Category Archives: Vegetarian

Cheesy Eggplant Pasta Bake

Adventures in eggplant are always interesting. Mostly because I usually feel like I don’t know what I’m doing so every time I cook it it feels like an experiment. I didn’t grow up eating it…ever. Even now I don’t eat it all that often. But with my weekly surprise farm boxes, sometimes they come my way and I’m hate throwing away food so you can bet I will find a way to cook it! I’m still teaching myself to cook it, and to love it. I’m not quite there yet, but we have reached an accord, the eggplant and I.

I would call this particular eggplant experiment a success. I mean, really, when you add sauce and cheese and pasta, you can pretty much throw anything in there and it will be good, am I right? The ricotta and marinara sauce mingle into a wonderful creamy coating for the noodles and the eggplant adds great texture (and a few vitamins, yay!). If you want a little less texture, I would recommend peeling the eggplant. I left the peel on and didn’t mind it a bit.

Don’t be intimidated by all the steps. While there are several components, they are all individually easy to make and the finished dish is pretty, hearty and great for serving a crowd, or sticking in your fridge to eat all week, or gifting it to friends or family who have had a busy day.

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Cheesy Eggplant Pasta Bake

Sauce:
28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
4 cloves garlic
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
1/4 cup chopped olives
Handful of fresh basil, roughly chopped or torn
Salt & pepper to taste

Crumb:
1/2 cup chopped kale, spinach or herbs
1 clove garlic
2 slices of sourdough bread (stale is best!)
Pinch of sea salt

For the bake:
2 cups diced eggplant (bite size dice) – 1 large eggplant or 2 little ones
1 tsp. sea salt
1 package penne pasta
16 oz. ricotta cheese
1/4 cup parmesan
8 oz. mozzarella

Heat oven to 375˚. Spray a large casserole dish with cooking spray or rub with olive oil. Set aside.

Put eggplant in a colander and toss with sea salt. Let it sit in the sink for 10 minutes while you make the sauce, pasta and crumb topping. The salt will help draw out the extra moisture so it isn’t mushy in your casserole.

In a medium sauce pan, heat a drizzle of olive oil. Add garlic and crushed red pepper. Cook a minute or so until fragrant but not browned. Add tomatoes and olives. Bring to a boil and then turn down and let simmer. Add basil. Add salt & pepper to taste.

Cook pasta according to package directions, removing about a minute earlier than usual so it’s still a little al dente. It will continue to cook in the oven so this will keep it from getting too soft. Drain and rinse with cool water. Set aside.

Combine kale, garlic, sourdough bread and sea salt in a food processor. Pulse to get a crumb mixture. Sauté in a large dry skillet until it’s slightly brown and crunchy. (You can also do this step in the oven, but keep a close eye on it so it doesn’t burn.) Set aside.

Spread paper towels on your counter top and put the eggplant on top of them. Press down on top with another layer of paper towels to remove the moisture that has accumulated. Heat a grill pan or large skillet over medium high heat. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil. Spread out eggplant evenly in one layer. Cook a few minutes on each side until slightly browned and tender but not mushy.

Build your casserole. Start with half the sauce in the bottom of the dish. Top with the pasta. Then the ricotta in dollops all around and then smear them around to form a layer. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Add eggplant. Then the other half of the sauce. Top with mozzarella, just torn into chunks. Finish with breadcrumb topping.

Bake at 375˚ for 25 minutes, or until top is crunchy and cheese is melty. Serves 6.

Right out of the oven. Mmmm.

Right out of the oven. Mmmm.

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Rustic Potato Leek Soup with Garlic Kale Breadcrumbs

I know, I know. It’s freaking 80 degrees and I’m making soup. So sue me. I like soup.

Moreover, soup is a great way to use up some of the vegetables that are literally taking over my kitchen. They won’t fit in the fridge. They are overflowing. My weekly farm boxes have been generous, wonderful, delicious. But…plentiful. Plentiful to the point of having to work to eat it all. We went out to eat once or twice this week so I was falling behind on the vegetable consumption project. I’m trying to be creative so we eat more than just gigantic salads every night but there has been salad. A lot of salad. So. Soup. I’m breaking up the salad and rice bowl parade with soup.

This is similar to potato soups I’ve made before but the yummy kicker on this one is the crunchy pile of – stick with me here – kale breadcrumbs! Crazy, right? They were delicious. Garlicky, crunchy, salty. They were the perfect complement to the soup. And who knows? The leftovers may find themselves gracing a salad too.

Rustic potato leek soup with crunchy kale breadcrumbs.

Rustic potato leek soup with crunchy kale breadcrumbs.

6 red potatoes, diced
2-4 leeks (mine weren’t very big so I used 4) – reserve a little thumb sized chunk of leek to blend with the breadcrumbs
2 cups cabbage, chopped
4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 stick butter
Salt & pepper
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. dill
1 bunch kale (I used red russian kale, but any variety will do)
1-2 large clove garlic
1/4 cup parmesan
2 slices sourdough bread
Sea salt (I used infused sriracha sea salt from lordsofsalt.com for an extra kick but any coarse sea salt will work just fine.)

Cover potatoes and cabbage with water in a soup pot. Add a big pinch of salt, bring to a boil, reduce heat a bit and cook until tender. Drain off most of the water. Using a potato masher mash potato mixture (a little or a lot depending on the texture you like – I left mine pretty chunky but if you prefer it really smooth, put it in a blender and puree and then return to the pot. Add broth, cream and seasonings to taste. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer.

While potatoes are cooking, sauté leeks in a pan with the butter. When soft, blend up in a blender or food processor with a little broth or cream to help it blend smoother. Add leek mixture to the pot.

Heat oven to 400˚. In a food processor, blend up reserved leek chunk, garlic, sourdough bread, kale, and a pinch of sriracha salt (or regular sea salt) until it makes coarse crumbs. Spread out on a large cookie sheet lined with foil or parchment and bake 15-20 minutes or until crunchy, stirring about every 5 minutes.

Taste the soup and adjust seasoning if needed. Serve in a bowl with a little (or big!) heap of breadcrumbs.

Serves 4-6.

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Berry Beety Salad

Nothing says summer to me as much as blackberries.When I was a kid I would stuff my face with as much as I could find, and wore the scratches and stains with pride. Here in Oregon, it seems they are always growing everywhere, along sides of roads, in fields, in random bunches here and there, in most people’s yards. We are going to have a bumper crop in our backyard this year. I don’t know anyone who actually planted their blackberries, but everyone seems to have some. Although whatever variety of berries in my yard isn’t quite ripe yet (we counted 5 black ones today, but the rest are still green or red), farmer’s market was bursting with them. I picked up some Marion berries (a local variety of blackberry) that tasted just like sunshine.

In my farm box this week there were greens, greens and more greens. I still have some lettuce from last week too, so I’ve committed to eating some sort of lettuce based meal every day this week in hopes of using it all up. Last night I roasted beets (also in my box this week, yay!), made a simple but lovely blackberry vinaigrette and ended up with this beautiful and delicious salad. When salads taste like this it is far from a hardship to eat them every day.

Beets, berries, goat cheese, oh my!

Beets, berries, goat cheese, oh my!

Berry Beety Salad

2-3 cups leaf lettuce
1/2 cup blackberries plus a few for dressing
3-4 beets
1-2 oz. goat cheese
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. dijon mustard
Salt & pepper

Heat oven to 400˚. Place beets on a baking sheet. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil. Bake for 30-40 minutes until a fork goes in easily when you stab them. Let cool. Peel if desired and cut into bite size pieces.

In a small bowl crush a few blackberries with a fork. Add balsamic vinegar, olive oil, dijon and salt & pepper. Whisk together to make dressing.

Pile lettuce on a plate. Top with beets and blackberries. Drizzle with dressing and top with goat cheese. Finish with a few grinds of black pepper. Serves 1-2. I ate all this myself, so multiply recipe accordingly.

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Cheesy Asparagus Tart

It’s summer! Well, maybe not technically for another week or so, but farmer’s market is booming and my CSA boxes started coming this week! Getting a box of fresh veggies from one of my favorite farms every week was one of the highlights of my summer last year and I could not wait to sign up again this year.

My first farm box was green, green, green. Lettuce, chard, kale, asparagus, spearmint, tarragon, spring onions, radishes and dried beans to round it out. There will be lots of salads this week. But first, this lovely tart I found in my Forest Feast cookbook. As far as using up fresh veg this summer, I have a feeling this book will be my constant companion. Beautifully illustrated and easy, easy recipes that really highlight the veggies. Asparagus season is almost over so this one was at the top of my list. It didn’t disappoint.

As usual, I played fast and loose with some of the ingredients based on what I had on hand. Feel free to do the same.

Asparagus Tart

Asparagus Tart

Asparagus Tart
(from The Forest Feast, by Erin Gleeson)

1 sheet puff pastry, thawed (takes 30-40 minutes to thaw at room temp)
15-20 spears of asparagus
Goat cheese (or other soft cheese of your choice, she used Brie in the original recipe)
1 egg, beaten
Dried Italian seasoning or herbs of your choice
Salt & pepper
2 tbsp. chopped walnuts or pine nuts
1 tbsp. capers
1-2 tbsp. parmesan cheese (optional)

Preheat oven to 375˚. Unfold the puff pastry and place on a cookie sheet (greased or lined with parchment). Spread cheese over the puff pastry. Drizzle the beaten egg over the cheese. Place asparagus spears in a row. Sprinkle with other ingredients. Bake for 20-25 minutes until edges are golden brown. Remove from the oven and let sit for a few minutes before slicing.

We served this with a salad and fruit for dinner (also perfect for lunch or brunch!). Using one sheet of puff pastry serves 3-4 people. Easily doubled for more, or can be cut into smaller pieces for appetizers.

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Grapefruit Sesame Salad

Last night after dinner, my boyfriend came home and the first thing he says to me is “what’s so sticky all over the counter?” Oops. My grapefruit got away from me. I’ll admit to getting getting a little wild while segmenting my grapefruit all fancy like you’d see on Chopped. After that,  the the salad looked so good I just forgot about all the flying drops and dove right in. And why wouldn’t I? This thing is a sweet and savory masterpiece.

Salad season is upon us, as evidenced by the wonderful spring lettuces now available at most farmer’s markets. I picked up a giant head of butter lettuce last week and some of it found its way into this salad. For variety (and because it was there) I also added some baby spinach. You can use whatever kind of greens you like or have lying around. If you are short on time or energy for taking apart messy grapefruit, you can buy segments in a jar in the produce section of most grocery stores. Look for one that doesn’t have added sugar.

I don’t remember which magazine I was reading when I found this dressing. It sounds so simple but the combo of grapefruit juice and sesame oil is just wonderful. All it needs is a little salt and pepper to give it a little punch. The goat cheese adds some creaminess and tang and oh my, it’s all so good. I know it sounds weird, but next time you have a pile of greens staring at you, give this one a go. So simple. So yummy.

Grapefruit Sesame Salad

Grapefruit Sesame Salad

Grapefruit Sesame Salad

3-4 cups mixed salad greens (I used half spinach and half butter lettuce)
1 pink grapefruit (or grapefruit segments in a jar if you prefer)
2 oz. goat cheese
1 cup chickpeas, rinsed
1 tsp. sesame oil
Salt & pepper

Place greens and chickpeas in a bowl.

Over a small bowl, segment grapefruit, reserving liquid. I do this by cutting the peel off and then using a knife to get the segments out. Squeeze the leftover membranes over the bowl to get the rest of the juice out. You’ll probably have at least 2-3 tablespoons. Add the grapefruit segments to the greens. Add sesame oil and a pinch of salt and pepper to the small bowl of grapefruit juice. Whisk to combine.

Toss the greens and chickpeas with the dressing. Top plates of salad with crumbled goat cheese. This makes enough for 2 people, or one super hungry salad machine.

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Polenta Stuffed Portobellos

In anticipation of the upcoming season, I signed up for the same CSA I used last year. For those of you who haven’t heard of CSA, it stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and basically means you sign up with a local farm and receive a share of whatever they happen to pull out of the ground every week during the growing season. My family and I loved doing this last year. Not only did we have enough food for $25/week that we had to work to eat it all, but we got to try a lot of new things that we may not have otherwise purchased, and everything was just about as fresh and delicious as it could possibly be without going out and picking it yourself. I am not a talented gardener, and I don’t have room to do it even if I was so this is the perfect way for us to have local, farm fresh veggies all through the summer and fall.

Shortly after signing up, I happened upon this gorgeous cookbook, The Forest Feast, by Erin Gleeson, and it was just bursting with simple and gorgeous vegetable dishes. I couldn’t resist. For those who know me, you know I have a tragic cookbook addiction and it had been a while since I had fed the beast. I needed it. Really, I did.

This is the first recipe I made out of my new little treasure. I made a few minor changes based on the contents of my fridge, but I have to say, these are deceptively simple. For a vegetarian dish I found it to be filling and complex, and the mushrooms add a nice “meaty” texture that was quite satisfying. Her photo shows a beautiful portobello with a dainty scoop of polenta and a sprinkle of veggies. Mine were less pretty since I just piled everything on there (who are we kidding, the creamy polenta is the best part!), but they were every bit as delicious. I’m guessing after she took that photo she piled some more stuff on hers too.

Don’t like mushrooms? I would make this same recipe with sweet bell peppers or a slab of grilled eggplant (and probably will!)

Polenta Stuffed Portobellos (yeah, I went a little nuts with the polenta, so sue me)

Polenta Stuffed Portobellos (yeah, I went a little nuts with the polenta, so sue me)

Polenta Stuffed Portobellos
(from The Forest Feast)

4 portbello mushrooms
1 cup polenta
1/2 cup grated parmesan
2 tbsp. butter
1/2 pound brussels sprouts
1 red onion
Olive oil or butter
Salt and pepper

Heat oven to 375˚. Put portobellos on a baking sheet. Remove stems and discard. Drizzle each with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes, until tender.

While portobellos are cooking, thinly slice brussels sprouts and red onion. Heat a skillet to medium, add a drizzle of olive oil and/or a tbsp. of butter and cook slowly to caramelize, about 15 minutes (turn down to medium low if veggies are browning too quickly, you want them nice and soft, not scorched).

Meanwhile, bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Add a dash of salt. Add polenta and stir. Turn heat down and simmer for 10-15 minutes until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat. Add 2 tbsp. butter and parmesan cheese. Stir well until everything is melted. Add salt and pepper to taste (I always wait until after I’ve added the cheese since it can sometimes be very salty on its own).

Assemble mushrooms. Start with the mushroom, add a big spoonful or two of polenta and top with vegetables. Finish with a sprinkle of cheese if desired.

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CSA Week 18: Baby Beets and Greens with Creamy Polenta

Last week I picked up my last CSA box of the season. I will miss them! The best (and sometimes the most challenging) thing about these weekly farm boxes has been getting some unusual things that I would not normally buy. Like these baby beets with their greens. Baby beets? Greens? What the heck do I do with those? Luckily my farmer is great at offering suggestions for some of the more seldom seen ingredients. She suggested I cook them more like hardy greens such as rainbow chard, which is exactly what I did. I sliced the little beets, chopped the greens and stems and gave them a nice sauté in a bit of butter and olive oil. If you can’t find baby beets, you can use the regular ones. Try to find them with some fresh looking greens, chop them up and sauté along with the beets. Or if you’re not a beet fan, substitute some rainbow chard instead.

One of the things I love best with greens is polenta. It soaks up all the nice juices and adds a richness that balances the greens so nicely. I topped mine with some feta and olives and a few shakes of date balsamic. This stuff is wonderful. If you can’t find date balsamic (I bought mine at ilovedatelady.com), just use any balsamic glaze instead. The little touch of sweetness at the end is just lovely.

Creamy Polenta with Baby Beets & Greens

Creamy Polenta with Baby Beets & Greens

Baby Beets and Greens with Creamy Polenta

One bunch baby beets with greens
3 tbsp. butter, divided
1 tsp. olive oil
Salt & pepper
1 cup polenta
1/2 cup castelvetrano olives (green Italian olives)
Feta cheese
Balsamic glaze

In a medium saucepan, heat three cups of water with a pinch of salt to a boil. Add the polenta and stir. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for about 10 minutes, until liquid is absorbed and polenta is tender. Stir in 2 tbsp. butter, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix until butter is melted and polenta is creamy.

Meanwhile, heat a skillet over medium heat. Melt one tbsp. of butter with the teaspoon of olive oil. Chop beets and their greens and add to the skillet. Sauté, stirring occasionally until beets are tender, about 5-7 minutes. If you like them a little softer, let them go a couple more minutes.

Start with a scoop of creamy polenta. Top with beets and greens, olives and a few crumbles of feta. Drizzle with balsamic and finish with a bit of sea salt if desired.

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Roasted Veggie Salsa

Salsa is my favorite condiment. It goes way beyond chips for me. It goes in omelets and frittatas, it goes in salads, it lands on top of chicken and fried potatoes. It gets eggs poached in it like this. I almost always have a batch of it in my fridge. You never know when you’ll need some.

It may be the first week of fall, but the weather is still nice and farmer’s market (at least here in Oregon) still has beautiful tomatoes. All of the ingredients for this showed up in one of my weekly farm boxes and on the grill and into the fridge it went immediately. This is a great way to use up ripe tomatoes if you have a bunch. After you turn them into salsa they last for weeks. If you don’t happen to have fresh tomatoes, or if you read this in the middle of winter when there are no good ones available, just use a can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes instead. It works like a charm, and best of all, you can always have one hiding in your pantry for when the salsa monster rears its head.

This recipe is very similar to my normal, un-roasted veggie version, but kissing those veggies with a little heat and getting that char flavor in there does add more depth and oomph. Take the extra few minutes and give it a shot!

I need more chip to dip.

I need more chip to dip.

Roasted Veggie Salsa

1/3 – 1/2 red onion, cut in big wedges
1 jalapeno (or less if you don’t like it spicy)
4-5 tomatillos, peel husks and wash
3-4 tomatoes (or you can use a can of fire-roasted tomatoes)
1-2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
A handful of fresh cilantro (1/3-1/2 cup or so)
1-2 tbsp. fresh lime juice

Veggies on the grill pan. You could also do them on an actual grill, or under the broiler.

Veggies on the grill pan. You could also do them on an actual grill, or under the broiler.

Heat a grill pan (or grill, or broiler) and coat with cooking spray. Lay out all your vegetables. Let them grill until they are starting to turn black. Turn once or twice to cook on other sides. Your onion may stay in a wedge or it might fall apart. It will be fine either way. Put everything in a blender. Add seasonings, lime juice and cilantro. Blend until everything is chopped and combined. If you prefer a coarser salsa, pulse in a food processor instead of using the blender.

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Marinated Veggie Pasta Salad

The potluck is big in my family. At every family gathering there is a tasty spread, sometimes more varied than others. There was the year of six potato salads. All very similar since we all use my grandma’s recipe with our own little twists. But that’s another story. While I love potato salad, I usually opt to bring something for potlucks that is a little more temperature friendly. Call me paranoid, but mayonnaise-based food sitting out in the sun or at room temperature for hours makes me nervous.

This pasta salad is the answer to all of your potluck questions (or what to eat for your midnight snack questions). It tastes great hot cold or in between. It can be made ahead. As the veggies and noodles marinate in the beautiful vinaigrette, they just improve with time. And you get to use up all the extra veggies in your fridge. There is no downside here. Make this. Make it today. Don’t wait for the next potluck. You will love having this in your fridge.

Marinated Veggie Pasta Salad

Marinated Veggie Pasta Salad

Marinated Veggie Pasta Salad

1 or 2 summer squash or zucchini, diced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup sliced red onion
1/2 cup olives, halved
1 tbsp. capers
1-2 banana peppers or sweet peppers, sliced or diced
2 tbsp. pesto
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
Salt & pepper
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1 package rotini

In a large bowl combine pesto, olive oil, red wine vinegar and capers. Add salt & pepper to taste. Add all veggies, stir to coat and let sit for at least an hour.

The veggies. Marinate at least an hour for the most flavor.

The veggies. Marinate at least an hour for the most flavor.

Cook pasta until al dente. Rinse with cool water to stop cooking. Add to bowl with veggies and cheese, toss to combine. Check seasoning and adjust if necessary. Eat!

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CSA Week 8: Spiralized Cucumber and Beet Salad

Week eight brought many goodies, including corn, zucchini, summer squash, green beans (including a weird flat variety that was a little fuzzy), tomatoes, tomatillos, basil, potatoes, eggplant, and lemon cucumbers.

In addition to this I still have a ton of cucumbers and beets from the previous week. In a stroke of serendipity, as I was pondering this dilemma, I came across this recipe from Skinny Taste. I used it more for inspiration than anything else, but it was a great idea, with a little Greek flair, and it gave me a reason to pull out my seldom-used spiralizer.

My spiralizer. A strange little contraption that is pretty simple. Stick the veggie on the little peg, crank the handle and end up with curly veggie ribbons.

My spiralizer. A strange little contraption that is pretty simple. Stick the veggie on the little peg, crank the handle and end up with curly veggie ribbons.

A spiralizer is a fun little machine that turns veggies into curly little ribbons. If you don’t have one, this recipe works just fine if you just dice the veggies or cut into julienne strips instead. I enjoy using this thing, although looking at Gina’s photos made me think perhaps I should have bought the kind she has instead. Mine is not bad, but it works much better on firmer veggies. My beets made perfect little ribbons, but since my cucumbers were a week old, they were a little soft, so I struggled a bit getting good spirals, but in the end it worked fine.

Spiralized salad, before mixing.

Spiralized salad, before mixing.

Spiralized Cucumber and Beet Salad

2-3 cucumbers
2-3 beets
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup kalamata olives, halved
Juice of half a big lemon or a whole small one
1 tbsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper
Pinch of dry or fresh oregano
1/2 cup feta cheese

Trip ends from cucumbers and beets and spiralize, dice or julienne. I peeled the beets but not the cucumbers. Add to salad bowl. Keep in mind that once you mix this all together it will all turn pink because of the beets so for a pretty presentation, you can keep the elements separate in the bowl and then mix right before serving.

Add tomatoes and olives. Squeeze lemon juice and drizzle olive oil over the veggies. Add seasonings and give it all a quick toss. Top with feta if desired.

And now it's all pink! But delicious!

And now it’s all pink! But delicious!

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