Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Springtime Shivers

Called that last one too soon. Spring has been like a flaky friend: so wonderful and warm and fun when it's around that I almost forget how grumpy I get every time that FOBO* mofo backs out on tentative plans and I spend the night burrowed in my apartment, deep conditioning my hair and making endless to-do lists (just me?).

Even if it doesn't always feel like spring, I want to make sure it tastes like spring, at least in my kitchen. These two recipes are a nice compromise. They're rich and soothing when you stumble in from that blustery May day, and their sunny ingredients--sweet corn, fresh mint, and tangy goat cheese--will warm you up when spring lets you down.

*Fear of Better Offer, FOMO's flighty brother. How has Urban Dictionary not heard of this word? Tangent: Have you ever looked up your first name on Urban Dictionary? It's bizarrely apt. For example, I am "the hottest and cutest girl in school shes just so awesome and has the best personality, shes realy shy at times but everyone loves her and whoever doesnt love her is just a jelous lozer:) and if ur a guy(damion, aj) then u should deffenitly go out with her." Call me, damion!


Eggplant with Tomato-Mint Sauce and Goat Cheese
From Bon Apetit
Ingredients:
Nonstick vegetable oil spray (or regular vegetable oil)
2 1-pound eggplants, trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch-thick crosswise rounds
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 28-ounce can Italian-style whole plum tomatoes (I used the ones with basil, no salt added)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 cup crumbled soft fresh goat cheese
8 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced

Directions:
Preheat oven to 500°F. Oil 2 large baking sheets with oil spray. Arrange eggplant rounds on prepared sheets; brush lightly with 1 tablespoon oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake 10 minutes. Turn rounds over and bake until tender and golden, about 10 minutes longer. Remove from oven. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F.
Meanwhile, heat remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil in medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion; sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and stir 1 minute. Add tomatoes with their juices, mint and oregano and simmer until sauce thickens and is reduced to 1 3/4 cups, breaking up tomatoes with back of spoon, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Spoon half of tomato sauce into shallow 2-quart baking dish. Arrange eggplant rounds atop sauce, overlapping slightly. Spoon remaining sauce over. Sprinkle cheese over. Bake until heated through, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle with basil.

Notes for the Naked:
  • Formerly I thought recipes that instruct you to "sprinkle cheese over" were a lazy cook's crowd-pleaser. I still think that, but I’ve since jumped off my high horse and into the delights of the Trader Joes cheese aisle. Do not skip the goat cheese here—sour like the tomatoes and fresh like the mint, it makes this dish.
  • No need to be too precise when cutting the eggplant. I ended up hacking mine into pretty uneven bits. The thin corners turned crispy and delicious, and would make excellent chips as an hor d'oeuvre.
  • It was a little hard to serve this recipe. You'd probably be able to serve it in neat, lasagna-like squares if you peeled the eggplant first, but I couldn't be bothered.
  • I made the sauce and roasted the eggplant ahead of time (might as well splatter tomato everywhere while my kitchen was already a mess). I then layered the elements in a pan, stored it in the fridge, and popped it in the oven when I was ready to serve.
Spicy Corn Soup with Herb Oil Drizzle
Adapted from Lois Ellen Frank
Ingredients:
4 ears corn, kernels scraped from the cob, or 3 cups corn kernels (fresh, frozen, or canned--I doubled this recipe and used 3 cobs and two bags of frozen)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1 small can green chilies
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeds removed and diced
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 tsp cumin
Cayenne pepper to taste
3 tbsp hot salsa (I used Trader Joe's Chipotle Salsa)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
6 cups vegetable stock

For herb oil drizzle:
1/2 cup parsley or cilantro
1/2 cup mild-tasting olive oil (I used a good one and thought it was too strong for the dish--you could probably sub in vegetable oil nicely)
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Prepare the corn by cutting the kernels from the cob. You should have approximately 3 cups of kernels from 4 cobs of corn. Save the corn cobs and set aside. The cobs will add additional corn flavor to the soup. In a pot over medium-high heat, add the olive oil, then the onions. Saute for 3 to 4 minutes until they are translucent, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic, chili powder, chilies, jalapeno, cumin, and salsa and saute for 1 more minute. Add the corn kernels and saute for another 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the salt, black pepper, and stock and bring to a boil. (If you have cut your corn fresh from the cob, place the reserved cobs into the saucepan at this time--this helps thicken the soup more). Once the mixture has boiled, reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent the corn kernels from burning or sticking to the bottom of the pan.
Taste the soup and add cayenne to your liking (be gentle--it's hot). Puree in a blender or with a stick blender directly in the pot.
To make the herb drizzle: Puree the herbs and oil in a blender or with a stick blender.

Notes for the Naked:
  • Do you hate washing extra dishes? Do you like watching a huge pot of stuff whir into delicious slurry in seconds? If you answered those questions reasonably, you should get a stick blender. Bed, Bath, and Beyond will replace it for free when it dies on you within two years of regular, loving use. I'm so attached to mine that it has a name--PJ, aka Pope Julius, aka "The Warrior Pope." Mmm, sacrilicious.
  • This recipe is really more of a suggestion, both for the soup and the garnish. I added some cumin, salsa, jalapeno and green chilies to the original recipe, since that's what I had kicking around. Feel free to go wild. Some dried parsley in your herb drizzle? A little roasted red pepper in your soup? Don't mind if you do.

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