Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Notes From Nikki-Eggplant Caponata, Mexican Summer Squash Casserole, and more

Eggplant Caponata With a Twist
I must give credit to my friend, Donna Larsen, for inspiring me to mix cocoa powder with eggplant. She emailed me a Caponata recipe recently that included grilled eggplant, sugar, and cocoa powder, among other things. I was intrigued. I ended up googling "Caponata" only to find that there are literally thousands of variations on this classic Sicilian dish... of course. I basically used the lists of ingredients I perused as inspiration, and worked from there. Below you'll find the recipe that I came up with. It turned out rich and earthy, brightened just a touch by the basil and the summer squash (I am desperately trying to use up our bounty). I cannot overemphasize how important it is to taste and adjust as you go with this. Just a little more salt, sugar, cinnamon, balsamic vinegar, or cocoa can make a world of difference. If you're like me, you'll be full before the dish hits the table. :-) Enjoy!


3-4 T extra virgin olive oil
1 medium-large sweet onion, chopped
6-8 small eggplant (I used 4 small and 4 baby-sized), diced
4 small-medium tomatoes, cored and chopped
2 medium-large summer squash (I used 1 pattypan and 1 yellow straight-neck), diced
Dash of red pepper flakes (more if you want more heat)
1-2 T sugar
1-2 tsp cinnamon
1-2 T cocoa powder (I suggest using a high quality variety like Green & Black's for deeper flavor)
1-2 tsp balsamic vinegar
Handful chopped basil, plus more for garnish (I used purple basil)
Sea salt
Fresh ground pepper

Warm artisan bread

1. Saute the onion, garlic, sugar, cinnamon, cocoa powder, sea salt, chile flakes, and pepper in a large skillet over medium heat until the onions have softened.
2. Add in the eggplant, stirring to coat, and continue sauteing for a bit.
3. Add the tomatoes, and do the same.
4. Add in the summer squash, stir to incorporate, cover, and simmer until all the veggies are quite soft (the tomatoes will have fallen apart as well as some of the eggplant).
5. Add in the balsamic vinegar, and taste and adjust.
6. Stir in the basil, and taste and adjust again.
7. Garnish with basil and serve with plenty of crusty, artisan bread.

Makes about 6 cups (enough for at least 8-10 people to enjoy as an appetizer)

Mexican Summer Squash Casserole with Red Haven Farm Grass-fed Ground Beef and Shredded Highland Farm Manchego
This somewhat odd menagerie of ingredients turned out to be a heavenly "one-pot" dish. If you're like me, you have plenty of summer squash on hand. As it turned out, this proved to be an excellent way to use up at least six of the prolific little summer gems. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

1.5 lbs. ground beef (I used Red Haven Farm's local, grass-fed beef)
1 large sweet onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 tsp cumin
1-2 tsp coriander
1-2 tsp chipotle chile pepper powder (more if you want extra heat)
2-3 tsp paprika
2-3 tsp dried Mexican oregano
4-6 small-medium summer squash, diced (I used 2 small pattypan, 1 medium pattypan, and 3 small yellow straight-neck)
4 medium tomatoes, cored and chopped
Generous handful of chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish
Sea salt
1 C shredded Manchego cheese (I used Highland Farm's local sheep Manchego)

1. Preheat the oven to 400.
2. Saute the beef, onions, garlic, coriander, chipotle powder, paprika, oregano, and sea salt over medium heat until the meat is cooked through and the onions are softened.
3. Add in the tomatoes and squash and cook until the squash is firm tender.
4. Turn off the heat and fold in the cilantro.
5. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
6. Turn the mixture out into a casserole dish and top with the cheese.
7. Bake uncovered until the mixture is bubbling and the cheese is melted and browned in a few places.
8. Remove from the oven, allow to cool a bit, garnish with more cilantro, and serve family style.

Serves 6
Rosemary Mashed Potato Medley; Roasted Orange Mint Carrots; and Grilled Mother Earth Organic Portabellas, Sweet Onions, and Steaks
Three recipes for the price of one! :-) The following three recipes comprised our dinner last night. Make one, or make them all. Red Haven Farm steaks would work beautifully here (I wish we had had some on hand), or leave out the steak and just grill up the portabellas and onions. Portabellas are meaty enough in and of themselves. I hope you enjoy these as much as we did!

Rosemary Mashed Potato Medley
Approximately 2-3 lbs. new potatoes, scrubbed (if necessary) and halved or quartered (halve the small ones, quarter the big ones) [I used a combination of purple, yellow, and red ones, but any combo will do.]
1 stick of butter
2+ C milk
2 T fresh minced rosemary
Sea salt
Fresh ground pepper

1. Boil the potatoes in a large pot until they are tender enough to mash.
2. Drain the potatoes in a colander, returning them to the pot.
3. Add in the butter, rosemary, and 1 C of the milk.
4. Mash the potatoes, butter, rosemary, and milk together using a masher.
5. Switching to a spoon, stir in enough milk to make a smooth-ish consistency (to your liking).
6. Season generously with sea salt and fresh ground pepper.
7. Taste and adjust to your liking.
8. Serve and enjoy!
Serves approximately 8-10 as a side dish (feel free to cut the recipe in half)

Roasted Orange Mint Carrots
3 bunches carrots, bottoms trimmed, tops removed (I used a mixture of the purple and orange carrots from our Inverbrook share)
2-3 T extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 orange, plus some zest (to taste)
1 T honey
Handful of finely chopped mint leaves
Sea salt
Fresh ground pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 400.
2. Drizzle the bottom of a roasting pan with the olive oil.
3. Lay the carrots on top of the oil, creating one single layer, and give the pan a good shake.
4. Season the carrots with sea salt and pepper, and roast in the oven until firm tender, shaking occasionally.
5. While the carrots are roasting, combine the orange juice, mint, and honey.
6. Once the carrots are just shy of finishing, drizzle the juice over the lot, shake the pan, and finish roasting (the juice and honey will caramelize a bit).
7. Taste and adjust the seasoning, and serve.
Serves 6 as a side dish

Grilled Mother Earth Organic Portabellas, Sweet Onions, and Steaks
6 whole portabella mushroom caps, stems removed (I highly recommend local Mother Earth Organic mushrooms)
2-3 sweet onions, quartered
6 steaks (we used mock tender steaks as we're on a budget ;-))
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 T extra virgin olive oil
1-2 T balsamic vinegar
Fresh torn rosemary leaves
Sea salt
Fresh ground pepper

1. Preheat the grill to medium-high heat.
2. Season the steaks with plenty of sea salt, pepper, and a bit of olive oil if they aren't fatty (ours were mock tenders and needed a little oiling :-)). Rub some torn rosemary leaves and minced garlic into them for good measure.
3. While they're upside down, drizzle the portabellas with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Divide the remaining minced garlic amongst the caps, and season with sea salt and pepper.
4. Rub the onion quarters with whatever amount of oil garlic and rosemary you have left (the stuff that's laying on the pan) and season with just a bit of sea salt and pepper.
5. Grill the steaks to your liking.
6. Grill the portabellas upside down until they are well marked and meaty. A little soup of garlic, oil, and vinegar will form in the caps. Don't turn the caps over while they're still on the grill or you'll lose all that goodness.
7. Grill the onions until well marked and softened.
8. Slice the portabellas (if desired), and toss with the onions and all that yummy juice that formed in the caps while they were on the grill.
9. Lay each steak on a bed of the portabella and onion mixture and serve.

Serves 6

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