Posts Tagged ‘fridge challenge’

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A little lesson. (FARMERS MISO SOUP)

September 19, 2013

ucc_miso

I am a miso lover. I need to have miso soup at least once a week, usually as the precursor to some sushi even though that feels like the lazy way out. Miso paste in general has so much more potential than a few cubes of tofu and some lonely sails of seaweed. By learning a few different (easy!) ways to use it, miso can be a staple in your fridge forever and ever. You, as the owner of a high-quality tub of miso, can reap the many health benefits for just as long.

Since it’s a fermented food, it is important is to avoid boiling miso. High heat will harm the living enzymes that make this a genuine superfood as it will also dull the unique flavors. Use miso to ‘finish’ dishes that you have created rather than adding it when there is still cooking to be done.

Miso to-do list:

-Mix into softened butter to make ‘miso butter’, the best topping for seafood ever.

-Mix with minced garlic and chili paste as a condiment for grilled meat.

-Whisk into salad dressing or marinades.

-Just miso solo in a bit of simple broth.

-I’ve seen people use it in pesto as a substitute for parmesan but…

Below is a hearty soup recipe that uses a bunch of fantastic end-of-summer vegetables, but any mixture of veg would work. Once the soup is off of the stove, dunk a measuring cup into the broth, scooping out about one cup of hot liquid. Drop a few spoonfuls of miso into measuring cup and whisk/stir until it is dissolved. Pour the miso mixture back into the soup pot and adjust to taste. You can simply repeat this process until you have reached the desired amount of umami.

Try potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, parsnips, cabbage, spinach and/or noodles. This recipe can be as elaborate or as simple as you’d like, the main thing is hot (not boiling) liquid*, dissolve miso, enjoy.

FARMERS MISO SOUP

(serves 4-6)

2 quarts stock or water

1/2 cup onion, chopped

1 kohlrabi, peeled and cubed into small chunks

1 celery rib, thinly sliced crosswise

1 cup chopped kale leaves

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 pound tofu, cut into small cubes

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 splash of rice vinegar

a few red pepper flakes

1/4 cup wakame seaweed, soaked in cold water until softened

1/4 cup miso paste (any color)

1/2 carrot

1 inch ginger

chopped chives to garnish

  • Place the stock in a large pot and bring to a gentle boil. Add onion, kohlrabi and celery. Simmer about 10 minutes. 
  • Add kale, garlic and tofu. Cook until all vegetables are tender, about 10 more minutes.
  • Remove from heat. Stir in soy sauce, vinegar and red pepper to season. Taste and adjust. Add wakame.
  • Take one cup of stock out of the pot and place in a bowl or measuring cup. Whisk miso into the hot broth and pour it back into the soup. Taste and adjust.
  • Ladle soup into bowls and using a fine grater (preferably a microplane), grate some carrot and ginger into each soup and sprinkle with chives to garnish.
  • When reheating the soup, warm it but don’t boil. I’ll say it again.

*Make your own stock! I love stock making.

https://upchefcreek.wordpress.com/2011/02/22/elaborations-veggie-dashi/

https://upchefcreek.wordpress.com/2013/04/19/balancing-it-out-alkalizing-broth-2/

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Balancing it out. (ALKALIZING BROTH)

April 19, 2013

broth_quarts

Remember the science lesson about acids and bases in the form of a number line? Seven is neutral, like water, right in the middle of both states. Anything over 7 is a base (alkaline) and anything under is acidic. Our blood, which our body maintains at a pH of 7.35-7.45, is therefore slightly alkaline. The thing is, many of the foods we eat are acid-causing, even some pretty healthy ones.

Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, most grains and legumes in excess and without balancing are not the only things that have the power to make us acidic. Some of our experiences like stress, lack of activity and poor diet choices in general can also be culprits of this undesirable condition. And though we need both acid and alkaline to be in balance, when too much acid is present, the body works overtime to keep the blood in its proper state. Foods that are alkaline*, most fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs, seaweed, miso, olive oil, for example, are not only important for daily functions, but when ingested regularly will more readily balance out the less than perfect moments in our lives.

All that to say, hey! eat your veggies!

Lately I have been making extra effort to do just that by keeping the fridge stocked with beautiful organic produce and cooking lots of healthy dinners. Also trying to keep my fridge from being a graveyard of dead leftovers or, even worse, perfectly good uncooked stuff going to seed. One of the ways I like to stretch my organic grocery bucks to the fullest is by making stock. All of the lovely and delicately aromatic things that make for a good, clear stock (carrot, celery, onion, leek, fennel, thyme) go into freezer bags until I have stockpiled enough to be dumped into a big pot with some water, simmered until a lightly golden stock is born.

A few months ago, while doing a cleanse, I learned about alkalizing vegetable broth. It broke every classic culinary rule for stock-making which advises no leafy greens, no cabbage, no squash, no root vegetables, no radish. Each one of these things said to make the stock cloudy, sulfuric, bitter, etc. but the recipe included all of these things. The product was delicious, had none of the qualities Escoffier warned about. Now I am happily breaking the rules and adding all of this stuff to the freezer bag to create broths that can double as alkalizing tonic. The broth is dark and rich and can stand alone warmed  with a little extra sea salt (also alkalizing). The recommendation is to drink it several times daily. That is a great theory and I enjoyed it when I was eating strictly, but I am more often using the stuff in soups, stews, curries and risotto in lieu of more boring stocks, giving a nutritional boost and extra flavor.

ALKALIZING BROTH

You can really be creative with the vegetables you put in there, this is just a guideline:

1 onion, quartered

(plus shallot, onion, leek or scallion trimmings)

3 carrots

3 celery stalks

2 fennel tops

4 cloves garlic

2 cups green leafy vegetables (kale, chard, collard, beet greens, etc.)

1/4 head of cabbage + the core

peels, trimmings (no seeds) of one (organic) butternut squash

1 sweet potato, large dice

1/2 cup seaweed (I like kombu)

2 cups mushroom stems (or 1 cup dried mushrooms)

1/2 bunch of parsley or cilantro stems with or without leaves

1 cup of radish (with or without tops) -optional

pinch of salt

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

4-5 quarts of water (enough to cover all of the ingredients by a few inches)

  • Place all ingredients in a large pot.
  • Cover with water and bring to a boil.
  • Immediately turn down to a gentle simmer. Cook about 1.5 hours.
  • Strain out the vegetables and save the stock in containers.
  • Freeze what you are not using. Defrost as needed.

stock_bag

Scrap bag! Red cabbage, mushroom, leek, scallion, celery, sometimes chicken bones too.

In culinary school after  pastry classes when we were ingesting sugar all day long, we were told to go home and alkalize with a hot miso soup. Yea! I give it to my kid too, after parties and stuff.

*A proper alkalizing food chart lives here. These sistas are serious!

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Strictly speaking. (BAKED SALMON CROQUETTES)

January 29, 2013

salmoncroq

For a couple of weeks MG and I have rid our diets of sugar, caffeine (Coffee, I miss you), wheat (Bread! I didn’t mean it! Please take me back), dairy, booze, etc. As the 14 days of clean eating were coming to a close I was making up stuff to ease us back into our really fun and slightly decadent reality. The key word is ‘ease’ because I didn’t want all of that abstaining to wind up being in vain. So, for these cute little suckers, I allowed for a dredge of breadcrumbs. Without the dip in the crumbs, this version of the recipe would be all-of-those-things free and full of healthy protein, salmon. I used the canned stuff for the sake of speed cooking but using 1 3/4 cups of freshly cooked salmon flaked with a fork would be a million times better.

This recipe can be seasoned in different ways, scallions, soy, ginger, or with mayo or add an egg, some old bay seasoning, cayenne, chopped herbs, etc. Just make a delicious mixture and form into patties. I left it at easy, threw some cooked brown rice (for sticking power), garlic, shallot and rosemary in the mini chop and mixed it with the fish that I seasoned a little. Simple as bonjour.

salmoncroq_minichop

BAKED SALMON CROQUETTES

(makes 10-12 small croquettes)

1 can of salmon such as Icy Point, about 14 ounces

1 tablespoon dijon mustard

2 tablespoons olive oil

a splash of red wine vinegar

1/3 cup cooked brown rice

1/2 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, or scant teaspoon dried

3 cloves garlic

1 small shallot

salt and pepper to taste

1 cup breadcrumbs

1 tablespoon herbs or spices of choice*

Cooking oil, preferably in spray form.

  • Preheat oven to 400F. Cover a baking sheet in foil and spray (or drizzle) with your favorite cooking oil.
  • Flake the salmon thoroughly and mix in a medium-sized bowl with dijon, oil and vinegar.
  • Place rice, rosemary, garlic and shallots in a food processor until it forms a paste (or finely chop with a knife).
  • Combine the rice mixture with the fish in the bowl. Season well. Set aside.
  • Mix the breadcrumbs with the seasonings of your choice*.
  • Form the salmon mixture into 1/4 cup patties (not too big or they will be very break-y), dredge patties in the deluxe breadcrumbs and place on the prepared sheet pan.
  • After all of the patties are formed and crumbed, spray (or drizzle) the top of each one lightly with oil.
  • Place in the oven and cook as close to the heat source as possible until the desired color is achieved and croquettes are heated through. Flip once, about 8 minutes on each side.

* Here you can use dried herbs or any mix of spices to trick out the breadcrumbs. I used this blend from Penzey’s that I got from my rad sister.

Salmon croquettes are also excellent served on tiny bread to tiny people…

salmoncroq_burger1

And here is something I wrote about Icy Point Salmon back when I used to wear a thumb ring. I really do like this stuff.

icypoint

‘I think we can consider it a ‘whole food’, so much so that the salmon still has its bones! When you open a can of this stuff you are looking straight into a cross section of a beautiful Alaskan salmon. It is steamed in the can this way, bones and all, so that every part of the fish is edible and needs only to be broken up with a fork and used in your favorite recipe. It is a staple in my pantryXX’

The bones are soft and edible. What that looks like:

salmoncroq_icybones

That’s healthy but if it freaks you out, just cook up the fresh salmon. Ça va.
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Side dish. (CUCUMBER APPLE SAUTEE with RAMP BUTTER)

May 17, 2011

MG rides his bike with two saddle bags strapped to each side. When he comes through the door after work and opens them up, an unexpected treat usually comes out. The other day it was a dozen t-shirts, today it was a whole red snapper packed in ice and last week it was a couple of sausages and a nice block of ramp butter from Dickson’s Farmstand. That ramp butter took the prize.

A ramp is a wild baby leek, indigenous to the New York area. Small bulb with a thin leaf stalk, ramps are cute and delicious. Chefs and food writers go hellbent for them during their short appearance in the early spring. A way to prolong their pleasant stay is to blanch them quickly, chop and stir into some softened butter, as the Dickson’s crew did. Store it in the freezer and you can unleash the magic for seasons to come.

MG threw the sausages on the grill and I got to work on a few side dishes with whatever was loitering in the kitchen. There was at least an apple and a cucumber. Though I am not in the habit of cooking cucumbers, I recalled a recipe that comes from Australian superchef Stephanie Alexander in which the cukes are sauted in butter. Having tried it once as written the result was interesting but didn’t really have any pizzaz. I thought that problem could be remedied by adding some more dimension; bright red freckled apple for sweet and sour, ramp butter for its herbaceous onion-likeness to go with the unusual juicy/crisp warm cucumber. It really came together, turning out just perfect to buddy up with grilled food.

CUCUMBER APPLE SAUTEE with RAMP BUTTER

1 crisp red apple such as Fuji or Gala

1 English cucumber

3 tablespoons ramp butter

salt and pepper

  • Chop the apple and cucumber.
  • Heat the 2 tablespoons of ramp butter in a skillet until foamy.
  • Toss in apples and cucumbers and saute vigorously for 7-10 minutes.
  • Taste for desired texture.
  • Season with salt and pepper. Taste again!
  • Spoon remaining ramp butter on top of warm cucumber and apples before serving.
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New woman in town. (VEGETABLE BEAN SALAD)

September 22, 2009

gordo_pkg

Bored in the supermarket Goya section? There is a remedy for that. A Northern California company, Rancho Gordo is here to school us on new-old varieties of beans and celebrate old-fashioned foods native to the Americas (the Beautiful). I, personally, am celebrating beans –the versatility and the benefits. Packed with fiber and protein, beans are naturally low in fat and cholesterol and very helpful in stabilizing blood sugar which is great for America the Diabetic. So these especially intriguing beauties were the star in a recent sort of refrigerator challenge to come up with a dish for an impromptu BBQ using odds and ends that were hanging about. The nice thing being, many of the close-by ingredients were results of our peppery container garden.

gordo_boxes

My goal was a hearty salad that would satisfy those not into meat, but tasty enough to be ladled all around. Adding plenty of veggies help keep a bean salad from being too dense and a super-flavorful dressing will be absorbed by the beans, bringing all of the ingredients together in a slick of deliciousness. I have several bags of Rancho Gordo beans (a great gift!) in my kitchen and I went with the Yellow Indian Woman type because the creamy texture would go great with the peppers’ bite, smallish size would mix well with the chopped veggies and the buttery color was perfect for the bright green, red and orange to come.

In handling beans, I rinse them and do a quick check for stones or dirt clumps. Soaking overnight in a large bowl of cold water is a standard procedure which reduces the cooking time and is said to remove some of the indigestible sugars that are responsible for beans’ bad rap. At the least, a soak will clean off any residue that is clinging to the exterior of the beans. Then into a pot with some fresh water with a small piece of kombu (kelp) seaweed, said to boost the nutrients and digestibility of beans in general.*

It is important to use enough water to keep the beans covered during the entire soaking and cooking times to prevent drying out and/or burning. When making beans for a salad, err on the side of too much water and simply strain the excess. When done they should hold their shape, but mash under a fork. Check in on them frequently while they are cooking, always giving a stir and adding water if necessary. Do not undercook, as that is hard on the gut and will make you hate me and my recipe. Really pay attention as they are getting close to done, it will ensure perfection. It’s hard to set a definite cooking time since all beans are different. Even the same variety of bean can differ in length of cooking due to age. That is another plus of sourcing higher quality beans and legumes, they are most likely fresher than the supermarket kind, since there is no way of knowing how for long Safeway’s beans have been sitting around. Once drained, the finished beans will continue to cook slightly from their internal heat. It is best to let them cool spread out on a sheet pan to minimize the carry-over and have better control over the final texture, a little past al dente, but not yet splitting apart, which is key in a great bean salad.

gordo_vegetables

After cooling slightly, the thick pesto-like dressing can be mixed in and tossed with any veggies you like. The dressing is thickened with roasted garlic and shallots instead of  traditional nuts + cheese, making it suitable for all types of extremists. The beans will double in volume once they are soaked and cooked. A one-pound bag (about 2 cups dry) yields 4-5 cups cooked. The vegetables add another 4 cups, which can easily be stretched or reduced. This recipe makes enough bean salad for about 20 people as a side dish. It keeps well in the fridge (3-4 days) getting more flavorful as it rests. It’s a great snack to have in the icebox and a no brainer to-go lunch.

VEGETABLE + YELLOW INDIAN WOMAN BEAN SALAD

For the Roasted Garlic and Basil Dressing:

6 cloves roasted garlic and 1/2 cup of roasted garlic oil

2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed

1/2 cup fresh dill leaves, packed

1/2 shallot

2 teaspoons dijon mustard

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

pinch red pepper flakes

salt and pepper

For salad:

1 pound Yellow Indian Woman Beans, cooked

1 bell peppers, finely sliced

2 banana peppers, sliced

3 carrots, sliced

1 can hearts of palm, chopped

1 jalapeno, finely minced

  • Add all dressing ingredients to a blender or food processor and puree. Check for seasoning and adjust as needed.
  • Place the cooked beans in a large mixing bowl and toss with the dressing.
  • Add vegetables to the bowl and toss to combine.
  • Check for seasoning one last time. Serve + enjoy.
  • Leftovers may need a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil to come back to life.

gordo_salad

ALSO!! The Roasted Garlic and Basil Dressing can be applied to the TOP 15 Uses for Pesto

* I use this method and beans don’t bother me, that is my only proof that this theory holds water. I think everyone has an opinion on this one, which I am always happy to entertain.

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I love a good fridge challenge. (POTATO HASH)

November 1, 2008

hash_pan

Miss S. and I, in the extremely rare instance that we are home at the same time, like to cook things and pretend to smack each other in the face as a gesture of ‘this is so good, I can’t hold back’. Our favorite theme of the bread we break together is: ‘fridge-challenge’. That is when you create an impromptu meal with the current contents of your fridge because…

a.) they will soon bite the dust (and no one likes to waste food).
b.) you want to show up someone who looks in the fridge and says, ‘there’s nothing to eat’.
c.) it is the time of day when one is soooo hungry that waiting another minute to eat is impossible, so one must make do.

On this fortuitous evening it was a combination of a.) and c.) that inspired our meal.

With our aforementioned CSA box coming in weekly, there is always some interesting seasonal produce hanging around, though this happens to be the time of year when the harvest is like a broken record repeating squash, potatoes, squash, potatoes… I refuse to complain. There are 1001 ways to use squash (more to come, Look out!) and I happen to be quite fond of making potato hash. Not only because of the name:

hash 1 |ha sh |noun a dish of cooked meat cut into small pieces and recooked, 
usually with potatoes.• a finely chopped mixture • a mixture of jumbled incongruous 
things; a mess. verb [ trans. ]1 make (meat or other food) into a hash.
• to chop (meat or vegetables).2 ( hash something out) come to agreement on something 
after lengthy and vigorous discussion,

but because it can be a two-ingredient dish or twenty. And everybody likes it. At least in my experience so far. To make great hash, although easy, requires a few things such as a reliable casserole or skillet, a non-quit spatula and elbow grease. It is a great little number to have down in the mental recipe file. Hash your potatoes with some other exotic root veggies, celery, onions, peppers (let imagination run wild here). Crumble in some cooked meat or drape a slice of cured salmon over… with a carefully poached egg on top, a champion could have his/her breakfast. A perfect party breakfast item or light supper, a hard-earned hash can be made the day before and reheated in the oven. The most memorable hash I can think of (besides the variation we recently concocted with leftover smoked ribs, potatoes, turnips and scallions) is from Kate’s Kitchen in San Franciscoxoxox. Upon eating it, the notion of adding other veggies dawned on me. They sneak parsnips, carrots, celery as well as classic corned beef in there.

The best way to handle a fridge challenge is to pull out your ingredients, see what goes well together and give each one a role. The previous CSA box presented us one last tomato. Summer waved us goodbye as the radiators in our apartment began to hiss and snarl. The tomato got sliced thickly, drizzled with great olive oil (a staple), some white balsamic, a squeeze of a half lemon that was sitting in the fridge, big chunks of freshly ground salt and pepper, and a crumble of feta cheese. First course done! Quick, easy and we were tided until the main event.

hash_plate

Also found in the fridge, a snapshot of autumn; potatoes, an onion, garlic, some turnips and an acorn squash. The squash was halved and roasted*. It was then stuffed with a whole incongruous mess o’ potato hash, which successfully included all the rest of our fridge ingredients with some roasted chicken diced up in there. I put the usual condiments (salt, pepper, hot sauce) out on the table along with a little container of real maple syrup for some reason. I didn’t try drizzling it on until my last few bites of the meal and it was pretty outrageous. Miss S. thought we’d invented a genius dinner with dessert built in. Then she fake-slapped me in the face.

POTATO HASH
1/4 cup canola oil
1 onion, chopped
2 pounds potatoes, scrubbed and chopped into 1 inch pieces
1/2 pound turnips, scrubbed and chopped into 1 inch pieces
1 cup broth or water, plus some extra
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper

  • Heat canola oil in a skillet or casserole (Stainless steel or enamel is best. I do not like to use a non-stick here because you will want to scrape the lovely bits of browned potato from the bottom of the pan. You will!)
  • Toss in the onions, potatoes and turnips. Add some salt and pepper. Allow to cook for several minutes until you can see some of the edges browning. Using advised elbow grease and spatula, scrape browned bits from the bottom and overturn the vegetables so new spots can get brown.
  • Continue this process for about 15 minutes. Add stock or water several times throughout, scraping the bottom each time. Adjust the heat so you get brown, not burn.
  • Add garlic, mix well.
  • Cook hash until potatoes are cooked through, adding more stock, scraping and overturning as needed, about 40 minutes total.
  • Season well. They are potatoes after all and need some help to be fabulous.

(This is just a basic recipe, add additional assorted veggies when adding the potatoes, etc.)

  • Stir in cooked pieces of meat toward the end, leaving enough time to heat them through.

If you want to roast a squash like we did, it couldn’t be easier. Cut your favorite type (butternut, buttercup, acorn, sunshine, kabocha) in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, rub with a little oil and roast at 400F until you can easily pierce the flesh through to the center. Cooking will vary depending on the size of the squash….acorn squash is a smallish variety, it takes about 40 minutes.

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Don’t be a phyllo-phobe. (VEGGIE CHEESE PIE)

October 11, 2008

phyllo_pie2

Back in early spring, I decided to sign up with a CSA organization in my hood. Each week through spring, summer and fall, a ‘local’ farm delivers individual boxes of organic produce to a meeting point where members can pick up their box. Genius! The box’s contents are always a surprise, a little bit of everything that was grown that week.

The restaurant where I cook has a similar routine on a larger scale. We get the majority of our stuff locally, so it is common to have a windfall seasonal item for a short time and then to not see it again for 11 months. The beautiful thing is that we have the opportunity to be creative with stunning produce yet something new shows up before anyone has a chance to get bored… cooks and diners alike. Not to mention how great we feel because we are being so earthy and green.

Right now both in the farm box and at the restaurant, it is raining eggplants. I have never thought of New York as such an eggplant producing region but just take a look in my fridge! Sometimes I think eggplant has a bad rep. My guess is that the skin can be unpleasant when it gets a little old. Peeling helps, but skin is not usually a problem if they are of a small variety or if they are super-fresh. To further avoid bitterness, I like to brown the little suckers in oil with a pinch of salt first, then add them to the recipe.

Oh, and what we’re calling ‘local’, in an agricultural sense, as accepted by the smattering of people I have asked lately is: within a day’s drive. But what if you drink a whole bucket of Ninth Street Espresso and drive for 20 hours straight? Hmmm, I don’t know if that counts, but the definition is kind of loose anyway. The farm that supplies my CSA in NYC happens to be out in Long Island, for example.

In addition to eggplant, still hanging around from last week’s box were cherry tomatoes and red peppers, an early-autumn combo that positively screams Mediterraneannnnnn! Sometimes it is difficult to keep up and to cook everything in the box before it bites the dust, but I say ‘no vegetable left behind’ and try to use up as much as I can in each dish. To emphasize the vibe that was radiating from the veggie drawer, I decided to pick up some frozen phyllo dough and feta cheese. It’s on!

phyllo_filling

I love working with phyllo sheets, especially when making tiny little hors d’oeuvre triangles or petit stuffed pastry cigars. But for dinner’s sake, there is an easy way to use it without needing a cocktail to go with. We’ll use a technique for making pitta, or savory stuffed pie, learned right at the source, in Greece! As an assistant culinary-tour guide to chef Aglaia Kremezi on the island of Kea (can you say par-a-dise?), I helped to make these party pies stuffed with meat or veggies or cheese or all that. What I mean by party pie is that you take any baking dish, layer a few sheets of phyllo in the bottom (oiling them as we go), lay down whatever your heart wants the pie to be filled with and drop a few more sheets on top. Bake, cut up, pour wine, listen to the goat bells and enjoy!

The recipe looks long, but I am being detailed with the process (phinicky phyllo!) so you can get it down and eventually incorporate the fillings of your choice. I’m warning you, unless you really want to learn to use this stuff, it’s a detailed read. The payoff is, phyllo can be stuffed in an endless assortment of shapes with savory or sweet flavors. It is pretty sure that if your filling tastes good, your phyllo-creation will be a success.

I’ll break it down to the top three rules to remember:

  1. let the dough thaw completely before you unroll it (or else it will break)
  2. always keep it covered once you have opened the package (or else it will dry up in a blink)
  3. grease in between every layer with melted butter and/or olive oil, especially the top (so that it is golden, crispy and light when you bake it)

Follow these guidelines and phyllo will always be your friend.

VEGGIE-CHEESE PIE
(Partyropita)
Hold the phone! I take it back. This veggie filling can be used in plenty of ways on its own! Try it over pasta or with polenta or rice, as a side dish to grilled meats, or you can dump a can of chick peas in there, get creative…

1 pound eggplant, peeled and cut into rounds (1/4 inch thick)
1/3 cup canola
2 red bell peppers, sliced into strips
1 large shallot, minced
1 healthy splash of red or white wine (1/3-1/2 cup)
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
8 sheets phyllo dough, defrosted according to package instructions
1/3 cup olive oil
salt and pepper

Make filling:

  • Heat canola oil in a large skillet.
  • Add eggplant rounds and two pinches of salt. Saute until most are lightly browned. (Add a few extra drops of oil if needed, eggplants are like sponges!)
  • Remove slices from the pan with a slotted spoon, leaving the oil behind.
  • Let cool on a paper towel.
  • Add peppers and shallots to the hot oil and saute for one minute.
  • Carefully add the splash of wine and scrape browned bits from the bottom of your pan (that is deglazing you little chef you!!)
  • It is now safe to add the garlic with out the threat of burning it.
  • Add the tomatoes to the pan and continue to cook the mixture until the tomatoes collapse and split, veggies are soft and almost all of the liquid is gone. Stir occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Set mixture aside until showtime.

Prepare pie:

  • Preheat oven to 375F degrees
  • After you have thawed your phyllo, it should unroll easily. Lay the stack of sheets out flat and cover them with plastic wrap and a damp towel.
  • Place olive oil in a small bowl, and get your pastry brush ready (if you dont have a brush, my brilliant friend once dipped a folded up paper towel in the oil and lightly, quickly spread it over the phyllo…cooking MacGyver-style).
  • Paint the bottom of your chosen baking dish with a thin layer of olive oil (I used a 9-inch round pan, but square is cool too).
  • Carefully lift plastic wrap and towel from phyllo sheets and place one sheet on your work surface. Cover the unused sheets again!!
  • Paint the entire sheet with oil and place it in the bottom of the oiled baking dish.
  • Remove a second sheet (cover the stack!) and paint it entirely with oil.
  • Place it over the first sheet. Do this two more times. In a round pan, I put each sheet down in a different direction so it hangs over the sides of the dish. The goal is to have a stack of four greased sheets, with a little overhang. If you need to use more to cover the bottom of your baking pan, go for it. Do not worry about rips, just keep layering. You can also cut sheets to be the size you need. Even if it appears messy, it will still look great once baked…it is very forgiving.
  • On top of the bottom ‘crust’, place an even layer of eggplant rounds. On top of the eggplant, spread tomatoes/pepper mixture evenly.
  • Sprinkle feta over veggies, pressing a little bit to get it all slightly compacted and even.
  • To make the top layer of crust, do the exact same thing. One phyllo sheet at a time, oiled, in four layers until it is completely covered. The overhanging parts can be tucked into the edges of the pan. Again, it is going to look great baked.
  • Brush the top of the pie with oil and gently make four slits in the dough (about two inches each).
  • Bake for 45 minutes or until golden and crisp.
  • Cool slightly, slice and serve.

Hey! Let me know how yers turns out…