Crudités

After my last visit to my physician for my 100,000-mile maintenance check, I was appalled at the numbers I read on the scales when I weighed in. Arrrggghhhhh! So it time to do something about those numbers. Obviously, more exercise–and I’ve actually Radish Varietiessuccumbed to a fitness device that will make me (horribly) aware of how inactive I can be, especially during working days.

Along with trying to get my butt out of my office chair even on work days, I’m trying to get more veggies and fruits into me. As the weather gets hotter, I want cool things so crudités are appearing often. Most often served with a dip of some sort but I was looking for something to add a bit of zip and zing to raw (or lightly blanched) vegetables: celery, radishes, zucchini, jicama, kohlrabi, etc.

As you all know by now, Bull City Olive Oil is one of my favorite places to find tasty stuff (like truffle salt for popcorn). In addition to olive oil and salts, there is a grand array of balsamic vinegars. I’ve discovered that some of these make a marvelous “dip” for all these veggies–without adding any oil–so that it keeps my cruditès low calorie but still never boring.  Some of the ones I use are honey-ginger, blackberry, blackberry-ginger, black mission fig, and lemongrass-mint.

And–the dark chocolate! Just a few drops with berries or fruit makes a wonderful treat–as does the passionfruit, or the lavender.  All very low cal, but so tasty! I suspect that the coconut white balsamic would be pretty darn good with fruits and berries too. So many possibilities for good taste–and there are always new ones to try–and healthy eating, too.

A son gôut!

—Ô¿Ô—

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Roasted Okra

I discovered something really neat on the Chef Mimi blog this evening.  I have grilled and roasted fresh okra, but I’d never thought of trying frozen okra.  So glad to know I can do that.

I don’t do okra in any way that is going to produce “slime”–just can’t handle that, but roasted or grilled is good. If you think you don’t like okra, try some done like this.

Roasted Okra.

Baba ghanoush

Market was a bit slow this past Saturday with the unrelenting rain most of the morning.  I had  lots of lovelyWhite and purple eggplants white and purple eggplants left so I’m going to make baba ghanoush.  No matter how you spell it, this creamy garlic- and lemon-spiked dip (frequently served as part of a mezze platter in Middle Eastern countries) is a delightful and simple dish to prepare when eggplants are abundant.

I started with my bookshelf on Eat Your Books to survey recipes…most were very similar.  The biggest differences were in the preparation of the eggplant.   Since I have a penchant for those that explain the whys of the recipe, I elected to use one from Perfect Vegetables (from the editors of Cook’s Illustrated magazine.  That recipe noted that  the eggplants must be more than just soft–they needed to be cooked until the insides were “sloshy”.  This can be done on the grill (preferable) or in the oven (acceptable alternative).  Broiling seemed not to be an option as the outsides would be charred too much and the insides not sloshy.

See “Eggplant….” for how to select appropriately mature eggplants of good quality.

This recipe is adapted from Perfect Vegetables, page 105 (Master Recipe for Baba Ghanoush).  I used white eggplant to make this batch of baba ghanoush–they are proported to be sweeter than purple ones.

Ingredients (makes about 2 cups)

  • 2 pounds eggplant
  • 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice  or to taste
  • 1 small clove garlic (minced or pressed)
  • 2 tablespoons tahini paste
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  •  1/4 teaspoon salt and  1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper or to taste
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

Preparation

Prick the eggplants evenly over the surface with the tip of a paring knife (to prevent exploding in the oven) and place on a foil-lined baking sheet.  It’s best not to have them touching each other in order to roast most evenly. (I did spread these out more before they actually went into the oven to roast.)

Eggplant ready to go into the oven to roast

white eggplant ready to roast

Roast on the middle rack of the oven preheated to 500 ° F, turning every15minutes.  (Globe eggplants, about 60 minutes; Italian eggplants, 50 minutes; oriental/Japanese eggplants 40 minutes). Let cool until you can handle them.

Roasted white eggplant just out of the oven

roasted white eggplant just out of the oven

The eggplants should be more than just soft–they should be squishy (or sloshy as described in the recipe) after the roasting.

a very soft roasted eggplant and one cut in half

squishy eggplant

Over a colander set in a bowl, trim off  top and bottom of eggplant and slice lengthwise in half.  Using a spoon, scoop out the hot pulp into the colander.  You should have about 2 cups packed pulp.  Let the pulp drain for 10 to 15  minutes

draining eggplant flesh in colander

eggplant flesh draining in colander

Transfer the pulp to food processor bowl.  Add lemon juice, garlic, tahini, oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Process using 1-second pulses (about 8 to 10) until the pulp has a coarse, chopped texture.  Adjust seasoning as needed.

Transfer to serving dish or storage container, covering the surface with plastic film and chill lightly (about 45 to 60 minutes) before serving.

To serve

Baba ghanoush is typically served as part of a mezze platter (or like Italian antipasto) with pita bread, but crudities (peppers, cucumbers, small tomatoes, celery, et cetera) can be used as well to dip as well.

If the baba ghanoush has been thoroughly chilled, the flavor will be best if it is allowed to warm slightly before serving.

Sprinkle with chopped/minced parsley. Make a depression in the center and add a bit of extra-virgin olive oil.

Enjoy!

baba ghaoush with Sicilian olive oil and parsley

garnished with Sicilian extra-virgin olive oil and parsley

Cook’s notes

I did find that the white eggplant have more body and take longer to roast than comparable size purple ones.  The flesh is, indeed, sweeter than purple ones, so I added just a bit of extra lemon juice to the baba ghanoush than the recipe called for.  I think that I prefer the white eggplants for slicing or using whole as they do seem sturdier and to have a bit more “tooth” to them.

I  prefer a bit more garlic and lemon than this recipe calls for, as well as a pinch of cayenne pepper–not enough to be hot–just as a flavor enhancer.  If you like really lemony flavor, use a microplane grater or zester  to get some very fine zest and add just a bit to give it a real lemon kick.