Friday, August 23, 2013

20-Minute Dinner...

     Spring seedlings are issuing forth their delicious and copious bounties.  The end of Summer is fast approaching but while the mid-afternoon heat still swells, I find it necessary to invent recipes that take very little time cooking.

     For dinner a few nights ago, I broiled golden tomatoes, eggplant, garlic, mushrooms and various herbs to make an interesting topping for potatoes, rice, pasta, or quinoa.  Not quite a sauce, I'm sure there's some sort of fancy chef word for what this is.  I think I will probably just call it Broiled Veggies with Boiled Potatoes.

Broiled Veggies with Boiled Potatoes
Yield: 4 servings
1/2 pound ozette or similar, small potato
8oz Eggplant, sliced paper thin with a mandoline
1/4 C Flour
1/4 tsp Black pepper
1/2 tsp Salt
12 oz Tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 oz fresh Oyster Mushrooms, sliced thinly with a knife
2 oz Onion (1 med), sliced paper thin with a mandoline
4 cloves Garlic, pressed
1 tsp fresh Thyme leaves
1 drizzle Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 Tbs chopped fresh Basil 

Cut potatoes into bite size pieces and set to boiling in a pot on the stove.  In a ziplock bag or medium size bowl, add flour, pepper, and salt and stir to combine.  Add eggplant and toss until coated.  Line a baking sheet with parchment or foil and turn the broiler on.  Spread the eggplant out in a single layer and broil for 5 minutes.  Add onion to the baking sheet in a thin layer over the eggplant.  Broil for 3 minutes.  Then add a layer of mushrooms, crush garlic cloves on top, and broil for 2 minutes.  Next add tomato and thyme and broil for a final 5 minutes.  When the veggies are done broiling, the eggplant that wasn't covered with tomatoes will be a little crispy, the mushrooms will be soft, and the tomatoes will be slightly browned.  Remove from oven.  Check the potatoes for doneness.  When they are done, drizzle veggies lightly with olive oil and season.  Serve potatoes covered with veggies, sprinkle fresh basil immediately before serving.

We've had this twice now and even the boys love it!  You could add some lentils for a little protein and maybe a little feta cheese if you want.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Fire Revisited...

When last we met, I had just discovered the joys of outdoor cooking in foil and had made the determination to try cooking on a grate.  That's right.  My new favorite way to cook is the oldest method on the planet.  The fires my husband builds tend to burn fast and hot so I decided fish might be the best option for a first try.  I found a beautiful packet of halibut at the farmer's market.

I brushed it liberally with olive oil, dusted with a little salt and pepper, and put it just off to the side of the highest part of the flames.  It took about 15 minutes or so for the fish to cook to opaque.
 While we waited, we relaxed a little

and had a little water.

 And soon it was ready!  Even the boys liked it!

I made a super quick Caprese salad to go with it.  
Caprese Salad
2 beautiful in-season tomatoes
1 6-8 oz block of fresh mozzarella
3 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs balsamic vinegar
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 Tbs diced fresh basil
Salt and pepper to taste

Ordinarily, I make this salad all pretty with slices of tomato alternating with slices of cheese, but since we were eating outside on paper plates, I decided to make it a little easier and just cut everything into bite size pieces.   So, either slice tomatoes and cheese and arrange on a platter in an alternating circle or cut into bite size pieces and chuck 'em into a bowl.  Whisk together oil, vinegar, lemon, and salt and pepper and pour it over the tomatoes and cheese.  Top with basil.  Revel in the deliciousness.  

I ate my salad with a frozen veggie patty slathered in pickled figs.  Sounds weird.  Wasn't.  :)  Apparently the salad was great with the fish, too!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Flame All The Things!!

     This morning I sat on my porch and sorted cucumbers.  I love preparing food outside.  There are some veggies that really should only be prepped outside.  I love to sit on the porch shucking corn, or snapping beans, or shelling peas.  It gets me out of my Summer kitchen and into nature.  The kids often leave me alone, unless they want to help, so I get a quiet time-out surrounded by a warm breeze, buzzing insects (we have a lot of dragon flies), and twittering birds.  I can watch the squirrels raid my ornamental cherry tree and scrabble around on the outer twigs of our maple trees.  The soft snap of beans punctuates the solitude.  I am often a little disappointed when I'm done to have to go back in to the heat and clamor of the kitchen.

     As far as actually cooking outside goes, I usually leave it to my husband and it is usually limited to hamburgers on the grill and hot dogs over a campfire with a s'more or three thrown in for good measure.  Last weekend the boys decided we needed a camp out.  We had promised them one in the yard last Summer, but it was generally rainy and awful last year so we put them off.  But last weekend it was beautiful and the idea of camping out had been coursing through their little brains for weeks so we finally relented.  I decided that I had had it with charred veggie dogs.  It was time to cook actual food over honest-to-goodness flame.

    All previous experiences I'd had with foil cooking involved me up all hours with howling indigestion from undercooked potatoes so I nixed them immediately.  Otherwise, I had a bunch of produce I had harvested from my garden and a handful of things from the farmer's market.

 My husband still manned the process.  For the record, this is not how you're supposed to do it.  You're supposed to let the flames die down and cook over the hot coals.  But the sunlight was fading and we didn't have the time or patience for that.  These worked out great.

 Veggie packet with tofu, hubby had chicken wrapped in bacon over his veg., the best pasta salad I've ever had from my local butcher of all places, chips, and corn on the cob, also cooked in foil.

     Foil peaches: These stayed in the longest, about 40 minutes.  They were slightly under-ripe.  I sprinkled a little Sucanat and cinnamon on them and called it good.  They would have been better had they been ripe, but the cooking time would have been way, way shorter.  We liked them plain and tried them with a toasted marshmallow, too but it would have been better with vanilla ice cream.

 Can't have flame without a marshmallow in it at this house.  I swear, they'd cook them over birthday candles if I'd let them.

This is why they aren't allowed to cook them over birthday candles...

Tofu Veggie Packet
Yield: 1
1/4 block tofu
4 purple podded pole beans, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 radishes, cubed
1/8 C chopped onion
1 clove garlic crushed
2 Tbs cubed trumpet mushroom
1/8 C peas
1inch piece thyme, or rosemary
olive oil spray
Salt and Pepper to taste

Fill a sheet of tin foil with the veggies and top with tofu.  Spray the tops of the tofu with the oil and salt and pepper to taste.  Bake over coals for about 20 minutes until veggies are soft.

*If you want to do the chicken/bacon version, slice a chicken breast very thinly into about 1/2 inch thick strips.  Wrap a quarter piece of bacon around each slice and place on top of the veggies.  No need to spray this packet with oil.  Cook until chicken is done about 20-30 minutes.

Best campsite in the state.

 A little early evening light show.

We had a pretty rough night.  The boys slept fine, but I was freezing and of course, no matter how flat the campsite, I always end up in the morning tangled in my sleeping bag with my feet half-way out the door and a rock in my ear.

Clearly when I say "we" I mean "I."

     But the food was good!  It got me totally pumped to try more things on a campfire.  I even went out and bought a grate today!  I might even do some of the cooking next time, who knows?
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