Monday, February 20, 2017

Olive Tapenade

Olive tapenade is a fab dish to make when you are having guests or need to make something to schlep to a gig offsite. Of course the fact that not everyone grooves on olives could jack up this plan. So make this if you really know your audience.

Since the Jersey Girl comes from a bunch of Italianos, you can bet your bottom dollar that my fam digs the olive tapenade and will hunt you down for the recipe and ask about it over and over and over again. The recipe comes from Debi Mazar and her Tuscan farmer chef husband Gabriele Corcos. I love it because I get to use my mortar and pestle. And the fresh parsley and lemon juice really brighten it all up. I serve it with sliced tomatoes, goat cheese and toasted bread or crackers. 

Pitting olives isn't exactly the most glammest of job. In fact, it's the pits. Ba dum dum. In case you don't know how to do it: Gently push down firmly on a back of a knife placed over a whole olive. The pit will push out of the olive. Consequently, it will probably roll onto the floor or all over the counter making an oily mess and prompting a stream of profanity. So have wine and your swear jar on hand. And maybe just buy pitted olives.

I love the mix of green and black olives in this. The colors and deep flavors are gorgeous up against lovely tomatoes and soft goat cheese.

Olive Tapenade
From "Extra Virgin"
By Gabriele Corcos and Debi Mazar

2 anchovy filets
1 garlic clove, smashed
1 cup black Nostraline olives, pitted and roughly chopped
1 cup green Sicilian olives, pitted and roughly chopped
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/2 Tbsp. capers, rinsed and chopped
Toasted country bread slices, rubbed with raw garlic, for serving
1 heirloom tomato, sliced, for serving

Mash the anchovies with the garlic in  a mortar and pestle, then mix well with the chopped olives. Combine with the 1/2 cup olive oil, the lemon juice, parsley and capers.

Spread the tapenade on the garlic rubbed toasts. Drizzle with olive oil and top with a slice of beautiful heirloom tomato.

Please note: The Jersey Girl serves this with goat cheese as well.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Crackalicious Onion Dip

I'm just gonna tell you straight away: Get  your extra crunches in. Exercise at least an hour every day. Drink a vat of detox water. And eat as much as your heart desires of this insane in the membrane Pan-Fried Onion Dip.

Seriously. OMG. Seriously.

I don't even like chips.

Or onion dip.

I mean skeeve.

But the next time you have a party. Make this.

I'm sure you're like: Bitch, please. Where was this two weeks ago for the freakin' Super Bowl?

Yeah. I know I suck. Maybe you can get it in for those riveting World Cup qualifier games. Or March Madness. That's big, right? Right?!

So the ratio of real onions to the trifecta of  totally fattening clog-your-artery ingredients - mayo, cream cheese, sour cream  - is like 3 to 1. I believe. I told myself. I really don't know. But whatever. That's what it looked like. And, oh right: You cook the onions in vegetable oil AND four tablespoons of butter. But, I mean who's counting?

This is a Barefoot Contessa recipe. So you know it's good. And she does not give a flying fig if this dip is healthy. And well, it's not!

This is more time consuming than opening a packet of tan chemicals labeled Onion Dip Mix and dumping it into a container of sour cream. But it so worth it. Your guests will love. Trust.

Pan-Fried Onion DipFrom the Barefoot Contessa CookbookBy Ina Garten

2 large yellow onions.
4 tablespoons unsalted butter.
1/4 cup vegetable oil.
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper.
1 teaspoon kosher salt.
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature.
1/2 cup sour cream.
1/2 cup good mayonaisse

Cut the onions in half and then slice them into 1/8-inch thick half-rounds. (You will have about 3 cups of onions.) Heat the butter and oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions, cayenne, salt, and pepper and saute for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 more minutes until the onions are browned and caramelized. Allow the onions to cool.
Place the cream cheese, sour cream and mayonnaise in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat until smooth. Add the onions and mix well. Taste for seasonings. Serve at room temperature.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Marinated Eggplant

It seems many peeps like to get in and get out of the kitchen as fast as they can when conjuring up some eats for the day.  The Jersey Girl, on the other hand, looks forward longingly to those days that I can master a dish that took quite a bit of time, much preparation and above all patience. This is how I set my sights on creating some lovely Marinated Eggplant. It most definitely is not to be rushed.

As is often the case when I make something that is multi-stepped and requires some waiting around, timing things just right and a cooling off period, I so wanted to ring up my Mommom and tell her all about my culinary adventure, hoping to pop by and give her a taste. But that experience in my cooking accomplishments has come and gone. Mommom passed away about a year ago.

She made an amazing marinated eggplant. And I guess that's why it's on my mind. Approaching the anniversary of her death, I can't help but think about the unforgettable dishes she has made throughout the many years of her cooking for all of us.

I don't have a copy of my grandmother's marinated eggplant. I don't really know if she had one. She often stored culinary blueprints in the corners of her brilliant mind with no tangible documentation save for the finished delicious product.

But I tried to replicate it as best I could with this Poached Eggplant with Vinegar, Garlic and Mint recipe by Lidia Bastianich. I used basil instead of mint. I couldn't get my hands on nice mint at the time. I know this isn't peak eggplant season, but I wanted to give it a try before summer hits so I know what I'm doing when I find myself with boatloads of eggplant. (My students, family and friends often bestow me with vast quantities of produce. A fact of life if you live in South Jersey.)

This if magnifico on just really fresh Italian bread. I'm sure it would rock with some grilled meats or swordfish. And of course a wonderful glass or bottle of vino. I know I did my Mommom proud with this one.

Poached Eggplant with Vinegar, Garlic and Mint

Serves 6 or more as a side dish; 12 or more as an antipasto
By Lidia Bastianich
From Lidia's Family Table

For Poaching
2 1/4 pounds small, firm eggplants (preferably 6 to 8 ounces each)
2 cups red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar or cider vinegar

For Marinating
1/2 teaspoon salt
15 to 20 small fresh mint leaves, shredded
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

Recommended Equipment
An 8-quart pot or saucepan for poaching
A flat baking sheet or platter for cooling the eggplant

Prepping and Poaching the Eggplant
Trim the stem and bottom (blossom) ends of the eggplants. Slice the eggplant in half lengthwise, then slice each half into wedges, about 1 1/2 inches wide on the outside (peel side). You should have thirty or more wedges.

Pour the vinegar and 20 cups water into the pot, cover and heat quickly until boiling. Drop in all the eggplant slices, cover and return the liquid to the boil rapidly, then set the cover ajar and adjust the heat so it's a moderate boil.

Push the eggplant under the surface frequently, shifting the pieces around a bit so they all poach evenly. After about 10 minutes, reduce the heat so the liquid is perking gently and won't break up the softening wedges. Cook for a total of 15 to 20 minutes, until the flesh of the eggplant appears completely translucent - any opaque streaks means it is not cooked through. Don't cook any longer than necessary; as soon as they are done, turn off the heat and carefully lift the wedges out of the liquid with a wide, perforated spatula or strainer - let the liquid drain off briefly - and lay them on the baking sheet. Spread the slices apart from each other in one layer and let them cool for a few minutes.

Marinating the Eggplant

 Using a paring knife, cut out the stuck-together mass of seeds on each slice and discard, taking care not to tear the flesh; don't worry if a few seeds are left.

As you seed them, lay a third of the wedges in the small gratin dish in one layer, and top them with the seasonings; sprinkle on a third of the salt and a third of the mint-leaf shreds, scatter a third of the garlic slices, and drizzle a third of the oil all over. Arrange and season two more layers of eggplant in the same way.

Marinate the eggplant for about an hour at room temperature before serving or using in a dish (though they will be tasty in 30 minutes if you need them sooner).

If you are making this ahead for serving the next day, seal the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate; remove at least an hour before using so it comes to room temperature. To keep after the second day, remove the garlic slices from the dish, wrap and refrigerate; use within a week.

Please note: The Jersey Girl used basil instead of mint.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Spinach Lentil Soup

If you are trying to feel svelte post Super Bowl he-man fat-filled food, give this Lentil Spinach Soup a try.

It's totally vegetarian. It's packed with many veggies and you can freeze half of it when your husband and son refuse to eat any.

I found the recipe on Pinterest. I added chopped celery because I felt like it. And I used one gigantic carrot instead of three carrots as listed.

Also, I wholeheartedly support topping a bowl of this deliciousness with some feta because when I detox I don't REALLY detox. Wine and cheese are pretty much always a part of my day. If that's wrong I don't want to be right. Feta is seriously good on top. For reals.

The colors of this soup are just so pretty. It is sure to brighten up any day.


Lentil Spinach Soup

By The Garden Grazer
Serves 6-8

1 onion
3 carrots
4-5 cloves garlic
2 cups dry lentils (green or brown)
15 oz. can diced tomatoes (or fresh)
4 cups vegetable broth
3 cups water
4-5 oz. spinach
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1/4 tsp. salt, more to taste
Optional: potato is great in this too!

Dice onion and carrot.
In a large stockpot over medium heat, saute onion and carrot for about 7 minutes.
Meanwhile, mince garlic and rinse lentils.
Add garlic, cumin, paprika, and salt to stockpot. Saute 1 minute.
Add broth, water, tomatoes, and lentils.
Increase heat and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 30 minutes or until lentils are tender.
Meanwhile, roughly chop spinach.
Add spinach during last couple minutes of cooking.
Salt to taste.