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.

Bruschetta Chicken Salad

It’s a lovely rainy day today.  I say lovely because we’re still not having many of them.  Optimistically we planted more seed to replace those that didn’t come up.  Right now we have one leek and one onion coming up.  Stand back and prepare to be overwhelmed!

For the life of us we can’t grow beets.  We keep trying.  In fact we had one come up a few weeks ago but it disappeared.  So did the carrots!  So we replanted and also sprinkled blood meal round the beds.  I hope we start to make some progress.

The other night I was in the mood for Italian but nothing heavy as it was hot.  I saw various ideas for bruschetta chicken which sounded wonderful.  The drawbacks to the recipes was that they called for store bought dressings.  It’s easy enough to make it from scratch.

In a bowl mix 2 parts olive oil to 1 part balsamic vinegar.  Add fresh thyme and finely chopped garlic.  Season with sea salt and pepper.

Bruschetta chicken salad 1 2015

Add the chicken breasts to marinate for at least an hour.

Bruschetta chicken salad 2 2015

While the chicken is marinating prep the bruschetta part of the dish.

Bruschetta chicken salad 3 2015

Quarter the tomatoes and add a few cloves of finely chopped garlic in a bowl.  Toss with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sea salt, and pepper.  The fresh mozzarella and basil should be added just before serving.  Grill the chicken and the slice it to serve over a bed of lettuce.

Bruschetta chicken salad 4 2015

As a side I also grilled up some veg to make a light supper.  I love this time of year with all the fresh veg.  Not so much the heat but you can’t have it all!

No Two Tastebuds Alike

How things taste to different people fascinates me.  For this recipe of cherries and pork my husband and I had two different reactions to it.  It makes me wonder how various foods made it on our list of ok to eat.  If I had been the first person ever to try Brussels sprouts then it would have never made it on the list.  I would have deemed it poison and moved on.  Way too bitter to me.  I’m not convinced it can have a nutty sweet flavour.  And unless an onion fell into the fire before I tasted it I would have said the same about raw onions.  Then again I love Marmite and my husband would be pleased to never have it in the house.

I was puttering about my pinterest boards and came across this recipe for pork chops with a cherry balsamic sauce.  It sounded interesting but I made some changes to it as I felt solely using balsamic to reduce would be overpowering with the cherries.  It took some tweaking to get the sauce right because the cherries were quite tart as well.  This is a quick meal that is perfect for a busy school night or you just don’t feel like cooking too much.

In a skillet with olive oil brown both sides of some pork chops that have been seasoned with salt and pepper.

Cherry and pork 1 2014

Remove and keep warm.  In the same skillet put about 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar to deglaze the pan and add in about a cup of chopped cherries.  Add some fresh thyme along with a cup of turkey or chicken stock and simmer for a couple of minutes.

Cherry and pork 2 2014

The cherries were very tart and the balsamic was adding a similar note so I added a bit of honey then half an onion to counter the sweetness.  It was very much an experiment to get the right balance!  Once you have the right balance add the pork back into the sauce and simmer to cook the pork and reduce the sauce.

Cherry and pork 3 2014

We served the pork with some corn and rice pilaf for a simple meal.

Cherry and pork 4 2014

Now for the two different reactions we had.  I felt the sauce was ok but not very exciting by itself but when I had it with the pork it really came alive.  For my husband he enjoyed the sauce but felt the pork was gamey and fought with the sauce.  I know he and I taste things differently as it’s proved out time and again when I’m trying to make something spicy enough for him.  I’ll be on fire and he’ll be enjoying the mild flavour.  🙂  So I think at the end of the day this was a fun experiment but I may have to revisit it so both of us enjoy it.

Meatballs! With a Chance of Clouds

My kids loved the book Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.  How they have enough to do a sequel to the movie I don’t know but the book was great.  Yesterday afternoon was definitely overcast and surprisingly cool and it was time for some comfort food.  We had some tortellini stuffed with cheese and prosciutto that I wanted to use and we needed to use some of the store bought tomato sauce we got for the homemade pizzas we made earlier in the week.  But I wanted to create something and it’s been a long time since I made any sort of meatballs.  Fortunately we had some ground beef on hand from a local farm.

This is a simple recipe which is perfect now the kids are back in school.  The summer just flew by.  Both are happy with the teachers they got and while they would prefer to still be on holiday it isn’t to tortuous heading off to school in the morning. 🙂

In a medium bowl I added the beef, one egg, 3 cloves of garlic finely chopped, fresh thyme from the garden and salt and pepper to taste.

Meatballs 1 2013

As you hand mix this be careful not to manhandle it too much.  My mixture was quite moist so I added a bit of panko bread crumbs to bring it together better.

Meatball 2 2013

To really give it some flavour I drizzled some real balsamic vinegar onto the mixture and incorporated it.

Meatball 3 2013

Form into smallish balls keeping them somewhat uniform in size.  In a skillet with hot oil oil brown both sides.

Meatball 4 2013

Once both sides have been browned I finish them off in the oven at 400F/205C.  This will only take a few minutes.  Remove from the heat and set aside.  I add them to the sauce and pasta towards the end to make sure they are warm.  You don’t want to overcook them as they will dry out.  In the skillet I sauteed peppers, onions, and mushrooms, added the sauce and balsamic vinegar.  To finish I added some fresh basil.  Once the pasta is cooked I tossed it in the sauce and added the meatballs.

Meatball 5 2013

Grate some fresh parmesan over it and enjoy!  We had a lovely Merlot from Chile to pair with this dish.

No Two Ways About It…

I’ve mentioned before about the different diets in my family and working out how to cook for everyone.  I’m included in that as there are some things I just won’t eat.  My sister has been vegetarian for most of her life though since she had kids she will eat some fish.  She is bringing up her kids the same way.  When she visits I usually take the opportunity to cook some salmon as I don’t have that often.

I didn’t want to cook two separate meals though as it was a hot day, there were 5 kids in the house running round, and we were tired!  Kids should not have more energy than the parents.  Evolution seriously got that wrong somewhere along the lines!  So I needed something that would work for grilled pork and grilled salmon.  I got inspiration from Richard with his post on a fabulous salsa.  The funny thing is I did this dish on Wednesday and his post yesterday was with pork.  🙂  I went the Italian route for this as it couldn’t be spicy.  Turns out my sister reacts to spicy peppers.  I thought she just didn’t like spicy food.  However, fire roasted tomatoes sounded wonderful!

We still have boatloads of tomatoes in the garden so I grabbed a bunch and also picked some fresh thyme for this dish.

Fire roasted tomato sauce 1 2013

Slice the tomatoes in half and season with salt and pepper then drizzle with olive oil.  Cut one onion in half as well.

Fire roasted tomato sauce 2 2013 Fire roasted tomato sauce 3 2013

I put the onion directly on the grill but the tomatoes were in a grill pan.  The grill temp was about 325F/163C.  Halfway through cooking turn them over.  Cook until the skins start pulling away and they shrink a bit.

Fire roasted tomato sauce 4 2013

For the onions I grilled them until they had nice grill marks on them.

Fire roasted tomato sauce 5 2013

In a food processor I pulsed the tomatoes and onion coarsely.  In a skillet with olive oil I sauteed some garlic and thyme then added the tomato mixture.  I added a bit more salt and pepper and some real balsamic vinegar and let it reduce slightly.  In the meantime I grilled the pork and salmon.  I have to say this was the best salmon I bought.  It was wild caught which is so much better than farmed but even this raised the bar.  Need to go back and see if they have anymore!  I kept the proteins simple, just salt and pepper to season.

Fire roasted tomato sauce 6 2013

To serve I spooned the sauce over the pork and salmon.

Fire roasted tomato sauce 7 2013 Fire roasted tomato sauce 8 2013

My sister was kind enough to bring a chick pea salad and I did a greek salad with homemade greek dressing.  We had a lovely visit with good food and good company.  Oh and good wine.  😉

 

Seared Lamb with Mushroom Rub and Balsamic

I haven’t cooked lamb before but I found some local meat at our co-op and thought I should give it a try.  So I bought some and then wondered what to do with it.  One of the great things about the blogging world?  Inspiration!  I follow the Cooking in Sens blog and she posted a lamb recipe that looked really good.  I liked the idea of broth and balsamic vinegar.  After a trip to the store I came up with this recipe.

The cut of meat I used was a shoulder chop.

mushroom lamb 1 2013

I seasoned with salt then added a dried mushroom rub that contained black pepper.  The mushrooms were porcini and shiitake.

mushroom lamb 2 2013

I set the chop aside for a few minutes while I prepped the rest of the food so the flavours of the rub could sink in a bit.  I then added a bit of olive oil and butter to the skillet and melted the butter.  Once hot enough it was time to sear the lamb chop.

mushroom lamb 5 2013

I seared each side for a couple of minutes and seared the edges as well.  Then set it aside and covered it with tin foil while I made the sauce.  I added coarsely chopped mushrooms, shallots, and garlic to the skillet and sauteed for a few minutes.

mushroom lamb 6 2013

I had my homemade turkey broth on hand so I used about a 1/2 cup of that.  I brought it to a simmer.  Then I added balsamic vinegar to the sauce.  As this is the real stuff you don’t need much.  I used several drops of this.  We brought it back from Italy when we were there on our honeymoon and it really works well in a lot of dishes.

mushroom lamb 4 2013 mushroom lamb 8 2013

Once the sauce was done I added the lamb back in to cook a bit more.  We like our meat rare but not blue.  Because this is the first time I cooked lamb I was on a bit of a learning curve to get it to the right doneness but I got there in the end.

mushroom lamb 9 2013

We paired the dish with this wine.  We belong to the Virgin Wine club and every 3 months we get a case of red.  This was a good one and it held up to the earthy taste of the dish.  As a stand alone it was a bit rough.

mushroom lamb 3 2013

I served the lamb with roast potatoes and some corn.

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Overall I was pleased with the flavour but I think I’ll try to find a better cut of meat next time.  This would also work well with steak.