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Cambodian Spiced Eggplant

7 Mar

I like to go to dinners organized by a group called Dining for Women. It’s a deceptively simple concept: invite a bunch of women to a potluck and contribute the money you would have spent on a restaurant meal to a nonprofit that helps women and girls in a third-world country.

Well, a dozen or so women in the suburbs or Detroit aren’t going to donate more than a few hundred dollars, but when the dinners are repeated in dozens of locations all over the country, some serious moolah  can be raised. The national organization chooses the recipient nonprofit, and provides a DVD for the dinner hostess showing the work the nonprofit does.

Last month’s dinner featured an organization in Cambodia that helps street children by giving them a place to live and teaching them useful skills so they can earn a living.

I looked for a simple Cambodian vegetarian recipe and found this one. Now the problem with eggplant — I admit it! — is it’s so visually unappealing, at least to me. If that’s your impression of eggplant too, get over it! It’s a delicious vegetable, and this combination of spices is very complementary.

I couldn’t find Asian eggplants so I used a large regular eggplant. And I didn’t have the fresh herbs for sprinkling on top, but the dish was still delectable. It’s also very easy to make, and leftovers reheat nicely.

Ingredients

6 Asian eggplants (small skinny ones) or two small or one large regular eggplant
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 Tbs. sugar
1 Tbs. white wine or apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. paprika
2 Tbs. soy sauce
2 Tbs. toasted sesame oil
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
½ tsp. ground coriander
Fresh coriander and mint to serve

Directions:

Chop the eggplant into pieces about a half-inch square.

Heat the oil in a wok and add the eggplant. Fry over a medium heat for about 4 minutes.

Combine all the other ingredients except the fresh coriander and mint in a small bowl and mix well.

Add the seasonings to the frying eggplant and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the eggplant is softened.

Sprinkle with the chopped fresh herbs.

Serve over hot cooked rice.

Serves 4 – 5

Corn Cakes

11 Oct

corn-cakesEvery August my son plays with his bluegrass band at the Wilson County Fair in Tennessee. One year he brought us back a bag of “traditional stone ground corn” from the Livesay Grist Mill at Fiddlers Grove in Lebanon, Tenn.

On the back of the bag is a recipe for “Miss Valerie’s Hot Water Cornbread” — which I ignored for the longest time because it doesn’t include eggs, like my usual cornbread recipe, and I wondered how it could be any good. Then my daughter said she’d tried it and loved it, so I gave it a try, and she was right!

I think of cornbread as something baked in a square  or round pan and then cut into squares or wedges. In this recipe, the cakes are fried on the top of the stove.

These corn cakes are very easy to make, and the they taste yummy with a drizzle of maple syrup.

Ingredients:

1 cup stone-ground cornmeal
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 Tbs. sugar
1 cup boiling water

Directions:

Mix dry ingredients, then pour in hot water and mix quickly.

Heat 1/4-inch oil in a skillet, and drop the batter by tablespoons into the hot oil. Fry until golden on both sides.

Makes about 8 to 10 cakes.

Oven-roasted “fries”

29 Dec

Oven Fries

When my husband and I were in our carefree early 20s and living in London, we had a deep-fry pot, with an insert basket that let you put the food into the hot oil and then lift it out to drain. We kept the oil in the fryer on the stove, adding a little fresh oil every time we used it. We ate “chips” (aka French fries) almost every day.

Now, alas,  we don’t have a special pot in which we can keep oil just for making fries — nor would we want to, given our middle-aged metabolisms. So when we eat “fries,” they’re usually made in the oven.

Most of the time I don’t need a recipe. I just peel a couple of nice large baking potatoes and cut them into thick strips. Then I preheat the oven to 425 degrees. I put foil on a baking sheet and spray it with non-stick spray, like PAM. Then I put the potatoes on the sheet and spray them well with non-stick spray. I roast the potatoes in the oven for about 20 minutes, turning them over once so they brown evenly.

It you want to get a little fancier, here’s a nice recipe I got from Weight Watchers more than 30 years ago. The potatoes come out tasty-spicy but not hot-spicy.

Ingredients:

2 large baking potatoes, peeled and cut into strips
¾ tsp. cumin
½ tsp. chili powder
2 egg whites
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. black pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cover a baking sheet with foil and coat it with nonstick cooking spray. In a large bowl, beat the egg whites with a fork until frothy, then stir in the spices. Add the potato strips and toss until they are completely coated. Put the strips in a single layer on the baking sheet, and bake until barely tender, about 15 minutes. Turn the oven to Broil and broil until potatoes are crispy, about 10 minutes.

Serves 4

Baked Beans

15 Dec

Baked beans by Kelly GarbatoYou might think of baked beans as a summer-barbecue type dish. But if you want to make it from scratch, you need to leave it in the oven for many hours, making it a perfect recipe for these cold days of the year.

The recipe comes from Dr. Robert Wright, who oversaw the graduate program  in the Religion Department of Temple University, where I worked as a secretary right after we were married. At the end of the year, Dr. Wright had a barbecue for his students and invited us. He served these delicious baked beans and gave us the recipe.

These are old-style Boston baked beans, flavored with molasses and brown sugar rather than tomato sauce. It’s an inexpensive but hearty and satisfying dish, and the leftovers are good too

You can cook it overnight if you like. You can also make this in a slow cooker (on high) if you don’t want to keep your oven on that long.

Ingredients:

1 lb. white or pinto beans
1 large onion, sliced thin
3 Tbs. molasses
¼ cup brown sugar
½ tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. salt
Pinch black pepper

Directions:

Soak the beans overnight, and then boil them in the same water for 1 to 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Drain beans but reserve the water.

In a large, heavy, oven-proof pot, layer the beans and the onions. Add the rest of the ingredients. Pour the bean water over so that the beans are just covered. Cover the pot tightly and bake for 8 hours.

Serves 8

Tunisian Couscous Pilaf with Chickpeas, Dates and Almonds

1 Dec

Couscous with Chickpeas. Dates amd AlmondsThis is adapted from a recipe I clipped from the Detroit Free Press. If you have turkey left over from Thanksgiving, consider chopping some into cubes or strips and adding it to this pilaf for a one-dish meal.

This dish has a nice range of flavors, from the sweet dates and almonds to the standard onion and garlic, the exotic combination of cumin, paprika, cinnamon and corinader, and just a hint of heat from the cayenne pepper.

Ingredients:

2 Tbs. olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. paprika
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. ground coriander
½ tsp. cayenne pepper
3 cups defatted low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
4 Tbs. lemon juice
1 tsp. grated lemon peel
1 can (15 oz.) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup chopped, pitted dates
1 box (10 oz.) or 1½ cups couscous
½ tsp. salt or more to taste
¼ cup sliced, unblanched almonds, toasted
Black pepper to taste
1 cup thinly sliced green onions

Directions:

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, heat the oil. Add the onion and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until lightly browned, about 8 minutes.

Add the garlic, cumin, paprika, cinnamon, coriander and cayenne. Cook, stirring for 1 minute.

Add the broth, lemon juice, lemon peel, chickpeas and dates. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 5 minutes.

Add the couscous and salt, stir, then remove from heat and set aside, covered, for 5 minutes. The couscous should absorb all the liquid.

Fluff the couscous with a fork and add additional salt, if desired, and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with the toasted almonds and the green onions.

Serves 8

Fresh Corn Salsa

8 Sep

Corn salsaWell, you could make this with frozen or canned corn, but it’s SO much better with fresh, and that’s SO easy to get right now that there’s no excuse.

This is a very easy dish to make, especially if you have a “corn zipper” tool to remove the corn from the cob. Leftovers will last about a week in the fridge.

Double the recipe if you’re serving a lot of people or taking this dish to a potluck.

Here’s a trick for cooking the corn easily:

Put it in the microwave, husks, silks and all, and nuke for 4 minutes at high for one ear or 8 minutes for two (don’t cook more than two at a time). When it’s done, cut about an inch off each ear above any stalk on the bottom. Then, starting at the top of the ear, squeeze gently and the corn will slide right out of the husks, without any silk (or very little) attached. You will probably need a potholder to do the squeezing, because the ear will be quite hot.

Ingredients:

Cooked fresh corn from 2 – 3 cobs
2 medium ripe tomatoes, chopped into small pieces
1/2 bell pepper, any color, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeds removed, chopped fine
1 small onion, preferably red, chopped fine
1 Tbs. olive oil
2 Tbs. lime juice (or lemon juice if you don’t have lime)
1/2 tsp. salt or more to taste

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a bowl.

Allow flavors to mingle for at least 20 minutes before serving.

Serves 4

Fresh Corn Casserole

18 Aug

Corn pudding

Fresh corn is everywhere these days, from farmers’ markets to your local supermarket. In many states, including Michigan, it’s local produce — fresh and delicious — and a great buy at this time of year.

Here’s a good recipe for fresh corn if you want to do something besides eat it off the cob (which, honestly, I think is the best possible thing you can do with fresh corn).

Save the recipe to use again when corn season is over; it’s also fine with frozen corn.

Serve it as a main dish with a nice salad for a luncheon or light supper, or as a side dish with grilled fish or (if you’re not a kosher-keeper) chicken.

Ingredients:

2 cups fresh corn kernels (4 or 5 ears)
1 stick butter, melted
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 cup diced Monterey Jack cheese
½ cup cornmeal
1 small can diced green chilies
1½ tsp. salt

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Butter a 2-quart casserole dish.

Puree 1 cup corn with melted butter and eggs in a blender or food processor, or use an immersion blender.

Mix the remaining ingredients in a bowl. Add the pureed mixture and blend well.

Pour into casserole and bake, uncovered, for 50 to 60 minutes until puffed and golden.

Cut into squares or wedges to serve.

Serves 8