• Grilled Eggplant With Salsa Verde (And A One Lovely Blog Award!)

    Grilled eggplant with salsa verde.

    Recipe below, but please read on..

    We recently received a nomination for the One Lovely Blog award from our friend Erin at Erin’s DC Kitchen. We are big fans of Erin’s take on simple, tasty food and the overall positive spirit of her blog. Check out her site, it will be a pleasant visit. Thanks Erin!

    So now we must pass the award along to one lovely blogger and tell you seven things about ourselves (not sure there is much left, but we will try..;-). As for the nomination, we nominate Cooking in Sens, a blog about cooking and life in Burgundy. If we cook and take photos half as good, we would be thrilled. We love the blog and have made a few of the recipes with great success. Please check them out.

    So here are seven more things about us:

    1. We do read cookbooks for fun. And our kids are starting as well. Now we need to put them to work.
    2. As noted before, we have less success with zucchini than we should. Somewhat embarrassing.
    3. We buy too much kitchen gear, but are getting better…a little. Sort of. Maybe.
    4. Sometimes we cook simple food because we don’t want extra dishes.
    5. Once we got to 40, wine started giving us the occasional headache. Cocktails and beer took over at the farm.
    6. Sometimes there are so many gophers we (I) feel like Bill Murray in Caddyshack (and want to “solve” the problem with similar measures).
    7. We can’t wait for tomatoes and fresh corn…like it really bothers us it’s not here yet.

    Now back to cooking. The Grilled Eggplant with Salsa Verde recipe is a simple one, but worth sharing simply because it answers the question of what to do with eggplant. Such a beautiful vegetable (technically a berry, btw), but often many cooks just put it in Eggplant Parmesan or Baba Ghanoush. Both great dishes, but we like quick preparations and grilling the eggplant does the trick. As for extra flavor, salsa verde packs a big punch from the herbs and oil. It is great on many dishes and we use it often on fish, like this dish. But it is great on almost any grilled vegetable.

    Just a few ingredients for the eggplant.

    Make your salsa verde and slice the eggplant.

    Brush oil on the eggplant, sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook on a medium grill.

    Assembling and cooking this dish is as simple as it gets.  Most of the work with salsa verde is in chopping the herbs and then adding the oil and other ingredients. For the eggplant, simply slice it lengthwise into 1/4 inch slices and brush with olive oil and then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook on a medium grill until browned on the outside and soft in the center. The temperature here is key, if the fire is too hot the outside will burn before the center is soft. Lower the heat a bit and take your time. A grill pan indoors will also work, again use medium heat and take your time. You will still need less than 10 minutes. And then you can enjoy one lovely dish.

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  • Sushi Balls: Sushi At Home

    Sushi balls. Fun sushi at home.

    When we started writing this blog, one of the promises we made ourselves was to use the blog as motivation to cook new things at home. And so far we are making progress, but mostly with new tools like sous-vide and using “molecular gastronomy” ingredients in baking. But the next step was for us to explore new cuisines, and we went right for Japan.

    We love Japanese food and have a favorite local sushi bar and are even members in a Sake tasting club (great fun), but rarely cook anything other than tempura at home. But we decided that needed to change. So we bought Debra Samuels’ “My Japanese Table”, a cookbook with Japanese recipes adapted for the American kitchen. Samuels is a well-regarded food writer for the Boston Globe and lived /cooked in Japan for ten years, so we took the plunge. So far the cookbook is a good read, with plenty of simple recipes for Japanese basics like teriyaki and tempura. But we know what we wanted to do at home, sushi. And this recipe is why we bought the cookbook. Sushi balls are very pretty sushi that you can make at home. And its fun…really.

    Smoked salmon, salmon roe, seared ahi, shrimp, cucumber and shiitake mushroom.

    Usually the big issue with making sushi at home is actually constructing the rolls. Sushi rice is super-sticky and the shaping tools are uncommon for most home cooks. Without constant practice, home sushi can look like a train wreck. And while the flavor of the sushi can be good, the presentation is a big part of the dish. One way to handle this challenge is to simply prepare the rice and ingredients and then present them with nori as a buffet for hand-rolls. But with Sushi balls, anyone can make an attractive individual piece of sushi. You can even have fun and experiment with presentation.

    The trick is to simply place the fish or veggie on a square of plastic wrap, then place a tablespoon or so of rice on top (be sure to keep your hands moist with water when handling the rice).  Then bring up all the corners of the plastic wrap and twist tightly into a ball. When it unwinds, you have a well-shaped sushi ball. It only takes a few tries to get the hang of it, and then you can experiment with different combinations of ingredients. Samuels suggests cooked shrimp, lightly salted cucumbers and smoked salmon. We added some seared ahi, salmon roe and browned shiitake mushrooms. Cooked crab or scallops would also be very good additions. But feel free to experiment based on taste and budget (and this is an inexpensive dish).

    Rinse the rice and drain.

    Ingredients for Sushi-zu seasoning

    Cooked rice, sprinkled with Sushi-zu seasoning.

    Now that shaping the sushi is less of a challenge, the real effort goes in making the sushi rice. While in sushi bars “mastering” the rice can take years, it is something you can do well at home- on the first try. The trick is to buy the correct rice and follow all of the steps. For the rice you need short grain japonica rice, which is available in most supermarkets. Don’t substitute long grain rice. As for the steps, you must rinse the rice and then either soak it for cooking or use a rice cooker- the recipe deals with both. While the rice is cooking you make the Sushi-zu seasoning of rice vinegar, sugar, salt and mirin. When the rice finishes cooking, you place it in a bowl and then gently sprinkle and mix the Sushi-zu seasoning with the rice. Then fan the rice to cool it down. The rice should stick together but not be mashed or “gluey”.  But if you use the right rice and follow each step you will get consistent, tasty, results.

    Slice cucumbers, sprinkle with salt, wait for 5 minutes and drain. Done. Continue reading