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Archive for the ‘eggplant’ Category

Regular readers know that I suffered catastrophic garden losses thanks to a house/cat/garden sitter who did a great job with two out of three.  I’m pleased to report, though, that courtesy of the pre-soaking (and sometimes pre-sprouting) technique, I’ve got butter peas, summer squash of several varieties, cucumbers (Armenian and a pickling cucumber), and okra all peeping out of the earth, facing the scorching temperatures bravely.  A bunch of different basils successfully sprouted too, as did some volunteer radishes.  I hope that winter squash will emerge soon to join all of the other garden babies.  I’m watering all of my seedlings daily, in hopes that our record-high temperatures will break soon.  It was too late for re-planting the dozens of peppers I lost, but everything else is pretty well on track.

My tomatoes were better prepared for abuse than everything else, having not only been planted extra-deep but also having thick mulch and soaker hoses.  They are doing really well, especially my Principe Borghese sun-drying tomatoes.  I have an Excalibur dehydrator on its way to the homestead now to process these little ruby gems into chewy, almost smoky intensely tomato-y dried treats for winter and spring.  I hope our apples continue to grow, as it looks like we’ll have plenty of those for drying as well as for savory jelly and apple butter.

And we’ve still got some peppers, some eggplants, leeks, carrots, cabbages . . . and grand plans for fall plantings of more cool-season vegetables.

What’s growing in your garden?  What are you planning for fall in the garden?

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.

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Did your neighbor just surreptitiously drop a bag of zucchini on your doorstep and run?  Did you just uncover a zucchini club in your own garden that somehow escaped your notice for the past few days while it was growing into a gargantuan green nightmare?  Did your otherwise lovable CSA bury you in summer squash?  I have solutions, and they do not involve zucchini bread (which is good, but you can only eat so much).  Instead of lasagna noodles, how about using thinly sliced giant zucchini?  Instead of eggplant parmesan, how about using that same overgrown zucchini?  Are you trying to go low-carb?  Use larger (but not giant) zucchini to make ribbon strips of fettuccine!

To make zucchini lasagna, slice the zucchini fairly thinly across the club and fry in a shallow pan in just a little oil (as in a few squirts of spray oil), turning once as the zucchini browns.  Then layer marinara sauce (with or without meat) with the zucchini slices–evenly spaced across your baking pan and overlapped if necessary to get full coverage–and mozzarella and a thin grating of real parmesan cheese.  I’ll bet even the dedicated squash haters in your family will love it.  As one friend said to me years ago of a squash dish with cheese, “Well, of course I liked this squash.  You covered it in cheese!”

For zucchini parmesan, use thicker slices, and dredge the slices in egg and bread crumbs before frying if you want.  Layer as indicated for zucchini lasagna.  Add seasoned bread crumbs to the top if you did not bread the slices before frying.  It’s so easy!  Serve with a big salad and crusty bread.

For zucchini fettuccine, cut ribbons of zucchini using a vegetable peeler.  You can blanche the ribbons in salted boiling water for a minute or two before using or just toss with hot marinara or alfredo sauce.

Do not fear the giant zucchini!  It’s an opportunity.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader. All rights reserved.

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Meatless Mondays are making a comeback that they haven’t seen since the Great War–um, meaning World War I.  Okay, yes, they had a resurgence in World War II, but that war was much less about slogans and much more about the reality of rationing.  All that history aside, Meatless Mondays are a healthy way to add more vegetable protein to your life and help save our planet.  They can also be incredibly tasty and, frankly, more satisfying and filling that meat-filled days–especially if you include such a rich dish as baba ghanouj (baba ghanoush).  Baba ghanouj can form a centerpiece of a perfectly light, healthy, and cool summer meal.

I got introduced to Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food more than a quarter of a century ago when I lived in Boston.  I doubt if I’ve ever had authentic, but I know that the large ethnic enclaves in Michigan where I lived more recently got pretty close.  Baba ghanouj, believe it or not, was probably the first way I had eggplant. I really like it.

Today we can get beautiful smaller eggplants like Japanese varieties that have little bitterness and form the ideal foundation for baba ghanouj for two.  Two Japanese eggplants should serve four.

For two servings, roast at 350 degrees F for 20-30 minutes a Japanese eggplant, slit but not cut through, in a glass or cast iron covered pan along with 2 to 4 (or more) garlic cloves, peeled and tough ends cut off but otherwise intact.  Slice the eggplant in half, scoop it out of the tough skin, and mash it with the garlic and about a tablespoon or two of tahini (sesame paste).  Yes, it’s okay to let everything cool a bit. That’s it.  What you’ll have is a thick dip ready to serve at room temperature that has an unexpected sweetness from both the garlic and eggplant.  The tahini has the advantage of being the only food that can actually lower your cholesterol without drugs–that is, sesame does that!

Serve baba ghanouj with whole-wheat pita wedges (yes, you can make pita at home too, but that’s another post) and slices of chilled seasonal vegetables like zucchini, cucumber, carrots, peppers, and radishes (in cooler climes) for dipping.

Baba ghanouj works great as an appetizer but also works for a whole meal.  We like it with falafel (fried chickpea patties, easily made from mix or homemade, to stuff in more pita) and tadziki (thick yogurt with diced cucumber, dill, and lemon) to increase the protein content of the meal.  I’ll post those recipes in the near future.  Meanwhile, consider baba ghanouj for a cool summer supper or your next picnic or potluck.

Copright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  All rights reserved.

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Tonight we had huge noodle bowls for dinner, relying on fresh produce and poultry from our back yard or Conway Locally Grown.  These noodle bowls are packed with veggies, spice, and cooling coconut milk (which, alas, is not local at all).  Unfortunately, after I planned the dish, I discovered that my neglected fresh ginger was no longer fresh, so I found other ways to get ginger flavor.  If you have fresh ginger, by all means grate it and use it.  Use a wok for this one-pot meal.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut in half lengthwise and then thinly across the grain
  • 1/4 cup Sriracha or homemade pepper sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sherry
  • 2 tablespoons extra-ginger ginger beer
  • natural soy sauce
  • walnut oil (or peanut oil)
  • toasted sesame oil
  • 2 small carrots, cut into pennies
  • pickled ginger juice
  • broccoli (garnish)
  • pea pods (a couple of cups)
  • big pile of shittake mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 baby bok choy heads, trimmed and cut diagonally
  • optional:  splash of hoisin sauce
  • 2 big pinches dried ginger
  • 2 red peter or other hot pepper, seeded if you want, and then sliced thinly
  • leek bottom, cut in half lengthwise, cleaned, and thinly sliced
  • broccoli florets
  • handful per person of prepared Thai rice noodles (like very white fettucini)
  • 1/2 can to 1 whole can coconut milk (light okay)

Method

Begin by marinating the sliced chicken in the Sriracha, sherry, ginger beer, and a splash or two of soy sauce.  While the chicken gets nice and spicy, prep your vegetables.

Wait–where are the snow peas?  Oh, here they are!

In a good wok over high heat, pour in a little of the nut oil, add your carrots, and pour on a tablespoon or two of pickled ginger juice.  Stir-fry the carrots until they get tender and maybe have a little caramelization on a few. Most of the liquid will have cooked off too.  Distribute the carrots in the bowls you’ll be using for eating.  Next, add a little toasted sesame oil, the snow peas, and a splash of soy sauce to the wok.  You can add a splash of water too if you want, but make sure it all cooks down.  Stir-fry the snow peas until they are tender.  Portion them out in your eating bowls to one side.

Now it’s time to stir-fry the shittake mushrooms.  Add a tiny bit of oil to the wok and toss in the mushrooms.  The mushrooms will give up a little liquid; that’s good, as it will help them cook.  Help them a little more by pouring in another splash of pickled ginger juice.  Is most of the liquid cooked off?  Out of the wok they go and into the bowls!   Be sure to put them in the half where you didn’t put the snow peas.

Next toss in the sliced bok choy with a little more nut oil and some of that ginger juice.  If you have it on hand, add a little hoisin sauce.  As the liquid cooks down, find a spot in your bowls for the bok choy.

Next up are leeks and chile peppers.  We just had a few florets of broccoli, so I added them in here.  Same story–different verse. Use a little oil.  Add a little more ginger juice if you think they need it.  Add in the prepared rice noodles and stir-fry to combine.  Plop in the bowls.

Last is the chicken.  Taking care to get chicken but little marinating liquid, add the chicken to the wok and stir-fry until the liquid is cooked down.

Now pour in 1/2 can to a whole can of coconut milk and heat until it gets bubbly.Distribute the chicken in the eating bowls and then pour on the coconut milk, which is now conveniently infused with all of the goodness that you stir-fried through the whole prep.  Yes, we just used coconut milk to deglaze the wok.

Eat.  Enjoy.  Since we separated the elements as we stir-fried them and again going in the bowls, you can get a different mouthful of flavor each time you dive into the bowl and pull out a morsel.  Use chopsticks for the most fun, with a soup spoon to get every tasty drop in the end.

Variations

This dish would be delicious with cilantro or Thai basil on top, but, alas, we had neither ready to pick right now.  We also sometimes use Asian eggplant in this big bowl of yummy, but we don’t have that yet either.  Feel free to substitute shrimp for the chicken.

What’s the largest number of local produce and protein that you’ve managed to get in a single dish?  Do you cook a similar pan-Asian dish?  Do tell!

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with full URL and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome.  Please contact me for permission to use photographs.

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This week I ordered lamb from Conway Locally Grown, a regional variation on CSAs that I’ve blogged about here in the past.  We do not ordinarily eat red meat. As a matter of fact, I had been years and years without eating it until December 2009.  What happened then?  A friend who has an annual winter solstice party with homemade whole-grain pizza included lamb on the pizza.  He’d raised the lamb himself, so it had, as he put it, “zero carbon miles.”  I had to try it.  I admit it; it was way better than any red meat I’d ever had.  So when my father, who is visiting us for a week, wanted to try the lamb from Conway Locally Grown, I said “okay” and ordered it.  Thus we had a very Greek-inspired shepherd’s pie tonight, made almost entirely of local ingredients.

Serves 3-5

For the mashed-potato topping:

  • 4 medium potatoes (I used three big Yukon gold potatoes and one red potato)
  • 1-2 tablespoons of kefir or buttermilk (or yogurt mixed with a little milk)
  • 1-2 ounces Greek cheese, crumbled (I used a sheep and goat feta-type with Greek herbs)

For the meat and vegetable mixture:

  • several cloves of garlic (7 or 8 if you like a lot of garlic or if the cloves are small)
  • 8/10 pound ground lamb
  • 3 good-sized red peppers, sweet or hot (I used marconi and Hatch)
  • 1 pint home-canned tomatoes (yes, you can use a 14-ounce can of good store-bought tomatoes if you don’t have home canned ones)
  • 2 or 3 small carrots or half of one large
  • two sprigs fresh rosemary (about 1/2 teaspoon dried)
  • three of four sprigs fresh oregano, leaves only (about 1 teaspoon dried)
  • 1 cup zucchini, preferably blanched or sauteed, drained thoroughly, and chopped roughly (I used some I had frozen)

Optional:  eggplant, sliced and sauteed. *See seasonal note.

Begin by dicing the potatoes and slicing three of the garlic cloves. Put the potatoes and garlic in a suitable pot and boil until the potatoes are tender.  I also salted the water with a “Greek” seasoning made here in the Ozarks called Cavender’s. When the potatoes and garlic are done cooking, pour off the water and then put the pot back on the stove briefly to cook off excess water.  You can turn off the potatoes at this point until the meat mixture is ready.

While the potatoes are boiling, crush or finely chop the rest of the garlic. Add it and the ground lamb to a heavy-bottomed pot (I used a 2-quart cast iron Dutch oven) and cook on medium until the meat is no longer pink. Meanwhile, remove the seeds from the peppers and cut the red peppers into half inch pieces.  If your peppers are fresh, add them to the meat mixture immediately.  I waited to put mine into the meat mixture until it was mostly cooked because my peppers were from our freezer, from 2009’s garden, and thus already soft.

When the meat is no longer pink, add the pint of tomatoes.  You can add the peppers soon thereafter if you have not done so already.  Add the rosemary and oregano. (Ours remarkably survived the frigid temperatures we’ve been having, probably because they are planted next to the porch on the south side of the house, with no chance of getting hit directly by the north winds.) Next cut the carrots in halves or quarters lengthwise and cut thin half-moon slices.  Add the carrots to the mix.  (The carrots came from our garden, protected in a cold frame.) If you have not pre-cooked the zucchini, add it now, sliced and then chopped casually.  My zucchini came from the garden via the freezer and thus had already been blanched, so I added it last. Simmer, uncovered, until the mixture has completely thickened.  If you have not added the zucchini, add it now, well drained first.  Fish out the whole rosemary sprigs.

As the meat mixture starts to get thick enough, you can finish the potatoes.  Add the 1-2 tablespoons of kefir or buttermilk (or yogurt/milk mixture) and mash the potatoes well.  Now stir in the 1-2 ounces of Greek cheese, like the sheep-goat feta blend I used.  You want to leave the cheese in chunks, so that diners get a burst of flavor every few bites.

Divide the meat mixture into individual greased casserole dishes or a single larger casserole dish. You could also leave the mixture in the Dutch oven, if you prepped the meat mixture in it.  Now spread the mashed potatoes over the meat mixture.

Broil until the tops are browned, about 5-15 minutes, depending on your oven.  Serve with a big salad with Mediterranean ingredients and enjoy!

*I did not use eggplant because we did not have any in the freezer, and it is not in season here.  Of course, it would be ideal for this recipe.

You may also be interested in a shepherd’s pot pie: https://ozarkhomesteader.wordpress.com/2009/12/29/shepherds-pot-pie-using-holiday-leftovers/

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It’s really rare here to make it to Thanksgiving day without a half dozen hard freezes, but this year we’d only had a couple of frosts up to November 26.  Hence, when I saw the outdoor temperature plummeting to 36 degrees Fahrenheit before 6:00 p.m., I was resigned to the inevitable.  Thankful for our turkey feast and donning an LED headlamp, I headed outside to find the two last Japanese eggplants that I had hoped would get a little bigger.  I found them by lifting the branches on the plants, feeling for the extra weight, since the headlamp provided little help on the dark purple-ebony skin of the veggies.  I added these last eggplants to a basket of last red peter peppers I’d picked earlier and then set about my primary task in preparing for the freeze.

I have three surprise summer squash plants with baby squash on them.  I could not resist trying to save them.  I covered them with an old dropcloth and a trash bag.  We have at least a dozen volunteer cilantro plants.  Over them I raked leaves.  Next came the big garden, where I checked that plastic I had laid out a few nights ago was still in place and adjusted its fit.  I made sure that my veggie tunnels were in place too.  Finally, I put the glass tops back on my homemade cold frames.  My plants were put to bed for a cold night.

I dreamed that it got down to 21 degrees F.  I also dreamed that I had not protected my herbs.  The first, thank goodness, was just a dream, because I really had forgotten to cover the herbs next to the house.  No problem; the proximity protected most of them this one night, despite the 26 degree F temperature.  And my protective measures took care of the rest.  Today I pulled half a dozen radishes from my cold frame.  I present these blessings of winter together with the blessings of summer.  (Yes, those long hot pink things are radishes, not carrots!)

Do you keep your gardening growing in the winter?  I’d love to hear about it!  Do you have questions about winter gardening?  I’ll try to answer them.  It gets down below zero degrees Fahrenheit here, but we still keep things growing, all without the addition of heat.  It’s a truly sustainable form of winter gardening that will work for a big swath of the world.

Copyright 2009 Ozarkhomesteader.  Please contact me about permission to use photographs.  Short excerpts of text with a full link to this site are welcome.

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Tonight as I gaze northwest, I can see distant lightening.  With the lightening will come rain and then much colder temperatures, after a few halcyon days of wonderful golden warmth.  I’m glad that I did not give up on my eggplant when temperatures first dipped back in October, because it has continued to yield bountifully.
Tonight eggplant drove supper, with contributions from cucumber, leek, chard, red pepper, radishes, and a few store-bought additions.  Tonight we went Greek.  Alas, I did not take pictures, but I can assure you that the whole meal was full of color and flavor.  In short, I fried up some falafel to serve in whole wheat pita with homemade baba ghanouj (roasted eggplant and garlic mixed with yogurt and tahini), homemade roasted red pepper and olive dip, tadziki (cucumber, dill, garlic, and yogurt with lemon zest), and radishes and fresh bell pepper to dip.  I served swiss chard sauteed with leek (both homegrown) and garnished with currants and red wine vinegar.

I will no doubt post details on my version of these dishes in the future.  In the meantime, let me know if you’d like any recipe sooner rather than later.

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