Monday, May 7, 2012

The Yenta Takes on Eggplant

She looks hotter now than in high school, the stupid hooker.
It's that time! Our very own Yenta is here to answer your questions about food and cooking. If you any questions for her, please leave them in the comments!


Oy, Eggplant.  There is nothing worse than when an Eggplant hasn’t been properly prepared.  You know you’ve had that ‘cut-too-thick, skin-still-on, not-breaded, not-fried’ eggplant parm that you can barely choke down.  BLECH! Disgusting.  To prepare eggplant for best tasting results they should be peeled, sliced and salted.  Slice thinly and generously season with kosher salt- Let them sit on a baking sheet or casserole dish until you can see the liquid coming to the surface, 30-60 minutes. Rinse the slices well and pat them dry. Now they are ready for breading and pan frying- or for marinating in olive oil and vinegar which is great for grilling!

Another fantastic way to eat eggplant is in a classic Caponata. Use this recipe as is, OR add chicken stock and 1 can of pureed tomato and make into a soup!

2 Medium Eggplants, peeled and diced into ½ cubes
4 Ripe Tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped (or use canned plum)
2 Red peppers, seeded and cut into ½” pieces
2 Zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced ½” thick
2 Onions, halved and thinly sliced
4 Cloves Garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 Tbsp. Capers
1 Bay Leaf
½ tsp. Fresh Thyme leaves
¼ Cup White Wine Vinegar
1 ½ tsp. Sugar
1 Tbsp. Flat Leaf Italian Parsley, finely chopped
Salt & Pepper to taste
½ Cup Olive Oil

Pre-heat oven to 450˚
Heat vinegar and sugar together in a small sauce pan – until sugar melts
Oil a large roasting pan
Toss vegetables together will all other ingredients
Add vinegar/sugar mixture and toss again
Cover tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes.  Reduce heat to 400˚, uncover and bake 1 hour turning the mixture every 30 minutes.
Serve at room temperature.

Healthy Cookies
Oy! There is only so much that you can do here before you turn cookies into cardboard hockey pucks.  A very simple change you can make without compromising flavor and texture is to substitute white all-purpose flour for 100% whole wheat flour and ground flax seed.  You can also cut the amount of fat in half and substitute with some mashed banana or apple sauce.  Instead of using a full cup of chocolate chips, perhaps mix it up with ½ cup mini chocolate chips and 1 cup of chopped walnuts.  Keep in mind that making something healthy isn’t always about making it “low-fat.”  If you can incorporate whole grains and “healthier” ingredients then you are making a change for good!
That all being said…  I wouldn’t just leave you with suggestion without actually testing the recipe myself – because that is what I do for you.  I make and eat cookies FOR you.  And, if I have to make and eat cookies over and over again FOR YOU, then that is what I will have to do.

I used the classic Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe as a good base and adjusted from there.

2 ¼ cups 100% organic (or non-organic) Whole Wheat Flour
(You could also use 1 ¾ cups WW flour and ½ cup ground flax seed)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 very ripe bananas
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup light brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract (not that imitation crap- invest in good vanilla!)
2 large eggs, beaten
½ cup chocolate chips (minis work great too!)
1 cup chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 350°
Sift all dry ingredients together and set aside in bowl.
Beat butter and sugar until smooth
Add bananas and continue to beat
Add eggs and vanilla
Add dry ingredients slowly
Add chips and walnuts and mix until incorporated.
I would put these in my mouth.
Spoon dollops onto a greased cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.
A few thoughts…
1.       If your kids don’t like bananas- try using a cup of apple sauce instead. If your kids don’t like apple sauce, you’re pretty much screwed.
2.       Your kids will not taste the difference in flours, but for the love of god, don’t tell them about the switch.  If there is anything I have learned from the RFML gals, it’s that there is a whole lot of “trickery” when it comes to feeding kids- so why take any chances?  It’s flour.  Leave it at that.

Crock Pot for Spring/Summer
There is no need to put your crock pot away in the summer! Think of it as a way to save energy during the warmer months- and keep your kitchen cooler!
Besides some of the obvious uses like meatballs and sauces, you can use your slow cooker to make perfect shredded BBQ pork and/or brisket and many kinds of chili.

Shredded BBQ Pork … good the day you make it, even better the next day.
3-4 lbs. of Pork Shoulder or Pork Butt cut into 3 equal pieces
1 (fist size) Yellow Onion – chopped
Garlic clove (or 2) – chopped
¾ cup Cider Vinegar
¾ cup Ketchup
½  cup Brown Sugar
¼ cup Molasses
2 tsp. Red Pepper Flakes
1 tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce
1 tsp. Mustard
Plain Veg Oil for searing-
In a sauté pan, heat the oil and add the pork.  Brown on all sides.
Place pork in slow cooker
Pour off excess fat from sauté pan-
Add onions and garlic- caramelize
Add vinegar to deglaze-
Add rest of ingredients
Season as needed.
Pour over pork and cook for 4-5 hours.
Serve on soft rolls with cole slaw! 

Bulgur and Millet
Don’t be afraid of experimenting with grains like Bulgur, Millet, Quinoa, Barley, Brown Rice, Steel Cut Oats…etc.

The first step is deciding if you want to make a savory or sweet dish and whether you will serve it hot or cold.  After that – prepare the grain of your choice by the directions on the box.  If you are making a savory dish you might want to consider cooking in chicken, beef or veggie stock with a dash of olive oil or if you are preparing a sweet dish, perhaps throw a cinnamon stick and an orange peel in.
My fav way of using any of the grains above is to pick 3 or 4 and mix them together in a salad-
Think Salsa.  Make a salsa using – tomatoes, black beans, cilantro, olive oil, red wine vinegar, chopped peppers, minced jalapeno, minced red onion, salt and pepper and then mix the cooked grain in.  Serve cold or warm.

Or go sweet- chop some peaches and pineapple, add some fresh mint, lime juice, a bit of sugar and mix in the cooked and cooled grain.

Post your questions for next month here!

xo, Laura the Yenta

For more awesome recipes, check out The Oy of Cooking (Laura's blog) and don't forget to hang out with her on Facebook and Pinterest.

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