Sunday, July 29, 2007


We were inspired by the bounty of eggplant this week -- a few Japanese varieties from our CSA, as well as an Udalumpet and a Florida Highbush from our own garden. So, we decided to make a Greek-inspired main dish casserole. For those of you who can appreciate moussaka, this will be a real treat (it's what inspired the dish -- so its resemblance is no accident). Vegetarians can add zucchini and tofu crumbles in place of the lamb for a vegetarian main dish (we'll do that another day, for sure!).

This Greek pasta dish is reminiscent of moussaka
Serves 6-8
2 T olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 T + 1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground allspice
1 T dried oregano ( 2 T fresh, chopped)
Black pepper
¼ cup Italian flatleaf parsley, chopped
28 oz tomatoes, in their own juices
1 lb ground lamb
1 cup red wine
6 T olive oil
6 cups eggplant, cubed (2 medium)
1 medium red pepper, chopped

2 cups milk
½ stick butter (2 oz)
3 small garlic cloves
¼ cup flour
¼ cup feta, crumbled
1 cup Gruyere (Swiss) cheese, grated
¾ cup cottage cheese, drained for 20 minutes
1 tsp nutmeg, ground
5 large eggs

8 oz penne (or other tubular pasta), preferably whole wheat
½ cup dried bread crumbs

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute onion and garlic until soft (about 5-6 minutes). Add ground lamb. Cook until lightly browned. Add red wine and boil until reduced by ½. Add tomatoes. Simmer for 10 minuites. Add cinnamon, allspice, oregano, pepper, salt, and parsley. Simmer for 30 minutes, or until almost all liquid is evaporated.

While sauce is simmering, heat 3 T olive oil in large skillet. Saute eggplant until golden brown, in batches, until all is cooked. Drain on paper towels. Saute red pepper until tender. Set eggplant and pepper aside.

Mix feta, gruyere, and cottage cheese together with nutmeg. Set aside.
Beat eggs with whisk until light yellow and frothy.
Preheat oven to 350ºF

Melt butter with garlic over medium heat. When melted, add flour and stir until golden, about 2 minutes. Add milk ½ cup at a time, stirring until combined after each addition. Bring to a boil. Take off heat. Add cheese to milk mixture. Stir until cheese is melted. Add 1/3 egg mixture to milk mixture. Whisk until incorporated. Then, add remainder of egg mixture. Stir to combine.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain; mix pasta with lamb mixture.

Grease 9x13 baking pan or casserole dish. Add ½ eggplant mixture to pan. Pour lamb/pasta mixture over top. Layer rest of eggplant over top of lamb mixture. Pour egg/milk/cheese mixture over top. Top with bread crumbs.

Bake at 350º for 50-60 minutes, or until custard is set. Allow to sit for 10-15 minutes before serving.

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©BURP! Where Food Happens

Monday, July 16, 2007

Stout Floats

So, we were feeling ambitious after dinner on Friday night. We'd just stuffed our bellies full of delicious grilled Copper River King salmon, creamed spinach, and buttermilk mashed potatoes. But there was still room for a bit of something sweet. Why not make a beer float?

We had a bit of vanilla porter on hand, so we subbed that in for the stout in the recipe. Which seemed like a fairly good idea (vanilla - blackberry - icecream... yum). However, our initial reactions to the bitter-sweet-cool treat was a bit of a mixed bag. No, they didn't blow us out of the water. But they didn't gross us out either. The sweetness of the blackberry brandy and icecream was a very nice contrast for the bitterness of the beer. In fact, the combination seemed to have REAL possibilities.

So, we plan to try them again. This time, with a coffee or chocolate stout.

If you're looking for something truly unique, you've got to try one of these.

Stout Floats
Gourmet, June 2007

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©BURP! Where Food Happens

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Brilliant Beet Risotto

Before I share the recipe for one of the more lovely risottos I've ever made, I have to admit that I was inspired by a six-year old.

It's true. The August 2007 Food & Wine magazine featured a number of prodigious child chefs. One of them, little Alex Donowitz, bowled me over. Not only with his crazy hair (so cute). But also with his thoughts about beets.
Alexander Donowitz, who's been a vegetarian for all of his six years, combined two of his favorite ingredients—beets ("because red is my favorite color")and cheddar cheese—to create this super-creamy, vibrant risotto. "I think I'm the only kid in my class who eats beets," he says. (FOOD &
I loved the idea of putting the raw beets in the food processor so that they could cook right along with the risotto, and I was very intrigued by the cheddar/beet combination. But I'm hopeless at actually following a recipe. So, of course, something had to change. I had to "up" the beet quotient (cuz that's what I do). Risotto MUST have garlic at our house. And we added a bit of horseradish to act as a foil for the sweetness of the beets, and we subbed a locally produced horseradish cheddar to give it a bit of additional kick. It turned out to be a truly fantastic combination -- one that is sure to become a classic at BURP!

Brilliant Beet Risotto

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Monday, July 9, 2007

July CSA Dinner

So, Saturday night we celebrated the BEAUTY and bliss of fresh produce.
How so? you might ask.
By having a CSA dinner with our friends S & N, of course.

This tradition began two springs ago when we took a first big step toward "locavorishness" by subscribing to our local CSA. Rather than tackling an entire box of veggies on our own (which leaves us room in the fridge for gardening and farmers' marketing and such), we decided to split our share with Steph & Nate.

When Steph suggested that we consider hosting celebratory meals with our bounty, we all thought it was a brilliant plan. After all, what could be better than feasting on farm-fresh produce (some of which is literally HOURS from its harvest) with good friends? We couldn't think of much. And so, the CSA dinner was born.

Our first dinner this CSA season consisted of a great salad, fantastic fresh mozzarella skewers with rosemary, beet raita with pita chips, and a fantastic rhubarb crisp for dessert.

Saturday's feast was a bit less "on" insofar as sticking to our CSA box, but it was still pretty decent:

  • Grilled catfish tacos
  • Guacamole
  • Pineapple salsa
  • Chipotle coleslaw (for the fish tacos) -- made with crisp red cabbage
  • Chile-lime marinated yellow squash
  • Grilled corn on the cob
  • Cuban Sidecars (for refreshment)
  • Dessert: Bayless' chocolate pecan pie bars

OK -- so the corn idea might have been a bit premature. And pineapple and avocadoes are pretty far from being "local" fare. But, really, everything was pretty fresh. And really quite fabulous. Despite the (somewhat oppressive heat), we sat outside in the yard, basking in the evening breeze and just enjoying our time together.

And isn't that what it's all about anyhow?

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