Eggplant and Potato Curry

Lots of September eggplants mean I am looking for great recipes to enjoy them to the fullest. This happens to be one of my favorite ways to do just that.  It is a vegetable curry, now don’t be put off by that; no long list of spices: only a couple and some fresh ginger in it and it isn’t too spicy or wild tasting. I have simplified it a bit and as a bonus I give you my best eggplant frying tip. Yeap, it is vegetarian but that can be a nice change of pace from all that meat. I serve it over brown rice and it is very satisfying. You can feel virtuous enjoying this savory entree and use all that fresh fall produce.

This recipe came from my favorite Indian cookbook Indian Cooking for Pleasure by Charmaine Solomon.  This 70’s bible for Indian cookery is out of print and very pricey to buy on line. I have used literally dozens of recipes from it. She knows her spices and chooses great recipes that always work.

You can use big fat eggplants as I did this time or smaller ones; you will just need more of them. These days there are many interesting smaller eggplant varieties; any will work here; just cube, no need to peel.

Eggplant and Potato Curry

1 medium eggplant

2 large potatoes

2 decent sized tomatoes or most of a can of chopped tomatoes

1 large onion diced

1 small red pepper and 1 poblano pepper, seeded and diced.

1 bunch spinach or a big handful of roughly chopped kale

3-4 Tbsp. mild olive oil

1 ½ tsp. grated ginger, I freeze mine and just grate it frozen

½ tsp. cumin seeds, crushed in a pestle

½ tsp. ground turmeric; I did a rounded measurement; a tad more than level

1 tsp. sea salt

1 tsp. brown sugar

Directions: Slice eggplants into ½ inch rounds and cut into cubes. Peel and dice the potatoes into a bit less than ½ inch rounds. Chop the tomatoes. Chop the onion. Seed and chop the peppers (you can use any level of spicy pepper you like; the original recipe said green chilies). Wash and chop the spinach or kale (I used kale this time; subs in great)

Heat 3 Tbsp. mild oil in a large frying pan. Fry the cubed potatoes until golden; you will need to turn them a few times. Remove from pan. Add the eggplant and fry until cooked; once the oil is soaked in I wait a half minute and add a couple tablespoons of water to the pan; let the water steam off and the eggplant should be done; if you have to do that again; go ahead. This trick saves adding a lot more oil to keep the eggplant from sticking/burning. When mostly done remove from pan.  It will cook more later so it is okay if edges and bits are not fully done.

Note: you could fry the eggplant at the same time in a separate pan to save a few minutes if you are in a hurry; might take a touch more oil that way; worked for me.

Then, add a touch more oil to the same (now empty) pan and pour in the chopped onion and fry until soft and turning golden. Add the cumin, turmeric and grated ginger. Fry for a minute, stirring. Add the chilies, tomatoes and salt, stir well and add back the eggplant and potatoes. Tip: when I make this in a wide 12 inch frying pan I don’t have a big enough lid; I use an upside down metal pizza pan and it makes a great lid.

Top with the spinach or kale. Stir after a minute, cover and cook on low heat for a few minutes until the spinach is soft, adding up to ½ cup water to keep it from sticking/burning. Add the brown sugar and cook the curry uncovered until it is thick; no more than 8-9 minutes. Serve with Indian bread or brown rice. As I haven’t really found time re-create my favorite Indian breads I served mine over brown rice.  eggplant curry on plante

Blueberry Tartlets, Love Em!

Blueberries rule my universe right now; still fairly plentiful and still sweet.  The flavor can’t be beat. My guy loves them and I have to agree; they are the tastiest and healthiest fruit.  I am in love with these tartlets. The crust to fruit ratio is perfect and I made them with a minimum of sugar as these ripe berries are already quite sweet. I got my fruit at Aldi’s for a great price; every grocery store has blueberries by the pint. They are very good for your body; full of fiber, low in sugar, and full of other nutrients. They are especially you have blood sugar issues.  See http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/287710.php for more information.

Tips: Try not to bake in a hot kitchen; it makes it hard to roll out dough or even make the crumb mix. If it gets above 76 degrees you should turn on the air to keep your crust from acting weird.  I had to put mine in the freezer for a bit to help it hold the desired shape.

Don’t eat these tartlets fresh from the oven; they should be cooled to just warm or room temperature or even a bit chilled. They were perfect, just like a big pie only tiny each is one individual dessert.  You could certainly serve them with vanilla ice cream. We had them that way the other night and that was a treat indeed.

My apologies: these pictures were taken in a hurry; hot day and there was no spare time so they are looking rustic and crumbs dot the baking pan but frankly rustic tartlets are lovely. Be as tidy as fits your needs.

 

Angie’s GF Blueberry Crumb Tartlets: makes 6

Crust:

1 c plus 2 tbsp brown rice flour mix (at bottom of recipe)

2 Tbsp. sweet rice flour

1 Tbsp. granulated sugar

½ tsp xanthan gum

¼ tsp salt

6 Tbsp. cold butter cut into 6 chunks

1 large egg

2 tsp fresh orange or lemon juice

You will need 6 flat bottom 4 inch tartlet pans if you make them all at once. My pans are 4 in an attached group. I baked 4 one day and 2 the next day

Mix dry ingredients in bowl of stand electric mixer.  Add butter and mix until crumbly and resembling coarse meal.  Add egg and juice.  Mix until it comes together into big chunks.  Shape into a ball with your hands. Put it on a crust sized piece of wax paper (14 x 14 inches more or less), flatten the crust ball some; put on top of it another piece of wax paper and chill it all in your fridge 15-20 minutes while you prepare the filling.

Filling:

2 1/3 cups fresh blueberries, place in medium bowl

Mix with:

6 Tbsp. sugar

2 Tbsp. quick tapioca

¼ tsp. cinnamon

Let stand while you prepare the crumb crust. This is important so the tapioca can soften and absorb some juices before baking. If you like things tart add a tsp or two of fresh lemon juice to the berries.

Tartlet construction: Break dough into a large ball and a small one. Roll out big ball in a pie bag or between the two sheets of wax paper, try to get the thickness even and somewhat thin, no thick middle! Peel off one side of paper and place in 4 set tartlet pan, centered.  Remove other slice of wax paper.  Cut into 4 pieces with a sharp knife. Mold the crust to fill each tartlet shape with no holes or thin spots. Do the same with the smaller ball and create 2 more tartlet crusts. If you only have one pan you can refrigerate the dough and make the two other tartlets later.  Fill each tartlet with fruit mixture to the top of the dough… after you have the crumb topping ready to go.

Crumb topping

Put all four ingredients in the same mixing bowl you made the bottom crust in and mix well with mixer paddle until crumbs form. If you let them go extra long you get big fat crumbs if you want that look.

¾ c brown rice flour mix

½ c sugar

½ tsp xanthan gum

1/3 c cold butter cut into six chunks

Sprinkle the top of each tartlet with crumb mix; use as much as you like.  I didn’t measure; just sprinkled until the fruit was barely visible through the crumbs. Up to your personal taste… It sinks partially into the fruit mixture and adds lots of sweetness and eye appeal.

Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 30-32 minutes until bubbly and the crumb crust is light brown.  Cool at least a half hour before serving at room temperature.  I think it is best served the same day you make it, or no more then 12 hours after baking for optimal flavor.  The crumbs will get soggy if too much time passes. Mine was still very good the next day; just not as great as when really fresh.

blueberry tartlet 2017

Note: if you find your bottom crust is not browning enough bake it empty at 375 degrees for 5-8 minutes before filling it with the fruit.  I have a bottom heat pizza style oven which gives me perfect pie crust so I don’t ever have pale pie crust. This is a big benefit of having this type of oven; it is a two oven range with a full sized lower oven.

Brown Rice Flour Mix (Same as King Arthur GF All purpose blend)
2 c brown rice flour

2/3 c potato starch – Not potato flour

1/3 c tapioca flour

Note: the crust and crumb recipe are out of Annalise Roberts cookbook, Gluten Free Baking Classics, Second Edition. Adaptation and filling recipe are mine. Originally posted summer of 2017. No changes made to recipe.

Mediterranean Pasta Saute

 

Summer produce is at flood stage right now. Quantities of ripe tomatoes are ridiculous and there are lots of other veggies fresh and cheap to be had.  It’s pretty darn hot; what to make that is quick and tasty and uses up some produce?  I like to make this sort of Mediterranean stir fry; you can vary the ingredients based on what is in your veggie bin or garden.  It is quick and it still tasted great the two times I enjoyed it again.

gorguta squash

Tromboni Italian squash aka gorgutza

Notes: Feel free to swap out a veggie for another if you want. Or change the basil to fresh oregano or any fresh herb you like. I love the tromboni squash as it is tender yet firm…not watery, but it can be hard to find; a substitute is summer squash of any kind. Use any melting cheese you like; I prefer either of the two I suggested. Chunks of fresh ripe tomato will work fine too. Any kind of mild pepper is a good choice.  Red onion will be great instead of regular onions.

Angie’s Mediterranean Sauté

Serves three

Ingredients

2 Tbsp. EVOL

1 med onion, cut in long strips and then cut across to shorten them in half or thirds.

1 frying pepper cut into narrow 1 to 1.5 inch long strips

2-3 cups tromboni Italian summer squash or use zucchini; cut into half moons or rounds about 1/3 inch thick max

2 garlic cloves minced

3-4 lengths of Italian sausage precooked and cut into ¼ inch wide rounds.

1 cup uncooked gf rotini pasta, cooked until one minute less than the package says to cook it

1/3 cup Mexican cheese crumbled or mozzarella cheese cut in ½ inch chunks

3-5 basil leaves chopped fine

A pint of cherry tomatoes; if they are big you could cut them in half

Directions:

Heat the olive oil until nearly smoking in a mini wok or sauté pan. Add the cut onion, the trombone squash and the pepper. If you use zucchini wait to add it for 2 or 3 minutes as it won’t take as long to cook as the tromboni squash. Stir for a minute, add the garlic, stir another minute. Add the cooked coins of sausage (I sauted them in a fry pan the day before; about 8-9 minutes), stir and cook a few minutes until the squash is nearly done. Add the cooked pasta and then the tomatoes, stir and add cheese, stir a minute until cheese is melting. Add the fresh basil leaves and maybe ½ tsp. sea salt. Toss well. Do not overcook; cheese should be just about melting and tomatoes warm and slightly soft but not burst open. Enjoy! saute on plate

 

 

Fire Roasted Blueberry Pie…Yeap We Did That!

 

On our vacation this past week we enjoyed a bonfire one clear evening. Yes; a rain free day! Well, we were in the Finger Lakes not eastern PA, LOL!  It was glorious to relax in our chairs at the tiny private beach we were so lucky to have… by the crackling fire Joe and I built of driftwood and some aging firewood our host wanted burnt. It was a deep pleasure to sit there relaxing by the waxing moon and a bit of star light, watching the fire flicker against the background of lapping, dark lake water.

We don’t really do the toasted marshmallow thing as he dislikes such and I am not supposed to eat overly sweet treats.  So, no marshmallows by the fire. But, then I had a great idea. I cut a wide slice of the blueberry apricot pie I had baked and brought with us. pie missing a sliceI put it on a double folded piece of heavy strength aluminum foil and bending up the sides a bit to catch any runoff, should that occur. Then I put the pie on my foil raft and slid it onto a couple branches just off the main fire. We let it heat for ten minutes and checked; not quite as hot as wanted. Five more minutes to wait, patience grasshopper! Then, used my potholder to slide it out of the fire zone onto a china plate. We dug in. Perfection. The crust had regained its flakiness of two days earlier and the filling was nearly molten and so sweetly flavorful with a hint of smokiness. Sitting in the dark sharing a slice of hot toasty blueberrilishish pie. Priceless!

 

The next night was rainy so we had to cancel our planned fire. Instead, we relaxed in our tiny cabin while I grilled the pie on the gas flames of our grill. Pretty much just as yummy and super convenient if you don’t have a fire. Next time you go camping or have access to a grill and have any sort of pie; try grilling it for a sweet warm treat. Enjoy! pie 2

Perils of Lunching out in NY State

Just back from the Finger Lakes up in New York State. Gorgeous. Didn’t eat out much. Did a lot of grilling at our rental cabin. Yummy results. But I will share on the three places we did have lunch at. The first was at Three Brothers Wineries up near Geneva New York, up towards the eastern top portion of Lake Seneca. The large parking lot was packed, buses, limos, vans, zillions of cars.  We finally stowed the pick up in a wider space and strolled in the central area. Many buildings, including a micro brewery, stores and dozens of folks trotting this way and that, groups in matching shirts, twenty somethings swizzling wine slushies as well as hordes of people drinking, eating, enjoying life loudly. We went to the take out area in the Cold Brew Coffee eatery.  I ordered a chicken sandwich on gf bread and an ice tea.  I left Joe to get the sandwiches and walked out to secure some where to eat. I got a nice table but had to wait nearly 20 minutes for him to show up.  He had a bratwurst sandwich which shouldn’t have taken so long.  Guess it was my choice…. My requested gf bread was somehow changed to what looked like an over-sized multigrain taco shell. I went in to ask if it was gf. The young fellow acting as the expediter said yes it was and as he spoke he tapped his gloved finger on my taco shell! I told him that he had just contaminated my food with his hand as most of the food there was on bread, rolls, pizza dough or pretzel dough. Ridiculously unprofessional and totally uncalled for behavior. I walked back as I was not willing, at 2 pm, to wait another 20-25 minutes for a sandwich when I was sick with hunger. I tore off the top half of the taco shell, tossed it and ate the rest. It was actually pretty good. But I will never go back there; too noisy, too crowded, incredibly slow service and Joe felt I was crazy lucky to not get glutened.

apple and chicken salad

Next place was at Wagner Vineyards near Lodi where we had our cabin. I ordered a composed salad with apple slices and grilled chicken. It arrived with a big wheat bun resting on the salad. I told the waitress that the salad was unacceptable, she said does it have to be remade. I said yes. They did in short order and it was okay if a bit boring. We wee on the outside deck and it was breezy; at one point I had to put my hands over my salad as chunks of the lettuce were blowing away in the gusty wind! Acceptable but nothing I would order again; the wine based vinaigrette was watery and bland.

Lastly, we ate at the Carriage House Café in Ithica on our way out of town. I had the grilled chicken, brie, artichoke and caramelized onions on gf bread. The sandwich was awkward as it was not sliced in half and the bread was grilled or griddled making it kinda hard to bite off a chunk. I managed and the flavors were awesome together. I think I got the end of a loaf; a bit tough. I had the same sandwich last summer and it was stunning in every way. This was still great; just not quite as perfect as the previous sandwich.

carriage house

Moral of story: check harder before choosing places; it I had researched the Three Brothers I would have seen all that pizza and pretzel dough and how big/commercial the place was…best avoided. Otherwise it is often the luck of the day as to the bread quality and the wind that might blow away your salad!

Pavlova: A Symphony of Delish!

My sister Elaine makes this dessert all the time. It is a specialty of hers. I think it is her go to company dessert when nothing else comes to mind. When she first described it I was not impressed. I wasn’t even looking forward to it at our family dinner party she throws every summer when I come up to visit. So I was surprised when I bit into my slice of it. Clearly this is a case of the results being far more than a simple sum of the ingredients. It is light, sweet, airy, fruity and basically melted in my mouth. I have had it at her house many times and have made it a few times myself. It is easy to construct and it can be varied in the fruit topping.

The old school classic topping is fresh passion fruit. Elaine mostly serves it with sliced fresh strawberries, perfection! It is decent with blueberries too. I once used a mixture of ripe summer fruits; peach, nectarine, blueberries, mango and kiwi. That was really memorable. Ripe local strawberries would be super tasty too. Go with what is ripe and flavorful when you are shopping for fruit. I used blueberries and raspberries for this latest version but you decide what works for you. No canned fruit though, only fresh will do.

My sister got the recipe from Food network – a 1999 recipe. It is naturally GF so no one will ask where the wheat is! Don’t leave out the red wine vinegar; totally necessary.

20180708_133046

Slice today; sorry it is on a paper plate but it  was luscious!

Pavlova

Ingredients:

1/2 cup egg whites at room temp (about 4-5 eggs)

1/8 tsp. cream of tartar

1/8 tsp. salt

1 cup granulated sugar

1 1/2 tsp. cornstarch

1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups heavy cream

2 T light brown sugar packed or white sugar

1 pt. fresh strawberries for top, sliced and 1 cup fresh blueberries

or 3-4 oz fresh raspberries and half a pint of blueberries

or 2 sliced ripe peaches and some raspberries or blueberries

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment whip the egg whites, cream of tartar and salt in a clean, dry bowl until foamy. Add the granulated sugar, cornstarch, vinegar and vanilla and continue whipping until stiff, smooth and glossy, about 7-8 minutes more.

On a sheet of parchment paper cut to fit a sheet pan, use a pencil to draw or trace a 9 inch circle in diameter. Line the sheet pan with the parchment, pencil side down (you should be able to see the circle). Spoon the egg whites in the circle, using the back of the spoon to smooth the top and sides of the disk. Make it high rather than wide; it will settle after baking. Bake in the center of the oven for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 300 degrees and bake until the meringue has puffed up and slightly cracked on the top and the surface is highly browned to the color of a latte coffee, about 45 minutes more. Turn off the oven, prop open the oven door, and let it cool in the oven at least 30 minutes, to room temperature. This ensures a gradual cooling, which protects the delicate meringue.

Whip the cream and brown sugar (sometimes I use white sugar) until stiff. spoon it in the center of the cooled pavlova and spread out to within 1/2 inch of the edge, arrange the slices of strawberry in the middle. Sprinkle the blueberries around the edge of the strawberries. To serve, slice into wedges with a serrated knife.

So make a pavlova and make everyone happy; it is beautiful to look at and even better to eat. Enjoy!

Originally published July 2014. Recipe slightly changed, minor editing to text.

Lovely Meals in Gorgeous Cape May!

Just back from a fabulous weekend in Cape May, New Jersey with my guy.  Stayed at a cute little B&B about 8 blocks from the beach; The Inn at the Park on Madison St. Our room was on the third floor; a mini suite with a fridge, double shower, huge bed, armoire instead of a closet and a sweet day bed. Plus adorable crystal glasses for late night thirsty moments and the usual amenities like WiFi, a flat screen TV, air conditioning.  They made acceptable accommodations for my gf needs for the two breakfasts; scrambled eggs, smoothies, an omelet, all good and all safe.  inn at the park

mad batter

That corner table is where we sat!

But even better yet were the three meals we had out; our first night we went to the Mad Hatter in downtown CM.We had a little corner table with benches and fluffy cushions: wall carvings of whimsical fish and other old timey decorations: so cute! The menu had several gf choices. I went with some specials which were naturally gf. My waiter said he would alert the kitchen as to careful as to cross contamination. I had a great seafood risotto but my favorite flavors were in my starter: the watermelon, blueberry and strawberry salad with feta cheese. So bright and refreshing. I enjoyed some delish wine, great company; got stuffed to the gills and no glutening! watermelon salad

seafood risotto.jpg

The next night we went to a classic big seafood place right along the bay; Lucky Bones Back Wash. We went a tad early; at 6 pm: no wait for a table.  Place was hopping, ordered drinks and enjoyed the organized chaos. We were near the pizza oven and the bar so it was super busy but fun to watch. We totally enjoyed some shared apps; fire roasted shrimp with lots of fresh garlic and so buttery; they were perfectly cooked; fat and moist. And a large plate of hot steamed mussels in red sauce with lots of fresh basil and gf toasted rolls for mopping up the sauce. Mmmmmmm.  For my entree out came a big platter with two crab cakes on top of herbed polenta and a lemony sauce with tiny green beans: all gluten free and all crazy delish. FYI: polenta is like creamy cornmeal mush made with coarse corn meal. I did have some of his wahoo; firm white fish; tasty. Such a classic place and they do brick oven pizza. Again…too full for dessert…alas as they had gf choices….

                        

 

Our final meal in carefree Cape May was a delightful lunch at a hip eatery in North Cape May; Bella Vida Garden Restaurant on North Broadway. They have a number of gf choices even buttermilk pancakes! So maybe breakfast next time… Anyway,  I choose a fresh salad composed of a healthy layer of tiny greens, grape tomato halves, cucumber slices and half an avocado. On top of that was a big pile of shrimp and crab salad. I chose the ginger sesame salad dressing which give it a quirky but wonderful spin. So fresh, flavorful and tasty. And again…too full for dessert!

So….Cape May is a great place for gf compared to the slim pickings in the Lehigh Valley where I live. Several places had full page gf menus or lots of notations on the regular menu as to safe choices for celiacs like me. So, I found the wait staff to be experienced at gluten free and it was easy to eat safely.   I even had some great coffee ice cream with big chunks of dark chocolate in a cup. Forget where; downtown, tiny shop. So delish! Can’t say enough good things about eating in Cape May, NJ. Enjoy!