Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Savoring Summer with Watermelon Grown at Home

It just seems like I always end up talking about watermelon outside of its season.  Summer ended last week, but I think it’s up for debate how much of a summer we had here in Chicago.
The growing season was delayed, both for commercial farmers, as well as personal vegetable gardeners.  So I’m grateful that I was able to get any watermelon out of our very short, and relatively cool, summer in my Earthboxes.  This summer I planted a variety of watermelon unfamiliar to me.  I picked it from the seed catalog based on the description.  Productive, 85 days, cool and short growing season, all sounded like Chicago to me.  A light-fleshed wonder averaging around 10 lbs called Sweet Siberian.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Just Say No to Eating Animals: #35 Making the Most of the Bounty of Eggplant

Sorry, I missed last week but I was busy cooking and canning and preparing to hit the road again.

This summer I planted a variety of eggplant that I had not seen, let alone grown, before.

It’s called Kazahstan.  It can be green and mottled.  It may have a bit of a purple tint to the green.  Or it could show up in an array of multi-colored hues.  So it’s pretty.  It also gives up lovely fruit that weigh-in at about 5-7 ounces a piece.  No need to figure out what you are going to do with a monster that needs to stuffed.  You betcha this is going into next year’s garden.

I used it two ways this season.  The thing about eggplant is it’s an awful lot like tomatoes.  It will keep you waiting and then you get flooded with them.  Both of these eggplant dishes should become staples for you.  They are fast and delicious.  Neither of these applications requires salting the eggplant and your dish will be sweet and reminiscent of the fruit that eggplant is, not the least bit bitter.

Baba Ghanoush (Middle Eastern Eggplant Dip)


1-1/2 lbs of eggplant
2 cloves garlic
1 t. salt
¼ c tahini
¼ c. freshly squeezed lemon juice

Slice eggplants in half, along the length of the fruit and place flesh side down on a foil lined pan (I like to use the non-stick foil).  Broil on high until the skin is black and crisp.
Scoop the flesh out of the skin and cool in a bowl for a few hours.  Drain off any liquid that accumulates in the bowl.

Using your high powered blender, I’ve got a Vitamix, or a food processor, add garlic, eggplant, salt, and tahini.  Blend until smooth.  While machine is running, add lemon juice.

This is perfect as a spread in sandwiches, with pita and olives, or thinned with a bit of lemon juice and used as a salad dressing.

Roasted Eggplant with Chickpeas and Feta (Martha Does It Again, from Everyday Food with a tiny change)


3 lbs of eggplant, cubed
4 oz. of feta, rinsed, patted dry, and crumbled
1 15 oz. can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
3 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice
5 T. EVOO, divided
¼  c. minced fresh basil
Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 475 degrees.  Place cubed eggplant in a bowl and toss with 3 T of EVOO, salt, and pepper.   Divide the eggplant between two rimmed baking sheets (yep, I line them again with non-stick foil).  Roast for 15 to 25 minutes rotating the baking sheets, between the oven racks, halfway through the cooking time.

While the eggplant is roasting, whisk the remaining 2 T EVOO with the lemon juice.  Once the eggplant is done, it will be charred and sweet, place it in a bowl.  Add the chickpeas, feta, and basil.  Pour the dressing you made over everything and toss.  Taste and adjust seasoning and Serve.

This dish is wonderful warm, at room temperature, or the next day cold.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Just Say No to Eating Animals: #34 A Warming Stew Straight From the Garden

This one’s down and dirty.  I had a great holiday weekend of al fresco dining on the shores of Lake Superior.  Yes.  It was cold, still absolutely breathtaking.

You could tell the bear hunters will pour in this week because there was berry-filled bear scat on our friend’s property.  Somehow, I think they will make themselves scarce this week, at least I hope so.

This is a perfect dish for hands-free cooking.

Slow-Baked Beans with Kale with very few changes from Martha Rose Shulman, found in the NY Times


1 bunch of kale (I cut a very, very large bunch right from our garden), stemmed and washed
1 T. melted butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 rib celery (use the leaves also), chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 2/3 c. white beans, soaked overnight
1 6 oz. can tomato paste, dissolved in 1 c. water
½ c. bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 225 degrees.  Boil a large pot of salted water; you should be able to taste the salt in the water.  Add the kale and blanch for two minutes.  Remove kale to an ice bath.  Drain kale.  Then squeeze as much liquid as you can out of it, I use my hands to do this.  Roll the leaves into bunches and then chop.

Heat 2 T. EVOO over medium heat in a large ovenproof pot.  Add the onions, carrots, and celery.  Stir frequently, you will probably get a brown fond on the bottom of your pot, until the onion is golden.  Add the garlic and stir until your kitchen smells fantastic.  Add the dissolved tomato and bring to a low boil.

Add the rinsed and drained beans, 3 c. of water, salt and pepper to taste to your pot.  Add the kale and bring to a simmer.  Cover the pot and transfer to the oven.  Bake for three hours.  Adjust seasonings.

Mix the melted butter with the bread crumbs.  Top the inside of the pot with the bread crumbs.  Increase the heat to 325 degrees and cook until bread crumbs have browned.