Blue Heron Local Cuisine

Cooking, Eating, and Drinking on the North Shore (and beyond)

Snowy Eggplant Parmesan December 19, 2008

Filed under: Recipe — blueheronlocal @ 4:01 pm
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I once lasted through a freak snowstorm in North Carolina, where it snowed an unheard-of two feet and everyone lost power, with a huge pan of eggplant parmesan. My truck was stuck in a snowdrift, and the two plows that the town of Chapel Hill found somewhere took their time to get to our little street, so I ate a lot of eggplant parmesan. I still love it though.
2 lbs. eggplant
breadcrumbs
cornmeal
parsley
rosemary
parmesan cheese
one onion
a ton of garlic
oregano
red wine
tomatoes
red pepper
ricotta
mozzarella

 

First slice a pile of eggplants into very, very thin rounds. Make breadcrumb mixture. This can be made from homemade breadcrumbs (toast stale bread until quite dead—but check for mold first), bought breadcrumbs, crushed-up cornflakes, wheat germ, anything. I usually use a combination of bought breadcrumbs and cornmeal. Add parmesan cheese, parsley, and rosemary to your breadcrumb mixture. Set up your breading station. You will need: a saucer or shallow bowl of milk, a bowl of your breadcrumb mixture in all of its improvised glory, the pile of sliced eggplant, and a cookie sheet that has been rubbed lovingly with olive oil. Dip both sides of the eggplant firmly in the milk and then in the breadcrumbs. Place on cookie sheet, overlapping slightly. Put the eggplant under the broiler for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the eggplant becomes crispy. Turn once, during the broiling process.

 

Preheat the oven to 350.

 

Next, make the sauce. Fry up an onion and a ton of garlic in olive oil over medium-high heat. When the onion starts to get limp, add fresh rosemary, parsley, oregano, and pepper. Saute for a few minutes and then deglaze the pan with last night’s red wine. Add a quart of your home-canned tomatoes. Add a red pepper. Simmer until you can’t stand it any longer.

 

Slice up your fresh mozzarella. You definitely need to try a few pieces to make sure it’s OK to serve to your loved ones. Stir some parsley in your ricotta cheese.

 

Set up your layering station. Slosh some sauce at the bottom of a casserole pan. Add eggplant, sauce, ricotta, and mozzarella until you reach the top of the pan or run out of ingredients. Save a little parmesan for the top. Bake for 20 minutes at 350F, or until cheese gets all sizzly.

 

The preheated stove will warm your kitchen. Drink some of that wine. Eat your eggplant parmesan. Wait out the snowstorm in style.

 

-goldlentil

 

A Tale of Sausage and Fairy Tale Eggplants September 18, 2008

Filed under: In Season,Recipe — blueheronlocal @ 2:02 pm
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So, you have fabulous artisan sausages from the farmer’s market – pork, portobello and asiago, or – our favorite at the Marblehead Farmer’s Market — lamb, red wine and feta sausage.

This is a special meat product – better sounding than scrapple (the Queen Mother of breakfast meats), a bit drier than pork sausages, juicy without being too greasy, and with the suggestion of feta cheese and wine.  And the little fuzzy sausage donors are raised in Vermont, where natural food was invented.

When I lived in Philly a decade ago, I used to go to fantastic markets and get really nice sausage; here’s a great way I learned to enhance the flavor and preserve the juices.  Sausage itself is a flavoring agent – the juices and even the glaze on a pan from browning them add vital meat essence to otherwise poisonously boring vegetarian sauces.

No Egret’s Beautiful Wine Sauce

3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 lb. sausage
1 cup decent Merlot or dry red wine (Spanish wines are really nice in this)
¼ cup (mixed) of fresh oregano, fresh basil, fresh rosemary
2 cloves of garlic
½  cup chopped heirloom tomatoes
½ cup chopped red peppers
8 oz. feta cheese or goat cheese
Your favorite Pasta

Lightly brown the sausage in the oil, and then add herbs and garlic (add more oil if necessary).  When it’s sizzling, deglaze with the wine and simmer for 10 minutes or so.  Then, add the feta (we used Israeli sheep’s milk feta from Trader Joe’s, because we forgot to buy local goat cheese from the goat cheese folks at the farmer’s market) and cut the heat.  Serve with raw tomatoes and peppers sprinkled overtop.  Serve with Pasta and fried fairytale eggplant.

 

Fried Fairytale Eggplant

 [Ed. note: Fairytale eggplant won the All-American Vegetable Selection in 2005. The last time an eggplant won that award was in 1939. You think I make these things up?]

Halve about 10 fairytale eggplant – the little light-purple ones – and coat in egg.  Roll in corn flour and fry until crisp and brown on each side.

 

-no egrets

(photos by Mike Martin)

 

The Chile Harvest August 19, 2008

Filed under: gardening,In Season,Recipe — blueheronlocal @ 2:06 pm
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(thanks, fiery-foods.com, for the photo!)

(thanks, fiery-foods.com, for the photo!)

The chile peppers are growing quickly in our garden. I watched no egrets pluck one small purple pepper off the stalk and eat it. “How is it?” I asked. “It’s a nice slow burn,” he said, as sweat started forming on his forehead.

 

We have found peppers easy to grow and beautiful on the vine. No egrets started them as seedlings and now they are ouside in pots. The longer you wait before harvesting them (or eating them straight from the vine), the hotter they get. Slicing up peppers is fun, but don’t touch anything until you wash your hands. The chile oil, called capsaicin, burns. Should you get chile oil on your face or on other sensitive areas, use rubbing alcohol to dull the burn. Aloe vera and yogurt are two other soothers.

 

Here are some tasty things to do with your harvest or CSA stash.

 
Heirloom Pico de Gallo

Take an assortment of heirloom tomatoes (Non-heirloom tomatoes work well too, just make sure they are local, otherwise you risk pale pink tomatoes with the consistency of celery.) and dice very finely. Chop up an onion (I prefer a red onion for this, no egrets prefers Vidalia onions) and as many of your home-grown peppers as you can stand. Add a clove or three of garlic. Put them in a bowl with a handful of cilantro. Douse liberally in lime juice.* Add a good dollop of olive oil. At this point I usually add cumin, paprika, and a little chili powder for a diversity of spiciness and leave it at that. You could also add salt and pepper.

*Lime note: I am not a true localvore, I just have localvore tendencies. To make this entirely local, you could use a local vinegar instead of lime. Green tomatoes can also add sourness.

Peach-Cucumber Salsa

(I adapted this from a recipe I found on Seasonal Chef)

Dice a bunch of peaches and a small cucumber. Add a bunch of cilantro, lime juice, 2 Tablespoons of apricot preserves, and as many home-grown peppers as you can stand. Sweet and spicy. No egrets says it’s all the rage these days.

 
No Egret’s Pad Thai Sauce

Saute 4 or 5 cloves of garlic and one Tablespoon of whole coriander in olive oil. Add your chile pepper of choice (sliced and seeded, if you want it milder, keep the seeds if you want it spicy). After the garlic gets all sizzly and light brown around the edges, deglaze the pan with 1/8 cup of rice wine vinegar. Add 1/8 cup of fish sauce and 1/8 cup of soy sauce. Add most of a jar of all natural peanut butter. Mix it all together and until the peanut butter becomes saucy.

 

Serve over one-and-a-half pounds of rice noodles. Add some combination of shrimp, tofu, chicken, julienned red peppers, bean sprouts, cilantro, crushed peanuts, cucumbers, and limes. It tastes good plain, too.

-goldlentil

 

Tradition! July 30, 2008

Filed under: food culture,Recipe — blueheronlocal @ 11:12 am
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Try not to break into “Fiddler on the Roof” at this title; however, I’ve spent a lot of time with my family recently, which has me thinking about food traditions. I grew up within the culinary limitations of a southern college town (pork and beer, y’all). My mother learned to cook in New England and Texas as a newlywed, although she grew up in a German Jewish family in northern California. I like to think of her cooking as as home-style regional fusion with a strong German influence.

 

We ate stews, Polish pork chops, pumpernickel bread, and Spanish rice. My mother took me to the farmers’ market on Saturday mornings. She made her own bread and pie crust, but claimed she could never make biscuits. I grew up thinking that cake mixes were an abomination, store-bought pie crusts were for the weak, and jar tomato sauce was not mentioned in polite company.

 

(thanks, pickyourown.org!)

(thanks, pickyourown.org!)

All was not blackberry-picking in the mountains for my native food culture, however. For each homemade jar of jam, there was Uncle Ben’s Rice and Campbell’s soup. As I grew up and learned how to eat and cook for myself, I discovered basmati rice, cilantro, and green peppers. I continued going to farmers markets on Saturday mornings and try to make my own pie crust, with varied success.

 

For me, growing up was a process of choosing food cultures to keep and to reject. (If I never eat aspic again, it will be too soon.) Here are a few simple recipes from my mother (below the line).

  (more…)

 

Eating Local on the Road July 15, 2008

Filed under: Farmers market — blueheronlocal @ 2:23 pm
Tags: , , ,
photo by no egrets

photo by no egrets

I just want to give a quick shout out to the Mass Pike farmers’ market program. I’ve been on the road a lot recently, eating lots of local food from barbeque to bagels, and Sunday night I was speeding toward the North Shore, looking forward to being home, but also thinking about my empty refrigerator, knowing I was way too tired (and cranky) to deal with the Big Chain Republican Grocery Store near my house. However, at the Lee service plaza, I found a farmers’ market and was able to buy fresh corn, tomatoes, zucchini, and squash. I came home across the river and made a beautiful Massachusetts-grown tomato sauce with zucchini, adding rosemary and thyme from my (very happy) garden.

 

-goldlentil

 

Two Easy Ways to Cook Fresh Greens July 4, 2008

Filed under: Recipe — blueheronlocal @ 12:49 pm
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So, you’ve got a bunch—no pun intended—of local greens and you’re wondering how to cook with them. These suggestions are for hardier greens, like arugula, spinach, bok choy, and other Asian greens (not lettuce).

 

Chop up your greens (say, a couple of handfuls per person) and sauté them in olive oil and garlic for a few minutes until softened. Add to an omelet with some pecorino or parmesean cheese.

 

Do the same as above, but after sautéing for a minute or two, add a little chicken stock, cover the pot, and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, until only a little stock remains. Add greens and stock mixture to cooked pasta, top with fresh parsley and freshly grated cheese. Yum! (You might add some local tomatoes, freshly chopped, to this summer pasta dish.)

(thanks, veggie gardening tips, for the photo)

 

-cara