Savory Tomato Cobbler

My parents definitely failed me on the vegetable front. Sure, they tried to make me eat well. But we didn’t have much money, so their version of having me eat well was having me eat well out of a can. Asparagus from a can. Green beans from a can. Creamed corn and even fruit from a can. You almost couldn’t blame me for thinking vegetables were disgusting — these weren’t actually vegetables. These were sodium drenched skeletons of what once was vegetable. When I realized how delicious fresh asparagus could be, I never turned back. I made a pact with myself never to ever eat fresh vegetables out of cans again — unless of course they were going in a chili or stew, and even then I always opt for the no salt added variety.

My final transition into becoming a vegetable elitist was tomatoes. Tomatoes always seemed so bland, and I couldnt imagine them being much else. But that all changed this summer, when I decided to take the extra mile (and extra few dollars) to get a tomato that was not a roma. This excursion into tomato blissed was a direct result of some organic heirloom tomatoes Jack brought with him to the beach house this summer. I couldn’t believe these were tomatoes. They were too delicious, too orgasmic, too… Let’s just say I would swear off men entirely if I could have a few bites of these tomatoes daily. Moral of the story: Good tomatoes (and good, fresh vegetables in general) worth the extra buck or two.

So the other night when I saw the seasons last heirloom tomatoes on sale at Whole Foods, I knew I couldn’t resist picking up a few to make a cobbler with them. I saw a recipe for a tomato cobbler on Mark Bittman’s website. Cobblers have always been my specialty, as I know some of you can attest, but I had never imagined making a savory version. Finding this recipe changed that, but I didn’t think Bittman really took the idea far enough. So I did. Here are the results.

For those of you who aren’t vegetarian, this would pair really well with a strong meat centerpiece – think fish or even a steak. For those of you who are vegetarian like myself, just do like I did and eat a very large piece!

Savory Tomato Cobbler

  • 2-3 large heirloom tomatoes or an equivalent number of smaller delicious tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • 6ish baby portobello or crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • 6 oz sundried tomatoes, slivered
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/2 c whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 c cornmeal
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tbsp butter or margarine, cut into small pieces, cold
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/3 c buttermilk
  • 4-5 oz creamy goat cheese (or feta?)

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a square 8×8 baking dish.

In a medium bowl, mix tomatoes, mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, balsamic, basil, oregano, garlic. Flavor with enough salt and pepper to make yourself happy,toss to combine, and set aside.

Sift the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and baking soda together. Add the butter and cut it in with a fork until it looks crumbly. Alternately, you could pulse the mixture a few times in a food processor. Add the egg and buttermilk and mix until it comes together into a ball. Add more flour or buttermilk if it looks to wet or dry respectively.

Take the tomatoes mixture and drain out any liquid which accumulated. Mix in the cornstarch and toss a few times. Then add the mixture into the baking dish. On top of the tomato mixture, drop pieces of the cheese on top in small portions. On top of that, drop bits of the dough mixture. Make sure to leave gaps so steam can escape, and for aesthetic purposes.

Bake for 30-40 minutes at 375. Things will get bubbly and delicious smelling. Allow to cool 5-10 minutes before serving. Scoop it out to serve. If it turns out too liquidy like mine did, do not fear. It will still be deilicious.

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Simple Hummus

A week or two ago, I had to drop by Whole Foods to grab a little bucket of tub of chickpea deliciousness. For a dip that’s as simple as a hummus, if I must buy a ready-made product, I try to make sure the ingredients reflect that simplicity. Whole Foods is good place for such things. But after scanning the ingredients list and getting to the register, I noticed something a little suspect about this particular hummus.

Hummus is made out of GARBONZO BEANS! Where would the gluten come from? Do people really need affirmation that there is no gluten in hummus? I mentioned this to the cashier and he commented that most people probably don’t realize what hummus is made out of — perhaps they think it’s made out of rye.

This is ridiculous. People should know what’s in the food they eat — especially if they have an aversion to a common macromolecule like gluten. This is just evidence of a company trying to make some movement with that new, vogue gluten-free craze.

(Forgive me if you have a gluten allergy. I’m not dismissing people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivities. I’m just saying…. You should know you’re free for the chickpeas. )

Typically, I make my own hummus — a staple of my diet which I tend to eat with baby carrots and whole wheat pitas around 3 pm every day. (I’m boring.) Anyway, this particular week, I had no time to make my own hummus. But when I can, I definitely do! It’s way cheaper. Cost analysis: $.85 for a can of garbonzo beans + $.15 for half a lemon + ($5 for a jar of tahini)/(~1o batches of hummus) = $1.50 for 16 oz or just under $.10 an oz. 10 oz of decent hummus at the store can cost you $4 or $.40 per oz.

Math graduate school really pays off.

Simple Hummus

  • 1 can (15 oz) chickpeas, drained but reserving liquid
  • 3 tbsp tahini
  • 1/2 lemon, lightly zested and juiced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1.5 tsp dried oregano (or 1 tbsp fresh!)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic (I used 4, but I’m crazy)
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper

Throw chickpeas, tahini, lemon zest and juice, oregano, garlic, and olive oil in the bowl of a food processor. Add enough of the reserved chickpea liquid to process. Blend until it reaches a hummus-like consistency. Add red peppers to taste for spiciness, and pulse a time or two more.

Here, I just threw the crushed pepper on top for aesthetic purposes. But I make my hummus a bit more garlicky than most.

Hummus Variations

Tone down the garlic/oregano/lemon and use these ideas in whatever desired strength levels.

  • greek olives, roasted garlic, and oregano
  • roasted red peppers (I’d add even more crushed red pepper to this one too!)
  • spinach & artichokes
  • I give up… anything you see in the grocery aisle you want to duplicate!

Morocco Lentil Stew

The past week has been a ridiculous one in the world of graduate school.  My office mate / research compatriot and I made a poster of our research findings to present at a “research mixer” at school.  There was free food at the event, but it turned out to be only cold thai food from some crappy restaurant in the village.  Our poster, being purely theoretical and outside the grasp of most undergraduates, wasn’t as popular as those near us.  Graduate student teams from the applicable sciences — such as the astronomers or ecologists — definitely won the hearts and minds of many at the mixer.  We had a few interested students come visit us though, and I think we made a good enough impression.

The rest of the evening was spent at the on-campus bar playing Beer Pong.  So over all, I believe the evening was a +1 for graduate school.  Though I was pretty hungry.

You know what’s great about Moroccan food?  The unique ability to pair cinnamon and raisins with spiciness.  Although it may be too early for me to make such claims, my experience with the cuisine is limited to maybe two or three Moroccan soups I’ve made over the last year.  Perhaps Scott could throw in some of his vast Morocco knowledge?

So this stew was made to cure a football pity party, and to cure the ails of a busy week.  (I also made some chocolate mousse to accompany it which I will soon share.)  Throw this (super easy) stew on the stove, put in a witty sentimental comedy, grab a beer.  That’s about all you need for a lazy Saturday night when your stores of social skills have been depleted.

 

When your heart is depleted, it looks a bit like this.

 

Moroccan Lentil Stew with Raisins

*Adapted from Vegetarian Times magazine

  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 c chopped onion
  • 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 approx 18 oz cartons prepared lentil soup (not the creamy variety)
  • 1 15 oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 c raisins (or more!)
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper
  • mint, chopped

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion and saute until tender.  Add garlic and sautee until fragrant.  Stir in all the rest of the ingredients except the mint and season with salt and pepper, if desired.  Bring soup to a simmer stirring occasionally.  Allow to simmer, uncovered, approximately 20 minutes.  Be careful to stir often so that the soup does not stick to the bottom of the saucepan.  Just before serving, stir in the mint.  Garnish with a few sprigs leftover along with some yogurt, if it suits you.

Tommy and Erica Toffee

I’m not allowed sugar before football games.  I’m required to run really long runs or take ambien so that I can remain calm and not scare the neighbors.  Lately though, even a 22 mile run doesn’t keep me from getting too worked up.  So I should definitely not be allowed to make toffee before Alabama plays Arkansas at Arkansas for their SEC season opener.  That is a disaster during which I hope my neighbors are out shopping — and that there are no small children with virgin ears within a ten mile radius.  I like to throw f-bombs like mad during interceptions, touchdown passes, or really any third and long sort of situation.

This toffee recipe was inspired by Tommy and Erica’s wedding.  It was a beautiful wedding: delicious food, lots of dancing, and boxes of delicious toffee as a gift.  The toffee was amazing to say the least, but my initial reaction was that it had to be possible to make something similar at home.  After getting a good survey of the toffee from eating the two boxes I acquired, I decided I should try making it myself.  One of the boxes was supposed to belong to Brian, who thoughtlessly had me hold it in my purse and forgot about it.  Since I had to send Brian a check anyway, I thought I’d make him a little present — homemade toffee! ( Some of the toffee also went to my roommate, since I drunkenly ate the last of her cookie dough the night before.)

The toffee turned out quite well.  To honor Tommy and Erica, I have dubbed the recipe: Tomrica Toffee (aka Chocolate-Almond Toffee).  The football game…. Let’s not talk about it.  It was a W.  But I was left unfulfilled — a void even in the face of massive amounts of hardened sugar-butter.

Tomrica Toffee

  • 14 tbsp butter
  • 1  c sugar (I used a mix of turbinado and unrefined cane sugar)
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1/2 c sliced almonds
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • dash of salt
  • 6 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 c coursely ground almonds (i.e. grind some of the almonds above in a well-cleaned coffee grinder)

Put waxed paper on a large baking sheet or butter a baking sheet very very well.

Place butter, sugar, and water in a skillet or sauce pan at medium high heat.  Stir constantly until the mixture begins to boil.  Remove the spoon and heat until the mixture reaches 300 on a candy thermometer.  If you dont have a candy thermometer, drop a few drops of the candy into a bowl of cold water.  It’s ready when the candy separates immediately into threads.  Remove from heat and quickly mix in the sliced almonds, vanilla, and salt.  Pour onto the baking sheet spreading into a 1/4 inch layer.  (Or just do as I do and pour it around evenly.)  After a few seconds sprinkle the chocolate chips on top.  As the chocolate chips melt, spread them around on top of the toffee layer.  Then, sprinkle the ground almonds on top pressing down to make a good layer.

Allow the toffee to cool in the fridge on the baking sheet.   When it has cooled completely, remove from the baking sheet and break into appropriately-sized pieces.

Burnt Aubergines

So, this blog lasted about two months before dying last summer, and I thought I was the only person who noticed.  Last weekend, at Tommy & Erica’s wedding, I was pleasantly surprised that at least one person cared.  Scotty, you have summoned this blog back from the fiery depths of internet doom.

In celebration and to honor the Aubergini title, I bring you this eggplant dish.  A former boyfriend turned me onto Indian food last year.  I never liked it before, but I’ve decided that was probably because of the lack of decent and authentic Indian food in the midwest.  My favorite food these days is chana masala (a recipe I’ve been tempering with and may someday share).  In deciding to revive my food blog, I wanted to go with a good Indian eggplant recipe.  There is a girl in my department from India, and she has been promising over and over again to send me a recipe from her mother for baingan bartha, literally translated as burnt eggplant.  She’s failed at this undertaking, so I was forced to create this recipe for myself with the help of the trusty internet.  I took a few recipes for the general idea and created my own spice concoction to add.  Frankly, however, this is still just like most of the other baingan bartha recipes out there, so I don’t take much credit.  Although given my non-authentic upbringings, I’ve decided to call it, instead, burnt aubergines.

You will notice that this recipe calls for coconut yogurt.  Though I’m not vegan and do not plan on becoming one (who wants to worry that hard when cookies appear?), I’ve been experimenting with vegan substitutions.  Coconut yogurt is pretty clutch, and I think it makes an excellent addition to Indian recipes which otherwise don’t have the coconut going on.  You can substitute plain yogurt instead with little change, although you won’t have that ever-so-slight coconut underpinnings.  Also, feel free to go however hot you want with the chilies.  I actually used a hatch chili as these are all the rage in Texas right now, but the serranos in the recipe ere are what I’ll use when I make this recipe again.  Another note, I’m a crazy person over amchoor powder.  It’s a spice made from dried mangos, and it gives a sour touch to spicy Indian dishes (or chili, where I’ve also used it).  If you have no amchoor powder, add the juice from a small lemon instead.

Burnt Aubergines

  • 2 medium eggplants
  • A few tbsp vegetable oil or whatever oil
  • 2 tsp cumin seed
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 serrano chili, diced
  • 2-3 large tomatoes, diced
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger
  • 1.5 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1.5 tsp amchoor powder
  • .75 c coconut yogurt (+ more to serve)
  • .25 bunch cilantro, chopped

Roast the eggplants.  Set them on a baking sheet and place 350-400 degree oven.  Roast them until tender, about 30ish minutes turning them over halfway through.  Cool.  Peel them if you feel like it.  I usually take off whatever skin is easy to peel and leave on whatever doesn’t want to come easily.  Then chop.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet.  When hot add the cumin seeds stirring until toasty and fragrant.  Add the onion and chili and cook until the onion becomes really tender and translucent.  Then add tomatoes, ginger, garlic, and spices.  Wait 5 minutes, stirring a few times.  Add the eggplant.  Check football scores.  Add yogurt.  Mix well and heat for 15-20 minutes.  You want things to be very meshed and very very tender.  Finally, mix in the cilantro.

Pairs very nicely with a side of brown basmati rice and a little more yogurt.

Honey Ginger Teriyaki Tofu Kabobs!

Question:  Who doesn’t like kabobs?

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Answer: Nobody.  Especially not in July.

What with this being prime grilling season and all (and what with there somehow being a very large package of kabob sticks in my pantry) I decided to make some kabobs the other night for dinner.  They turned out spectacularly.  The only defect was that I had to grill these on my George Foreman as opposed to a real grill.  I’m sure that would have made them more tastey.  Alas.

There’s not too much to say about these, except that I want more.  I had a peanut butter & jelly sandwich tonight for dinner and it DID NOT suffice.

Honey Ginger Teriyaki Tofu Kabobs!

Kabobs:

  • Tofu, in cubes
  • Baby portobello mushrooms or cubed portobello mushrooms
  • Green and/or Red Peppers
  • Red Onion (I used a yellow onion, but this would be my recommendation)
  • Cherry tomatoes (I used cubed bigger tomatoes, but again…)

Sauce:

  • 1 part honey
  • 1 part teriyaki
  • freshly grated ginger
  • minced garlic
  • freshly ground black pepper

I’m sure you know what’s coming: Place veggies / tofu cubes on skewers in a pattern of your choice.

Mix the sauce together.  Maybe do this earlier to let the flavors meld.  Marinate kabobs in sauce.  Grill.  When things look done and have sweet grill marks… well… That means they’re done.

Eat.

Dark Chocolate Raspberry Cobbler

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I am a cobbler fanatic.  Cobblers are delicious and southern.  My favorite Alabama memory of all time is coming back to visit a few summers ago.  I had been at my mother’s house for all of twenty minutes when my aunt shows up at the door.  In her hands is a fresh blackberry cobbler — still warm from the oven, and a pint of vanilla ice cream.  I never knew love until that day.

Recently Updated1

A cobbler is a very traditional Southern dish, and I am a very traditional Southern girl.  However.  I feel that I have perfected the basic southern cobbler recipe.  How?  It replaces some of the milk with plain yogurt.  It makes the cobbler a little creamier and somehow even more delicious.  In this recipe, I used all yogurt as the yogurt I had on hand was soy yogurt which isn’t as thick as regular plain yogurt.

PS : Tried and tested.  The yogurt recipe from before works quite well with soy milk!

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Dark Chocolate Raspberry Cobbler

  • 1 stick butter or 1/2 cup margarine
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup yogurt (or 1/2 cup yogurt, 1/2 cup milk)
  • 1 can raspberries, drained (or about 2-3 cups fresh raspberries tossed with some sugar)
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup pecan chips

Preheat oven to 350.  In a 13 x 9 baking dish, melt the butter.

In a separate bowl, mix the flour, sugar, yogurt (or yogurt/milk).  Pour on top of the melted butter in the baking dish.  Here’s the catch: Do not mix! You’re gonna wanna stir, but I promise you.  Just toss your spoon in the sink, because you don’t need that anymore.

Drop the raspberries, dark chocolate chips, and pecan chips onto this mixture.  Don’t worry if things don’t look promising.  It’ll all meld together.  Cook for 35-40 minutes until everything is bubbly and the top is just starting to get golden.  Not too long though — you kinda want things to stay a little gooey.

I’ve learned that if you feed this to people at a bar, you’ll make lots of friends.