Fall is definitely in the air here in California’s central valley. Already I am seeing winter squash at the Farmers Market and pumpkins being harvested in several fields adjacent to the river. Day and night time temps have cooled by at least ten degrees and my garden’s production has cooled down too. I’m getting a squash, a cucumber and a few eggplant every now and then.
Recently a friend shared an eggplant marinade with me that used coriander, aka cilantro leaves, soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, garlic and ginger. It sounded pretty good there were a couple of eggplants in the garden that would be ripe soon so I printed out the recipe, picked up some fresh coriander at the farmers market and waited for the eggplants to get eat’n size.
The eggplants finally being big enough to pick, it was time to give the new recipe a try. It’s a pretty simple recipe, although there is a 45 minute marinade time so it’s not something you can throw together last minute. You put all the marinade ingredients in to a blender jar, hit the switch until its well mixed then rub marinade into the eggplant’s cut side, place them in pan with remaining marinade and wait. The recipe recommends microwaving the marinaded eggplants but I’m not much for microwaving veggies so I grilled them. The link to the recipe can be found here.
All in all I thought the dish turned out pretty tasty. I was worried that I might have put in too much ginger but it seemed to be just the right amount and for those of you who who don’t especially like the strong flavor of coriander/cilantro I didn’t feel it was overpowering in any way. I think that a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds would be a nice way to finish the dish. I not sure If I like this marinade better than my favorite green onion marinade but it’s a nice alternative I’ll use again. You can find my recipe for Sesame Eggplant with Green Onion here if you want to try a nice eggplant marinade but really don’t like coriander/cilantro.
As I started writing this I got curious about coriander/cilantro. I found out it is not only an herb it is also considered a spice, it has been cultivated and used as a medicinal and culinary herb for at least 3,000 years tracking back to the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern regions. It’s Asian use goes back several thousand years. Its also unusual as all parts of the plant; root, stems, leaves, flowers and seeds can be used. I found the site The World’s Healthiest Foods to have good information for those of you, who like me always, want who want to learn more.
It all started this morning when I harvested more eggplant and squash. What to do with it? Last week I made Annie\’s Grilled Vegetable Lasagna again so I knew that was out. Then I remembered that I had a couple of yellow bell peppers that a friend had given me. So now I have eggplant, squash and peppers that need to be used in some way. What could I cook that would be a little different?
Then the idea popped into my head. A simmered dish using some nice free range chicken legs that I had just gotten on sale, diced eggplant and squash, sliced peppers, chopped onion, garlic and tomato, all flavored with some nice Madras Curry powder and fresh thyme.
The process; salt and pepper the chicken and brown in a little olive oil on all sides. Remove the chicken, add the eggplant and squash and lightly brown. Add the onion, peppers and garlic and cook until the vegetables just begin to soften. Add the tomato, about 1 tablespoon of Madras Curry powder (more if you really like the curry flavor to dominate) and a few sprigs of fresh thyme. Add the chicken legs, pushing them down into the vegetables and simmer for 30 minutes to an hour. The meat on the legs should be easy to pierce with a fork and should come off the bone easily. When the meat was almost done I added about ¼ cup dried currants and continued simmering the mixture for about another 5 minutes. Remove the chicken from the vegetables, let cool a little, then remove the meat and chop into pieces. This dish, like all simmered dishes, will be more flavorful if you let it sit in the refrigerator, after cooking, for a day or so before you serve it.
I did eat a portion served over steamed brown rice today right after cooking it and it was tasty, but I know when I reheat it for dinner on Tuesday it will taste even better.
If you have a harvest you are wondering what to do with give this simple idea a try. You can use just about any combination of summer vegetables. I recommend using a dark meat cut of chicken or turkey if you do add meat since those cuts have more flavor and will add to the rustic taste of this stew. If you use white meat cook it separately, chop it and add it after the vegetables are cooked, otherwise the meat will tend to be dry. If you don’t want to use meat add some cubed tofu. If you don’t have your own summer harvest to deal with, pick up some fresh veggies at your Farmers’ Market. You’re sure to find a good selection there and you’ll be helping the farmers with their summer harvest.
If you have been reading my posts you know that the Ichiban Japanese eggplant I planted in a pot on my patio has been the best producing eggplant I have ever had. It has supplied a neighbor friend and myself with more than enough eggplant. We have made all kinds of dishes with it. A couple of weeks ago I made up a vegetable lasagna that doesn’t use any noodles, just grilled veggies, cheese and some very delicious Trader Joe’s Tuscano Marinara Sauce. This week I decided to grill the extra veggies that have been ripening faster than I can eat them and store them in the refrigerator with the idea that when I had enough variety I would make another vegetable lasagna.
Today was the day that version-two of the lasagna took shape. It is cool and windy outside with the sun popping in and out from behind the clouds. If we were having a normal August it would be hot outside by now and I certainly wouldn’t consider turning on the oven. Not even the small convection oven I used today. But it’s not hot and so the lasagna creation began. I gathered the grilled eggplant, Butterstick zucchini, and red peppers from the refrigerator. Next I sliced a beautiful red onion I had just bought at the Farmers’ Market and sautéed it in a little olive oil until it was beautifully browned and tender. A trip out to the patio yielded fresh basil leaves.
Lasagna is a process of layers; a layer of marinara (which I strained the excess liquid out of since there are no noodles to absorb the liquid), then the eggplant topped with whole basil leaves and mozzarella cheese, another layer of marinara, zucchini, basil leaves, peppers, onions and cheese. I finished it off with the last bit of marinara, mozzarella and some shredded Parmesan. I baked the lasagna at 350° for about 30 minutes, or until the top was browned. I let it sit for about 10 minutes before I cut it into serving size pieces.
This is one of those great recipes that you can modify to fit the ingredients you have. If I had had some ricotta I would have added a layer. Pine nuts might add some nice texture. I might even be tempted to try a pepper that has a little heat in it. I do love the red bells for their sweetness but it might be nice to add just a little kick to the mix. I also think I’ll add a little fresh parsley next time since I have some in my garden. And, since the eggplant has started a whole new round of flowering and producing, I’m sure there will be a next time.
If you give my grilled vegetable lasagna a try let me know how it turned out for you or how you modified the ingredients to fit your likes and vegetable abundance. There’s more on grilling vegetables here. I’m always looking for new ways to cook vegetables and would love to share your ideas with my readers.
Abundance, when defined in an ecologic way, refers to the relative representation of a species in a particular ecosystem. That’s what’s going on in the ecosystem that is my backyard. My Japanese eggplant is producing like crazy, which is good and bad at the same time. How much eggplant can one person eat? The other veggie that is producing heavily is a Butterstick zucchini. This abundance is one of the reasons I sometimes wish I didn’t’ have my own plants and could just buy what I really want at the Farmers’ Market. But then there’s that other part of me that just loves being able to pick something and then take it straight to the kitchen. This year that is the side that won out so, I’m dealing with my abundance by eating a lot of eggplant and zucchini and sharing with my friends for as long as they will accept. Abundance has brought about need, the need to find interesting ways to fix both zucchini and eggplant.
About three years ago I found this recipe in Bon Appetite and have been using it every summer since. But, while the recipe is only focused on eggplant preparation I want to recommend that you also try it on summer squash. For this version I used the Japanese eggplant and the Butterstick zucchini in almost equal amounts slicing them to ½-inch thickness then placing them in a zip-lock with the marinade and refrigerating it for the afternoon, if you can, for 1-hour minimum. Bring the package room temperature before you grill. I usually take it out about an hour before grilling time. Grill until they are browned nicely on one side then turn. As in the original these are good right off the grill or served at room temperature.
Enjoy your weekend and don’t forget that shopping your local Farmers’ Market is the best way to buy the freshest fruits and vegetables possible. The only way to get fresher is to grow your own. Another bonus of shopping the Farmers’ Market is you can sample before you buy and you can’t do that at your local market.
Sesame eggplant & zucchini
Sesame Eggplant with Green Onions
Bon Appetite, Jun 2007
½ cup olive oil
4 large green onions coarsely chopped
2 T soy sauce
2 t Asian sesame oil
2 t sesame seeds
2 eggplants (about 2 ½ lbs cut crosswise into ½-inch thick slices
Puree olive oil, chopped green onions, soy sauce, and sesame oil in blender. Transfer mixture to small bowl. Stir in sesame seeds; season mixture with pepper. Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.
Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Generously brush 1 side each eggplant slice with green onion mixture. Cook until tender and charred in spots, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer to platter. Serve warm or at room temperature. Can be made 4 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.