Getting My Husband to Like Aubergine 

We all have a veg we’re not a fan of but the rest of the family likes.  I hate Brussel sprouts, our son isn’t a fan of asparagus and mushroom, and our daughter finds celery particularly weird.  Aubergine is what my husband would be happy to avoid.  I have made the Moroccan Lamb Stew that he likes but as we like to grow the veg I need to come up with more recipes to use up the harvest.


When we were in Little Italy our daughter ordered a starter that layered aubergine, tomato, prosciutto, and basil.  She loved it so this was the inspiration for dinner.  I wanted to use the strong flavours of sun dried tomatoes and garlic for this dish.  I wanted it to pop!  I also used chicken thighs as it is a less expensive cut of meat to use.  

For this dish I used a little more than half a pound/10 oz of chicken.  Cut the chicken into small cubes and finely chop 3-5 cloves of garlic. Slice a large handful of sun dried tomatoes while heating up a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet.  Toss in the three ingredients and sauté on medium low to pull the flavours of the garlic and sun dried tomatoes into the oil.  


Once the chicken is halfway cooked add the aubergine.  We grew small Italian finger aubergine which get to about 5in/12.5cm long.  For this dish I used four of the veg, sliced.


Cook for a few minutes then add a couple of tablespoons of balsamic vinegar.  Because we ran out of our chicken stock (gasp!) I used veg bouillon instead.  It worked really well with the strong flavours.  Use about a cup/8oz of the bouillon and simmer to reduce slightly.  For once we did really well growing basil this year.  Let’s face it, gardening can be a bit of a crapshoot.  But I tossed in a handful of the fresh basil.  Once the dish is nearly finished cooking add a handful of chopped prosciutto.  You don’t want this ingredient cooking too long as it can get tough and overpowering.


While all this was going on I oven roasted potatoes that I sliced about a 1/4 in/.625cm thick, drizzled with olive oil and sea salt.  Lay out the potatoes and top with the aubergine dish.  Grate fontina cheese over the dish and garnish with fresh basil.


Our daughter said it wasn’t exactly like the dish she had, which was fine as I wasn’t reproducing it, but that she loved it.  My husband’s response? “Congratulations on making aubergine edible!”  😄.  I do love cooking for my family.

Curry Inspired Couscous

We still have tomatoes and aubergines coming out of our garden at a great rate so it is time to get creative so they don’t go to waste.  It was a crazy week last week with my husband traveling and with the kids schools stuff so I only got round to cooking a meal for the kids on Friday.  Well, I did feed them the rest of the week, not that much of a slacker!  But I stuck with the easy stuff I could do with my eyes shut.  I was in the mood for something curry flavoured and we had chicken on hand.  This could be done!

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I thought it would be a fun twist to use the Israeli Couscous I had on hand.  Cook that using the directions on the package.  First I prepped the chicken with a marinade paste.  I mixed a tablespoon of olive oil with a tablespoon of red curry paste, a teaspoon of chili powder, 1/2 a teaspoon of ground ginger, 1/2 a teaspoon of cumin, and a bit of sea salt and pepper.  Mix well and spread it on the chicken thighs.

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Preheat the oven to 375F/190C.  Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet and brown both sides of the chicken.

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Finish off the chicken in the oven.  Chop up a small onion and a couple of cloves of garlic.  Add them to the skillet and cook on medium low temp.

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Slice up the aubergine and several tomatoes and bring the temp up to medium to saute.

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Add 1/2 a cup or so of chicken stock.  Add 2 tablespoons of red curry paste, 1/2 a teaspoon of ground ginger, a teaspoon of chili powder, a few dashes of garam masala, and a sprinkle of asafoetida.  As it simmers also add a few splashes of lime juice.  Stir in the couscous.

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The kids came into the dining room and said how wonderful it smelled.  I was a little jealous as I don’t have a sense of smell and the spices that go into curry can be wonderful.

 

Aubergine Quinoa and Any Time is a Good Time for a Clear Out

Every year we try to accomplish something with the house.  Some years are more successful than others of course depending on what we have going on or how expensive the next set of projects are.  This year we finished our closet and redid our son’s bedroom floor.  But the big thing done is we did a massive clear out of the carriage house and the house itself.

I am convinced stuff multiplies.  How else do we explain filling a 20 yard skip?  Granted a lot of it was from the carriage house and old odds and sods left over from previous owners, the debris from our projects, that sort of thing.  But it feels so good doing some serious organisation, rediscover what we have, and do some major recycling.  We do try to fix, upcycle, and recycle before the last resort of throwing out.  Plus we have loads of stuff for the Girl Scouts fundraising yard sale.  It’s taken us all summer but it’s a big project to cross of the never ending list.

We’re starting to get some result from our garden.  Of course it comes all at once!  Our aubergine and tomatoes are coming in fast so it’s on to preserving and eating so none of it goes to waste.  The aubergine we decided to grow this year is called fingerling, I believe, and they are small diameter and about 8in/20cm long.  Perfect size for a small family.

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I wanted to make roasted aubergine and roasted tomatoes with quinoa for dinner.  The longest bit of this dinner is the roasting, everything else comes together quite quickly.

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Preheat the oven to 400F/200C.  Slice the aubergine and tomatoes and place them in a single layer into the baking dish.  Drizzle with olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper.  Roast until the veg is cooked through and begins to brown.  While this is roasting cut up some chicken and begin to brown with olive oil in a skillet.  Add about half a cup of chopped red onion and a few cloves of chopped garlic.

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Cook the quinoa according to directions.  It only takes about 15 minutes to cook so plan accordingly.  Once the tomatoes and aubergine are done remove from the oven.

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Slice up the aubergine and add the veg to the skillet with the chicken.  Add 1/2 a cup of chicken stock and about 1/4 cup of white wine.  I chopped up a small handful of fresh oregano from our garden.

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Add the quinoa and about 1/2 a cup of freshly grated parmesan.  Stir well and serve.

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Top with more parmesan and enjoy!  This is quite filling without being heavy and perfect to throw together after a day of projects.

Moroccan Lamb Soup

Mother Nature has been messing with us a lot this past week.  Winter had a lot of periods of spring weather and so far spring has ushered in winter weather.  We’ve had freezing temps and snow.  Not amused!  Fortunately we haven’t had anything in the garden yet and the bulbs seem to be holding their own which is good.

It did present a perfect time for baking and soup last weekend.  I found some nice stewing lamb at the co-op and I was in the mood for Moroccan flavours.  Something to take the chill off.

This is an easy soup to throw together.  In a bowl add 1/2 a cup of flour, a tablespoon of ground tumeric, a teaspoon of ground cinnamon, and 2 teaspoons of paprika.  Season with sea salt and pepper.

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Mix thoroughly.  I got about a pound of lamb for this meal.  Cut it up in small pieces, an inch/2.5cm square or so.  Toss in the flour mixture to coat.

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In a large saucepan heat up a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.  Brown the lamb in the saucepan for several minutes.

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Chop up a small onion and a few cloves of garlic.  Add to the pan and saute for a few more minutes.

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For some reason, I spaced on taking pictures for the next few steps.  Don’t know what I was doing!  Add 4 cups of vegetable bouillon to the pan.  I use a paste mixed with water rather than the dry cubes.  For this I kept it on the light side so the flavour was subtle.  Grate a piece of fresh ginger that is about 1 1/2 inches/3-4 cm square.  Simmer for a couple of hours at a low temp.  Cube an aubergine and add to the soup in the last hour of cooking.  After it simmers for awhile check the seasoning and adjust as needed.  I added a bit more tumeric and paprika to mine.  When the lamb is tender and cooked so it’s falling apart it is ready to serve.

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You can’t go wrong with lovely crusty bread and butter with this.  As warming this soup was I am looking forward to the weather behaving itself so we can get back to grilling and salads.  I am ready for spring!

Lovely Farmer’s Markets and Grilling Cod

The schedule for the markets in the surrounding towns is being figured out.  We went to our first one in Noyant and what fun!  It isn’t a big one but you won’t lack for food.  Though for this one, in order to get fresh herbs I had to buy a thyme plant.  Where there’s a way!

 
It wasn’t expensive and my in-laws can keep it when they go home.  

  

With our phrase book, little French, and the vendors’ little English (or sometimes big English!) we managed to get everything we needed for the special dinner of celebrating my in-laws 50th wedding anniversary.  Quite the accomplishment these days!  

  
We also managed to find some lovely cured meats, cheeses, and the most amazing crevettes.  They are very messy to peel and eat but it’s worth it.

  
The fish monger had a very good selection of fish so I bought some cod to grill.  The stall that sold cured meats also sold spices and we got a mix that was like a citrusy dry rub that had paprika in it.  I thought it would be perfect for the cod.  We found some ready prepared kebabs made with turkey and beef for the non fish lovers to round out the meal.

I prepared the cod two ways.  First I rubbed the fish with the dry rub and added olive oil.  I wrapped it in the tin foil and put it in the fridge.

  
For the second preparation of the cod.  I seasoned it with salt and pepper, added lemon slices, thyme sprigs, olive oil, and dry white wine.

  
Wrap in tin foil and place it in the fridge until ready to grill.  I also prepped aubergine with salt and pepper and olive oil to grill.  The mushrooms I dipped into a lemon thyme dressing I made for the salad.

  
  
I’ve gotten the hang of the charcoal grill but it is very hot work in this heatwave!  Yesterday was 100F/38C.  Even in the shade, trying to be an asthmatic bellow to get the flames going nearly did me in.  But I was successful.  Given that it’s not a large grill I had to do the food in stages with the aubergine put on last.

  
Keep the lemon thyme cod in the tin foil so it poaches in the olive oil and wine.  I decided to be brave and place the other cod directly on the grill.  Conor from One Man’s Meat was kind enough to give me a tip of about five minutes.  This was quite the thick piece so after a few minutes I checked to make sure it was starting to flake before flipping it over to cook on the other side.

  
So far so good!  The kebabs were done so I added the leek to the grill.  You want the fish to be flaky but not dry.  It’s ok to have it medium well rather than well done.

 
My husband made delicious garlic bread and his aunt made a salad.  I have to say, I was really pleased with how the fish came out.  Both ways.

  

We are enjoying the countryside and I love the sunflowers.  Though if you stop on the roadside beware!  I don’t know if I stepped in stinging nettles or some stinging insect nest.  Either way it was painful getting the shot.  Taking the suffering for your art a bit too far I think.  😊 

Spicy Aubergine with Roasted Chicken

I could use this hot spicy dish today given how bitter cold it is.  We’re in a deep cold snap and hopefully it won’t last long.  Guinness is not impressed at all.

Rosemary from Cooking in Sens did a post with spicy aubergine and veal a few weeks ago and I loved the flavours that were in the dish.  I had most of the ingredients and two chicken thighs to use up.  Plus our kids were coming back from Florida and I wanted to make them a nice meal to welcome them home.

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Use a glass bowl big enough to hold the meat you choose to use.  Finely chop a shallot to give you about 1/4 cup.  Add 4-6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped.  Then add 7 tablespoons of peanut oil, 1/8 cup of Sriracha sauce, 1/8 chilli garlic sauce, 1/4 cup of rice vinegar, 1/4 cup of soy sauce, and 2 tablespoons of sugar.  Mix well.  Add the chicken and make sure it is well coated.  Cover and set aside for at least and hour in the fridge.

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When it is time to make dinner heat the oven to 350F/175C.  Bake the chicken thighs turning every 10 minutes until the chicken is cooked.

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While the chicken is cooking add the rest of the marinade to a skillet.  Add a cup of chicken stock and bring the sauce to a simmer.  Allow it to reduce by about a third or so.  If the sauce is too spicy add more chicken stock.  I had to do this otherwise I think I would have blown the kids out of their seats.

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While the sauce is simmering, cube a cup and a half of aubergine and slice up the cooked chicken.  Add to the sauce and cook until the aubergine is cooked.  Just at the end add a handful of sliced scallion.

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Serve with rice noodles or rice.

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This was very spicy!  This would have a great chance of curing the common cold.  🙂  Which given the season, isn’t a bad thing!

Aubergine with Oven Roasted Tomatoes and Steak

I found myself in a bit of a produce pickle the other day.  I went slightly overboard in buying produce forgetting that the kids would be off camping for the weekend.  So I was faced with the task to get rid of the produce in meals so it wouldn’t go bad.

My son loves the zucchini/courgette flans so I thought it would be great to do a zucchini/courgette side as a treat for him.  And I bought an aubergine as the kids requested an Italian meal.

For the zucchini/courgette side I used the spiral cutter again.  So much easier with the softer produce!  Very quick.  🙂

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Set that aside and chop up some aubergine.

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In a skillet melt some butter and sear the steak to brown on both sides then finish off in the oven to the desired doneness.  In the skillet add some avocado oil.  Once heated add the aubergine and saute for a few minutes.  Then add some oven roasted tomatoes and a few cloves of chopped garlic.  Add a bit of white balsamic vinegar.

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While the sauce cooks set up another skillet and heat up some more avocado oil.  Toss in the zucchini/courgette spirals.  Season with sea salt, pepper, and a few splashes of white balsamic vinegar.

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Slice the steak and stop with the aubergine sauce.  Grate fresh parmesan cheese and serve.

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I even liked the zucchini/courgette which is unheard of!  But I noticed my son wasn’t touching the zucchini/courgette.  Apparently the only way he likes it is in the flan.  Sigh.  Fortunately my daughter couldn’t get enough so it didn’t go to waste. Sometimes it is hard to keep up!

Crêpes with Roasted Vegetables

Usually when we straggle through security at Terminal 3 in Heathrow we head right to avoid the perfumes and the endless clerks ready to spray you with them.  Inevitably we end up at the same restaurant, get hustled through our basic food and sent on our way.  Then we wander and see other restaurants that we swear we’ll remember and try the next time.  This time we took a deep breath, hooked left, raced past the perfumes, and checked out the other side.  We came across a French restaurant that began with an O and for the life of me I can’t remember the name.  But the food was delicious.  Today’s was inspired by a dish our daughter had and I’ll be making another dish my husband made. Not bad for an airport.

Her dish was similar to a ratatouille but in a crêpe form.  Very basic but it worked.  While all the steps are easy for this dish it does take time to prep all the ingredients.  I mixed the crêpe batter ahead of time and chilled it.

Next I prepped the tomatoes to roast in the oven.  I used roma tomatoes and sliced them about 1/4″ thick, drizzled them with olive oil, seasoned them with salt and pepper.  I set the oven to convection at 300F/150C.  I slow roasted them for about an hour.

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My husband cooked the crêpes for me while I grilled the veg.  I sliced onion and aubergine and also drizzled them with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper.

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In addition to the aubergine and onion I did up wide slices of pepper.  You want the grill to be relatively hot but not scorching.  I was going for a nice grilled roasted flavour, not burnt!

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Once the veg is cooked begin to layer the ingredients on the crêpes.

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Grate a cheese of your choice that will melt well over the veg.  We used jarlsberg as that is what we had but cheddar would work.

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Place another crêpe on top and heat in the oven at 350F/175C until the crêpes begin to brown and the cheese melts.

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Quarter them and serve immediately.

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I loved the roasted tomatoes in this.  I really should roast them more often.  My daughter said it made the restaurant dish taste a bit one noted.  🙂  High praise indeed!

In reference to yesterday’s post about not being able to preview the post before publishing, I’ve also found that the photos load smaller even though the file size is the same, and if I want to include a link to a post I did previously I have to open a new tab, go to the dashboard, search, open the post then copy the link.  And they got rid of the list of tags I used the most. Not sure what they were thinking with this change!  But I’ve sent a note to the support group.  Hopefully we can get this sorted out.

Eggplant-Aubergine-Al Badinjan Parmesan

Words fascinate me.  With all the different languages one thing can have many different names.  Take eggplant.  Which is a strange thing to call it as the common ones are large and purple.  But various countries in Europe called it eggplant because they used to be the size of a goose egg and even whitish.  In the UK using the word aubergine shows a bit of the French influence on our language but if you continue back the roots are found in the Arabic word al-badinjan.

Years ago when my mum and I would work together we had a little game we’d play.  This was when the internet was new to us and I would look up the word of the day and try to test her.  It would always be a big word or something really obscure and she would have to try to come up with the definition.  I think I tripped her up a small handful of times.  She has an excellent vocabulary and because she took Latin she could figure out the root of the word.  I may not have the vocabulary she does but I love the history of words.

I asked the kids what they would like for dinner this week and our daughter piped up with eggplant parmesan.  As I’ve never made it before I thought why not?  And really it’s not very difficult to make.  The only time consuming bit is the homemade pasta.  For the tomato sauce I used our homemade base and added our usual group of veg and a bit of red wine.

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Slice the eggplant about 1/4″ thick or so and remove the skin.  I then sliced them in half so it is more manageable.

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Dip them in egg and panko bread crumbs and pan fry in oil until browned then turn them over.  On the browned side I seasoned with salt and pepper and grated fresh parmesan cheese over the eggplant.

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After both sides are browned finish off in the oven to complete cooking.  Toss the pasta in the sauce.  I prefer the Italian way of just letting the sauce coat the pasta rather than have the pasta swimming in the sauce.  Grate more fresh cheese over the dish and serve.

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Super easy to put together and the kids loved it.  And hey, any time the kids ask for a veg based dish I won’t be saying no!  Though we are lucky, they love their veg.  🙂