Monday, March 25, 2013

Sunday Dinner: Couscous and Bean-Stuffed Eggplant with Garlic Tomato Sauce

7:42 AM 0 Comments
It snowed here yesterday. A lot.


Ignoring the fact for a moment that it is March 25th, it is a beautiful snow - the trees are decked out in thick layers of white, their delicate bud-covered branches weighed down by the heft of it. We spent most of Sunday afternoon watching from inside and waiting for the snow day to be called. It was.



I wasn't planning on making anything particularly impressive for dinner; it was, after all, the last day of spring break. But when it started looking more and more like spring break was going to last one day more, I got creative, with delicious results. This is a combination and modification of several recipes from my newest favorite cookbook - The Vegetarian Family Cookbook by Nava Atlas. There are admittedly a lot of steps, but none of them are difficult and many are hands-off. I had some roasted tomato sauce in the freezer that I blended to a puree and used to top the eggplant, but feel free to use a jarred sauce - I'd recommend something somewhat light.

This recipe is infinitely adaptable by switching out the type of bean and seasoning. As written in the book, the recipe calls for black beans and cumin, which we might try next time with plain couscous and salsa in place of the tomato sauce.

Hope you enjoy it - it was a big hit around here.



Couscous and Bean-Stuffed Eggplant with Garlic Tomato Sauce
Adapted from The Vegetarian Family Cookbook

Makes 6 eggplant halves

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3 medium eggplants
1 5.6 oz box couscous with toasted pine nuts
1 can cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 cups prepared marinara
grated Parmesan
  1. Cut off the stem ends of the eggplant and slice in half lengthwise. Slice a tiny bit off the rounded side to allow the eggplant to lie flat. Place eggplant shells in a 9x13 baking dish and set aside.
  2. With a sharp knife, carefully cut away the pulp. Don't worry about making it pretty or uniform - you are going to chop it in a minute. Leave a sturdy shell about 1/2 inch thick. 
  3. Chop the eggplant pulp finely and steam until tender (about 10 minutes). Set aside.
  4. Prepare couscous according to package directions. 
  5. In a large bowl, combine prepared couscous, steamed eggplant, beans, and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Preheat oven to 375. Evenly divide couscous mixture among six eggplant halves. Cover loosely with foil and bake at 375 for 30 minutes. 
  7. Uncover and bake 10 to 15 minutes more, until shells are tender but have not yet collapsed.
  8. During the last 10 minutes of baking time, warm up the marinara sauce.
  9. Top each eggplant half with warmed marinara and a sprinkle of grated Parmesan.
Enjoy!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

St. Patrick's Day Biscuits

6:52 PM 0 Comments

We take St. Patrick's Day pretty seriously around here. In the old days, that meant a lot of loud Irish punk and some serious pub carousing. Now we settle for excessive amounts of green clothing, nothing but traditional Irish music on the iPod, and cold beverages in a can poured perfectly into pint glasses (see here) enjoyed from the comfort of our own couch. For the last few years, we've attended our church's St. Patrick's Day program, and this year we somehow landed ourselves on the planning committee. It was a blast - Irish stepdancing, snake hunts, cake walks, an appearance by St. Patrick. With all that on the agenda, we managed to talk my parents into coming down for the day...and they brought along my aunt, my eleven-year-old niece, and my eight-year-old nephew. My boys were completely surprised, and the day was subsequently even more fun than anticipated. There is nothing quite as exciting as a group of surprise visitors at the door, especially when the group includes cousins.

We started the day with St. Patrick's Day brunch. This recipe was soooo yummy, and really easy to throw together. I made the biscuits the night before so all I had to do when everyone arrived was warm the biscuits, fry up some eggs, and stack it all together. Yum. As written, the recipe makes 8 to 10 biscuits, but because you only use half a biscuit for each serving, you end up with a lot of extra biscuits. If you are serving a bigger crowd, just make more eggs. The ham is totally optional; use it if you like it, skip it if you don't. I opted to double the recipe and freeze lots of leftover biscuits; we had them for dinner tonight with baked potato soup and enjoyed them all over again.

In addition to tasting good, the biscuits are really pretty to look at. I did not manage to take a decent picture, but the one on the Betty Crocker website gives you a good idea.

It wouldn't be a holiday without a little custom applique...


Happy March!

St. Patrick's Day Biscuits
Adapted from Betty Crocker

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Makes 8-10 biscuits / 8 servings + leftover biscuits

1 package frozen creamed spinach, thawed
2 3/4 cups Bisquick mix
3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp. ground mustard
2 Tbsp. butter
8 eggs
2 Tbsp. butter, softened
1/4 lb. sliced deli ham (optional)

1. Heat oven to 425 degrees.

2. In medium bowl, mix spinach, Bisquick, cheese, and ground mustard just until dry ingredients are moistened. It seems like you need to add liquid, but you really don't - there is enough in the spinach.

3. On a lightly floured work surface, knead dough eight to ten times. Pat to 3/4 inch thickness; cut with 3 inch round cutter. You should get 8-10 biscuits.

4. Place rounds one inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 13 to 16 minutes or until golden brown (can be done in advance).

5. In a nonstick skillet, fry eggs to desired consistency in butter. Season with salt and pepper.

6. Split 4 biscuits and spread cut sides with softened butter. Reserve extra biscuits for a later use.

7. Top each biscuit half with a slice of ham and one fried egg.






Sunday, March 10, 2013

Chocolate Chip Heaven

6:04 PM 2 Comments
My husband Sean is not a fan of recipes; he is far too casual a cook to follow someone else's instructions. His favorite day to make dinner is the day when I look at the crossed-out list of meal options on the fridge and swear there is nothing to eat. He then opens the fridge, roots around, and comes up with something delicious and surprising.

While not a recipe guy, he is very much a technique guy. Most recently, he caught a video on chow.com about how to make the perfect chocolate chip cookie and decided he had to give it a try.

I concur. They were the best chocolate chip cookies I've ever had -- chewy and chocolatey and sweet and moist. They tasted best -- of course -- right out of the oven, but we had no trouble eating the rest after the boys went to bed. Don't judge; I know you do it too.



The recipe came from The Bon Appetit Cookbook, but Sean swears it is not the recipe but the techniques that made them so crazy good. Here are his specific tips:
  • The eggs and the butter should be room temperature. You can speed the eggs along by putting them in a cup of warm water for about ten minutes.
  • Use the whisk attachment on your stand mixer to beat the butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla. Beat it really well. Switch the whisk for the paddle attachment before adding the flour.
  • Mix the flour in as minimally as possible - just until incorporated.
  • The better the chocolate, the better the cookie. A no-brainer, but worth mentioning before you head to the store. Sean recommends using an equal amount of flour and chocolate chips. This makes really, really chocolatey cookies.
  • Sean made our cookies extra big and thus adjusted the time accordingly. As a general rule, remove the cookies from the oven before they look completely done. You'll be glad you did.
Enjoy!

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from The Bon Appetit Cookbook
Makes about 30

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Nonstick vegetable oil spray
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup white sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla
3 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Spray a large rimmed baking sheet with spray.

Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Set aside.

Using a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat butter until light and fluffy.  Add sugar and brown sugar; beat until well blended. Add eggs and vanilla; beat until creamy and well blended.

Switch whisk attachment for paddle attachment. Gradually add flour mixture, beating just until incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips.

Working in batches, drop dough by heaping tablespoonfuls onto prepared baking sheet, spacing three inches apart. Bake cookies until pale brown, about 15 minutes.  Cool 15 minutes on sheet. Transfer to racks to cool completely.