Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Inspiration: Week #9

In this week's box:  Eggplant, cucumber, onion, beets, potatoes, peppers, green beans, carrots, corn

It is the height of summer and the produce is rolling in.   I know some of you are a bit overwhelmed by the challenge of eating your beets.  But when you think about it, if that is the biggest food problem you have you are pretty lucky.

If you are pressed for time or just want to keep life simple, remember that there is nothing wrong with roasting, grilling or steaming several different vegetables and serving them as a meal - hot, cold or room temperature.  You can cook them ahead and refrigerate until you need them.  Warm them up before serving if you want.  It is fun to arrange the food to make it look attractive.  If you want your veggies hot, you can simply serve with melted butter, salt and pepper.  Maybe a sprinkle of chopped parsley.  If cold, try a simple sauce based on homemade or a good store bought mayonnaise with a squeeze of lemon juice added.  If you have some fresh dill, mint or chives you could add those as well.  For dessert serve some fresh fruit topped with yogurt for extra protein. 

I have already prepped some of my vegetables to make things easier for me the rest of the week.  The beets are boiled and peeled and in a covered dish in the refrigerator.  The eggplant is roasted and marinating in some oil, vinegar and garlic.  Two cucumbers are thinly sliced and mixed with a little dill and mint, sugar, vinegar and a smidge of oil.  I also cut the kernels off the corn cobs, since I am going to make fresh corn fritters.  If you don't have a chunk of time to do these things at once that is ok.  The menu ideas for this week are quite simple.

I filled up my compost container with all the trimmings of these veggies and the carrot tops.  I hope you have figured out a compost system by now.  If not - take another look at my compost post from June 15. 
Menu Ideas -- items marked with an asterisk means a recipe is included below.

Antipasto night - roasted eggplant*, selected Italian meats or cheese, olives, raw fennel if you haven't used your fennel from last week, good bread and olive oil and sliced melon or oranges for dessert.   If you are a wine drinker this would be a good meal to serve with wine.  I can't tell you what kind - that is out of my league.  Comments from any wine connoisseurs welcome.

Farm supper - fresh corn fritters*, cucumber salad, cottage cheese, steamed buttered green beans, pickled beets*, bread and butter sandwiches.  (Serve some jelly or jam for a sweet treat with the bread and butter)

Asian night - Stir fried carrots, onions, green beans and cashews with rice (add favorite meat or mushrooms if desired).  Add about a tablespoon each of minced garlic and ginger to the veggies when you stir fry them.  Make a simple sauce with soy sauce, chile paste to taste, some Chinese wine or sherry, a little toasted sesame oil, some broth and some cornstarch (about 1 t. per 1/2 cup liquid)

Tapas at home - Tortilla espanola* (this popular Spanish dish uses a lot of olive oil, onions, potatoes and eggs)  roasted green beans, roasted egg plant, bread.  Pears or figs or even peaches poached in spiced red wine would be a nice contrast to the richness of the tortilla.

Earthy Nordic composed salad - Serve at room temperature: sliced or grated cooked beets, chopped onion, sliced cooked potatoes, roasted carrots (or grated fresh carrots).  If you have some cucumber salad, include that too.  Serve with a sour cream or yogurt dressing - add to the sour cream some horseradish and a little vinegar and sugar and fresh dill or parsley if you have it.  Serve with pickled herring or sardines on the side and some rye bread.  A fresh apple or an apple dessert would be great with this menu.

Fresh corn fritters - serves 4-6
This recipe is from Country Tastes by Beatrice Ojakangas.  I always make corn fritters every year with the first corn of the season.  You really need to use fresh corn for this recipe.
Cut kernels from six ears of corn - you should end up with about 2 1/2 cups of corn.  I always use the back of my knife to scrape the "creamy" part of the corn left on the cob after the kernels are cut.
Mix corn with 3 eggs, well beaten, and about 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 t. salt.  Add a bit more flour if necessary for the batter to hold together.
Heat a mixture of butter and oil in a heavy frying pan - to a depth of about 1/4 inch.  Fat should hot enough that a drop of water "skitters" when it hits the pan.  Drop spoonfuls of batter in the fat - turning when golden brown.  Keep fritters warm in a 300 degree oven until ready to serve - no more than 30 minutes.
POSTSCRIPT: I made these fritters the day after I originally wrote this post and fried them in the merest film of butter.  They worked just fine.  So maybe you don't need to fry these in so much fat. 

Roasted eggplant
Trim stem and bottom ends of eggplant.  Cut into 1/2 inch slices.

Lightly salt slices - this removes any bitterness in the eggplant.  After about half an hour, rinse and drain.

Dry the slices.

Lightly oil a baking sheet with olive oil.  Place eggplant slices on sheet, turning each once so both sides are very lightly coated with oil.  Add a bit more oil if necessary.

Roast at 400 degrees about 30 minutes.  (Bottoms should be lightly browned).  Remove baking sheet from oven.  Brush a marinade (4 parts olive oil, one part red wine vinegar and chopped fresh garlic) on the eggplant slices while they are still warm.

When they are cool, remove to a serving plate or refrigerate for later use.

Pickled beets
Boil or roast beets until tender.  Peel.  Cut into slices or chunks.  Place beets into a clean glass jar or jars.  Make a brine with: 1 cup light brown sugar, 1 cup white sugar, 1 cup cider vinegar, 1 cup water, 1 t. whole cloves, 1 t. whole allspice, 1 cinnamon sticks.  Bring to a boil and stir until sugar is dissolved. 
Pour mixture over beets in the jar.  Cover and refrigerate at least one day before eating.  Will keep for many weeks, refrigerated. This brine should be enough for two quarts of pickled beets.  If it is not enough, just add a little more water and vinegar in equal parts.

Tortilla Espanola
Another name for this dish, which is practically the national dish of Spain, is tortilla de patatas.  It is basically a potato and onion omelet.  I reviewed many versions of this recipe - some had shocking amounts of olive oil.  I think this version is reasonable and still quite rich.
1 large onion - cut in half and sliced thin - about 2 cups onions
1 pound potatoes - cooked whole and then diced - about 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 cup sliced red bell pepper or other sweet pepper (optional)
6 T. olive oil
8 eggs, well beaten (with 1/2 t. salt)
Heat 2 T. oil in skillet, add onions and peppers if you are using them.  Cook until onions are golden brown and almost caramelized.  Add 3 T. oil and potatoes.  Cook another 8-10 minutes.  Add eggs and cook over low heat, covered, for about 10 minutes or until almost set.  Now comes the tricky part.  Place a large plate over the skillet and flip the frittata on to the plate.  Add another 1 T. olive oil to the skillet and slide the frittata back in, onion side up.  Cook until set.  Serve warm or at room temperature, cut into wedges.

Tomorrow:  Dig In:  Butter


  1. Hi Peggy! I can't wait to try the eggplant recipe in this post. We made the curry recipe from last week. Oh yum!! Also, I channeled my Polish great-grandma and made golumpkis with our green cabbage last week! I don't know how authentic they were, I read a few recipes online and cobbled together one from many. They turned out SO GOOD! Hopefully I get another green cabbage from the farm soon so I can try your slaw recipe. Looks great!

  2. Peggy, Thanks for such a great blog! I intend to read every word but am having trouble keeping up! I am learning so much from you. It is really helping me "deal with my box"! I roasted my eggplant ( from last week, trying to use up stuff) today using your suggestions. It was outstanding! I never seem to have much luck with eggplant so I'm very grateful to you for this approach. I'm not sure what I've done wrong in the past (probably not cooked it long enough). Again, thanks for all your practical advice. I wish had learned all this from my mother or grandmother but it's never too late!