There’s not been a lot of food posting lately–My husband was whisked away to California last week–and I mean that quite literally. (No, he’s not a spy; but he was told he needed to go to California and was on a plane two hours later, and he “didn’t know when he was going to be back”!). Oh, and he took the computer.
I’m not the most motivated to cook for myself at all times–I fall back on eggs scrambled with whatever vegetable I am trying to use up, plain Greek yogurt with jam, and salad. Usually several handfuls of cereal as well (urgh!).
But I also hate the idea of letting food go bad (it’s a battle I am only ever barely on the winning side of but I keep waging it with higher hopes for the future). Surveying the fridge when I realized that the next CSA delivery was imminent, I noticed an eggplant and green beans that were starting to lose their perk. I love eggplant but didin’t want to get into one of those long drawn out procedures of salting of the eggplant, squeezing out the moisture, and only then cooking it… (It’s not hard, but not something you want to do on a weeknight if you are getting a late start on things). Plus there wasn’t much else in the house to mix it with–the eggplant would have to stand on its own. I leafed through Mark Bittman and decided on making a dip–all it really needed was eggplant and condiments easily on hand.
It’s all pretty simple: I roasted it–just plop the whole eggplant on a baking sheet (no other prep required) and bake at 400F for about 45 minutes to an hour. You should see the eggplant collapse when it’s done. I didn’t, but then I prodded it and the purple-black skin folded in on itself. Since it’s soft after baking, you just scoop it out and mix in the seasonings–no pureeing needed! (Makes up for the long baking time too–once that’s done you’re nearly there!) I added olive oil, parsley, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and parmesan cheese. Mark Bittman suggests 1/2 cup of cheese. I eyeballed it and while I think it was perfect that night, the next day the cheese taste was almost too strong–I wonder if it’s one of those flavors that intensifies with time, (though I didn’t think parmesan was one of those ingredients).
The nice thing about this is, it’s pretty loosey-goosey and you can add whatever you want. For example, tahini will give you a baba-ghanoush type dip, you can add whatever herbs you like, leave out the cheese (ahem, Karen during Lent), whatever. You could roast the garlic along with the eggplant, and it would also be “pre-pureed” for you to mix in to the dip. I think you’d want to keep the olive oil and salt no matter what (flavor and texture!) but the rest is up to you! Since it’s something I can practically memorize, the important thing is I won’t have to look at a cookbook to do it. Anything I can make “off the top of my head” makes me very happy.
I then followed a Marcella Hazan recipe for the green beans. Also very easy. Marinate vinegar, oregano (I think, but you get the idea), salt, and onion for 5 minutes. Add some garlic as well and some olive oil. Briefly boil the beans until they are just tender, drain, and mix into the dressing. “Marcella says” that hot beans absorb the flavors better than cooled ones, so dump them right in. Then you are supposed to let them sit for an hour so the beans can absorb the dressing. I stirred frequently during this marinating process to make sure I got the beans nicely coated. (As you can imagine, you don’t use that much dressing–beans swimming in oil don’t sound all that appetizing, nor would you feel quite so virtuous about eating them). The fresh bright green color of the beans fades a little during the marinating process (to that somewhat unappetizing color of overcooked beans, but I promise they aren’t!). Fear not, they are still quite tasty. I’m not one to get too excited over green beans so the fact that I liked this enough to blog about says a lot! (Think about those glum, tired-looking green beans served in cafeterias or in some flavorless salad–if you know waht I’m talking about, you know why it’s not the most exciting thing to have as a featured guest on your dinner plate. But blame the preparation, not the poor green bean! The CSA origins don’t hurt either–I’m sure that was an important reason they tasted so good.)
Together with my eggplant (which is a well known “meat substitute”) I really felt like I had a well-rounded meal. Of course, I still had my yogurt and jam for dessert.
Oh and my husband? He’s back now.