Friday, August 17, 2012

Eggplant Cheese Pie with Zucchini Crust

Abundance!  That's what I'm feeling with the eggplants this year!  Oh, my goodness - they're so gorgeous, voluptuous, seductive.
But tomatoes are not plentiful - local organic ones, anyway.  There's been a late blight that attacked the tomatoes at the farm, so while we have nice cherry tomatoes, there are few large ones to combine with the eggplants for the usual things like rattatouille, or caponata, my go to recipes to use up eggplant.

But one of my all time favorite cookbook authors is Jane Brody.  And this is a great recipe from her Good Food Book.

1 1/2 Tbsp. butter
1 medium onion chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 pound eggplant, unpeeled, cut into 1/2" chunks
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. oregano
3/4 tsp. dried basil - but I used a handful of fresh basil
dash of cayenne to taste
1 small zucchini, unpeeled, sliced
2/3 c. (one small can) evaporated skim milk
1 egg
8 ounces part skim mozzarella, grated

Saute onion, garlic, and eggplant for a few minutes.  Cover skillet and continue cooking for about 5 minutes till eggplant is soft.  Add salt, oregano, basil and cayenne and stir well.

Line bottom and sides of a greased 10" pie plate with zucchini slices.  Carefully spoon eggplant mixture over them.

In a bowl combine milk, egg, and cheese.  Pour over the vegetables.

Bake at 375 for 30 minutes.

I've fiddled with this - as you're welcome to do.  Today I had fresh basil rather than dried.  I had cheddar cheese, but no mozzarella. I doubled the recipe because I know we will want more of it and I had plenty of the ingredients.  I had jalapeno and Hungarian wax peppers so topped the pie with those for flavor and color.  It just came out of the oven and I can't wait to dig into it!

Bon appetit!  Thank you, Jane!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Startled By Blessings

At the end of a recent Sunday service at church, the part where we hear the blessings that send us out into a new week, I suddenly perked up.  I like the services.  It's not that I sleep through them.  Traditional words and prayers are meaningful for me.  Our priest does a great job with his sermons.    Our church is known for its wonderful music.  But I do sometimes find by the blessing that my mind is heading to the next thing - gathering the grandchildren, who has to go where, etc.  But this time, instead of hearing something familiar, like "Let us go forth into the world rejoicing in the power of the spirit." , there were new words, startling words.

     May God bless you
                 with discomfort at easy answers,
                 half-truths, and superficial relationships,
                 so that we may live deep within our hearts.   Amen

     May God bless you
                 with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation,
                 so that we may work for justice, freedom, and peace.   Amen

     May God bless you
                  with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain,
                  rejection, starvation, and war,
                  so that we may reach out our hand to comfort,
                  and turn pain into joy.     Amen

     May God bless you
                 with enough foolishness to believe
                 that we can make a difference in the world
                 so that we may do what others claim cannot be done.  Amen

I believe it's really important that whatever our faith path is, it should lead us to mindfulness and compassion.  There is enough work in the world to keep us all busy for the rest of our lives!  I thought these blessings were well written charges.

They were found in a program for the Integrity Eucharist, tweaked a bit by  FatherBlake Rider for the Christ Episcopal Church bulletin in Poughkeepsie, NY.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Celebration of Two

Today my little grandson Ethan turns two.  What a wonderful time of life!  Though this age has a reputation for being "terrible", I think it is only because children at this age are absolutely boundless in their energy and curiosity - and it's hard for most of us to keep up and keep them out of trouble.

Ethan loves to eat everything.  I mean everything.  I think he's tried bugs.  He puts puts his face in the grass and comes up with a clump of it.  I took little bits of stone out of his mouth the other day.  His mom was cooking last week and he grabbed a handful of mushrooms and onions and popped them in his mouth - Ummmm, good!  he pronounced.

He loves to climb and get places that are not readily accessible.

He loves to see how things are put together.

He really loves to run.

Anything that someone else is doing becomes immediately attractive - he wants to use the same equipment or tools - vacuums, brooms, lawn mowers, rakes, washing machine, art supplies.

He wants to wear the same clothes.  Shoes have lately become the big deal.

So much of what they want to do is potentially hazardous, so we have to intervene;  I find that modifying the activity and allowing some safe exploration makes for happier days - but it also makes for tiring days.  I sometimes come home and take a nap.

But I am loving this age.  I am in awe of the enthusiasm and energy, the ability of children at this age to soak up knowledge.  I think as I grow older I appreciate it more and more.

Happy Birthday, Ethan!  Hats off to all who share in the adventures of  the two year olds in their lives!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Tea Eggs - a Great Picnic Food

Today  members of my Hudson Valley Etsy Team gathered for a picnic at the Beacon Waterfront.  We planned a no fuss event where each person could bring their own plates, beverages, etc. and a dish to share.  It made it easy for everyone, including those folks who weren't sure until the last minute.

Some people had posted what they planned to bring - there was a nice array of salads and a couple of desserts.  I decided to bring tea eggs, for their protein and their drama.

This is a  recipe I found 40 years ago in a Time Life cookbook: Chinese Cooking.  I've been making it ever since.  The first time I made them and put them on a buffet table I noticed no one was taking any.  I'd put them in a crystal bowl and when I asked a guest if they'd tried them they said they didn't realize they were to eat.  They thought they were marble - a decoration.

When my husband I  backpacked  we routinely made these for our trips.  They carry so much flavor and are easy; no shells to clean up and pack out, no need to carry salt and pepper, and good nourishment.

So here's how to make them in case you want to add them to your repertoire: the basic recipe is small - I usually double or even quadruple it.

6 eggs
1 Tbsp salt
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Whole star anise or 8 sections
2 tsp. black tea (2 tea bags)

Hard boil the eggs in water.   Drain.  Let cool.  When they can be handled, tap them all over with the back of a spoon till shells are cracked.  Return gently to a saucepan and then add 2 cups of cold water and the salt, soy sauce, star anise, and tea.  Make sure the eggs are covered - so if you need a little more water, that's ok.   Cover the pan and bring to a boil, and then reduce heat and simmer for 2 to 3 hours.  Check periodically and add more water to cover them if  needed.  Turn off the heat and leave the eggs in the liquid at room temperature for at least 8 hours.  You can then refrigerate them if you're not going to use them for another day or so.

Just before serving remove the shells carefully.  You can serve them whole or cut in halves or quarters.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Arrugula and Free Bees

An acquaintance once offered us a "wild" arrugula they had growing in their garden.  "But be careful, " she said, "it will grow everywhere!"
We love arrugula - how could you ever have too much?  And while Al does his battles with it in the  flower beds, I'm often saying "But wait, we might need that clump!"  Our neighbor comes over to pick it and barters off some of his tomatoes or kale.  I put it in our salads almost every evening from May to November.

This variety doesn't look much like the kind you buy in the store.  The leaves are thin, deeply cut.  Toward fall, they get smaller and smaller.  But they have a sharp peppery bite to them, a little sturdier texture.  They're great in sandwiches.  One of my favorite lunches is a pita pocket with some hummus, arrugula, and crisp cucumber slices.

And now we are loaded with bees!  I'm thrilled!  The reports of dwindling honey bees in the last few years has been upsetting.  But you couldn't prove that by how many hang around the pretty little yellow blossoms of the arrugula.

The plants reseed themselves and come back every year.  The only maintenance is removing them when they're not wanted.  They make me smile - a treat that shows up for the taking - for us, for our neighbors, and the bees !