Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Fresh food!

One of the most exciting things about summer in Arkansas ( besides the 100 degree weather, humidity, and hardly any rain..) is the fresh produce. The return of the Farmers Market is always an exciting day for us! It's so exciting to load up on random veggies and then figure out what to do with them- and we do this almost every week while the market is open. Well, this week we got double the produce load! We picked up a fair amount at the market this Saturday, and then on the same day we received our first farm box FULL of awesome stuff.  Like...grapes? I have to admit that I have never had a fresh grape in my life. and the crazy thing is....it sort of tastes like the grape flavoring they put in popsicles and the like...but in a good way! Those went directly into the freezer  because, c'mon , what's more fun than eating frozen grapes?

Along with the grapes came onions, apples, corn, tomatoes, eggplant, lettuce, carrots, mushrooms, etc, etc, etc.....add that to the Brussels sprouts, kale, MORE onions (good thing we like onions!) green beans, etc that we picked up that morning PLUS whatever we harvest from our own garden ( mostly peppers at this point..)  and you've got a produce overload! Don't worry, don't worry..nothing will go to waste. I hope.

Last night I decided to put a lot of those veggies to work. With only an idea in my head and a determination to use plenty of veggies in one meal, I got to work sauteing a 'soffritto' consisting of onions, garlic, carrots, peppers, and mushrooms. while those softened, i stuck my entire collection of tomatoes in the oven with some garlic to roast. Once they were done I mixed it all together for - i'm not kidding - one of the best sauces ever! Since we're trying to avoid pasta, I opted to fry up some slices of eggplant (because that sounded healthier..?) and then roasted the brussels sprouts, and boom -  we had ourselves a straight-from-the-farm-all-vegetarian-dinner,  and it was pretty darn good if I say so myself...

ohh, yes...

Farmer's Market Dinner ( clever title, I know.) 
(disclaimer- most of this is estimated- i didn't really measure, it was an experiment, after all!)


De Sauce: 
  • 2 small ( or 1 large) yellow onions, finely chopped
  • 3-4 banana peppers, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely shaven ( or finely chopped- i just "peeled" it down and then chopped it up. cheater)
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, finely chopped 
  • 2 button mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 2-3 tbs extra virgin olive oil - enough to cover bottom of the pan
  • 3 + tbsp butter  
  • chicken broth 
  • a couple of handfuls of fresh herbs- I used what was in my garden: rosemary, parsley, oregano, and basil- finely chopped
  • salt and pepper 

Roasted Tomatoes:
  • a whole bunch of tomatoes ( I used multiple types, cherry, grape, even one brandy wine) cut up into even sizes
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, smashed
  • extra virgin olive oil to coat
  • salt and pepper 

Fried Eggplant:
  • 1 whole eggplant, cut into slices
  • 1 large egg, slightly beaten
(note: I wasn't sure if the eggplant i had was small enough to avoid the de-bittering process, so i went ahead and did it. all you do is put the slices on a baking rack with a pan underneath, salt both sides, and let sit for a while so that the bitter liquids come out-and then rinse the salt and excess liquid off)
  • Breading: about 80% cornmeal, 10% flour, 10% Italian breadcrumbs ( i planned on using panko, but we were out..) 
  • salt and pepper  
  • regular olive oil for frying


  • heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat
  • once oil is hot, add onions and cook for about 5 minutes 
  • add peppers, mushrooms, and carrots and continue to cook until soft
  • add garlic and continue to cook until everything is soft, onions nad garlic are translucent
  • add butter and about 1/2 cup chicken broth and cook until liquid is reduced

  • Preheat oven to 350
  • place tomatoes and garlic in a bowl, coat with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper
  • place tomatoes on oven-proof pan covered in parchment paper 
  • (the parchment paper will allow the tomatoes to slide right off and into the pan)
  • roast for 30-40 minutes 
  • add tomatoes and garlic to sauce pan and mash, either with a spoon or a potato masher, until desired consistency)
  • add a bit more broth and reduce over medium-high heat.
  • lower heat to medium-low and stir in herbs
  • cover and continue to cook for about 20 minutes, until desired consistency. 
(if you're going for a soupier sauce for pasta, etc, you can add more broth - i was going for more of a bruschetta-like consistency to go on top of the eggplant, so i kept mine fairly dry and chunky. )

  • add regular olive oil to a medium to large skillet, depending on the length of your slices- about 1/2 inch thick, enough to slightly cover the slices
  • heat on medium-high
  • once oil is hot, dredge eggplant slices through egg and then through the breadcrumb mixture 
  • place one piece in the oil to ensure that it's hot enough for frying( oil will begin to sizzle and pop if it's ready...common knowledge? probably.)
  • fry on both sides, a few pieces at a time, until coating reaches desired brown-ness (techincal term)
  • place on cooling rack to allow any excess oil to drip off- immediately sprinkle with salt
  • top with tomato sauce

The finished project - the picture is so bad, i almost don't want to post it...

Tomorrow I will get to our dinner date post- but until then, here's a preview of the end result..


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Why Blog?

Right? Why keep a blog when 1. you completely forget to/are too lazy or unmotivated to post for months at a time, and 2. no one reads it?

I'll tell you why.

I have no idea.

BUT in an effort to keep my mind sharp and myself entertained while continuing to help support our family and our mortgage by holding down a job with way too much  just enough down time until a school district buckles and finally hires me (that's another show), I believe I will have another go at this ever-so-popular blogging trend.

 Who knows? Maybe something good will come of it.

Not much exciting has happened in our kitchen lately. Namely because we've been on vacation in.. wait for it.. NAPA. Yes, yes, our family vacation in Napa, CA. was last week and it was fantastic. Filled with tons of..
 family time

 photo bombed by Pinky!

Oh, this girl...so precious

 amazing wine

 We even made our own! Well, blended it.. at this awesome winery! Such a cool and funky experience!

Our label design
Pinky and Laura blending wine in their 'space suits'

 amazing FOOD

 amazing scenery




One of the best things we ate while there was the fresh mozzarella from Tra Vigne in St. Helena. We discovered this place last year while out celebrating our second wedding anniversary. The whole experience was quite lovely, but what really brought, no, dragged us back was that darn cheese.  E and I HAD to sneak away one night so we could experience it again. I swear, I could have eaten three orders of the hot, oily cheese all by myself. ALL it is is super-fresh, super-soft mozarella with olive oil, served on crusty rosemary bread and. i. just. die. I miss it already.

 Our view at Tra Vigne. Look at that table. That's a fountain, y'all. For real.

We had plenty of other amazing foods while we were there as well. For instance, we visited Gotts Roadside.. twice.

Three words. ahi.tuna.tacos. Best thing ever.

It was truly an incredible week. Plenty of relaxing, chatting with family, doing yoga on top of a mountain, tasting some incredible wine and food, and just enjoying being away from real life for a while. Can't wait for our vacation next year in Oregon!

As far as cooking goes, this week has been fairly basic - lots of veggies and easy, simple meals while we get back into the swing of things.  Soon, though, I will be posting recipes again - in fact, tomorrow night we're having an at-home date night. Yep, we're cool like that.

On the menu for tomorrow is an apple pecan salad with a crazy-knock-your-socks-off  dressing made with Roquefort cheese and will probably cause me to gain 5 pounds, grilled corn and avocado salsa, flat iron steak with pan jus, and a baby yellow potato recipe that I am SO excited to try after tasting some of the most ridiculous yellow potatoes at a winery in California. I'm sure they won't be as phoenomenal but..you never know ;)

Happy Thursday!