Chinese-style Braised Eggplant with fresh Basil

serving new

Braised eggplant is one of my favorite Chinese dishes. Our favorite restaurant, King Yen in Berkeley, serves it fragrant with fresh basil. I picked up the veggies from the farmer’s market: long Asian eggplants, mushrooms, with fresh basil, red bell peppers and green onions (scallions) for color.

I added a chicken breast for more protein. If you have leftover roasted breast you can chop it in bite sized pieces and add it in with the basil.

Vegetarians and vegans can omit the chicken (or swap it for tofu, adding it when you add the basil) and use vegetable broth.

I only add a teaspoon of Sriracha because I can’t handle much heat, but feel free to amp it up, adding it at the end to taste.

This is even better the next day, when the basil has a chance to permeate the dish.

Be sure to do all the chopping and sauces prep before you start to cook so you’re not all stressed out while you’re cooking!

Serves 4

ingredients new pix.jpg

Ingredients

2 Tb canola oil for frying

1 Chicken breast, about 3/4 pound

1 pound Chinese eggplants (3 long skinny ones)

8 medium mushrooms (crimini or white)

1 medium or 2 small red or yellow bell peppers

2″ piece of fresh ginger to make 1 Tb grated ginger

5 large cloves of garlic to make 1 Tb thinly sliced garlic

2 green onions (scallions). You can mince a slice of regular yellow onion to make 2 Tb if you don’t have green onions.

1/2 bunch fresh Thai or regular basil to make 1 1/2 cups basil leaves

1 can water chestnuts

Sauce:

sauces

3/4 cup chicken broth (I use Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup )

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon rice wine

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons sesame oil

2 teaspoons hoisin sauce

1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce (add more for more heat)

Thickener:

4 teaspoons (1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon) water

2 teaspoons cornstarch

Prep:

ginger n garlicPeel and grate ginger to make 1 Tablespoon

Peel and thinly slice garlic to make 1 Tablespoon

Trim woody ends from mushroom stems, then quarter.

red bell pepper and scallions

Slice red peppers into strips

Slice green onions crosswise. Mince the green parts and reserve for garnish.

cut eggplant

Chop eggplant at angles into uneven bite-sized pieces. This will help prevent it from sticking to the pan.

Rinse water chestnuts and chop them into halves

Chop chicken breast into bite-sized pieces

Mix sauce ingredients together in a bowl

Pull leaves off of basil stems to make 1 1/2 cups of leaves

Directions:

chicken and peppers and scallions

Heat wok on high and add oil. Stir-fry chicken a few minutes to sear it, then toss with onions and red bell peppers.

beginning to cook

Add the rest of the chopped vegetables and water chestnuts and stir-fry a few minutes over high heat.

Mix in ginger and garlic with metal spatula to incorporate browned bits of chicken. Pour in the sauce and toss the vegetables to coat. Lower heat and cover wok. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure that vegetables are submerged.

cooking with basilStir in the basil leaves and continue simmering covered for another 3 minutes until eggplant is thoroughly cooked and tender.

finished cooking

Stir in the thickener and bring sauce to a boil until it thickens

Serve over brown rice or on its own. Garnish with a few basil leaves and green onions.

 

Caprese Fruit Salad

Caprese Fruit Salad

This is a delicious summer fruit salad masquerading as a caprese salad.

I got the idea when I visited the SF Giants Baseball Stadium (AT &T Park) Organic Garden with our CHEFS students. After the garden tour, they gave each of us a delicious strawberry wrapped in a basil leaf.

Cut summer fruit: Strawberries, stone fruit such as plums, apricots and /or peaches. Mix in ciliegine, little balls of fresh mozzarella. Tear basil leaves and sprinkle over the fruit and mozzarella. Drizzle a little olive oil over the fruit and cheese.

caprese fruit appetizers

Make caprese salad appetizers by threading a piece of fruit, basil and half a ciliegine on a toothpick. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. I mixed in a bit of blood orange infused olive oil with the regular oil.

 

Eggplant Crockpot Pasta Sauce

served with Parmesan and basil

ingeredients

The last 10 minutes of San Francisco’s Heart of the City Farmers Market are filled with vendors shouting “$1 a bag!” which is how I ended up lugging home 2 bags of eggplant and a huge bag of tomatoes home on the Bart train!

We’re in the middle of one of those rare but scorching Bay Area heat spells, so I decided to use my Crockpot to cook the eggplant and veggies instead of roasting them in the oven. Although not as toothsome as roasting, they came out tasty and ready to mix with penne or rigatoni pasta.

chopped vegetables

Ingredients:
A very large bag of tomatoes. It’s fine if they’re a little soft, and that’s what you’re going to get with bargain bag tomatoes anyway.
5 long Italian eggplants and 4 small globe eggplants
1 ½ small onions, (or one large onion)
2 bell peppers (or a bag of frozen sliced bell peppers).
5 large mushrooms
6 spicy chicken Italian sausages (you can use sweet if that’s too spicy for you)
8 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
Parmesan rind
4 bay leaves,
Sprig of rosemary
1 Tb oregano
1 ½ tsp salt
A few grinds black pepper
1 Tb of olive oil
1 Tb red wine
1 Tb of sugar

Add after cooking sauce:
1 can artichoke hearts
1 fresh bunch of basil
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2/3 pound of penne or rigatoni pasta

Chop the vegetables and sausage and add the other ingredients in the first list to the Crockpot. I went to the trouble of dipping the tomatoes in boiling water and peeling them, but it’s not really necessary to do that.

in the crock pot

Cooked sauce in the Crockpot

I started the sauce after work and let it cook all night. (You can also start yours in the morning and cook it all day.) I was a little worried that there wouldn’t be enough liquid to cook it properly, but in the morning I realized that the vegetables had released plenty of liquid. I removed the Parmesan rind, which had given up its flavor to the sauce.

I added a can of chopped artichoke hearts. I chopped half the bunch of fresh basil I had bought at the farmers market and stirred it in with the freshly grated Parmesan. I let it sit in the fridge until dinner time so the flavors would develop.

At dinnertime, I boiled 2/3 of a pound box rigatoni pasta  and mixed it together with the sauce. I chopped up the rest of the fresh basil and sprinkled it on top with more Parmesan. This made 9 meals. Yay for leftovers!

layered with Parmesan

layered sauce with Parmesan

Roasted Chicken Breasts with Meyer Lemon and Italian Herbs

This is quick and easy. The chicken is fragrant and juicy. A good way to use those chicken breasts on sale. Use roasted bones and skin for Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup  ; perfect to make broth for Minestrone Soup on a rainy day.

5 bone-in chicken breasts with skin attached
Olive oil, about 3 Tb
5  garlic cloves, chopped
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped
2 Tb fresh thyme, minced
About 1 Tb each dried oregano and thyme
About 1 tsp chili flakes
Sea salt and pepper
Fresh basil leaves
2 lemons: ½  sliced and 1 ½  juiced and zest grated
 

Preheat oven to 450′

Oil a large roasting pan

Salt underside of breasts. Place breasts in pan, skin side up

Stuff garlic, rosemary, fresh thyme and a lemon slice under each breast skin

Sprinkle dried herbs, chili flakes, salt and pepper over breasts

Sprinkle olive oil over breasts

Roast in 450’ oven for 50 minutes

Squeeze lemon juice over cooked chicken. Garnish with fresh basil and Meyer lemon zest.

Linguine with Prawns

My husband, Jesús, always orders this dish at Italian seafood restaurants. This is an easy Friday night dinner, especially if you use the jarred sun-dried tomatoes. Fill a couple of wine glasses and light some candles. Sip a bit of wine while you’re cooking to get in the mood.

serves 4

1/2   package linguine

1 Tb olive oil

6 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

1 sprig  or about 1 tsp minced fresh rosemary

1 Tb dried oregano or 2 Tb fresh oregano

1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes reconstituted in oil or water (see below)

1 pound large raw shrimp (26-30 shrimp per pound), (deveined unless you want a lot of work for yourself.)

1/2 cup white wine (chardonnay is nice) (or liquid from reconstituting sun-dried tomatoes)

pinch of salt, to taste

6 cups spinach leaves (1 bunch spinach), stems removed

¼ cup toasted pine nuts

6 leaves fresh basil, torn, about 2 Tb

1 lemon (Meyer is nice) juice and grated peel

You can buy jarred sun-dried tomatoes in oil (I got mine at Trader Joe’s) or reconstitute them yourself: Soak 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes in a mixture of  ¼ cup warmed white wine and 2 Tb boiling water for 30 minutes until soft and pliable. Cut into strips, reserving soaking liquid.

Heat a large pot  of salted water to cook linguine.

Defrost shrimp in a colander under cold running water for 7 minutes.

While shrimp is defrosting, mince garlic cloves, oregano, and rosemary needles and gather ingredients.

Cook linguine according to package directions. Drain, reserving about 1/4 cup water.

While linguine is cooking, heat 1 Tb olive oil  in wok or large heavy frying pan. Sauté garlic, red pepper flakes, rosemary and oregano for a minute, then add shrimp and sauté for 3 minutes.

Add salt, stemmed spinach leaves, basil,  sun-dried tomatoes, wine or soaking liquid from sun-dried tomatoes, and reserved water from cooking pasta. Squeeze a lemon and finely grate zest over shrimp. Cover pan and cook one more minute until shrimp turn bright orange and are opaque inside, and spinach is wilted, but still bright green. Toss with pine nuts and drained linguine. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Making a Pesto Myself with Dino Kale

pesto with brown rice penne

dinosaur kale

Isn’t dinosaur kale cool looking? It looks like the scales on a green prehistoric beast. Kale is all the rage these days because it is chock-full of vitamins and minerals. My daughter and I love it, but my husband and son are sick of it. So sometimes I need to be sneaky. I sneaked some dinosaur kale into this pesto, and the guys didn’t even realize it was there. The pesto tasted great and had increased nutritious value. Although I usually make pesto in August from my homegrown basil leaves, I wanted to make this now, when the kale is flavorful from winter frosts. I saute the garlic briefly before adding it to mellow the sharp flavor of raw garlic.

Ingredients:

1 ½ cups dinosaur kale leaves, stems and ribs discarded

1 ½ cups (1 bunch) fresh whole basil leaves, heavy stems discarded

1 medium clove garlic, sliced

¼ cup pine nuts

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

½ tsp sea salt plus 1 tsp for pasta water

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup cooking water from pasta

Heat a large pot with water and 1 tsp salt to boiling. Add pasta and cook according to package directions.

Remove thick stems and heavy ribs from kale and basil. Pulse kale and basil leaves in food processor. Briefly saute garlic and remove before it browns. Add the garlic, pine nuts and salt. Pulse until all ingredients are diced very fine. Add grated Parmesan. Pour in oil while machine is running. When pasta is cooked, pour in 1/4 water from the pot into the pesto and pulse. Scrape the sides of the processor, then pulse a final time.

Drain pasta and mix in pesto.

pesto

I like to saute about 6 quartered mushrooms and stir into the pasta and pesto. I sauteed the mushrooms and then added the garlic to the frying pan for a minute.

 

Tortellini Salad for 10 Hungry Dancers


As one of the parents bringing lunch for my daughter’s dance company rehearsal, I made this easy vegetarian tortellini salad today. I bought all of the ingredients at Trader Joe’s (TJ). I used their frozen basil cubes because are superior to dried basil when it’s hard to find fresh basil in winter.

Ingredients:



1 pound fresh green beans

3 10-oz packages cheese tortellini

2 14-oz cans artichoke hearts, slice in quarters

1 12-oz jar TJ artichoke heart antipasto

2/3 cup dry toasted pine nuts (pignolias)

1/3 cup fresh grated parmesan

red pepper flakes, several shakes to taste

1 lb green beans cut up. Cook with tortellini for 6 minutes

1 6-oz can sliced black olives

2 cubes each frozen minced garlic and basil (if fresh is available, use 2 tsp each, minced)

2 Tb fresh lemon juice (juice of 2 small lemons)

Trim ends and cut up fresh green beans into ½ inch pieces. Cook tortellini according to package directions: boil water, add 1 Tb salt and tortellini. Add green beans after tortellini has cooked for 2 minutes, then cook for 6 more minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

While tortellini is cooking, chop artichoke hearts and mix with pine nuts, olive slices, artichoke antipasto and parmesan in a bowl.

Drain pasta and green beans. Separate 2 cups of hot pasta and green beans and mix with frozen cubes of basil and garlic if using. (You can skip this step if using fresh basil and garlic; just add them in at the end.) Run cold water over the rest of the pasta and beans in a colander until cool. Combine tortellini and add artichoke mixture. Add a sprinkle of red chili pepper flakes and the lemon juice.


Laotian Stir Fry


My colleague, Jenny Inprasueth, brought in this stir fry for one of office potlucks. It was the best stir fry I have ever tasted. She graciously not only gave me the recipe from her native Laos, but insisted on buying me the fried garlic (Toi Phi) she told me she finds indispensable in her cooking. I made this tonight to oohs and aahs and my husband’s comment that “this tastes really authentic!”

Ingredients

Oyster Flavored Sauce

Black Bean Garlic Sauce

Fried garlic Toi Phi

1 Tb canola oil

½ onion

Vegetables such as red, yellow and green bell pepper, mushrooms, choy sum, baby bok choy, zucchini, snow peas, broccoli, or carrots. Jenny says have a variety of colors.

2 branches regular or Thai basil leaves

Optional: Tofu, steak, chicken or shrimp

You can buy the seasonings at grocery stores that carry Southeast Asian ingredients. Some supermarkets will carry the oyster sauce and black bean sauce. Jenny says if you can’t find the fried garlic Toi Phi, you can fry your own garlic.

Chop half an onion and fry in oil in a wok or large heavy skillet until light brown. Add tofu and lightly fry so that it will hold its shape. If desired, cut sirloin steak or chicken breast into small pieces, and brown with the onions. You can also add shrimp. Add sturdier vegetables such as broccoli, carrots and bell peppers. Add about 1/3 cup water, 2 tsp. oyster flavored sauce, 1 tsp black bean garlic sauce, and a pinch of fried garlic Toi Phi. Add a few Thai hot chili peppers or a bit of  hot chili oil for heat.Add quartered mushrooms and sliced zucchini.When meat and vegetables are almost cooked, add delicate vegetables, such as choy sum, baby bok choy,and snow peas, and stir fry just until they begin to soften. Just before serving, add a few leaves basil.

Nice with rice. We enjoyed a lager beer with the meat version, or you can pair it with a cold can of  coconut juice with pulp.

Caprese I said, not Caprice

Insalata Caprese

The foggy Berkeley summer is over, and fall sunshine kisses our green tomatoes, making them blush. I pick these crimson treasures, then top each slice with creamy fresh mozzarella, and crown them with a basil leaf. I anoint them with extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. My daughter likes a sprinkle of  balsamic vinegar on them.

I first tasted Insalata Caprese (salad in the style of Capri), at the wedding reception of our friends Doug and Jason. The two grooms had just taken their vows, barefoot and in matching tuxedos, on the beach  in Provincetown, MA. At the reception there were these cherry tomatoes topped with little balls of fresh mozzarella and a fresh basil leaf, all held together with a toothpick. They were the prettiest things, and so tasty! I was trying not to be a greedy guest, but I kept sneaking back to the plate to pop one more into my mouth!

My friends Bob and Dawn served these mini caprese hors d’oeuvres at a party. They marinated the mozzarella  first, which added great flavor.

Mozzarella Marinade:
2/3 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp chili flakes
1 Tb minced garlic
3 TB fresh basil, minced
1 tsp sea salt

Buy an 8 oz container of small mozzarella balls, known as ciliegine, and replace the whey with the marinade. You can also buy a good quality mozzarella or Mozzarella di Bufala and cut it into small pieces. Marinade overnight.

I used del Cabo sweet 100s organic cherry tomatoes from Monterey Market in Berkeley. They are smaller and sweeter than supermarket cherry tomatoes. I want to grow my own next time!

The small basil leaves came from my little plants in my kitchen window. You also tear a piece of a large leaf if you don’t have any small ones.
Skewer a tomato, then a fresh basil leaf, then the ciliegine.

caprese appetixers with halved tomatoesI recently prepared them with the tomato split in half  on both ends of the hors d’oeuvre, with the cut sides facing each other. I sliced the rounded ends off the ciliegine to flatten it.

Pour some of the marinade over and garnish with fresh basil leaves. You can use the excess marinade to flavor hot pasta.

You can make a  delicious caprese  sandwich, especially made with Acme bakery’s herb slab or focaccia.

Caprese sandwich


Serves 2

2 slices good bread. I used a herb slab from Acme bakery, (which is conveniently located down the street.) You could also make this with focaccia, olive bread, French bread or baguette

2 medium-sized ripe tomatoes, sliced thick. Dry farmed tomatoes have great flavor! (available at Oakland Fruitvale Farmer’s Market and at Monterey Market in Berkeley)

4 slices fresh mozzarella cheese.

4 basil leaves

2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil

several shakes salt and pepper to taste

Slice the bread and toast it. Cut the toast to fit each of the tomato slices.

On each piece of toast, place 1 slice of tomato,  then a slice of mozzarella, covering with a basil leaf. Drizzle 1 tsp olive oil on top, and shake a bit of salt. Manga!

Caprese eggs

I invented this breakfast take-off on caprese salad. These eggs cook with fresh basil and chives, diced tomatoes and mozzarella cheese.

2 servings

4 eggs

2 medium tomatoes, diced

2 tsp chopped chives – 4 chives

4 diced basil leaves about 1 Tb, plus two leaves for garnish

2 Tb grated mozzarella cheese (or diced fresh mozzarella)

¼ tsp olive oil

¼ tsp salt to taste

grind of pepper.

Cover eggs with hot tap water in a bowl for 10 minutes to warm them. While they are warming, dice tomatoes, basil and chives. Heat olive oil in nonstick skillet, add tomatoes and chives and a sprinkle of salt and spread out on pan. Cook over medium heat about 2 minutes, until tomatoes soften.

Break eggs on top of tomatoes and sprinkle a bit more salt and a grind of pepper and  basil. Sprinkle mozzarella on top of eggs.

When egg whites turn white, but yolks are still liquid, slide onto a plate. Garnish each plate with a basil leaf. Nice served with toast to dip into the eggs.


Minestrone Soup

Fall in the Bay Area brings a few weeks of sunshine to ripen tomatoes, then rainy and chilly days, perfect Minestrone Soup weather. Pick those ripened tomatoes off the withering vines, combine them with broth and chopped veggies and herbs in a big pot. This is a pretty forgiving recipe, so if you want to clean out the veggie bin of your fridge, throw in what you’ve got. You could use frozen veggies  or canned tomatoes. There is a use for everything, even Parmesan cheese rinds! The rind lends a wonderful flavor to the soup. If it doesn’t break up, leave it in the pot when serving.

10 servings:
1 or more Parmesan rinds
1 large onion, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
1 bunch red Swiss chard, leaves torn off ribs and chopped fine, to make about 3 ½ cups, dice the ribs
1 large red bell pepper, diced to make 1 cup
1 large green bell pepper, diced to make 1 cup
1/2 pound crimini mushrooms
1 Tb salt (to taste)
½  tsp fresh minced rosemary
1 Tb fresh minced oregano
1 tsp dried basil
6 cloves garlic, minced
several grinds black pepper
One package (4 links) Aidells chicken sausages. either artichoke and garlic or sun-dried tomato with mozzarella cheese (optional)
1 bay leaf
several shakes red pepper flakes
10 cups (2 1/2 quarts) homemade chicken or vegetable stock Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup or vegetable broth (you can use boxed stock, but it won’t be as good!)
1 can tomato paste
4 cups diced tomatoes (Roma is best)
OR 28 ounce can San Marzano peeled tomatoes to sub for tomatoes and tomato paste
4 dried Porcini mushrooms
1 rind Parmesan cheese
1  cup peeled and diced carrots (2 large carrots)
2 peeled and diced red potatoes
2/3 cup small pasta (I used the tiny tubes called ditalini for my last batch, but I have also used salad macaroni)
4 small zucchini, diced to make 1 ½ cups
1/2 pound green beans, chopped
1 15-oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed.
1 cup frozen or fresh corn kernels
1/2 cup frozen or fresh peas
1 small bunch Italian parsley, chopped.
1 Tb fresh minced basil (about 5 leaves)
 
Garnish:
a few pinches dried oregano to taste
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

 

Heat stock, Parmesan rinds, tomato paste, tomatoes or canned tomatoes  in a large pot.

Grind dried Porcini mushrooms in a coffee grinder or small food processor and add to the stock. Add salt to taste.

Scrub mushrooms and rinse well. Dry in paper towel. and cut off woody ends from the stems. Place mushrooms on toaster oven tray and spray with olive oil spray. Broil for 10 minutes. When they cool, cut them in quarters and add to stock.

Stir-fry onions, red bell pepper, chard ribs, garlic, celery, and herbs in  olive oil in a heavy skillet until translucent. Add to stock.

Slice sausages in quarters lengthwise and then into half-coins. Stir fry in the same skillet as the onions were in for about 4 minutes, until browned. Add to soup, then ladle some soup into the frying pan and scrape the browned bits into the soup, then pour back into the pot.

Stir in carrots, chard leaves, canned beans, and potato and cook 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in pasta, green beans, zucchini, parsley, corn and peas. Cook 10 minutes on medium. Stir in fresh basil.

Discard bay leaf and ladle into bowl. Stir in a pinch of dried oregano, fresh basil, and a few spoonfuls of grated Parmesan cheese. Enjoy with a slice of good bread such as Acme herb slab, foccacia, olive bread, or sourdough baguette. Manga!