Grilled Eggplant and Lemon

by Anne Maxfield on July 30, 2015

Accidental Locavore Grilled Eggplant and LemonIf you’re part of a CSA, you know that there are always a couple of veggies that appear once too often to really inspire you. For the Accidental Locavore, that vegetable is eggplant. It’s not that I don’t like eggplant, I actually love the stuff; it’s just that my husband doesn’t. This, from bon appétit, looked interesting (to me anyway) and serves 4:

  • ½ small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 small eggplants, sliced into ½-inch-thick rounds
  • 1 tablespoon za’atar 
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 lemon, very thinly sliced
  • 1 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 1 tablespoon Sherry or white wine vinegar
  • 1 small garlic clove, grated
  • 1 cup labneh (Lebanese strained yogurt), or Greek yogurt

 

Accidental Locavore Soaking Red OnionPrepare a grill for medium-high heat and lightly oil grate. Soak onion in ice water 10 minutes to mellow its flavor. Drain, pat dry with paper towels, and transfer to a medium bowl.

Meanwhile, toss eggplant, za’atar, 3 tablespoons olive oil and salt and pepper in another medium bowl. Grill eggplant, turning often, until tender and charred in spots, 5–8 minutes; transfer to a cutting board and let cool slightly. Halve any large rounds; set aside.

Accidental Locavore Grilled Lemon SlicesIn a small bowl, toss lemon with 1 tablespoon olive oil and salt and pepper. Grill lemon, turning often, until lightly charred in spots, about 2 minutes. Transfer to cutting board and let cool slightly. Cut lemon slices in half and add to bowl with onion. Stir in mint, Sherry vinegar, and remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil; season with salt and pepper. In another small bowl mix garlic and labneh. Spoon labneh mixture onto a platter and arrange eggplant and onion mixture over it. Serve and enjoy!

My verdict: A huge hit! This was so good that Frank, the eggplant avoider, had seconds, declaring that it was the best thing I’d made in a long time. It was delicious! The grilled eggplant was a nice contrast to the creamy labneh and the crunch of the onions. We were also lucky because the eggplant, mint and onions were all from the farm, so fresh and local. I need to remember how good grilled lemons or limes are and use them more often! I used labneh which I got at Murray’s in the city, you can often find it in better grocery stores, but if you can’t, a thick Greek yogurt would be fine. If you don’t have access to a grill, either a grill pan or roasting everything on sheet pans in about a 400° oven would probably work fine. Give this a try and see if it’s as big a hit at your house.

 

 

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What’s Your Go-To Comfort Food?

by Anne Maxfield on July 27, 2015

Accidental Locavore Kerry's BookAfter thoroughly perusing Kerry Altiero’s new cookbook Adventures in Comfort Food, the Accidental Locavore started thinking about comfort food. While there are some foods that would be almost universal, on every list there are bound to be others that just don’t appeal. For me, chicken (or any other kind of) pot pies don’t even make the top 100 and there’s a reason for that. When we were kids and my parents went out we would get pot pies. Not the good ones (if there are such things), the frozen kind that were three-for-a-dollar. Play-Doh like crusts, requiring a jack-hammer to open them, revealing a sludgy beige mess with the occasional pea, carrot chunk and once in a blue moon, a horribly overcooked morsel of chicken.

Frank on the other hand, puts pot pies much higher in the ranking. “If it’s done well, it can be thoroughly enjoyable – a meal in itself.” Also on his list, meatloaf, liver with onions and bacon, chicken, mashed potatoes, pasta – especially spaghetti and meatballs and lasagna. He thinks some form of pasta is on almost everyone’s list.

Raw liver on wooden boardLike pot pies, liver would never be on my list of comfort foods. We agree on mashed potatoes, and spaghetti and meatballs. I’d have mac and cheese right up there – actually almost anything with cheese, or potatoes, or pasta. All that really-bad-for-you white food. Toast. A good roast chicken is a great meal, but I’m not sure it’s comfort food to me, but corn on the cob sure is (as are perfect tomatoes). Polenta?

Accidental Locavore Noshis BurgerAs much as we love a good burger (and fries), that doesn’t make the list either. Ditto pizza. Frank has a good point when he says that comfort food requires sitting down and enjoying it, however, there are lots of really memorable meals that we’ve sat down and enjoyed that were truly memorable but hardly comforting.

Don’t you think nostalgia plays a huge roll? I’d probably put apple sauce on my list because it was something we always got when we were sick. Not Jello – too artificial, but definitely ice cream cones, especially in silly flavors like peppermint stick or loaded with what we knew as jimmies (sprinkles to the rest of you). For many people, peanut butter fits that bill, but I’ve baited one too many mouse traps for it to have any appeal.

Comfort food is often food our mothers cooked well. Frank’s argument for liver is because it was one of the dishes his mother mastered. My mother cooked a lot of things well, but some of them, like her tiny noodle casseroles, just showed up on the plate one night too often.

Accidental Locavore CokeAnd beverages definitely fall into the comfort category. Besides hot chocolate, and maybe tea, the king of the comfort food drinks has to be what their competition calls “Big Red from Atlanta” a classic Coke, really cold, in a glass bottle.

Accidental Locavore Chocolate Chip Cookies IIWhat have I forgotten, or what do you want to defend? Chocolate chip cookies? Twinkies? Post a comment and let us know your list. Enjoy!

 

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Thai Fried Rice

by Anne Maxfield on July 23, 2015

Accidental Locavore Thai Fried Rice (2)The beauty of fried rice is that it’s great for all those small bits of leftovers you have cluttering the fridge. The Accidental Locavore had a bunch of stuff that needed to be put to good use and it was lunchtime…. Make sure everything is prepped and ready to go, this comes together really quickly! Generously serves 1:

  • 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • ½ cup meat (thinly sliced pork, chicken, shrimp, etc)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced or run through a press
  • 1 extra large or jumbo egg, well beaten
  • 1-2 cups cooked rice, preferably Thai jasmine rice
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce (or more to taste)
  • 1 good squirt Sriracha (or more to taste)
  • 2 scallions, chopped

Garnishes

  • Cilantro, chopped
  • Lime wedges
  • Thai basil
  • Mint, chopped
  • Cucumber, thinly sliced
  • Soy sauce

Accidental Locavore Making Thai Fried RiceGather all your ingredients near the stove. Heat a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat, until a drop of water evaporates on contact. Add the oil to coat the bottom of the pan. If you need to cook any of the meat, add that now and stir-fry until just cooked, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until golden, about 30 seconds. Pour in the beaten egg and cook until scrambled. Add the rice, pressing it against the pan and then stir-frying it for about 2 minutes. Add the fish sauce, Sriracha and scallions and toss until well-mixed, about 30 seconds. Taste and add more fish sauce or Sriracha as needed. Serve with your choice of garnishes and enjoy!

My verdict: Since my favorite Thai fried rice is about 3000 miles away (in Rancho Mirage, CA), this is a fine substitute! This is really just to get you started–feel free to add whatever is taking up room in your fridge. The day I made it for lunch, we had half a wonderful Thai sausage from Jacuterie, roast pork and a rotisserie chicken, so they all went in along with some broccoli, and a mushroom or two. Any vegetables can be tossed in, just be sure to add them early if they need to be cooked. I love cilantro, mint and Thai basil on top, a squirt of lime and maybe a dash of soy sauce. And don’t let the wok scare you; if it’s well seasoned it’s super easy to clean! What would go in your fried rice?

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A Big Pig (Roast)

by Anne Maxfield on July 20, 2015

Accidental Locavore Mark and PigIf you’ve ever been to a pig roast, you know it’s always a great feast with a golden brown pig taking center stage! Center stage in this case was a very large grill where the pig was perfectly roasted for hours until it was falling off the bone tender.

Accidental Locavore Pig Roast GuestsThe Accidental Locavore and Frank decided to celebrate a couple of birthdays ending in zeros, with the pig, a tent, and a large group of friends. As the invitation said, “the pig needs accompaniments, so please bring a dish…” and everyone stepped up to the plate. It helps that quite a few of our friends are great cooks, so we had no doubt that we’d all be eating well.

The pig was left in the hands of Mark, of Hudson Valley Sausage. Our chef friends, threatened to boycott the pig roast if Mark wasn’t doing the pig, so that was a no-brainer. He arrived early Sunday morning, towing the roaster with a 100 pound pig. The dog happily followed him up the driveway, eagerly licking anything that dripped from the roaster.

Accidental Locavore Pig Roast CharcuterieWhen Mark returned to finish the pig, he brought a big platter of some of his charcuterie. Early arrivals, sitting around chatting or waiting to play tennis, were treated to a wonderful variety of soppressata, pepperoni and salamis along with some provolone. All delicious with the pepperoni, being my personal favorite! Now, we’ve got to go over to Highland and check out his store.

But wait there’s more…and more amazing charcuterie! John, one of our chef friends, who also teaches at the CIA, brought a platter with his selection of prosciutto, ham and salami (and a copy of his book on charcuterie, which I can’t wait to dive into). Now, I don’t want to start any cured meat wars among friends, but this was also some spectacular food! The salami, which I got to enjoy the following day, was one of the best I’ve ever eaten anywhere!

There were lots of other great side dishes, including some wonderful Asian style baked beans, a bunch of terrific cole slaws, and what looked like a pasta salad with goat cheese but turned out to be thinly julienned squash. I’ve got to get the recipe for that and some of my other favorites!

Accidental Locavore Rif With an EarAnd not to leave out the star of the show—the pig was wonderful, tender and juicy, cooked to perfection. Several of us, jumped right in and grabbed chunks of the crunchy skin to munch on. Even Rif was happy, munching on one of the ears (his favorite treat).

If you still had room, there were lots of desserts! Great brownies, a citrus tart that everyone demolished (so I never got to taste it), along with cakes, tarts, cookies and watermelon cut into spears-easy to pick up and go!

We had a wonderful caterer, As You Wish, who took care of everything, so Frank and I got to sit back and enjoy the party. It was such a good time, we’re already thinking about next year—maybe a lamb roast?

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