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Posts Tagged ‘recipe’


Stephany

Eggplant: A Versatile Fruit

The nightshade family includes tomatoes, potatoes, peppers – and thousands of eggplant varietals that have been cultivated all over the world for centuries. Originally hailing from India, eggplant is widely used all over Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the Americas. Botanically it’s considered a berry, and like berries eggplants come in many shapes and sizes. In the United States the most commonly grown variety is the Globe Eggplant, which is large, deep purple-black, and glossy, so this image is a natural eggplant association for most Americans. But many early 18th-century eggplant cultivars are creamy white or pale yellow and are smaller and rounder compared to the commonly-known modern globe, giving rise to the name of “eggplant.”

eggplant1But the world of eggplant is populated by a variety of shapes, colors and tastes. Thai eggplant are tiny, no bigger than a crabapple, and their bright streaks of green make them look almost like a Green Zebra tomato! Japanese eggplant are long, skinny and dark purple; Chinese eggplant are a similar long shape but possess a bright lavender color. Both varieties cook quickly and are great on the grill or in a stir-fry.

Calliope eggplant are small, teardrop-shaped and striped white and bright purple. They’re very sweet and great for grilling, roasting or stuffing.

Listada is an Italian varietal that is striped like the Calliope, but larger and more oblong.

Rosa Bianca is an heirloom Sicilian varietal, large and bulbous, fading from deep purple to lavender to white, and super meaty, sweet, creamy – my personal favorite for Eggplant Parmesan!

Ratatouille, moussaka, caponata, eggplant parmesan, baba ghanoush…eggplant takes well to a myriad of cooking techniques and is at home in an almost endless variety of dishes. It isn’t great raw – it can be somewhat bitter and spongy-textured (the eggplant is a relative of tobacco as well; its bitterness comes from nicotinoid alkaloids) – but cooking coaxes out those meaty and creamy attributes. Like a sponge, eggplant will absorb any flavors (or oils) to which it is exposed, making it a great candidate for stews. Eggplant is often used in Southeast Asian curries or spicy Indian chutneys and pickles. It can be roasted whole in its skin and then scooped out and mixed with other vegetables (think onion, tomato, chiles), or mixed with tahini, garlic, olive oil and lemon juice to make baba ghanoush. Pickled, stuffed, fried, roasted…the possibilities are constrained only by the limits of imagination.

As I mentioned above, Rosa Bianca eggplant is great for Eggplant Parmesan. Here’s a great recipe you can try using ingredients you can get at Bi-Rite Market.

Eggplant Parmesaneggplant2

Eggplant Parm is a staple of Italian-American cuisine, served at almost every red sauce joint in the USA. I first became enamored of this dish while living in New York City during college, where I had it between sesame rolls as a hero or over spaghetti with marinara. It’s a hearty, filling dish, and a beautiful way to showcase the meatiness of eggplant. Though it’s served year-round at many restaurants, I like to wait for local heirloom eggplant; Full Belly Farm’s Rosa Bianca eggplant, a Sicilian heirloom varietal, is my absolute favorite in this dish. It’s a large, bulbous type, with skin blushing from deep to lavender purple to white. It looks like a watercolor, and has no bitterness and a thin skin. Any larger eggplant varietal will work, such as Globe or Barbarella, another Italian heirloom variety that we are growing at Bi-Rite Farm in Sonoma!

Traditionally, Eggplant Parmesan is made with thick slices of eggplant that are fried (sometimes battered, floured or breaded and sometimes not), and then layered with tomato sauce, mozzarella, parmesan, basil, and (sometimes) hard-boiled egg slices. The eggplant can also be grilled, broiled or baked for a lighter version.

Here are two variations that I like to make. The first is a Spiced Eggplant Parmesan, made with a little garam masala in the breading and ginger and chiles in the tomato sauce. The second is a lighter version I came up with during last week’s heat wave, a bit more fit for a hot summer day than the traditional version.

Spiced Eggplant Parmesan

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • Basic Fried Eggplant
  • 2-3 large eggplant, such as Rosa Bianca, Barbarella or Globe
  • Kosher salt, pepper, dried herbs such as oregano, thyme; garam masala for the spiced version
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 2-3 tablespoons milk, water, or buttermilk
  • 1 ½ cups Panko breadcrumbs
  • Canola, peanut or other neutral oil for frying

Instructions

Wash the eggplant, peel if desired (I don’t, usually, unless the skin is very thick), and cut into thick 1-inch rounds. Place in a strainer over a bowl or sink. Salt liberally on both sides, rubbing the salt on a little to make sure it’s coated. Set aside to drain for 1 hour while you prep the rest. The salt helps draw out excess water, to prevent your parm from getting soggy when fried. It also seasons and tenderizes the eggplant, and draws out any bitterness that might be present.

Set up three shallow bowls or pie plates, with a clean plate or tray at the end. Put the flour in one, add a big pinch of salt, some pepper, and a big pinch of garam masala or any other spices you want. Whisk it. Crack the eggs into the second bowl, whisk with enough milk or water to loosen slightly, and a pinch of salt. Put the breadcrumbs into the third, add salt and any other seasonings you’re using (about 1 tsp garam masala and 1 tsp dried herbs for the spiced version).

Press on the eggplant lightly and brush off any excess salt (most of it drains away with the water). Dip into flour, flip and roll around to coat it on all sides. Shake off and pat lightly to remove excess. Next, dip it in the egg mixture, flip and shake off excess (tip: use one hand only to dip into the wet ingredients and keep one dry; monster-fingers form very quickly!). Last, dip the eggplant into the breadcrumbs, patting them lightly on both sides to make sure it gets an even coat. Roll it around on its side, then shake lightly and place on a tray or platter. This can be done ahead of time – bread it all and store covered in the fridge until ready to fry.

To fry: heat up a cast-iron skillet or another pan with an inch or so of canola oil. You want it to be fairly hot but not smoking; the eggplant will cool down the oil a lot when it goes in, and if it gets too cold your eggplant will absorb tons of oil and become greasy and heavy. If it’s too hot, the breading will burn before the eggplant cooks fully. To test it, drop a little piece of the breading in. It should bubble and float right to the top. Drop the eggplant slices in gently, 4-5 at a time, so that they still have room to float around. Fry for 3-5 minutes on the first side, until golden brown, then flip and fry the other side for a few minutes. Keep moving them around and checking them to get an even brown; you might have to flip back and forth a few times. Remove to a tray lined with paper towels. Season with a little salt and pepper while still hot and cut one open to see how it’s cooked – it should be creamy, not spongy. If it’s not fully cooked, turn your oil down a bit and let them go a few more minutes, or finish in the oven.

For Spiced Eggplant Parm:

Layer fried eggplant with spiced tomato sauce (your favorite recipe, just add a teaspoon of garam masala, a knob of minced ginger and a little fresh chile with the onions and garlic), fresh mozzarella (I’m obsessed with Point Reyes Mozz right now; it’s cultured so it has a little twang and a little salt from the brine), grated parmesan cheese, and torn basil. Bake or broil until the cheese is melty. Finish with more grated parm and fresh basil.

For Summertime Eggplant Parm:

Arrange the fried eggplant on a platter, alternating with sliced fresh mozzarella and grated parm, or put a ball of burrata in the middle for an extra-special treat. Chop up a mix of heirloom and cherry tomatoes, toss with olive oil, basil, salt & balsamic and spoon over the fried eggplant and cheese. Finish with lots of fresh basil and olive oil. Totally untraditional but a really refreshing take on it, which makes sense since eggplant comes around mid-summer.

 


Stephany

Cool as a Cucurbit: Cucumbers & Melons

The cucurbits (or cucurbiticae) are a plant family that includes cucumbers, melons and gourds of many kinds. They peak in sweetness and flavor during the summertime. At Bi-Rite we’re lucky to work with a number of local farms that grow unusual heirloom varietals in this family.

A few of my favorites:

Armenian cucumbers, which are botanically considered a melon. We have been getting the ‘Painted Serpent’ varietal, which is long and snakelike, with dark and light green stripes, from Full Belly Farm, Oak Hill Farm and County Line Harvest. You can use these like the more common English cucumber. The skin is very thin and not at all bitter, and the seeds are not yet formed, so no need to peel or seed–just slice them right up. They don’t need to be rock hard; the ones that are a bit bendy will still be crisp. Armenian cucumbers will make the prettiest garnish for your summer gin and tonic.

Lemon cucumbers are small, round and yellow with large but tender seeds. They’re great for slicing into salads, and make beautiful sandwich-sized pickles. They’re lovely sliced up and dressed with a little soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar or lime juice and a pinch of sugar or honey, perhaps over some arugula or baby lettuces.

Watermelons, in mini and huge, seeded, seedless, yellow and red varietals. Orchid and Yellow Doll are two of the yellow-flesh varietals we get from Full Belly Farm. These should be picked when they are ripe and do not really keep ripening like muskmelons do. They should be firm and feel heavy for their size, although there is no surefire way to tell if they are ripe.

Muskmelons have netted skins and get very fragrant when ripe. These include cantaloupes, galia and goddess melons. These will smell very sweet and floral as they ripen, and can get a bit soft (though they shouldn’t be squishy). The more fragrant the stem end is, the sweeter the melon will be.

Recipes!

SaladGoodCucumber Melon Salad with Feta & Olives

This isn’t so much a recipe as a useful guide. Try using what you have and taste as you go. It’s a bit of a riff on a Greek salad and a wonderfully refreshing addition to a barbecue or summertime supper.

  • A mix of your favorite melons, cut into large dice. I like watermelon, galia, cantaloupe & piel de sapo or snow leopard.
  • A mix of your favorite cucumbers, diced or sliced as you like. I like Painted Serpent Armenian cukes and lemon cukes.
  • Red onion or scallions, thinly sliced. I soak the red onion after slicing in cold water for a few minutes to take the edge off, which also sets the color and prevents it from bleeding into the salad.
  • A nice feta, not too salty. Our French feta is the perfect balance of tangy and salty.
  • Kalamata or another fruity olive, pitted. I usually cut them in half, but they can be whole or cut into rings.
  • Fresh herbs. Cilantro and mint are great, but parsley, basil and chives all work. I would recommend to staying away from herbs that are too woody or heavy like thyme and rosemary. Fresh, bright herbs work better to highlight the delicate flavors in the melons. I like to chiffonade them (stack up the leaves, roll into a tight “cigar”, and slice into thin ribbons), but you could chop them or pick the leaves and toss them in whole.
  • Fresh or dried coriander seeds, toasted until fragrant and lightly crushed.
  • Olive oil
  • Red wine vinegar or lime juice
  • Salt to taste

Toss everything together in a large bowl or arrange on a platter. Dress to taste with olive oil, red wine vinegar or lime juice and salt. A sprinkle of toasted, crushed coriander seeds wakes up all of the flavors. This salad is best dressed right before serving, though you could certainly do it ahead of time.

Cucumber Raita

Really popular all over India, this is somewhere between a salad and a condiment, and I often use it as both. Awesome in the summer next to grilled meats such as lamb or chicken, or dolloped on top of a sandwich or rice bowl. Also delicious with pita or Dosa chips as a dip!

  • 1-2 cucumbers, unpeeled, shredded on a coarse grater.
  • 1 cup greek yogurt (you could use regular plain yogurt, but it will be less thick).
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds.
  • Salt, sugar, lime juice to taste.

Place the shredded cucumbers in a bowl, salt them and set aside for a few minutes. The salt will draw out the water. Squeeze as much of the water out as you can – a lot will release! Mix it up with some gin and tonic water and have yourself a cocktail, or discard. Place the drained cucumber in a bowl.

Add yogurt to drained cukes and stir. Heat up a small pan over medium to high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of neutral-flavored oil such as canola. When the oil is hot, drop in the cumin seeds. The seeds will darken in color and get really fragrant. Dump the spice oil into the yogurt mixture (this is a technique used commonly in India to quickly add lots of flavor to any dish by making a spice oil, called a tarka). Stir it around, season to taste with salt, lime juice and a pinch of sugar for balance.

Melon Agua Fresca

Again this is less of a recipe and more of guide. The proportions will vary depending on the fruit being used.

Cube up your melon and place it in a blender. Add a handful of sugar (or a squeeze of honey or agave) and cover with water. Blend until smooth. Add more sweetener to taste if necessary, or a squeeze of lime to perk it up. Super refreshing with basil or mint added!


Stephany

Summer Squash: Fun, Versatile & Perfect for Dinner!

Hi, I’m Stephany! I’m a member of the Produce Team at Bi-Rite 18th Street, and I’m also an experienced cook with a passion for food, community, and sustainability. This summer I’ll be writing a series of posts highlighting my favorite summer produce along with ideas for how to prepare them. This is the very first post and I’m delighted to share my passion for food with you.

SDinner1GeneralSquashUp first: summer squash. I get excited when summer squash comes in because it’s a fun, versatile section of our produce aisle that has tons of variety. Summer squash comes in a number of different varietals. Zucchini is the most well-known, but here at Bi-Rite 18th Street and Bi-Rite Divisadero we have lots of others, like Zephyr, Crookneck, Flying Saucers, Baby Acorn, Sunburst, Pattypan, Costata Romanesco and Eightball. Some of these don’t look like what you think of when you think of squash, but trust me–they taste great. Most squashes share similarities in flavor–fairly mild, sweet and creamy–and are a good foil for bolder flavors.

We get summer squash from some of our favorite local farms, typically first from Balakian Farms, then from Happy Boy, Tomatero and Terra Firma as the season progresses. They’re beautiful and delicious, but just as importantly, they’re also easy and fun to prepare. Summer squash can be eaten raw, but it also cooks quickly. It’s lovely in a shaved salad, tastes great roasted to bring forward sweetness, looks and smells beautiful next to those burgers and onions on your grill, and is rich and substantial sautéed. Smaller and rounder squashes like Eightball or Pattypan make fantastic ingredients for stuffings.

You can shave summer squash into ribbons using a peeler; you’ll find that it comes out almost like noodles, making it a great substitute for pasta. If your shave it into ribbons, you can salt it (called “cold-sweating”) and the salt will pull out all of the extra water; you can then hand-squeeze the water out after about five minutes. Then you can dress your noodles however you want. Personally I like them with pesto, basil or any kind of fresh, bright herb, and they also go well with cheeses, peas and other fresh summer produce like cherry tomatoes.

Here’s a favorite recipe of mine using summer squash that I hope you’ll enjoy! You can get everything you need for this recipe at either of our two market locations. Just ask our staff for help.

 SDinner1Ingredients

Summer Squash “Pasta” Salad

SDinnerFinalIngredients:

  • 4 long summer squash such as Zucchini, Crookneck & Zephyr, for shaving
  • 1-½ lbs mixed summer squashes such as Pattypan, Sunburst, Flying Saucer & 8 Ball, chopped into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 lb English peas, shelled
  • ½ pint cherry tomatoes, stems removed (I used Terra Firma Farm’s Golden Nuggets, first of the season! We also have their Sungolds & Sweet 100s)
  • ½ bunch basil
  • 1 stalk green garlic, bulb halved and greens finely chopped
  • 1 red spring onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar (or to taste. Any milder/sweeter vinegar would work- champagne or white wine, or lemon juice)
  • Olive oil
  • Golden Valley Farm’s Pepato Cheese to finish (Pepato is a wonderful peppercorn-studded aged sheep’s milk cheese from the fine folks who make Yosemite Bluff, down in Chowchilla, CA. The pepper complements the natural sweetness of the squash and other veggies.)

Directions:

  • Shave long squashes into ribbons using a mandolin or vegetable peeler. (If you don’t have one, a Benriner Japanese mandolin is one of the best kitchen tools you can have. They cost around $15 and are long-lasting and durable).
  • Place squash shavings in a bowl, and salt generously. Toss to distribute salt and set aside. The salt will pull out the excess moisture from the squash so you salad won’t get soggy. If you are eating it right away, you don’t need to do this, but it helps tenderize it as well.
  • Heat up a cast iron skillet over med-high heat. Add a little olive oil, and add half of the chopped squashes in a single layer. Avoid overcrowding the pan; if it is too crowded the squash will just steam. Giving them a hard sear caramelizes the sugars and brings out the natural sweetness, and adds a bit of nice crisp texture on the outside. Season with a little salt. Once they are browned, flip to brown on all sides. Set aside, and cook off the rest of the squash.
  • Wipe out the pan, add a little more oil, then drop in the English peas. Sauté for 1 minute or until just barely cooked. Set aside. Add a bit more oil, then add the green garlic and cherry tomatoes, sauté until the garlic is browned and the tomatoes are starting to split. Set aside.
  • Pound the green garlic with half of the basil to form a coarse paste. Add enough red wine vinegar, olive oil and salt to taste.
  • Toss with the squash “noodles,” roasted squashes, peas, tomatoes and spring onion. Finish with some torn fresh basil and shaved Pepato Cheese to taste.