Eggplant Boats

Here’s another recipe for stuffed eggplant which would also work great for zucchini. Those of you who’ve followed me for awhile know how much I love eggplant! This recipe doesn’t use any starchy foods – no rice, pasta, bread crumbs, etc. Instead, it adds some cooked spaghetti squash to the stuffing! Delicious, very rich tasting. I didn’t but a dash of allspice (or nutmeg) would add even more depth to these flavors.

First, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut in half:

1 small spaghetti squash

2 large eggplants (longer works better than rounder)

These will both take approximately the same amount of time to cook since the spaghetti squash doesn’t want to be overcooked or the strands turn to mush. Remove the seeds from the squash. Rub the halves of the squash and the eggplant with:

4-6 tablespoons olive oil total for all six pieces

Cut x’s in the eggplant and stab with a fork on the skin side (be sure to use Italian eggplant for these not Oriental ones). Place the squash skin side up and the eggplant skin side down on a large cookie sheet and bake for approximately 30-45 minutes until the squash is tender when stabbed with a knife and the eggplant is starting to turn translucent in the middle. If the eggplants are very round they will take longer to cook through.

Leave both squash and eggplant to cool a little while the filling is cooked. In an 10-12 inch skillet, heat over medium heat:

1 tablespoon oil

When its shimmering (hot), add:

2 sweet Italian sausage removed from the casing (or hot if your family prefers them) [OPTIONAL]

Stir and cook the sausage until it’s almost cooked through before adding:

1 medium onion peeled and diced

1 medium sweet pepper diced

1/2 cup shredded carrots

2 teaspoons minced garlic

6 ounces of sliced shitake mushrooms

Cover and simmer over medium low heat until the vegetables are softened. Remove cover and add:

1 to 1 1/2 cups marinara sauce [see recipe under sauces or use jarred]

Cover again and leave over low heat. Use a fork to remove the flesh from the spaghetti squash, going from stem to bud end lengthwise not across the squash. It should come off in strands that look like spaghetti unless it’s overcooked. It will still work just won’t look like spaghetti in the filling. Also use a sharp spoon to detach the center flesh of the eggplant, cut it into pieces. Be sure to leave about a 1/4 inch of eggplant in the skins. Add the removed eggplant to the filling along with:

2 cups of the spaghetti squash (should be about equal to both halves of the squash depending on size)

Mix the squash and eggplant into the filling in the skillet. Place the eggplant halves on a baking sheet and fill generously with the filling. Sprinkle with:

1/4 to 1/2 cup non-dairy cheese (I used Parmesan but any cheese your family likes will work)

Return to the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes. Serves 4 to 6 depending on the size of the eggplant.

Pork Chops with Pear Sauce and Sautéed Endive

Mostly I eat chicken but occasionally I’ve have some pork and I find it difficult to find creative ways to cook it, a plain pork chop can be so boring. Here’s one I adjusted from one I found online. I added the endive which goes great with both the pork chop and the pear sauce.

First, make a batch of pear sauce (see recipe under sauces) except instead of adding the ginger, add 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon of allspice (per cup of pear sauce/about 1 pear). Additionally, add about 1 tablespoon of date syrup (or 2 teaspoons of honey or agave nectar).

In a 10″ skillet, heat over medium high:

1 tablespoon olive oil

Blot dry:

2 1″ thick pork chops (or a little thinner or thicker if preferred just adjust the cooking time)

Season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder (granulated works best). Add to the hot oil and sear on each side (about 1-2 minutes per side) then reduce heat to medium low and cook, uncovered, for about 5-6 minutes per side or until the pork is firm to the touch. Set aside and let sit off the heat for approximately 10 minutes to rest.

While the pork rests, heat in 12″ skillet over medium heat:

1 tablespoon olive oil

Add:

1/2 medium sweet onion, dice

6-8 medium to large endive (slice off the lower stem end and then quarter)

Season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder then cook stirring occasionally so that the onion doesn’t burn. After about 3-4 minutes, reduce heat to medium low and cover so that the lower cores of the endive soften and continue cooking for another 3-4 minutes or until the endive cores are softened.

If you’ve premade the pear sauce as I did, heat in a small pot until hot. Pour half the mixture (about 1/2 cup) over each pork chop. Serves 2.

Gazpacho

This is the time of year for one of the best things to eat on the planet, fresh picked tomatoes! But for anyone who grows them, it soon becomes an overabundance and the issue becomes, “okay, what am I going to do with all these tomatoes?”. For many, this abundance becomes canned (or frozen) pasta sauce, tomato juice, or we even start picking them green and making fried green tomatoes (see recipe under side dishes). Here’s another tasty way to use up some of these extra tomatoes and, with the temperatures around here in the high 80s and low 90s right now, it’s also a very refreshing meal. And it will use up some of those extra cucumbers from the garden as well!

First, put on a good size pot of water to boil. Wash and cut slits (+) across the bottom (the one opposite the stem end) of:

8 medium to large plum tomatoes (use plum or Roma tomatoes because they aren’t as seedy or juicy as other tomatoes)*

While the water comes to a boil, prepare an ice bath in a large pot or bowl by filling the container about half full of cold water and then adding a tray of ice cubes. When the water boils, add the tomatoes, turn off the stove, and let the tomatoes sit for 1-2 minutes in the hot water. Remove with a slotted spoon and put into the ice bath. Let sit for a minute before peeling them. The riper the tomatoes, the less time they need in the hot water and the easier they are to peel. Peel them and cut out the stem end along with the tough part that extends into the tomato for about a quarter inch. Place them into a food processor or blender after peeling.

Pulse until coarsely chopped (or blend). I like my gazpacho fairly smooth so I used my Vitamix and made it fairly smooth. Put into a large bowl (at least 5 quarts). Pulse in a food processor or blender:

3-4 roasted red peppers (fresh can be used by I prefer the flavor of roasted peppers)

2-3 small red onions, peeled and quartered

1 large English cucumber (peeled if not organic otherwise just cut into chunks before pulsing)**

When chopped finely, add to the tomato mixture and stir to blend. Add:

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup rice vinegar

1 tablespoon garlic powder (if you like the taste of fresh garlic, pulse 6-8 garlic cloves along with the vegetables)

2 teaspoon sea salt or herbamare

1 teaspoon ground pepper

48 ounces strained organic tomatoes (or tomato juice)

Mix thoroughly and add:

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (reserve 2 teaspoons for garnish)

Chill thoroughly before serving. WARNING: This makes 16 cups of gazpacho so unless you’re hosting a large dinner party (or want to freeze some), this recipe can be cut in half. Garnish with extra chopped basil, diced cucumber and tomatoes. You can also garnish it with a spoonful of Greek yogurt or sour cream as well as croutons.

*Regular cucumbers can be used instead, just be sure to seed them before pulsing.

Mushroom Stuffed Potato Cakes

Delicious side dishes that the entire family will enjoy are hard to come by, especially if one believes the television commercials! Here’s one that takes a little time but is worth the effort. And it’s quite easy to adjust to a particular taste – the dill can be replaced by one of a dozen herbs or spices. Potatoes are the type of food that can be enjoyed with a multitude of preparations. I made the mushroom stuffing several days in advance, prepared the mashed potatoes for the cakes a day ahead so it cooled overnight (no one wants to try to form hot potatoes into disks!), and then assembled them on the third day. They take very little time to assemble and fry so plan accordingly. About 15 minutes before my protein was ready, I started and had them fried and salted just as the ribs were coming out of the oven.

First prepare the mushrooms. In a 12″ skillet heat over medium high:

1 tablespoon olive oil

then add:

1 small onion minced (the food processor does this very quickly and easily)

8 ounces chopped mushrooms (again, a mince is best although not required)

1 teaspoon minced garlic

When the mushrooms and onion are soft and slightly browned, about 5-7 minutes, remove from heat and add:

1 large stem dill, chopped (fronds only)

Salt and pepper to taste

Pinch of red pepper flakes (or a dash of hot sauce) [Optional]

Set aside to cool. Peel and dice:

2-2 1/2 pounds russet potatoes

Cover with cold water and boil until soft. Depending on the size of the dice, this could take 10-30 minutes. Once cooked, drain the water and mash the potatoes, being sure to remove all lumps. DO NOT ADD ANY LIQUID TO THE MASH POTATOES.

In a large soup dish or pie plate (or paper plate), mix together the dredge:

1/4 cup all purpose gluten free flour

1 tablespoon tapioca flour

Salt and pepper to taste (about 1/8-1/4 teaspoon)

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon paprika

To assemble the potato cakes, in the palm of a hand, scoop:

1/4-1/2 cup mashed potatoes (depending on the size cake desired)

Flatten until about 1/4″ thick and then make an indenture in the middle. Add about:

1-2 tablespoons mushroom mixture

Cover with about 2 tablespoons-1/4 cup scoop of mashed potatoes, spread to cover the stuffing and then lightly seal the edges of the disk to form a cake. Roll in the dredge mixture and set aside. The mixture should make 6-8 medium sized cakes.

Heat in a large skillet over medium high heat:

1/2 cup olive and avocado oil (the avocado oil has a much higher smoke point than the olive so a combination works best)

When shimmering hot, add the cakes to the oil and lower heat to medium. Fry on each side until well browned, about 3-5 minutes per side. Remove to a paper towel and salt to taste. After a minute remove from the paper towel so that the cakes don’t get soggy. Serve immediately. Garnish with chopped dill or scallions.

TIP: When I next make these, hopefully when my grandson comes to visit, I’ll add some crispy bacon bits to the mushroom mixture!

TIP 2: I think I’ll also try this recipe with sweet potatoes but it will need different handling since they are quite moister than russet potatoes. Flour will need to be added to the sweet potatoes before shaping. I’ll give it a try and let you know how it works out.

White Fish with Lemon Garlic Sauce on Sautéed Bok Choy

Any white fish will work with this recipe – cod, flounder, sole, swordfish or even sea bass (my very favorite fish!). The most difficult part of the whole recipe is roasting the garlic and that’s really very easy in the oven. If you’re not familiar with the process, here are the instructions:

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Peel most of the paper off the outside of the head of garlic being careful to leave the head intact. If a faster process is desired, the cloves can be separated and baked individually, it takes about half the baking time of doing a whole head. With kitchen scissors, trim about 1/4 inch off the top of the head, or each individual clove. Drizzle with 1 or 2 teaspoons olive oil per head. Wrap in parchment paper and bake for about 30-40 minutes depending on the size of the heads (or 15-20 if doing individual cloves). Cool then press the bottom of each clove to squeeze out the garlic. Stores in the refrigerator for 2 weeks or in the freezer for 3 months. Be sure to open windows or turn on the stove vent because the kitchen, and whole house if you have a small house, will be filled with the aroma of roasted garlic.

For each pound of fish, preheat oven to 350 degrees, prepare a baking dish large enough to accommodate the fish without crowding. Spray with non-stick cooking spray or coat with olive oil. Dry the fish with paper towels, salt and pepper to taste and arrange in the dish. Bake, depending on thickness, 15-35 minutes, until fish is flaky but still moist. Fish turns quite white in color when it’s cooked.

Want to make it vegan? Use firm tofu in place of the fish but fry it in a skillet instead of baking.

Make the lemon garlic sauce. In a small bowl, mix together:

1/2 teaspoon mashed roasted garlic (about 1 clove)

juice of 1 lemon

1/2 cup vegan mayonnaise*

salt and pepper to taste

Set aside and prepare the bok choy. In a large 12″ skillet, heat over medium:

1 teaspoon olive oil, then add:

1 small onion diced

6-8 baby bok choy, cleaned and cut in half or quarters

1 teaspoon minced garlic (or some of the roasted garlic)

Cook, stirring for the first few minutes, then reduce heat to medium low and cook 5-7 minutes until the onion and bok choy are softened.

Place the sautéed bok choy in the bottom of a serving dish, add a serving of the fish. Spoon about 2 teaspoons of sauce over each fish, garnish with scallions, chives or dill (chopped). Serves 4.

*Don’t have any vegan mayonnaise? See my recipe under sauces for egg-free mayonnaise.

Greek Butter Beans

Butter, or lima, beans are a good source of protein as well as flavorful and very satisfying as a side dish. This recipe is very easy to make, especially if canned beans are used. It would work with any type of bean if butter beans are not to your taste.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and spray an 5x8x3″ baking dish. Heat over medium heat in a 12″ skillet:

1 tablespoon olive oil

When hot (shimmering), add:

1 small onion diced

2 small or 8-10 baby carrots, sliced

2 teaspoons minced garlic

Reduce heat to medium and cook, covered, until the carrots are slightly softened and the onion is translucent. Remove the cover and add:

2 medium to large fresh Roma (or plum) tomatoes, peeled and diced

2 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 teaspoons dried parsley

1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped (OPTIONAL)

Salt and pepper to taste

Stir to combine and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add:

1 16ounce can butter beans, with liquid (unsalted if possible)

Stir to combine and cook for 8-10 minutes over medium high heat until sauce starts to thicken. Transfer to the baking dish and bake for 30-40 minutes. Top with chopped fresh parsley and serve. A dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt would add some richness. TIP: If your family likes spicy food, consider adding a few dashes of hot sauce when the tomatoes are added to the pan. Serves 4.

Ratatouille Lasagna

Here’s another recipe for a ratatouille dish that’s scrumptious! This idea comes from Vegan Cocette. I don’t generally make lasagna, too many steps and too much time but this one is fairly easy and not everything has to be made at the same time. Some things can be made ahead of time and then just assembled which takes very little time. First make the ratatouille, then the béchamel sauce, (Italian sauce if used) and lastly cook the noodles, gluten-free of course. If you don’t want the carbs from the brown rice lasagna noodles, I found one made from hearts of palm at Whole Foods (Whole Foods brand) which has very few carbs and calories. Several other noodle types are also available. Italian sausage can be added to either the ratatouille or the béchamel if desired. This makes a very large pan so choose a baking dish that holds at least 3 quarts and is 5-6 inches deep. I don’t need to serve 8 so I made it in smaller dishes and I froze some (uncooked, covered with plastic wrap and foil).

First make the ratatouille.

Peel and slice:

1 large or 2 small eggplants

On either a paper towel or a cooling rack, place the slices of eggplant and generously salt on both sides. Place a cookie sheet or tray on top of the eggplant and weight it down with several large cans. Let sit at least 15 minutes but 1 hour is better. Rinse off the salt and dry thoroughly and cube. In a good size pan, over medium high heat:

1 tablespoons olive oil

When hot (shimmering) add:

1 medium onion, chopped

2 small eggplants, peeled and cubed

2 small zucchini, cubed

2 small yellow squash, cubed

2 teaspoons minced garlic

Optionally, depending on taste can be added:

1 sweet pepper, seeded and diced

6 ounces of sliced mushrooms

Stir to combine, cover and cook over medium low heat until vegetables are slightly softened, about 10-15 minutes depending on the size of the pan. Add:

16 ounces crushed tomatoes

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram

1 tablespoon dried basil

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon agave nectar

Stir to combine and simmer over low heat for 20-30 minutes. While the ratatouille is simmering, make the béchamel sauce. In a medium saucepan, heat over medium:

1/4 cup avocado oil

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Add:

1/3-1/2 cup gluten-free all purpose flour (enough so it looks like a soupy mashed potato mixture but all the oil is absorbed)

Whisk in the flour and let it cook for 1-2 minutes to cook out the flour taste. Add:

2 1/2-3 cups non-dairy milk (any milk EXCEPT soy)

Cook over medium low heat until thickened, whisking constantly to avoid lumps. When it starts bubbling, reduce heat to low and add:

3/4 cup non-dairy mozzarella or parmesan cheese, grated

Let it cook for about 5-7 minutes while the cheese melts, whisking occasionally, being careful not to let it burn on the bottom so heat may need to be reduced further.

Lastly, cook the noodles in a large pot (8-10 quarts) of boiling water. When the water comes to a boil add:

1 tablespoon salt

10 ounces gluten-free lasagna noodles (the Whole Foods Heart of Palm can be used without cooking)

Cook the pasta per package instructions. Rinse thoroughly with cold water after draining so that the noodles don’t stick together. Then assemble the lasagna by starting with some ratatouille on the bottom of the baking dish which should be at least 5-6 inches in height to accommodate the layers. Second add a single layer of noodles, then a layer of béchamel, layer of noodles, layer of ratatouille, layer of noodles and lastly a layer of béchamel. Place on a baking tray lined with foil and bake at 400 degrees for approximately 35-45 minutes until golden brown on top and bubbling. Remove from the oven and let sit for 10-15 minutes so that the layers set up before serving. Serves 8.

before baking

Chicken with Pumpkin Seed Sauce

Another recipe adapted from my chicken bible. If you don’t like green food, this isn’t the recipe for you! LOL! Either boneless skinless breasts or thighs can be used, just be sure to trim off any fat. It’s a fairly quick and quite simple recipe and if you like cilantro and limes, you should really enjoy this recipe. I don’t like cilantro so I used flat leaf parsley which also worked.

Put a 12″ skillet on medium heat and when hot add:

1/3 cup sesame seeds

1/2 cup pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds)

Roast in the dry pan until aromatic, about 7-10 minutes, being sure not to burn the seeds. Remove to a bowl and add to the skillet:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small or 1/2 large onion, diced

1/2 teaspoon sea salt or herbamare

Cook over medium high heat until onion softens, about 3-5 minutes. Add:

6-8 small tomatillos, peeled, washed and chopped

3 teaspoons minced garlic

1 teaspoon fresh thyme (leaves removed from the stems) or 1/4 teaspoon dried

1 can mild to medium jalapeno chilis, drained and diced (4-6 ounces)

1 1/2 cup chicken stock

And most of the seeds, reserving about 1 tablespoon for garnish. Cover and cook over medium heat until the tomatillos have softened, about 10 minutes. Add:

4 small chicken breasts or 6 thighs, boneless and skinless, fat trimmed

Salt and pepper the chicken before adding. Push the chicken into the sauce so the pieces cook evenly. Flip them over midway through cooking. Cook the chicken in the sauce for 15-20 minutes depending on size of the chicken pieces (to 160 degrees). When cooked, remove to a plate, cover and let sit while the sauce is finished.

In a blender, combine:

1 cup cilantro (or parsley)

juice from 1 lime (about 1 tablespoon)

1 teaspoon date syrup (or date sugar)

Sauce from the skillet

I ladled the sauce into the blender until most of it was in before pouring the remainder from the skillet. This will be HOT so be sure to cover the blender lid with a towel before blending. Blend until almost smooth, about 1 minute.

Arrange chicken on platter and ladle sauce over, garnish with the reserved seeds. Serve with rice and remaining sauce.

“Ratatouille” Gratin

All of us love ratatouille, one of our favorite summer side dishes, especially for my grandson. So when I saw a recipe for a summer vegetable gratin it occurred to me that if I added some eggplant to it, it would be a ratatouille in a casserole with a nice crunchy top. Sounded delicious and indeed, it turned out succulent and indeed the top was very crunchy. The most important thing is to cut the vegetables all about the same so they cook at the same rate. It does take time since getting the water out of the squash and tomatoes, and the bitter out of the eggplant takes about a half hour of sitting but that time can be used to make really delicious caramelized onions. But it’s very easy to make. While I used yellow and zucchini squash, one or the other will work.

First thing is to cut up the vegetables:

1 pound zucchini squash, smallish, about 2

1 pound yellow summer squash, smallish again about 2

1 medium eggplant, peeled (about 6″ long)

6 medium size, ripe tomatoes

Wash and slice the squash, eggplant and tomatoes about 1/4 inch thick. Place the vegetables on baking trays covered with paper towels, sprinkle with salt and let sit for at least 1/2 hour. Wash off the salt (except from the tomatoes) and dry thoroughly between paper towels to get the squash and eggplant as dry as possible.

While the vegetables are sitting, cut:

3 large or 4 medium size onion

Peel and then cut them in half and slice each half into thin slices. Should have about 4 cups of onions. Heat in a 12″ skillet:

1 tablespoon olive oil

Add the sliced onions and cook for a minute over medium high heat before reducing to medium heat. Cook, uncovered, stirring every few minutes so that they don’t stick to the bottom of the skillet, for approximately 30 minutes or until golden brown. The heat may need to be reduced if they begin sticking. I wasn’t patient enough and mine didn’t get as brown as they should have but still tasted delicious.

Preheat oven to 400 degree. Spread in the bottom of a 9×13″ baking dish:

1 tablespoon olive oil

Begin by layering the squash.

Now layer the eggplant on top of the squash. Next, mix together:

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 tablespoon fresh thyme (pull the leaves off the tough stems)

1/2 teaspoon of ground pepper (or to taste)

Sprinkle half the mixture over the eggplant and then turn the eggplant over so that the mixture also gets to the squash. Now layer the onions on top of the eggplant and then the tomatoes on the onions.

Sprinkle the remaining mixture (garlic oil) over the top of the tomatoes and again, turn over the tomatoes so the oil can mix with the casserole. Bake for about 40-45 minutes until the vegetables are tender and the tomatoes look a little brown. Remove from the oven and spread on top:

1 cup gluten-free bread crumbs, plain

1 cup dairy-free parmesan cheese, grated (Follow Your Heart makes an excellent one)

1 tablespoon fresh thyme (again, pull the small leaves off the tough stems)

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper)

Return to the oven and bake about 15 minutes more or until the topping has browned.

Sprinkle with:

1/4 cup roughly chopped basil

Feel free to half the recipe. The 9×13″ size will easily serve 8-10.

Moo Goo Guy Pan

We’re continuing the Chinese revisionist recipes. One of my mother’s and my favorite Chinese dishes is Moo Goo Guy Pan – a mixture of chicken and vegetables in a light sauce. Usually made bok choy, water chestnuts and mushrooms along with snow peas, this dish is a satisfying meal that covers all the nutritional bases. Other than cutting up all the vegetables and chicken, it goes together quite easily. I actually cut up everything the night before I wanted to make this, storing the vegetables in a container in the refrigerator and the chicken in a gallon food storage bag with the corn (or tapioca) starch. It was then very simple to prepare the next day.

Vegetables (feel free to substitute other vegetables your family likes, asparagus would work nicely):

1/2 medium onion, sliced

6 ounces sliced mushrooms, any variety will work

4-6 ounces snow peas with the strings removed

4-5 baby or 1 large bok choy

8 ounces sliced water chestnuts (the canned kind works fine)

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in either a 12 inch high sided skillet or a wok over medium high heat. Add the prepared vegetables and cook, stirring for 2-3 minutes until slightly softened. Remove them from the heat and set aside in a separate bowl.

Chicken:

2 medium sized chicken breasts thinly sliced (works best if the breasts are partially frozen)

2 tablespoons corn or tapioca starch

Toss the chicken slices in the starch and let sit for at least 30 minutes. Heat another tablespoon of olive oil, over medium heat, in the same skillet and add the sliced chicken. Brown on one side for 2-3 minutes and then flip and brown on the other sides. If they stick, you’re turning them too soon. And don’t worry, making the sauce in the pan will release those brown sticky pieces from the bottom of the pan. Total, this should only take about 5 minutes if you’ve sliced them thin enough.

While the chicken cooks, prepare the sauce:

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 tablespoons agave nectar

1/2 cup chicken stock

1/2 to 1 tablespoon sesame oil (depending on your taste, this is a very strong flavor)

1-2 tablespoons fish sauce (again depending on your taste, very salty flavor)

1 1/2 tablespoons corn or tapioca starch

1 teaspoon minced garlic

Whisk to combine before adding to the cooked chicken in the skillet. Stir constantly until sauce thickens, scraping the bits off the bottom of the pan. Stir in the reserved vegetables. Cover and let sit for 2-3 minutes which will reheat the vegetables. Serve with slivered scallion greens and rice. Makes 4 servings.