Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Eggplant and Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

Fall calls for hot things. Things that are stuffed are even better. Things that are hot, stuffed, and easy are the best.

- 1-2 green bell peppers
- 1 medium eggplant (Italian variety)
- 1 minced shallot or 1/4 minced onion
- 1/2 cup vegetable (or chicken) broth
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 1/2 cup quinoa
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- a handful of roughly chopped parsley
- salt and pepper

The completed filling before being stuffed.
- Preheat your oven to 350.
- Dice the eggplant into 1/2 inch pieces and combine with the shallots in a large frying pan that's been lightly drizzled with olive oil.
- Sautee for five minutes over medium heat, then add 1/4 cup vegetable broth and simmer, covered, until the eggplant is soft.
- Clear and area in the pan and add the pinenuts, allowing them to toast.
- Add quinoa and remaining vegetable broth, stirring everything together. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about five minutes.
- Add parsley, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste.
- Cut pepper(s) in half and remove seeds and pulp. Sprinkle a little salt on the inside walls.
- Spoon the filling into each pepper half, being sure to stuff it all the way in.
- *I didn't have any goat cheese on hand, but this would be delicious with some plain, fresh goat cheese pocketed in the middle and/or crumbled on top.
- Bake in the oven for about half an hour.

This is enough to fill 2-4 pepper halves, depending on their size and how full you want them. If you don't use all if it at once, save it for another meal. The stuffing would also be good as a side with chicken or salmon, or as a cold salad.


- Rori

The Magical Fruit

The finished beans and their emptied shells.

A magical fruit, indeed! (And for more than *that* reason!) Last week at the farmers' market I picked up some fresh shelling beans. I've never cooked fresh beans before and, in fact, had never really noticed them. They can be hard to find, but fresh shelling beans are often available at local markets in late summer and autumn. Out of season, or if you're unable to find them, you can use dried varieties from the grocery store or find all kinds of interesting heirloom varieties from Rancho Gordo (among other sources).

Beans can be so much more than the generic dried pintos available en masse everywhere. They can have distinct flavors and textures and can make some very interesting dishes. The ones I picked up are a variety of cranberry beans. They have bright magenta and white marbled shells. The beans themselves are cream colored with cranberry-colored swirls and roughly the length of a penny.

Shelled beans in the pot ready to cook.

As their name implies, shelling beans need to be shelled. The exteriors are too tough and stringy to eat. When buying them, the appearance of the shells isn't important. They can be pretty beat up and wrinkly shells can even mean the beans are more mature and larger. Depending on their age, the beans can be tender or quite firm. Test one out to see how long you'll need to cook them.
After shelling them, I covered my beans with an inch of water in a small sauce pan. As they were on the firmer side, I simmered them for about a half an hour. They should be creamy inside when they are done; if they are still a little crumbly, they need to cook longer. Interestingly, their crimson swirls fade to the point of nearly vanishing as they cook, leaving them a light beige color.

This time around I went with simplicity and tossed them with half a tablespoon of butter, a teaspoon of lemon juice, some torn up parsley, salt, and pepper. It made a delicious warm lunch on a cool autumn day without being heavy. These beans would also be excellent as a side dish, mixed in a salad, or as an alternative to pasta or other grains. So pick up some beans and give them a try-- and I won't judge you if you sing the song.

- Rori

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Martha's Peach Cornmeal Skillet Cake

The lovely Peach Cornmeal Upside-Down Skillet Cake

Okay, I confess: this recipe is not a Rori original, but instead comes from Martha Stewart. Find the original recipe here. For such a beautiful and delicious cake, it's quite easy to make.

  • 2 medium peaches (I had giant peaches and used just over one)
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 3/4 all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/4 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried lavender (optional, so no need to tear open the sachets in your underwear drawer if you can't find it)
  • 1 stick + 3 tablespoons butter, unsalted (though I used salted for the 3 tbsp)
  • 1 cup sugar (I used a blend of about 2/3 white and 1/3 brown)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (I used light cream because I had it on hand, and it turned out fine, though heavy cream would likely make it a bit more decadent)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

A close-up of the caramelized crust.
Prepping (measuring, chopping, etc.) all of your ingredients ahead of time is always a good idea. With this recipe it is extra helpful, if not essential.
Directions (in my words):
  • Preheat your oven to 350.
  • Slice your peaches, leaving the skin on. I got about 12 slices out of each peach.
  • Heat 3 tbsp butter in a cast iron skillet on medium heat, brushing some along the sides as it melts.
  • When the butter is fully melted, sprinkle 1/4 cup of the sugar evenly around the pan. It will melt and begin to bubble after about three minutes.
  • Quickly but carefully place you peaches in the pan in a decorative manner. Place them as close as you can to each other, even slightly overlapping as they will reduce as they cook. Avoid moving them once placed.
  • Reduce the heat to low and cook for about 10 minutes. The peaches will soften and their juices will be bubbling with the sugar. Remove the pan from the heat when they are done.
  • In a large bowl combine cornmeal, flour, salt, baking powder, and lavender (crushed and/or roughly chopped).
  • Add one stick of softened (room temperature) butter. Beat at high speed for about three minutes. The mix will look crumbly but fluffy.
  • Beat in eggs one at a time until fully blended at medium speed.
  • Add combined cream and vanilla, half at a time, blending at low speed.
  • Drop large spoonfuls over the peach and suger mix in the skillet. Avoid mixing any of the peach liquid in with the batter, as you want it to remain on top to form a nice glaze.
  • Gently spread the batter evenly in the pan, going all the way up to the edge.
  • Put in the oven to bake. Martha recommended 20-22 minutes but mine required about 30. Start checking it after 20, looking for a golden brown color. A knife or toothpick inserted in the middle should come out clean.
  • After the skillet is removed from the oven, let it stand for about ten minutes.
  • Run a knife or spatula around the edge of the cake to make sure it's loose, then quickly flip your cake onto a plate. Give the bottom of the pan a few firm pats to ensure the peaches have come off, then unveil your creation!
Ready to enjoy the fruits (or cakes) of my labor.

It's great served slightly warm, either on its own or with some creamy vanilla ice cream. The true magic of this cake is that it doesn't have to be with peaches-- you can substitute any fruit you might like or that's in season (apples, plums, pears, etc.) and also play with the herbs and spices. I'm thinking blackberries and rosemary next time?

- Rori