he was running around town finishing his errands (one of which included a much-needed trip to the grocery store), so I ransacked the refrigerator and tried to figure out what I could make with what was left inside.

I’d been craving some Tex-Mexicana but I didn’t want to go through the time-consuming (but worth it) effort of making our very popular chicken enchiladas, so I kind of improvised.

First I set two chicken breasts to poach in half chicken broth, half water, so they were covered about an inch with liquid.

The trick with poaching is to bring the water to a boil and then very quickly turn it to low, so you only get the slightest little bubble.

I left them like that for about 45 minutes or so, then drained them and shredded them with a fork.

I set that aside and turned my mind to other things. 

Like grating up some cheddar cheese.  I like lots of cheese.I diced up a large onion and chucked in in a large pan with two teaspoons garlic-in-a-jar and the same in olive oil.

I also diced up a sweet yellow pepper and three small tomatoes fresh from the garden (ah, Ontario produce, how I have missed you!).

I sautéed the onions with the garlic until they were softened.

Chucked in the other vegetables.  How’s that for lovely colour?

Then I added a teaspoon ground cumin and two teaspoons chili powder.  You can of course adjust this to suit your own preferences.

I then added some of the tasty hot sauce leftover from my brother’s wedding.

Then a can (680mL, a little more than two and a half cups) of tomato sauce (puréed tomatoes would also work here).

Let that simmer and thicken on medium heat for about twenty minutes.  Or as long as it takes you to cook your rice.  My rice takes about twenty minutes, if I cook it according to my husband’s very exacting standards.

Add your shredded chicken to your tomato sauce mixture and stir it around until the chicken is thoroughly coated and nice and warm.

Serve over your rice with grated cheddar cheese.

We even had some leftover, so I would say this recipe serves 4 or even 5 (Dad had seconds).  Not bad for a we-have-nothing-in-the-fridge kind of meal.

Hash Wednesday

The title for this recipe comes from the Pie, who is a very punny guy.  Yeah. Ha ha.

The recipe itself started to come out of Martha Stewart, but then we changed  it so I think we’ll call it our own.

Cube up 2 large potatoes (we used PEI Russets) and boil the crap out of them for about 15 minutes.

You have two options here when it comes to the chicken.  You can either take a chicken breast with the bone in and the skin on and bake it for 35 minutes at 450°F, or you can take a boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut it in half horizontally, and fry it up in about 15 minutes. Either way, sprinkle some thyme, salt, and pepper on the chicken as it cooks.

However, you do it, cut the resulting cooked chicken into cubes and set aside.

Heat some olive oil in a skillet (use the one you fried your chicken in, if you did that), and sauté half a large onion, diced, until tender.  Use a wooden spoon.

Add a teaspoon of garlic in a jar and heat for 30 seconds.

Add your potatoes and cook, stirring often, until browned (about 7 minutes).  At this point, add in 2 tablespoons water.  Scrape the bottom of the pan with the spoon to bring up all the good stuff that’s starting to stick and keep cooking those potatoes for another 5 minutes or so. 

Add in your cubed chicken, together with about 1/4lb baby spinach (I’d say about 5 loosely packed cups).  Stir it up until it’s all wilted, about 2 minutes.

Season to taste with salt, pepper, and lemon juice.  Serves two.

Broccomeat/Broccofu

Did I mention that we are broke students who live in Newfoundland, a rock in the middle of the north Pacific Atlantic Ocean?

This recipe arose out of necessity, when the only vegetable we could get in the winter that was half decent was broccoli, and the only protein we could afford was a block of tofu or a thin frying steak that cost two dollars.

Fortunately, we take after our respective parents, and do not lack for condiments.

This is a Pie recipe, and until the night he let me photograph it, I never knew the secret.  Of course, as he says, improvisation is quintessential, and the recipe is not exactly the same every night.  Accordingly, I have provided you with alternative ingredient options: the tofu option (“broccofu”), the steak option (“broccomeat”), the teriyaki version (sweeter), and the black bean version (more sour).

Separate two small heads of broccoli into individual florets, and slice up the tender part of the stem, while you’re at it.

Cube a block of firm tofu — the firmer the better, because it will disintegrate on you.  I love cutting tofu.  It’s like extra hard Jello.

Alternatively, slice a thin uncooked steak into strips.

In a large pan or wok, heat up two tablespoons of peanut or other frying oil with a tablespoon each of minced garlic and ginger from a jar.  If you are doing the teriyaki version, omit the ginger.

When your oil is sizzling with your minced herbs, add your tofu or your steak and allow to brown for a few minutes.  While it’s doing its thing, mix together, in a small bowl, a tablespoon of each of the following (2 if you’re feeling saucy):

black bean sauce (it’s more of a paste) / alternatively / teriyaki sauce

garlic black bean sauce (it’s more of a liquid) / alternatively / sweet and sour sauce

peanut oil

soy sauce

hoi sin sauce

garlic chili sauce

plum sauce

I know.  Everything seems to have garlic in it.  Trust me.  It works out.  Don’t be afraid to improvise with what you have and experiment to cater to your own tastes.  Stir fries are meant to be made up.

Pour the sauce into the pan and stir the tofu/steak until coated.  The Pie wishes to point out that the reason he adds the sauce before the broccoli is because he finds that the florets act like sponges and suck all the sauce away unless it has a chance to coat the other ingredients first.

After mixing in the sauce, drop in your broccoli florets and stems, and heat until the broccoli is bright green.

Serves 2 over rice.  With the rice, the whole thing costs you less than $4.  My cheap brother Kristopf would be proud.

Red Curry Quinoa

Our vegetarian experiment is drawing to a close, and I hadn’t yet made a curry.  I also had a lot of vegetables in my refrigerator that needed using.  In addition, I wanted to take advantage of my new stainless steel compost bin from Lee Valley and cut up a bunch of vegetables.  Hoorah.

I got the inspiration to make my own curried quinoa from fellow WordPress food blogger Lindsay at The Food Operas.

Dice up a medium onion, three medium carrots, three carrot-sized parsnips, a head of broccoli, a red pepper, and two stalks of celery.

Chop up some vegetables!

In a large saucepan (preferably one with a wide bottom), heat up some olive oil and chuck in your vegetables.  Cook until tender.

Pour in two large handfuls of quinoa, together with a can of coconut milk and a few tablespoons each of red curry paste and minced garlic (I like the stuff that comes in jars).  Bring to a boil and leave to simmer for 20 minutes.  Before serving, add a dash of tamari or soy sauce and some garlic chili sauce to taste.

Let that sucker simmer!

We ate it with some na’an.  Mmmm.

I love my na'an.

Quick and Classic Spaghetti Sauce

It really hurts my brain when people invite me over for dinner and they serve spaghetti with sauce straight out of a can.  Why would you do that when it is so easy to make something a little more special?

My mother has been making spaghetti sauce from scratch for as long as I can remember, and it always, always tastes ten times better than anything I’ve ever gotten at a restaurant – or anywhere else, for that matter.  I learned how to make it myself and have been modifying it ever since.  I’m not a huge measurer when it comes to sauces, so it’s different every time. Feel free to use your own judgment in this.

So now, for the first time ever in print, a classic and easy spaghetti sauce I learned from my mother, who learned it from her mother.  I’ll give you the quick and the slow versions, as well as the non-vegetarian option.

First, you need to prep your vegetables.  Chop, into small chunks:

 

1 large onion (white or yellow work best)

2 bell peppers (we use red because I’m allergic to the green, but I’ve always thought the green added better colour)

10 average-sized mushrooms (whichever kind suit your fancy)

2 jalapeño peppers (optional, but I like a bit of the spice – make sure you’re careful when cutting these, as pepper juice in the eye is excruciating)

My favourite spices
Can you smell that?
This one reminded me of baby food.

In a large pot, sauté the onions in a few teaspoons of olive oil until tender.  Sprinkle in a healthy pinch each (I’m talking three fingers and your thumb, here) of basil and oregano, as well as two or three crushed cloves of garlic.  I’m a pretty lazy cook, and a handy shortcut I discovered is garlic in a jar.  I’m experimenting with brands at the moment, because I can’t get my beloved Mr. Goudas brand here in Newfoundland, but I figure a teaspoonful of minced garlic is a good-sized clove’s worth.

Carnivorous Option: If you were adding meat to your recipe, now would be the time to do it.  I usually add a brick-sized amount of ground beef, turkey, sausage or pork.  Chorizo or other cooked sausage works just as well.  Brown the meat carefully and thoroughly, and then drain any excess fat.  If you use a lean or extra lean ground you won’t have to drain it.

Now add the rest of your vegetables to the pot and allow to soften for a few minutes until their colour is heightened.

When the vegetables’ colour turns bright, they’re ready.

In this next step you have a bunch of options.

Take your pick of available sauces.

For the slow and steady cook, add one large can of diced tomatoes and one of crushed tomatoes.

Pour some water into the empty jar and shake it to get all the saucy goodness.

Instead of a can of crushed tomatoes you can use a jar of commercial spaghetti sauce, which has the benefit of a few extra spices added in.  If the Pie is around I usually don’t put in the diced tomatoes, either, just two jars of spaghetti sauce.  For the particular recipe illustrated here, I used a carton of Trader Joe’s Starter Sauce, and it was a nice balance of tomato for both of us.  I find a little extra liquid is always helpful with this sauce, as it tends to reduce over time, so what I do is pour a splash or two into the empty spaghetti sauce jar, close the lid, and shake it, to get all the saucy goodness out of it and into my pot.

If you are taking the vegetarian option, now you would add your TVP.  The Pie is more of a measurer than I am, and he says he put about a cup of the stuff into this particular sauce.  I like the action shot of it pouring into the pot.  You will find that because TVP absorbs water, you will need a bit more liquid than you would if you used meat, so keep that in mind.

Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP)
TVP Action Shot

Get the sauce to a low simmer, and leave it, stirring occasionally, for about an hour.  The longer you simmer it, the longer the flavours have to mix.  You can also make this recipe in a slow-cooker, moving everything to the crock pot after the meat stage and going from there.

Serve with your choice of pasta and lots of parmesan cheese.  There is enough sauce here for about 8 people.