Thursday, July 30, 2009

kitchen curator: Mark Bittman's 101 salad ideas

I'm starting a new label, "kitchen curator," in which I'll link to other people's good ideas. I mostly blog about my own invented recipes or modifications of someone else's recipes, but sometimes I run across food inspiration too good not to share.

Mark Bittman, food columnist for the New York Times, and author of a giant cookbook called How to Cook Everything, has a lot of interesting ideas. Recently, he turned in this gem for the NYT - "101 Simple Salads for the Season."

I'm quite intrigued by #2 and #4 and #8, and I even made the preserved lemons for #48 the other night, but have yet to assemble the rest of the salad. Maybe this weekend...

I love the "crouton" idea in #44, where he makes a grilled cheese sandwich and chops it into bite-size salad garnishes. I would use whole-wheat bread, of course. ;)

I would love it if he came up with 101 soup ideas this fall! Wonder if he takes requests...

Sunday, July 19, 2009

can you tell what I'm making?

At about 3:20, I cut some eggplants into small cubes, tossed them in olive oil and some sea salt, and placed them on a baking sheet.

I also wrapped up an ear of corn in aluminum.

It's 3:35 now, and both are going in the oven.

UPDATE 1: (3:50) Now that the eggplants and corn are cooking, I wanted to add that I'm using 3 different kinds of eggplants. I can't resist all those cool and weird-looking varieties at the Farmers Market! This dish will have American eggplant (the familiar purplish-black, "globe" eggplants), a Filipino eggplant (like the one in my hand here), and a Rosa Bianca eggplant.

UPDATE 2: (3:57) I just put a pot of water on the stove, to bring to a boil, and now my oven timer is beeping, so I'd better go check the eggplant and corn.

UPDATE 3: (4:02) The eggplant tastes great! Time to start working with some of the other ingredients: onions, a jar of roasted red peppers, heirloom cherry tomatoes, and capers. I left the corn in the oven, but turned the heat off. I'm also starting to wonder why I thought it would be such a great idea to cook today, when it is super, super hot outside.
UPDATE 4: (4:17) I keep nibbling on the eggplant chunks, and I'm still waiting for the water to boil! I did slice my cherry tomatoes into halves, though. It was about 40 cherry tomatoes - I counted them, just for you. :)

Speaking of nibbling, when we got home from the Farmers Market today, we took a bunch of the black seedless grapes we'd bought, put them in a freezer bag, and stuck them in the freezer. Mike and I just tasted the frozen grapes, and they were so sweet and refreshing. Highly recommended!

UPDATE 5: (4:30) Finally! The water is boiling, so I put in the whole wheat penne pasta. In the meantime, I also sliced up 3/4 of a yellow onion into half rings, and I'm working on caramelizing it (on medium-high heat in 2 tablespoons of olive oil) now.

UPDATE 6: (4:40) OK, the pasta is done, and it's sitting in the colander in the sink. While it was cooking, I remembered the corn (by some miracle), got it out of the oven, and sliced the kernels off into a bowl. I hold the tip of the stalk with my left hand (using an oven mitt), resting the other end of the cob in the bowl. Then I simply cut the corn off with a knife. I'm going to cut a few canned fire-roasted red peppers into strips next.

UPDATE 7: (4:44) Still caramelizing, so there's time for this comment/hint. This dish traditionally has a kind of sweet-sour flavor, which most recipes achieve by adding sugar. I'm not going to do that, of course. I'm hoping to get there through the sweetness of caramelized onions, corn, and yellow (along with some red) cherry tomatoes.

UPDATE 8: (4:50) That's enough caramelizing! I just turned down the heat and added the tomatoes and roasted red peppers to the onion pan, along with a clove of minced garlic, a teaspoon of salt, and 3 twists of the pepper grinder.

UPDATE 9: (4:58) I have added the eggplant cubes to the pan now, along with about 3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar. The tomatoes are cooking down nicely. And I had a know what else is kind of sweet? Tarragon! I don't have any fresh, so I threw in a teaspoon of dried tarragon. And a dash of red chili flakes, because I'm going to use fresh mint leaves later, so this dish will play around with hot-cool and sweet-sour.

UPDATE 10: (5:05) Final additions to the sauce: the corn, 4 teaspoons of capers, and 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts. Funnily enough, it's hard to tell the pine nuts from the corn kernels once they're all mixed in!

UPDATE 11: (5:14) The answer - I'm making eggplant caponata. Sort of! It's going to be a cold pasta salad instead of a spread. The idea occurred to me because A.) it's really hot outside, and B.) eggplant caponata is often served at room temperature or chilled. Now that the caponata sauce is done, I have combined it with the penne noodles in a container, and it's all in the fridge chilling. I'll let you know how it is in a couple of hours!

UPDATE 12: (8:00ish) It was good! The picture below shows the finished dish, garnished with shaved Parmesan and some mint sprigs. It really did have the sweet factor - so much so, that next time, I might skip the tarragon and use some more savory herbs. Still, we liked it because it was so refreshing and summery.

Mucho thanks to Mike for all the pictures he took and uploaded!