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.

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.

Ginger Chicken with Bok Choy

Here’s another revamped recipe from the chicken bible; if you like Chinese food as much as I do, you’ll love this one. Tangy, slightly sweet sauce, succulent chicken, and just tender bok choy add up to a savory recipe for the entire family. And I thought it was as good as anything I might order at a restaurant. Follow the steps, get the chicken and bok choy chopped, fresh ginger grated before starting and it’s a quick, easy dish to make. I sliced the chicken and put it in the marinade before chopping and grating first so it could sit and tenderize while I did everything else. FYI, want to make it vegan, use firm tofu slices instead of chicken. This dish would also be good with pork, some mushroom, water chestnuts, bean sprouts, etc. The sauce would be great with any number of vegetable/meat mixtures. Serves 4.

First mix the marinade for the chicken in a medium size bowl (at least 4 cups):

3 tablespoons soy sauce substitute*

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 tablespoon date syrup

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1/2 teaspoon cornstarch

Whisk together and set aside. Cut up:

2 large or 4 small chicken breasts (around 1 pound of chicken)

Slice as thinly as possible. TIP: Freeze the breasts for 15 minutes before cutting to make them easier to slice. Mix the sliced chicken into the marinade and let sit while preparing the remaining ingredients.

In a small dish, combine:

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

2 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon olive oil

Mix the ginger mixture well and set aside. In another bowl (at least 1 cup), combine for the sauce:

1/4 cup chicken stock

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoon date syrup

3 tablespoon soy sauce substitute

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes *(Optional)*

Whisk the sauce together and set aside.

Wash and prepare:

1 pound bok coy

Cut off root bottom and thoroughly wash stems and leaves. Remove as much of the green as possible while leaving the tougher white stems and branches. Slice the stems into 1/2″ pieces and set aside. Chop the greens roughly and set aside in a separate bowl. (The greens cook very quickly and will be added separately from the stems.)

Now we cook; and this is the quickest part of this recipe, only about 10 minutes until the dish is ready to serve so if cooking rice to go with the dish, put it on before you start preparing the ingredients. First, in a 12″ skillet, over medium high heat:

1 tablespoon olive oil

When the oil is shimmering hot, add:

1/2 the chicken slices

Add the chicken pieces but not the marinade (there’s won’t be much of the marinade left in the bowl anyway). Stir the chicken constantly as it cooks through. This should only take about a minute depending on how thinly it was sliced. If the slices are more than about 1/8″, it may take a little longer. Remove to a separate dish and cover. Repeat the process with the remainder of the chicken.

Into the now empty skillet, over medium high heat:

1 tablespoon olive oil

When shimmering hot, add:

Bok choy stem slices

I jar, drained, banana pepper slices

Cook, stirring every 30 seconds or so, until bok choy is softened slightly and starting to brown, about 2-3 minutes. Push vegetables to the edges of the skillet and add:

the ginger/garlic mixture

Stir for roughly 30 seconds in the bottom of the pan until fragrant. Add:

bok choy greens

Stir to combine the bok choy, greens, and ginger mixture and cook approximately 30 seconds until the greens are slightly wilted. Add the chicken back into the pan along with any juices and then add:

the sauce mixture

With the heat at medium high, stir constantly until the sauce thickens, about 30 seconds. Garnish with sesame seeds and/or scallion greens. Serve.

*If like me you are not only allergic to soy but also can’t use coconut, Whole Foods has started carrying a line of soy and coconut free sauces made by Ocean’s Halo. They have many of the same ingredients as my soy sauce substitute but also include cane sugar.

Oriental Pork and Vegetables

I’d intended to make pork with eggplant but . . . I used all the eggplant in the eggplant with garlic sauce yesterday! So instead here’s pork and vegetables. As in many of my recipes, feel free to substitute the vegetables for whatever ones your family prefers, eggplant would be great. Makes 4 generous servings.

Ingredients for sauce:

1/2 tablespoon olive oil

3 tablespoons minced garlic

1 tablespoon minced (or grated) fresh ginger (adjust to your family’s taste)

1 small can diced chilis (I used mild but whatever heat level your family enjoys is fine)

1/2 cup soy sauce substitute (see recipe under sauces and condiments)

1 teaspoon fish sauce

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon corn or tapioca starch (or arrowroot) dissolved in 2 teaspoons water

Ingredients for the pork and vegetables:

2 tablespoons olive oil

16 ounces pork, diced

2 tablespoons corn or tapioca starch

2-3 baby bok choy, cleaned and chopped

1 medium onion sliced thinly

1/2 grated carrots (or 2 large carrots cut on the bias)

1 medium yellow pepper, seeded and cubed

1 small can sliced water chestnuts

First, put the pork cubes into a gallon food storage bag with the 2 tablespoons of corn or tapioca starch. Shake to coat the cubes, making sure all the pork gets some starch, and set aside for 15-20 minutes (I’ve left it overnight and it worked fine).

In a large skillet, heat over medium high heat:

2 tablespoons olive oil

When hot, add the pork cubes and fry, turning frequently to brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Remove cubes from the pan and set aside covered (they will continue cooking). Add the vegetables to the pan and cook over medium heat until they start to soften but still have some crunch, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and add to the pork.

In a small saucepan or skillet, heat the 1/2 tablespoon oil then add the garlic, ginger, chilis (drained) over medium heat. After about 1-2 minutes, add the soy sauce substitute, fish sauce and sesame oil. Cook until it comes to a boil, about 1 minute and then add the slurry of corn/tapioca starch and water. Stir to combine and continue stirring until thickened, should be almost immediately. Remove from heat and pour over the vegetables and pork. Stir to combine and plate, garnishing with sliced scallions and sesame seeds. Serve with brown rice (or white rice if preferred).

Moussaka (Greek Lasagna)

My mother loved moussaka. When I made it for her, I used ground lamb, ricotta cheese, eggs, and homemade pasta sauce. Things and times have changed so here’s one that’s dairy, gluten and egg free and uses jarred (or homemade if you have the time and desire) sauce. Just in case, I’m including my recipe for pasta sauce.

First, start the tomato sauce if making homemade by heating in a small Dutch oven:

1 tablespoon olive oil

Add to it when hot:

1 diced medium onion

1 diced sweet pepper, any color

1/2 cup sliced carrots (or grated)

6 ounces shitake mushrooms

Stir to combine, lower heat to medium and cook until the onions and mushrooms are sweating and onion is translucent. Add:

1-2 teaspoons minced garlic

32 ounces small diced tomatoes

16 ounces tomato puree

1 teaspoon mixed Italian dried herbs (basil, marjoram, thyme)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Cook over medium low heat for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally. This gets rid of much of the water in the tomatoes so the sauce can thicken. If it boils too vigorously, reduce the heat to low. When reduced by about 1/3, add:

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 tablespoon agave nectar

Use an immersion blender to cream most of the vegetables, leaving a few whole. I do this because then the eggplant slices sit better in the sauce but it is optional. In a large skillet, heat:

1 tablespoon olive oil

When hot add:

1 pound bulk Italian sausage (or if you want this vegan, diced tofu)**

Cook the sausage through and then drain off the fat and add to the tomato sauce, stirring to combine. Set aside. If using jarred sauce, this will take more than 1 large jar.

While the sauce is cooking, peel and thinly slice:

1 large eggplant

Place the slices on a large, sided baking sheet in a single layer and salt generously. Once salted, another layer of eggplant can be added on the top of the first, again salting generously. Place a slightly smaller baking sheet on top of the eggplant and then weight it down with large cans. Let sit at least 30 minutes, 60 is preferable.

After sitting, wash each eggplant slice to remove the salt and whatever liquid was expelled from the slices. Dry between paper towels. Heat in a large skillet (12 inch) or flat griddle:

1 teaspoon olive oil (just to coat the bottom of the pan)

When hot, add eggplant slices until the bottom is covered but the slices have room to move. Let brown for a minute or two and then turn and brown the second side. Repeat until all the slices are browned.

Still while the sauce is cooking, add to a large saucepan:

1/2 cup olive oil

Begin heating over medium high heat. Add:

3/4 cup gluten-free flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon allspice (or nutmeg)

Whisk to combine. Cook over medium low heat for 2-3 minutes to cook the flour then add, 1 cup at a time:

3 cups oat milk (or any other non-dairy milk except soy)

Whisk each portion of milk into the flour and cook, whisking every minute or so, until the white sauce is thickened. It should be the consistency of a pudding or mashed potatoes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray the bottom and sides of a 9×13″ baking pan with non-stick spray. Line the bottom of the pan with slices of eggplant.* Add a layer of the meat sauce and repeat ending with a layer of eggplant (3 layers of eggplant and 2 layers of sauce). There may be a little meat sauce left over. Slowly pour the white sauce on top of the last layer of eggplant (I didn’t quite have enough eggplant to cover the entire top but it still worked okay). The white sauce on mine was only about 1/2 inch thick but if your pan is deep enough, use all the white sauce, it’s that yummy on the top! Sprinkle the top with:

1-2 cups grated parmesan cheese

Place baking pan on a large baking sheet because if it’s full, it will bubble over and put in the oven. Bake for 30-45 minutes or until the middle is bubbling. Let cool for about 15-20 minutes before slicing.

*Don’t think you have enough eggplant? Peel and thinly slice 1-2 medium to large Russet potatoes and place those on the bottom layer of the moussaka, using the eggplant for just other 2 layers.

**I used sweet Italian sausage but feel free to use any ground meat.

“Irish” Potatoes

I hit 200 recipes on the site the other day! This is a recipe I learned from a dear departed friend of mine. She called it Irish potatoes. Easy side dish to prepare and very delicious. My grandson would rather have this with a meal than practically anything else. He especially likes to have the leftovers for breakfast the next day with eggs (and bacon if his mother will let him!).

For 4 people, I use:

2 medium to large sized russet potatoes, peeled and diced*

2 medium sized sweet potatoes, peeled and diced (I had some purple on hand but any sweet potato will work)

1 medium onion, diced

1-2 sweet peppers, diced

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1/4 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Place the diced potatoes in a pot of cold water, just covering the potatoes, and cook until a fork will pierce but not split the pieces. If the potatoes cook to fully done, they will be mushy when you fry them.

In a skillet large enough to have a single layer of potatoes (about 12″) heat over medium heat:

1/4 cup of olive oil (or other if preferred)

Add:

Diced onion

Diced pepper (I used the yellow and orange because I can’t digest the green)

Cook until the onions and peppers are softened. Add the potatoes and garlic, salt and pepper. Stir to combine and cook for about 3-5 minutes depending on the size of the potatoes before turning and repeating. A crispy outside and soft inside is what we want here but hard to achieve if you flip the potatoes too often or too soon. Also difficult if there’s not enough oil in the pan. Might have to reduce the heat if the sweet potatoes start to brown too quickly (they will burn easier than the russet chunks). The dish is ready when a majority of the potatoes are crispy and golden brown. Feel free to garnish with chopped parsley.

*Try to make the dices roughly the same size so that they will all cook at the same speed. Having large and smaller pieces will give you mushy fried potatoes since the smaller ones will cook so much faster.