Sunday, April 03, 2011

Baked Eggplant with Tomatoes and Herb Creme Fraiche

After a wondrous trip to the Petersham Nurseries Cafe just outside of London last summer, I stuffed a couple of cookbooks in my suitcase and headed home with hopes of recreating Skye Gyngell's delicious dishes. I honestly didn't think it would be feasible, because of the incredible gardens she has at her disposal.

But after making about five recipes from the books, I've been able to replicate the flavors to a near tee. From chili crab cakes with a sweet corn puree to chocolate mousse with salted caramel sauce, it seems Skye has left none of her secrets out of the book (unlike almost every other restaurant cookbook I know).

So here lies my slightly altered version of the latest recipe I've tried. Silky eggplant is layered in a homemade tomato sauce and doused in an herb-infused creme fraiche sauce that infiltrates every layer in the casserole dish. It's heavenly.

Baked Eggplant with Tomatoes and Herb Creme Fraiche
Adapted from A Year in My Kitchen by Skye Gyngell
Serves 6

3 medium eggplants, sliced into 1 cm rounds
Olive oil
5 vine tomatoes, roughly diced
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3 Tb butter
16 oz. creme fraiche
2 Tb fresh chives, finely chopped
2 Tb fresh tarragon, finely chopped
1 Tb fresh thyme, finely chopped
2 Tb fresh parsley, finely chopped (plus more for garnish)
Parmesan cheese, to top

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. While it's heating, place eggplant rounds in a colander and sprinkle liberally with salt. Let sit for 30 minutes to degorge the juices from the eggplant. Pat dry.

2. Lay out eggplant rounds on a baking sheet, and lightly coat with olive oil. Bake about 20 minutes, until soft and golden brown (flipping halfway through). To save time, bake on two baking sheets at the same time. Continue until all eggplant are cooked. Set out to drain on paper towels.

3. Cook tomatoes and garlic with butter in medium heat for 15 minutes, or until soft. Set aside.

4. Bring creme fraiche to a boil and reduce by 1/3. Remove from heat, and stir in herbs.

5. In a shallow baking pan, layer eggplant rounds, then tomatoes. Continue until all vegetables are used, finishing with tomatoes on top. Then pour entire creme fraiche mixture over the casserole. Top with a grating of Parmesan cheese.

6. Bake for 20-25 minutes until bubbling and golden brown on top. Remove from oven and let sit for at least 5 minutes before serving. Top with remaining fresh parsley to serve.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Shrimp and Goat Cheese Grits with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

I've been dying to eat Southern food lately, thanks to copies of The Blackberry Farm Cookbook and Tupelo Honey Cafe that have recently crossed my desk. But thanks to a case of the winter-long blues, I've been more likely to eat a container of yogurt for dinner than actually pick up a knife and cook real food.

Forcing myself to snap out of it today, I made a new life "to-do" list. Because most of the tasks will take actual work and dedication to achieve, I made sure to include at least one thing I knew I could do: "Make something Southern and eat it."

So, crossing off the easiest item on my list, I present to you: Shrimp and Goat Cheese Grits with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce. Impossibly easy and flavorful (and derived from Tupelo Honey Cafe), it has introduced to me the concept of Creole Spice (sugar, salt, smoky paprika and black pepper mixed together). I have a feeling I'm going to be sprinkling it on EVERYTHING from now on.

Goat Cheese Grits
3 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups quick-cooking grits
1 Tb butter
1 teaspoon hot sauce
2 Tb cream
3.5 oz. goat cheese

Bring water and salt to a boil. Add grits and 1 Tb butter, and bring back to a boil, stirring constantly. Add hot sauce and cream, and cook about 5 minutes until creamy. Take off the heat and stir in goat cheese.

Shrimp with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
2 Tb olive oil
1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp
1 Tb minced garlic
1/2 cup thinly sliced roasted red peppers
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 cup dry white wine
3 Tb cold butter

In a medium to large saute pan, heat olive oil. Add garlic and shrimp, and cook until the shrimp begins to turn pink. Add peppers and spices, and cook a couple minutes more. Add white wine and cook entire mixture until shrimp is completely pink. Remove from heat, swirl in butter, and then serve on top of Goat Cheese Grits.

*Note: Served alongside creamed Swiss chard in photo.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Roasted Ratatouille

I've been gone for a long, long time. But that doesn't mean I haven't been cooking. In fact, I've been cooking more, which is one of the reasons I've had less time to tell you about it.

Getting straight to the point, I'm going to post the recipe that sparked my return to this blog. It's simple and unfussy, just the kind of supper I'm always in the mood for. It's a creamy, velvety ratatouille made with oven-roasted vegetables, their insides silken and tender. And on top, a perfectly poached egg whose runny yolk serves as a blanket of sauce.

Roasted Ratatouille
Serves 4

1 large eggplant, sliced into 1/2" rounds
2 zucchini, sliced into 1/2" rounds
1/2 large yellow onion, diced
2 red bell peppers, seeded and quartered
1 can diced tomatoes, preferably San Marzano brand
Olive oil
2 Tb fresh thyme
1 tb dried oregano
Salt and pepper, to taste (this takes a lot of salt)

1. Place rounds of eggplant on a large baking sheet. Toss with olive oil to coat, and season with salt and pepper. Roast in a 400-degree oven for appoximately 30 minutes, until soft and lightly browned. Remove from oven and let cool.
2. Repeat with zucchini rounds and red bell pepper quarters. After eggplant, zucchini, and red pepper have been removed from oven and cooled, dice the cooled pieces.

3. In a skillet, heat 1 Tb olive oil and saute diced onions until soft. Add eggplant, zucchini, red pepper, and canned tomatoes to pan. Stir. Add thyme, oregano, salt and pepper, and heat through on very low heat until flavors permeate entire dish. Ratatouille is done when all vegetables are soft and fully flavored.

4. Serve in a dish with a poached egg on top. (To poach egg: Bring a pot of water to a near-simmer. Add a couple drops of vinegar to water. Swirl water in a circle with a large spoon, and gently place cracked egg in swirling water. Cook at a near-simmer for 2-3 minutes, and then quickly dunk in an ice bath to stop the yolk from cooking. Place on a paper towel to pat dry, and serve immediately.)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Egg Creams

Vanilla Egg Cream

3 Tb vanilla syrup (1 cup water, 1 cup sugar, 2 tsp vanilla extract boiled and cooled)
1/2 cup milk (whole is best for this)
1/2 cup cold seltzer

1. Make and cool vanilla syrup.

2. In tall glass, pour vanilla syrup, milk and seltzer, in that order. Stir with a straw until foamy and drink immediately.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Short Ribs with Tagliatelle

Short Ribs with Tagliatelle
Adapted from Giada de Laurentiis
Serves 4-6

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 1/2 pounds short ribs
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 medium onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves
2 cloves garlic
1 (14-ounce) can tomatoes (diced)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
2 1/2 cups beef broth
3/4 cup red wine
1 pound fresh or dried tagliatelle
4 to 6 teaspoons shaved bittersweet chocolate (optional)

Place the olive oil in a large heavy soup pot over medium heat. Season the short ribs with salt and pepper, and dredge in the flour. Add the short ribs to the pan and brown on all sides.

Meanwhile, finely chop the onion, carrot, parsley and garlic into a fine mince.

Once the short ribs are browned, remove from the pan and drain out excess fat/oil. Add vegetables to pan and soften, but do not brown. Add diced tomatoes and tomato paste. Mix well. Add thyme, oregano, bay leaf, beef broth, and wine. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Remove the lid and simmer for another hour and a half, stirring occasionally. Remove the meat and bones from the pot. Discard the bones. Shred the meat and return it to the pot. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 3/4 teaspoon pepper, or to taste.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Add the pasta to the pot and stir to combine. Add the reserved pasta liquid 1/4 cup at a time, if needed, to moisten the pasta. Transfer to serving bowls, top each bowl with 1 teaspoon of chocolate shavings. Serve immediately.

Lemon Madeleines

From Martha Stewart's Cookies
Makes 2 dozen large madeleines, or 4 dozen small madeleines

1 1/2 cups sifted cake flour (not self-rising)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp coarse salt
3 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 Tb finely grated lemon zest
2 Tb fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for pans
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting (optional)

1. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl.

2. Put eggs, egg yolks, granulated sugar, vanilla, and lemon zest and juice in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium-high speed until pale and thickened, about 5 minutes. Mix in butter. Using a spatula, fold flour mixture into egg mixture. Let batter rest 30 minutes.

3. Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter two madeleine pans (not necessary if they are non-stick).

4. Pour batter into prepared pans, filling the molds three-quarters full. Bake cookies, rotating pans halfway through, until edges are crisp and golden, 7-8 minutes. Let cookies cool slightly in pans on wire racks. Invert, and unmold. Dust with confectioners' sugar, if desired. Cookies can be stored between layers of parchment in airtight containers at room temperature up to 1 day.

Beer-Battered Fish

Using a leftover trout fillet from my last recipe, I fried up some fluffy beer-battered fish the other night. It's a simple and quick way to use up leftover fish.

Beer batter
1 cup beer
1 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
Cayenne (to taste)

Season fish with salt and pepper.

Mix together dry ingredients. Heat oil in a deep-fat fryer or 2" in a skillet. When oil is ready, mix the beer with dry ingredients until smooth and lump-free. Dip fish in batter and fry until golden brown and crispy, about 5 minutes. Remove from oil, immediately season with salt, and keep warm in oven if necessary.

I served mine with a homemade dill-lemon mayonnaise.