Sunday, September 23, 2012

Mama D's Olive and Eggplant Salad

My husband's Aunt got the Minneapolis St. Paul area cooking and eating lots of Italian-American food! This recipe is not one I'd eat because I am against olives - unless they have been rendered into submission and made into oil. But, I don't want to deprive those odd folks out there that eat black olives of a Mama D classic, so... enjoy!

Mama D's Olive and Eggplant Salad
nutrition facts


1 large eggplant, peeled and sliced
1 small onion, chopped
pinch of salt
1/2 t pepper
1/3 t oregano
1 clove garlic minced (were I to make this I would increase the garlic dramatically)
1/4 pound black Italian olives
2 tomatoes, cut into wedges
black olives
3 sprigs parsley, chopped
2 T olive oil (she actually called for 1/4 cup but I don't think that much is necessary. You can always go oup from 2 T but you can't back off from 1/4 cup)
1 T plus 1 t wine vinegar


Cut the eggplant slices into bite sized pieces. Cook in boiling salted water until tender. Drain and squeeze dry. Combine with the remaining ingredients and toss gently.

Easy and olivey.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Eggplant and Zucchini Casserole

A beautiful Vegetarian dish that will rock the socks off a carnivore. Serve as a side or main dish.

Eggplant and Zucchini Casserole
nutrition facts set for side dish serving

Things to assemble:

1 T olive oil
1 medium onion
4 cloves garlic
2 (15 oz) cans or two pounds tomatoes
1/4 cup fresh basil
2 T parsley
1/4 t black pepper
1 large eggplant
2 T grapeseed oil
2 zucchini
12 oz fresh mozzarella
2 T Parmesan

What to do first:

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spray cooking spray in a casserole dish.

Mince the garlic, rinse and chop the tomatoes or open the two cans, rinse and tear the basil, rinse and chop the parsley. Slice the mozzarella and measure the Parmesan. Set everything aside in bowls or on plates so they are ready to use without fussing about.

Making the sauce:

Place the 1 T olive oil in a large skillet. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the onions and saute for about 4-5 minutes or until soft. Add the garlic and saute another 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, half the basil, and season to your taste. Simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes. Correct seasonings and set aside in a bowl. Clean the skillet for the next step.

What to do next:

Rinse and cut off the zucchini ends. Then cut them in half so you have two fully round but short zucchini sticks. Repeat with the other zucchini. I'll wait here..... Now cut the zucchini lengthwise in half, then cut each half in half. You will end up with 16 slices of zucchini.

Return the skillet to the stove medium high heat and add the grapeseed oil. Make sure the oil is very hot as this is critical for making non-oily eggplant.

While that is heating up, rinse and cut the ends off the eggplant. Stand it up and make vertical slices about 1/2 inch thick. You should be done with this by the time the oil is hot. Quickly fry the eggplant in the oil. If the eggplant gets soggy, your oil was not hot enough. Fry in batches, turning to brown each side. Drain on paper towels.

Add more oil if necessary and fry the zucchini in the same manner. Set aside on paper towels.

How to Assemble and Bake:

Layer half the eggplant and zucchini in the casserole. Top with half the sauce, half the mozzarella, and a bit of the remaining parsley and basil. Repeat. Top the whole with the Parmesan. A few more basil leaves here are makes a very pretty presentation.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until nice and bubbly. Allow to set for 10 minutes out of the oven and then serve.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Butternut Squash and Onion Sauté

Beautifully elegant and simple to make. Serve in a bowl that will contrast well with the bright orange flesh of the butternut squash.

Butternut Squash and Onion Sauté

Stuff to Assemble:

1 T olive oil
1 T butter
1 onion
Pinch of salt
3 garlic cloves, or three heaping teaspoons from a jar
1 butternut squash
A few twists of fresh cracked black pepper
1/3 cup walnuts
2 T parsley
I peel and chop with a great big knife!
How to Prep:

Peel, deseed, and chop the butternut squash into little cubes – approximately an inch in diameter.

Peel and chop the onion.

Mince the garlic cloves or measure from a jar

Put the walnuts in a zip lock bag and whack a few times with a kitchen mallet to “chop”.
Rinse and chop the parsley.

How to Sauté:

Heat the oil and butter in skillet over medium heat. When the butter has melted, add onion, a pinch of salt, and sauté until the onion starts to brown – anywhere from 10-15 minutes. Add garlic, and cook 1 minute more to release the wonderful fragrance.

Raise the temp to medium-high, add squash, and cook - stirring every now and then - for about 10-12 minutes, or until the cubes softened and start to brown. If they are browning before softening, add a tablespoon of water and cover with a lid for a few minutes at a time, then stir. Repeat as needed.

Place in a pretty serving bowl like this one and toss with black pepper, walnuts, and parsley.

Easy to do (once you've cubed the squash) and delicious.

Enjoy mindfully.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Butternut Squash Casserole

Make sure your knife is sharpened when you prep the squash. Then bake up some home cookery goodness.

Butternut Squash
Butternut Squash Casserole

Things to Assemble:

1 large or 2 medium butternut squashes
1/3 cup onion
1 cup bread crumbs
1 cup cheddar cheese
1/4 cup butter
Fresh cracked black pepper
1/4 cup cream or whole milk (2% works but do not use skim, nutrition facts set on whole milk)
Paprika to taste

How to Prep:

Cut a slice off the large bulb end of the squash - exposing the seeds and threads. Scoop those out with a large spoon and discard (or save for roasting if you love roasted seeds). Carefully cut round slices working from the large end to the stem end. The slices should be about 1/4 inch thick, but don't fuss it too much.

I find it easiest to peel the squash whole, but you may find it easier to handle once the squash is cut in half. Technique is up to you, but take care so you don't peel You! Use a very sharp peeler or knife. This is the hardest part, so once you are done, congratulate yourself! 

Mince and measure the onion. Measure the bread crumbs (you can sub in saltines if you like). Grate and measure the cheese. Set out the butter and the pepper grinder. Measure the cream or milk. Set out the paprika.

Layering the Casserole:

Rub a large casserole with butter or spray with your favorite cooking spray. Place a layer of squash on the bottom of the casserole. Sprinkle with onion, bread crumbs, cheese, sprinkle with pepper, and dot with butter. Repeat until all the ingredients have been used (likely about three layers so portion your ingredients appropriately). If you have too much squash, you can cut it into small chunks and stuff it in the pockets. 

If you love cheese, add a bit more on the top, but do not fill too closely to the top so it does not over flow while it bakes. Leave about 1/4 inch free. 

Drizzle the casserole with cream or milk and sprinkle with paprika. 

Bake it:

Cover with a lid and bake in a 375 oven for about 45 minutes. Test the squash for tenderness. If the squashes are not tender, re-cover and bake a little longer. Thick slices will take longer to cook.

Allow the casserole to "set" uncovered for about 10 minute and then serve.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Moo Shu of Peace

I had to have Moo Shu. Things would not be peaceful within until I was rolling up a delicious mixture of veggies in a thin wrapper – but I’ve never moo shu’d before and it all looked so complicated. Fortunately I found out that with a little organization making a vegetarian Moo Shu is no more difficult than any other stir fry. The important thing is to do some mindful prep and assembly before beginning to cook.

I've made a convenient shopping list for you to print off and use at the end of the recipe!

Ready to roll up and eat!
The Moo Shu of Peace
Nutrition facts for one Moo Shu Wrap

Ingredients to Assemble

Stir Fry Sauce (a delicious basic sauce for any stir fry, just whisk in a small bowl until all the ingredients are well blended)

½ c vegetable stock, low sodium
2 T soy sauce, low sodium
2 T sesame oil
1 T rice wine vinegar
3 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp honey

Filling Groups to Prep Prior to Stir Fry

Mixture One (whisk in a bowl):
3 eggs
1 t soy sauce, low sodium
1 t sesame oil

Mixture Two (place in bowl):
1 red onion, small, sliced thinly
2 T fresh ginger, grated or finely minced

Mixture Three (in separate bowl):
1 ½ cup shitake mushrooms, rinsed, patted dry and sliced into strips
3 t garlic, minced

Mixture Four (in separate bowl):
4 cups cabbage, rinsed, cored, sliced (about half a large head of cabbage)
2 cups snow peas, rinsed and cut lengthwise in half
2 cups carrots, shredded (I just buy a bag)
2-3 green onions, rinsed, outer peel removed, and sliced

Wok Oil (divided by use):
1 ½ t vegetable oil for use with Mixture One (the egg mixture). You can use peanut oil, vegetable, or grape seed, or any oil labeled for use with a wok. You need an oil that has a very high smoking point. Do not ever try to stir fry in olive oil.

1 ½ t vegetable oil for all other Mixtures

For Serving:
1 jar Hoisin sauce (a most excellent sauce indeed and available anywhere that has an Asian food aisle.)

Lettuce leaves – rinse and pat dry with a tea towel or paper towel. Clean enough so that each tortilla will have a piece of lettuce to fit the tortilla.

20 thin flour tortillas - If you live next to one of those terrific Asian stores like Ranch 99, you can pick up some Moo Shu wrappers from the frozen section. But my Thai friend says that thin fresh made tortillas (like we got from the HEB) are just as delicious.

Wok Directions:

Wokking Made Easy:

Before starting, the great thing to learn about wokking is that you need to keep the food moving. Don’t let it sit ever. That means go to the bathroom now. I’ll wait here….... Good, now we can begin. The wokkery takes about 14 minutes. 

Mixture One:

Heat the wok over medium heat. Add the vegetable oil and swirl in the pan to coat. Give the eggs another whisking and add to the pan. Turn the pan so the egg is thinly spread – lift on the sides and tilt the pan so that egg runs from the top to the side. Cook for about 1-2 minutes or til almost set. Flip (don’t worry about being perfect as you will slice it later) and cook for another minute. Remove to a plate. Wipe out the wok with a paper towel.

Slice the eggs into thin strips.

Return the wok to the stove only this time turn the temperature to high. Not medium high, high heat. When you add ingredients, the temperature will drop. If you begin at medium high, the temp will drop so low that the veggies will not cook quickly and get that lovely crisp tender texture. So, let it get hot – almost, but not quite to the point of smoking oil.

Add the oil and swirl. Hold your hand over the wok – close, but do not touch. Remember, you have the thing on high. You just want to make sure the wok is dratted hot.

Add Mixture Two – the onion and ginger. Use two large wooden spoons as if you are continually folding from the outside in all around the wok. Never stop stirring, if you are concerned about this have someone stir while you put ingredients in the wok. It will take 2-3 minutes for the onions to start to soften. Do not over-cook. It does no good and you’ll only end up with a soggy veggie mess instead of crispy Moo Shu.

Add Mixture Three – the mushroom and garlic and continue with that folding method of stirring for another 3-4 minutes. After about a minute of this you can reduce the heat to medium-high. The mushrooms will start to brown a bit.

Add Mixture Four – the cabbage, snow peas, carrots, and green onions. Continue with the folding sort of stir, but take care as at first that wok is very full. The cabbage will reduce shortly. Keep this up for about two minutes.

Finally, add the Sauce! And you thought I had forgotten the sauce; give it another whisk before adding to the wok. Simmer and stir until the sauce starts to thicken and coat the veggies. This won’t take long, maybe two or three minutes.

Stir the egg strips into the hot veggie mixture.

How do I serve this thing?

Put the wok on the table (on a very good hot pad) – no need to dirty up another bowl. Just use the two wok spoons to serve.

Set out the jar of Hoisin sauce with a spoon and make sure there are spreading knives at each place setting.

Set out a plate of rinsed and paper towel dried leaf lettuces.

Set out the tortillas.

What to do:

Spread a good amount of sauce on the tortilla, top with a section of leaf lettuce big enough to mostly cover the tortilla. The lettuce serves as a means of keeping the sauce from running straight through the tortilla creating a very soggy mess.

Use the two wooden spoons and place a nice row of stir fry mixture on the lettuce. Roll like you would a burrito or a soft taco and enjoy.

Moo Shu is very good left over, so don’t fuss that the recipe makes a lot. Just take a tortilla, lettuce, and a container of Moo Shu with a dollop of Hoisin to work, heat, and eat.

----------------cut here ------------------------------------------------------------------------------
to print JUST the shopping list, click on the print button, then click to delete all the other sections of the recipe. Then print the list!


3 t garlic (from a jar is fine)
10 large or 20 small lettuce leaves
4 cups cabbage (pre-shredded is fine)
2 cups snow peas
2 cups carrots (pre-shredded in a bag is fine)
2-3 green onions
1 red onion
2 T fresh ginger
1 ½ cup shitake mushrooms
1 tsp honey
3 eggs
20 thin flour tortillas
½ c vegetable stock, low sodium
1 jar Hoisin sauce
2 T plus 1 t soy sauce, low sodium
2 T plus 1 t sesame oil
3 t vegetable or wok oil (peanut oil, vegetable, or grapeseed)
1 T rice wine vinegar
3 tsp cornstarch

Friday, September 7, 2012

Browned Onions and Broccoli

Broccoli is one of those vegetables I tend to serve up in a rather ho-hum way. Nuke or steam with garlic and serve with a few twists of fresh grated cheese. It's what I make when I need an easy green veggie.

Then I saw this fantastic Food and Wine recipe for "caramelized" broccoli. My first thought was "oh yum!", but my second thought was "why didn't they put onions in that?" My third thought was - but that's not really caramelized, it's just browned. This sort of alternative view thinking is why I never just make a recipe as written. Gets me in trouble sometimes, but usually all is well. This was one time when things did not just turn out well, they turned out awesome!

pic taken through steam. :(
Browned Onions and Broccoli

Things to assemble:

2 T extra virgin olive oil
1/2 large onion (your favorite: yellow or sweet, but not red)
1 twist of fresh ground sea salt
2 broccoli crowns selected for beautiful color and nice tight buds
1/2 cup water
3 t garlic, chopped (you can use pre-chopped from a jar or chop it yourself)
1/4 t crushed red pepper flakes
fresh cracked black pepper
Optional: lemon slices

How to Prep Ingredients:

Peel and slice the onion into long strips. Clean and separate the small heads from the crowns of broccoli. Trim off a bit of the stalk, but not all. Leave about an inch or two. Carefully peel off the outer darker green layer of the stalk. Peeling makes the tasty stalk quicker to cook. Slice the broccoli spears in half lengthwise. 

Chop the garlic, and measure all other ingredients. You can put the garlic and crushed red pepper flakes in the same bowl.


In a large skillet (one with a nice tight fitting lid), heat the olive oil over medium heat. I used #6 on my electric burner. Once the oil begins to shimmer, add the onion and a twist of sea salt. Browned or caramelized onions are just about the only thing I salt and then, only just a bit. Allow to saute with minimal stirring until they onions begin to brown. 

Served as a side dish for pasta
Add the broccoli slices and give the whole thing a stir. Then spread out the broccoli so as much as possible sits on the floor of the pan. You might want to smoosh some of the onion off to the side. Cover with the lid and cook for about eight minutes until the parts of the broccoli that touches the skillet turn a lovely dark brown.

Remove the lid and stir. Add the water, garlic, and crushed red pepper flakes. Recover the skillet and steam for approximately five minutes - just til the broccoli is fork tender. If you like softer broccoli, cook it up to seven minutes. Beyond that it will get mooshy, which is similar to smooshy but not so appetizing.

Remove the lid, give the mix a few twists of fresh cracked black pepper and a brief stir. Simmer until the rest of the liquid evaporates.

Serve immediately in a beautiful deeply colored bowl that sets off the lovely colors and textures of the veggies. Set out a plate of quartered lemons on the table - guests may want to squish on a bit of juice. I love the dish with lemon, my husband - not so much. If everyone loves it lemony, add the juice of one lemon to the mixture right before serving.