eggplant

The Accidental Locavore: How it Started

by Anne Maxfield on February 20, 2017

Accidental Locavore Farmbasket Week 3For those of you who don’t know my locavore story, here’s how it all got started…

As you know, sometimes in life, opportunities come from the most unlikely places.

The Accidental Locavore was created when, in the summer of 2008, my local farmer, Paul, decided not to open his farmstand.

He decided to focus instead on the farmers’ market in Millbrook, and building his wholesale business. Understand that I never make it to the (only on Saturday mornings) Millbrook market. Besides, I don’t have the prerequisite black Range Rover matching black retrievers, or proper riding boots(although, since this was originally posted, we have rescued a black dog reputed to have some retriever in him). And as much as I love farmers’ markets world-wide, when the weather is nice I’m on the golf course. 

What to do?

Spoiled for years, by being able to run down the road to grab a couple of amazing tomatoes, I came up with an interesting idea (necessity being the mother of invention).

Would Paul consider putting together a basket of whatever was fresh that week, that I could pick up on Friday afternoons?

A deal was struck, and soon picking up that mystery basket became the high point of my week! The only restrictions I put on the basket were that when corn & tomatoes were ripe, they had to be in every basket.

The lesson from this was that I really enjoyed the challenge of working with ingredients that were incredibly varied, came from down the road (doesn’t get more locavore than that!) and not necessarily what I would have chosen.

More fun was figuring out how to cook with these great ingredients in a manner that would honor their peak ripeness!

Another test was not revert back to the same-o same-o every week (for example, those few weeks when we were overrun with eggplants or corn). In the weeks and now years since then, I’ve written about what was in the weekly baskets, and what delicious meals they turned into!

I hope it inspires you to buy local and fresh–be your own locavore.

And please feel free to comment and share your favorite recipes.

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Tasting Le Bon Magot’s Condiments

by Anne Maxfield on January 18, 2016

Accidental Locavore Le Bon Magot ChutneysThe Accidental Locavore met Naomi at the spice blending class at La Bôite. She’s the brains behind Le Bon Magot, a new line of condiments.

As the website says: “Le Bon Magot – ‘the hidden treasure’ – celebrates a family’s lifelong culinary adventure across Africa, Middle East and South Asia.”

Currently there are three different products and I was eager to try them all.

So eager, that when I picked them up from Naomi, I grabbed a plastic spoon from a coffee shop and sampled them all while I was waiting for my train!

There’s a white pumpkin and almond murabba (a sweet preserve). If you like pumpkin and can’t wait for fall and all the pumpkin-spiced whatever, this is going to be your favorite. It’s light and not too sweet, with cardamom, vanilla and the crunch of almonds. Try it with pork, or top some yogurt with it for breakfast with a kick.

Accidental Locavore Le Bon Magot LineNext up was the brinjal caponata. A riff on traditional caponata, this time the eggplant teams up with cumin, curry leaves and capers. My first thought was to pair it with lamb chops, so I did. Of course lamb and eggplant are always a good match, so this was kind of a no-brainer (and yes, it was delicious).

If you wanted to go in another direction, it would be great slathered on some toasted bread in a version of a bruschetta.

Last but not least was the tomato and white sultana chutney. The minute I tasted this in Grand Central, I ran over to Murray’s Cheese for some Cabot Clothbound Cheddar!

As it turned out, the guy waiting on me was the same one from a few minutes before. He tried the chutney and loved it so much that I gave him the label from the bag Naomi had given me and told him Murray’s should start carrying it.

It was great with the cheddar! Since I had the lamb chops going, I also tasted them with the chutney.

It was even better than with the caponata!

In the spirit of experimentation, we also put some cream cheese on a baguette and topped it with the chutney and liked that too. It would make a simple and delicious appetizer the next time we have dinner guests.

Naomi says to use it in place of ketchup, so there’s a burger waiting in my future.

Accidental Locavore Le Magot RaisinAs a special treat, I met with Naomi recently and she gave me a sneak preview of what she’s cooking up next.

There’s a delicious savory granola and a raisin and rose petal compote. The compote would be wonderful with a good chèvre on a nice olive crisp, like the ones from David Lebovitz’s book. Hmm, I think there’s some in my freezer…

Also in work is the sultana’s lemon-saffron preserve with caraway and crystallized honey and coming in the summer, a blackberry compote to take advantage of the summer’s bounty – I can’t wait! If you’d like to try them, the first three are available on the website. Enjoy!

 

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The Great Peeler Showdown

by Anne Maxfield on October 19, 2015

Accidental Locavore Eggplant and PeelersAs you may or may not remember, when the Accidental Locavore put peelers that julienne to the test, I promised to test some of the many peelers I had when I got my hands on some eggplant, a vegetable that always gives me grief when it comes to losing its skin.

That day is here, promoted by a request from Frank for a batch of eggplant parm and a lot of beautiful eggplants at the farm. I decided to run the test with only the Y-shaped peelers, since there were only two eggplants and close to a dozen peelers. First up was everyone’s recommendation, the Kuhn Rikon Original. While it’s good on potatoes, fuggedaboudit with eggplant. One down.

Even worse was “the cheapie” winner of the julienne contest. Maybe it’s ok on Asian eggplants but it wasn’t anywhere near passable with the Italian variety. Two down and I’m starting to feel a little discouraged (and thinking Frank’s days of eggplant parm may be limited), so I decided to move onto the more expensive models.

Accidental Locavore Uberchef PeelerThe Uberchef did well in the julienne test, and has been great with potatoes and carrots, but eggplant? Amazing!! I kept peeling the first victim because it was so easy! I think it was because the peeling blades have tiny (and very sharp) teeth. The eggplant had met its match!

Thinking it might be all about the serrated blades, I went for the final challenger, what I called the artsy one. This was a set of three that I bought at MOMA because I liked the packaging and the idea that each one was for a different purpose. “Use the black one and you will easily manage to peel even the thinnest of skins.” And they were right! The black one went through the second eggplant as quickly and easily as the Uberchef. Suddenly, I’m not minding peeling eggplant!

Since I had run out of eggplant and was a little curious about some other hard to peel produce, I grabbed something I would never ordinarily just peel – a peach. With peaches and tomatoes, the easiest way to peel them, especially if you need to do a few of them, is to cut a shallow X into the bottom, put them in boiling water for 30 seconds and the skins (usually) just slip off. But in the spirit of experimentation, I gave it a shot with my two winners. While not quite as easy as with the eggplant, they both peeled the peach pretty easily and quickly. It’s something to consider if you only have one or two to do.

Accidental Locavore Reject PeelersMy verdict: If you only have room (and budget) for one, the Uberchef is definitely worth hunting down. For things like eggplant, tomatoes and peaches, having the serrated blades is the way to go. Since none of my classically shaped peelers had serrated blades (and they’re the reason I was testing peelers in the first place), I didn’t put any of them to the test and may just clean them out of the drawer, keeping artsy, cheapie and Uberchef close at hand.

Update: Since I cleaned the drawer of all the crappy peelers, the Uberchef was right there when I needed to peel a cucumber (which it did easily) and then, because I could, I julienned my cuke straight into my salad—genius!

 

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A Simpler Eggplant Parmesan

by Anne Maxfield on September 3, 2015

Accidental Locavore Grilled Eggplant ParmAlthough it’s not a terribly difficult dish, the Accidental Locavore was experimenting with a simpler eggplant parm. Instead of breading and frying the eggplant, I opted for peeling it, slicing it thinly and grilling it. It’s still not a low-calorie dish, but slightly less of a fat delivery system…This makes about 4 servings:Accidental Locavore Grated Mozzarella

  • 2 medium-sized Italian eggplants, peeled and sliced ¼” thick
  • 1/3 cup olive oil, plus more for greasing the pan
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 small ball fresh mozzarella, grated (about ½ pound)
  • Grated Parmesan
  • 2 cups of your favorite tomato sauce
  • Fresh basil

 

Accidental Locavore Grilled Eggplant SlicesHeat a grill (or grill pan) to medium-high heat. Put the olive oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl, add the eggplant and toss gently until well-coated. Grill the eggplant for about 2-3 minutes a side, until it’s browned and tender.

Accidental Locavore Finished Eggplant ParmPreheat the oven to 350°. Lightly grease a gratin pan with the olive oil. Coat the bottom of the pan with tomato sauce. Add a layer of eggplant and top with mozzarella. Sprinkle with Parmesan and 4-5 basil leaves. Repeat with the tomato sauce, eggplant, mozzarella, Parmesan and basil. You should get 2-3 layers depending on the size of your pan. Top with more tomato sauce, mozzarella, Parmesan and your best-looking basil leaves. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the cheese is melted and starting to brown and the eggplant is warmed through. Serve and enjoy!

My verdict: A really good version of eggplant parm! While the sauce seemed a little thinner than normal, it may just have been that batch of sauce. I’m not sure if breading the eggplant would act as a thickener on the sauce, but it wasn’t a huge difference and certainly didn’t take away from the flavor or the cheesy goodness. What was different was that I wasn’t frying eggplant forever (and then cleaning up afterwards) – just popped it all on the grill. Doing this also gave me a chance to take all the peelers I’ve been collecting for a test run, so stay tuned for the results – kind of surprising.

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