India is the birthplace of eggplant. But seldom do we see Indian varieties. In fact, many people assume that eggplant, which is actually a fruit and not a vegetable, comes from the English who originally thought of eggplant as having an ornamental virtue rather than a culinary one.
Perhaps the bitterness of eggplant may have compounded these biases further, which is why cookbooks will tell you to use salt to draw the bitter acid out of the eggplant, which can be washed away after an hour of salting. But by the 18th century, eggplant had been developed that was less bitter.
Here are some of the many ways I enjoy eating eggplants. I like grilling on a BBQ, or griddling on a stovetop with a heavy, cast-iron black skillet that marks your steak or vegetable. I like broiling eggplants in an oven or baking in gratin pans or terrines, or just plain enjoying them right out of the frying pan which too often burns my lips due to my impatience. Eggplants give us a plethora of choices and tastes.
Still another example I recently discovered includes the unique spices from the Middle East that are used with eggplant such as preserved lemon, cardamom, garlic and pomegranate or date syrup. Eggplant Rollatini is more familiar to most of us like the one below— recipes follows.
Eggplant Rollatini With Quinoa Or Baby Spinach. 4 Servings
1 large eggplant, peeled with root removed, and cut lengthwise into 1/2 inch slices
1 egg, beaten
1 cup Italian-seasoned bread crumbs
2 tbsp olive oil
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
½ cup ricotta cheese
½ cup cooked quinoa or rinsed and chopped fresh spinach
2-3 cups marinara or red sauce 1 pound spaghetti
1. Dip the eggplant slices one by one in beaten egg, then coat each slice with homemade Italian bread crumbs. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Fry the eggplant on each side until golden brown but soft enough to roll. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
3. Mix ricotta cheese with the mozzarella in a medium size bowl. Spread a thin layer of 1 tsp ricotta and mozzarella cheese onto each slice of eggplant. Add 2 tsp of cooked quinoa on top of each slice of eggplant. If you use spinach, rinse well then place in a paper towel and squeeze out the water before you sauté.
4. Next, roll each eggplant up as tight as possible without tearing, and place the roll in an oiled baking pan, seam side down. Bake the dish for 15-20 minutes until cheese has melted.
5. While the eggplant rolls are baking, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti, and cook for 8-9 minutes, until tender, but al dente. Drain.
6. Spoon 1 tbsp marinara sauce on top of each baked eggplant roll. Use the remainder of the marinara with the spaghetti for each plate.
By Alan Zox
• Cook: 1 1/2 -2 hours
• Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Here’s a recipe I learned while traveling in Ireland. It was a surprise Irish Stew served on St. Patrick’s Day, but a delight none the less especially good with Cous Cous and homemade Pita triangles. The stew is easy to make but you might want to spend some time in advance making some preserved lemons to save time. The rest of the ingredients are easily obtained and universally delicious. Adding some red pepper and Has el Hanout is now available in most groceries or through amazon.com.
2 lbs. lamb shoulder without bone
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 cups chicken broth
1 large can plumb tomatoes
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon Ras el Hanout
1/2 t cayenne pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
1 lb. carrots, peeled and quartered lengthwise
1/2 cup green seedless olives
2 preserved lemons, well rinsed, cut into quarters with seeds removed
3 T Organic all purpose flour
1- Using a conventional Dutch oven or pot - 6 to 8 inches wide, cut the lamb into 2 inch by 2 inch slices. Mix the flour together with the slices. Next add the olive oil and brown the lamb for 7-8 minutes uncovered over medium high heat stirring as you go.
2- Add 3 cups of water, 2 cups chicken broth, and more water if necessary during the cooking; continue adding the tomato. the yellow onion, garlic, fresh cilantro, ground ginger, turmeric, black pepper, Ras el Honout, cayenne pepper , carrots, olives, lemons and the lemon juice.
3- Add the carrots and enough water so that the broth almost reaches the top of the carrots. Cover and simmer the carrots until almost tender, about 20 minutes. Add uncut olives, and continue simmering, uncovered, to reduce the sauce until it is quite thick—egs. 20 - 30 minutes
Here’s a meal to carry you through the St. Paddy’s Day festivities. Spoons and forks are less necessary if you have cut up some toasted pita triangles to use with your sauce and Stew.
* Making preserved lemons is traditionally made with cut lemon slices and course kosher salt – with the salt acting as a curing and preserving agent. To preserve five lemons, you’ll need ¼ to a ½ cup of salt and the juice of two lemons. Use a sterile glass jar large enough to accommodate the lemons for at least 10 minutes , but the longer the lemons are left to age, the more intense the flavor. Ideally 4- 6 weeks un refrigerated can achieve excellent results. Don’t be stingy with the results, Mixing and dicing 1-2 lemon slices well rinsed are delicious with many dishes—from vegetables, to beans, to protein.
Every Valentine’s Day, chocolate becomes part of the romantic holiday. Opinions differ but tradition and pleasure seem to be the most popular reasons given for the widespread consumption of chocolate. As illustrated by the Aztec ruler, Montezuma, chocolate was thought to be an aphrodisiac practiced by the Gods with a drug like influence discovered in the chocolate cocoa bean.
Who knew? Those who chewed and consumed the delectible treats understood very well the happiness that chocolate could engender.
Of course word spread by the 1800s when the Cadbury Brothers set up shop in England making and selling chocolate for average citizens. In 1861, Richard Cadbury created the first ever heart-shaped box for Valentine’s Day which generated a new chocolate tradition.
To help expand upon this holiday and breed new life into the world of romance and chocolate, I offer a delightful yet simple recipe we can all enjoy called Mexican Chocolate Cake. It’s a little different than you might expect. No sugary frosting….no no. This one has cream cheese, condensed milk, melted chocolate, confectioner’s sugar, and toasted walnuts.
I had eaten one like this in Santa Fe in an amazing little cafe called the Pink Adobe. The proprieter, Rosalea Murphy, was very innovative and created a cuisine which combined Spanish, Mexican, French and creole cooking. Such a delighful place. And the food was very memorable and delicious. This Mexican Chocolate Cake is a version of Rosalea’s. Enjoy!
Hope you enjoy this delicious, cinnamon scented, Mexican style chocolate Cake! Please get in touch with any questions, or observations at my blog: email@example.com; or Capeculinaryincubator@gmail.com
Mexican Chocolate Cake for Valentine’s Day Too
1 tsp expresso coffee powder
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¾ tsp salt
¾ cup butter, softened
1¾ cups sugar
¾ cup buttermilk
2 tsp vanilla
1 Heat oven to 350°F. Spray 2 (9-inch) cake pans and line with cooking parchment or waxed paper.
2— In a large bowl, whisk the Expresso coffee powder, cinnamon and cocoa with soft butter and sugar and continue whisking until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat well after each addition. Scrape side of bowl.
3 - In an electric mixing bowl add the baking soda, baking powder, salt, buttermilk, vanilla and flour— 1/3 at a time into the egg and butter mixture on medium speed until smooth, scraping bowl occasionally.
4 - When all Cake ingredients have been combined, beat 30 to 60 seconds longer or until batter is smooth and well blended. Pour evenly into the two cake pans and place in the preheated oven.
5 - Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until toothpicks inserted near center of both cake containers comes out clean and both cakes spring back when touched lightly in the center. Cool in pans on cooling racks for 10 minutes. Remove cakes from pans to cooling racks (leave paper on cakes). Cool completely, about 30 minutes.
Condensed Milk, 1 can
Cream Cheese, 8 oz.
½ cup semi sweet chocolate
Confectioner’s Sugar, ½ cup
Whipped Cream, 8 oz
Walnuts, ½ cup, chopped and toasted
1- Beat the soft, cream cheese, confectioner’s sugar, and Sweet condensed Milk on high speed about 2 minutes or until blended and smooth.
2 - Melt the semi sweet chocolate in a double boiler. Cool for 10 minutes. And mix into the cream cheese mixture.
3- Beat the whipped cream in a separate bowl until stiff peaks form. Fold the peaks and the toasted walnuts into the mixture.
4 - Remove the paper liner from one of the cakes and place the cake on a serving platter. Remove the other paper liner and gently place the cakes on top of one another.
5 - Spread 3/4 cup of the frosting on top of the bottom cake to within 1/2 inch of the edge. Place rounded side up, on top of the first cake. Apply frosting to the sides and top of cake with remaining frosting.
6 - Spread the chopped, toasted walnuts all over the cake. Serve immediately, or refrigerate until serving.
By: Alan Zox
It’s cookie time of year. Of course many of us, not only children, enjoy these sweet and savory delights year-round. Their popularity is remarkable. Americans consume over 2 billion cookies a year, or 300 cookies for each person annually.
We all have our favorites— Sugar cookies and Chocolate Chip flavors were always on my Top 10 list. Although I have to admit that raw dough was always my undoing. So delicious although not that nutritious. But eating in moderation is probably the best tack to take. Good Luck!
Linda Stradley tells us from her web site What's Cooking America that the first cookies were made by accident while testing oven temperature for larger cakes. These little test cakes were called “koekje” or "little cake" in Dutch. Sound familiar? And the cookie was born.
There are hundreds of cookie recipes in the United States. No one book could include all the various types we enjoy. Here is an assortment of Italian cookies particularly popular in the United States.
Almond Biscotti Pignoli Sicilian Cookies
Anisette Cookies Lemon cookies Spiced Fig Bar Pistachio Wreath Cook
Pizzellie Cookies Shortbread Hazelnut
Sugar Cut Out Chocolate Biscotti
Another Italian Cookie that is less well known, easy to make, and no less delicious is the Coffee Bean Cookie. Enjoy!
Italian Coffee Bean Cookies
Not too sweet; nice and crispy with coffee crunch and hazelnuts!
1- Preheat your oven to 350 F. In a large bowl, add the egg, sugar, vanilla, almond flour and baking powder, and whisk
2- Add the crushed coffee beans and hazelnut and whisk them again.
3- Spoon about a tbsp of cookie batter into a parchment lined baking sheet and bake the cookies for 15 minutes until they’ve set. Bon Appetit
1- In a medium large pot, sweat the mushrooms to reduce moisture without
adding fat (oil or butter) for 3-4 minutes. Add ¼ cup olive oil, the
diced onions and garlic to the same pot of mushrooms and continue sautéing until lightly brown.
2. Add caraway, all paprikas, the tomatoes, potatoes, roasted, peeled and sliced poblano peppers, chopped zucchini with a tsp of sea salt stirring for 10 minutes.
3. Add the vegetarian broth, the tofu, and bay leaves with a light seasoning of sea salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Cover and cook at a simmer for about 45 minutes.
4. Toast bread crumbs in a medium size sauté pan with the remaining ¼ cup of oil until lightly brown. Add bread crumbs to the pot and stir until slightly thickened for an additional 10 - 12 minutes. Serve with plain yogurt or sour cream and chopped parsley. Enjoy.
Every month, CCCI's Executive Director Chef Alan Zox shares a recipe from his collection.