Sunday, October 6, 2013

Savory: Greek Eggplant "Salad"

Eggplant can be as mysterious to cooks as the Mona Lisa's smile.  Do you salt it or wet it?  How can you make it less bitter?  How can you cook it without soaking every ounce of oil up like a sponge?  I have had many really smart, independent, determined friends come to me with the same dilemma time and time again, looking at me as if I have the primer for the Da Vinci Code.

The truth is, it really is not that difficult to work with eggplant, as long as you plan ahead of time - last minute eggplant anything recipes are hard to find.  If you are new to it, think of it like a bad first date; you have to coax it out of its bitterness and try to ignore it's self-absored nature.  Once you get past that, it is yielding, easy to work with, and delicious.  First impressions can be deceptive.

This recipe came to me from The Essential Mediterranean Cookbook, part of the Essential series from Bay Books which I enjoy.  The books survey several countries in each volume, and then serve up luscious pictures, details about exotic ingredients, and terrific recipes.  In this book, you can travel through Spain, France, Northern Africa, Turkey, the Middle East, and of course Greece, where you will find this easy to make albeit time consuming recipe.  Billed as a salad, it can be served on its own with rice or orzo as a main course.  Eggplant, tomato, and onions are basically sauteed on low heat for about an hour, yielding a soft, velvety meal for six.  Did I mention that it is low fat, vegetarian, and gluten free?

Enjoy every bite.

Greek Eggplant Salad
Adapted from The Essential Mediterranean Cookbook


  • 2 large eggplants (about 2 1/2 pounds)
  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 4 chopped garlic cloves
  • Canned chopped tomatoes (800 grams or 1 lb 12 oz)
  • 2 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 3 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp chopped mint
  • 5 1/2 oz greek yogurt
  • 1 oz toasted pine nuts


  1. Cut the eggplant into 3/4 inch cubes.  Place in colander, generously salt (kosher salt if you have it), and let it drip into a bowl for 30 minutes. Rinse thoroughly under cold water and pat dry using a dish towel.  
  2. Mix the remaining 2 tbsp of oil with garlic and lemon juice.  Add to yogurt along with the mint and stir.  Set aside.
  3. Using a large frying pan, heat 2 tbsp of oil on medium-high.  Fry the eggplant in batches until golden and cool on paper towels.  Add 2 more tbsp of oil to the pan and fry the onion for 1 - 2 minutes, then add the cinnamon and 1/2 of the garlic.  Mix and fry for 1 more minute and then add the tomatoes, and stir well.  Add the eggplant, reduce heat to low, and simmer uncovered for about an hour, until the liquid is cooked through/the mixture is dry.  Add half of the chopped herbs and remove from heat to cool down. 
  4. Add pine nuts and mix through.  Top with remaining fresh herbs and serve with yogurt sauce and orzo.  

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Savory: Fish Tacos

Fish tacos have very trendy here on the east coast.  The first time I tried them was more than a decade ago out in San Diego, visiting family and and soaking up the local culture.  We were out Coronado, walking off our jet lag and looking for dinner.  We passed a local dive and I was sure that in my state I had read the sign incorrectly but sure enough, fish tacos were on the menu...and they were fabulous.  Simply cooked fish in a spicy sauce, crisp slaw, fresh tortillas - what a revelation.

These tasty SoCal transfers are easy to make, endlessly versatile, and delicious.  The below recipe calls for tilapia but any firm white fish works - try on red snapper, cod, whatever suits your fancy.  Change up flour tortillas with corn.  Swap sour creme with crema or yogurt.  Go nuts with the spices, or even better...add nuts!  There are no rules and everything just seems to work. So have fun, enjoy your summer, and as always, enjoy every bite.


Fish tacos

  • 1 lb tilpia fillets
  • 1/2 cup grape seed oil
  • juice from 1 freshly squeezed lime
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • Salt, to taste


  • 1 savoy cabbage, shredded
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • juice from 2 freshly squeezed limes
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • salt and pepper

Smokey Sauce

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 freshly squeezed lime
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 tsp chipotle chili powder or to taste
  • salt and pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut tilapia fillets into 8th s.  Combine spices, lime juice, and oil together and then add fish.  Marinate in refrigerator for 15 minutes.  
  2. While fish is marinating, combine all slaw ingredients together and place in bowl. Toss.  
  3. Combine smokey sauce ingredients in a small bowl.  Let the chipotle bloom for at least 10 minutes.  
  4. Place fish sticks on a lined baking sheet and into the oven.  Cook for 10 minutes or until white and flaky.  
  5. Serve with warm flour tortillas.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Savory: Easy Shish Kebab

Spring has sprung and even on the rainy days I do enjoy some shish kebab.  It is quintessential grilling fare, with endless variations and always a crowd pleaser.  I love all the color and creativity that comes with making this recipe, and we partake year round.  That being said...not a fan of skewering. Messy, time consuming, and in the end a shish in your guest's kebab when it comes time to eat.  So years ago I invented this time saving recipe, which is endlessly versatile, great for large groups, and a breeze to clean up.

Enjoy every bite.

Easy Shish Kebab

  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup of chopped scallions
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sesame oil
  • 1 pound kebab beef, cut into small, bite size pieces
  • 3 bell peppers, cut into small, bite size pieces
  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 1 pint mushrooms, cut in half
  • 3 white or yellow onions, rough chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Combine the garlic, ginger, cilantro, scallions, soy sauce, vinegar, and sesame oil to make a marinade.  Let sit for 5 minutes and then add the beef.  Marinate for at least 30 minutes or as long as overnight. 
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.  Combine the the peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, and half of the marinade in a large roasting pan.  Add salt and pepper. Place in pre-heated oven for 20 minutes.  
  3. Add beef and remaining marinade and cook in oven for 10 - 15 minutes, until beef is cooked. 
  4. Serve with rice. 

This recipe serves 6 - 8, but can be easily doubled or tripled.  You can readily swap out the vegetables for whatever you have on hand, but here are some of my suggested variations:

Middle East
Swap the beef for lamb
Exclude the ginger and garlic
Swap the cilantro for a few sprigs of fresh oregano
Swap vinegar for lemon juice
Swap sesame oil for pomegranate molasses
Add 1/4 cup of grapeseed oil
Exclude soy sauce
Use only onions for vegetables

Exclude the ginger
Swap cilantro for parsley
Swap the the soy sauce for red wine
Swap rice vinegar for white wine vinegar
Swap sesame oil for olive oil
Exclude soy sauce

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Sweet: Lemon Poppy Seed Pound Cake

Lemon is just the thing to punch up an otherwise ho hum dreary and cold winter day.  It's zing and dazzle cuts cleanly through a wealth of ingredients, complimenting and highlighting everything until it seems that Mr. Clean himself has baked with love.  And poppy seeds, well they are a lovely and wholly optional addition to this wonderful cake.  I love the way they crunch against the fine crumb of the cake, and must confess that I also get a kick out of pouring out what must be hundreds of thousands of them into my cake batter and watching them spread throughout the bowl like stars across the sky.

I have made this cake many times over the years; it is a go to favorite that looks more time consuming than it actually is, especially if you have one of those fun Nordicware fancy bundt pans on hand...people just love them.  My most recent turn with this recipe was on my husband's behalf.  He recently started a new job, and the office has an annual holiday bake off.  "It's on", I told him, as I began scouring for a good recipe to rightly impress his colleagues.  I mixed and baked and glazed and then popped it into a paper box, ready for the next day.  On his way out the door, I reminded him to grab some berries en route to work and to pour them in the center of the cake and let them spill over.  A quick kiss, and he was gone.

He came home later that day, smiled brightly, and told me how much everyone loved the cake.  To prove it, he showed me the remains in the box, in which about a third of the original was left behind.  And then he told me what happened:  the previous office champion, apparently a bit proprietary, took one look at the cake, stared at the box, and cried foul.  "That's a bakery box!" And many others, while they were fond of the fare, took one look at the well formed cake and nodded in agreement.  Which is sort of a compliment.

Happy New Year Readers.  I hope your 2013 is blessed with much love, joy, health, and happiness.  Enjoy every bite.

Lemon Poppy Seed Pound Cake
Adapted From Luscious Lemon Desserts by Lori Longbothom

3 1/2 cups of flour (cake is best, but all purpose is fine - do not use self rising)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 1/4 cups of sugar
6 large eggs
1 cup milk
1 tbsp + 2 tsp grated lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon extract
2 tbsp poppy seeds
1/2 cup lemon juice


  1. Position rack in middle of oven and preheat oven to 300 degrees. Butter and flour a 10 inch bundt pan.
  2. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together,  twice.
  3. Beat butter in mixer with paddle attachment until fluffy (medium speed).  Add 1 3/4 cups of sugar until fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time.  Reduce speed to low and add flour mix and milk, alternating until the last addition of flour.  Add the zest, vanilla, lemon extract, and poppy seeds.
  4. Transfer batter to pan and place in oven for 1 hour and 30 minutes or until a knife comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 15 minutes.
  5. While baking, make the glaze:  Add 1/2 cup sugar, 2 tsp zest, and lemon juice to a small sauce pan and stir on medium-high, until sugar has dissolved.  
  6. Turn cake out onto a rack and brush syrup immediately onto cake.  Let cool and serve.