Roasted Eggplant Sandwiches with Tomato Jam and Tzatziki

I almost like this sandwich better than BLTs with fresh tomatoes from the garden. (Almost). Last winter I found myself craving one often, wishing it were eggplant season.  Wishing it were eggplant season.  Who even does that?

You really need to try this, though.  If you have still have eggplant hanging out in the garden or your CSA box, you should make this. roasted eggplant sandwichThese ingredients don’t really have to be a sandwich.  I like putting them in wraps too, and they’re also nice as part of a middle-eastern-mediterranean-ish salad plate with some olives, tabouleh or falafels.

The important parts of this combination are:

1. roasted or grilled eggplant

2. tomato jam: you can’t skip it. I tried earlier in the summer and it wasn’t the same at all.  My recipe is here but there are lots of others floating around the internet. 

3. tzatziki sauce -or- crumbled goat or feta cheese

4. some baby salad greens and fresh herbs (a few mint leaves are by far the best, but parsley or basil will work too)

Once you have all of these things, just combine them into a sandwich or whatever makes you happy.  I added some sliced red onions and tomatoes this time, but you don’t have to. roasted eggplant plateROASTED EGGPLANT

Ingredients:

  • eggplant
  • olive oil
  • sea salt

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Slice the eggplant into rounds and place them on a cookie sheet.  Drizzle them liberally with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Roast them in the oven until they’re nicely golden brown and cooked through.  You may need to flip the slices midway through cooking, but it kind of depends how thick you want to make them.

TZATZIKI

Cook Time: a couple minutes

Makes: 2 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1  c. plain yogurt
  • 1 c. chopped cucumber
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 2 tbs. apple cider vinegar
  • 4 oz.  soft chevre or feta cheese
  • 1 small shallot, roughly chopped
  • salt and pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a blender or food processer. Puree just until everything is chunky, not completely smooth.  Taste it and season accordingly with salt and pepper.

Canned Pears In Maple Syrup

bartlett pearsI was going to make jam to sell at the farmers market with these pears.  Local bartlett pears are one of my absolute favorite fruits to work with — they’re just so juicy.   So sweet.  I love them.  I started eating a few fresh and then said screw it, I’ve gotta stash away a bunch of these for us.

(I’m still going to make jam with some of them though, don’t worry).

I wish I had 1000 lbs. of them.  I could use every single last pear. canned pearsCANNED PEARS IN MAPLE SYRUP

****NOTE: I updated this recipe (Sept. 5, 2013) adding some sugar instead of the original amount of maple syrup (1 pint).  Smart commenters brought it to my attention that the maple syrup can change the Ph, and even though I think I could fix it with lemon juice, but since I don’t have a Ph tester I’m not 100% sure. *****

Choose pears that are ripe but still firm.  I should have done mine a few days earlier because they didn’t want to hold their shape very well.  I’m sure this would be delicious with a cinnamon stick or some vanilla added in, but I didn’t have either in the pantry right now and was too lazy to go out to the store.

Cook Time: 1 hr.

Makes: 4 quarts

Ingredients:

  • 10 lbs. bartlett pears
  • 4 c. water
  • 1/2 c. good quality maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/4 c. + 1 tbs. lemon juice

First, prepare the pears.  Combine about 6 c. of water with the lemon juice in a nonreactive container. Peel the pears, slice in half, remove the stem, and remove the core with a spoon. Put the prepared halves in the lemon juice bath to keep them from browning.

Prepare boiling water canner, jars and lids.  Drain the pears.

In a nonreactive pot, combine the water, maple syrup, 1 tbs. lemon juice and sugar.  Bring to a simmer and add the pears.  Cook on medium heat for 5 minutes. Gently transfer the pears into the jars with a slotted spoon and ladle the syrup to cover, leaving 1/2″ headspace.  Remove air bubbles with a chopstick and adjust headspace as necessary.  Process in a boiling water bath for 25 minutes, adjusting for altitude as necessary.

Instead of Paying My Bills, I Spent All Afternoon Chopping Cucumbers: Dill Relish Recipe

Last summer I made the recipe dill relish from the Ball Book.  It was pretty delicious.  The original recipe calls to shred the cucumbers with a food processor, though, and I ended up acting like a four year old about it all winter.  (like this: RELISH IS SUPPOSED TO BE LITTLE TINY CUBES OF CUCUMBER.  THE STUFF FROM THE GROCERY STORE IS IN CUBES, NOT SHREDDED.  WHY ISN’T THIS LIKE THAT.)  The other day, I decided that I really, really didn’t want to do any of the important stuff I was supposed to be working on, and that spending the afternoon chopping cucumbers into a 2 mm. dice would be a much more productive use of my time.dill relishI’m pleased to let you know that the work was totally worth it, and this relish is so awesome it makes me want to eat hot dogs every day.  Chopping all these cukes wasn’t as awful as you’d think, either.  If you’re the kind of crazy person who likes to prep giant piles of citrus fruit for marmalade (like me) then this is actually a wonderfully relaxing project.  If you’re normal,  you can definitely just use the food processor instead and it still tastes great.  pickling cucumbersDILL RELISH, adapted from the recipe in the Ball Book of Home Preserving

Brunoise means to cut into a very small dice, between 2 and 4 mm.  (It’s funny, because if you know happen to know what “brunoise” means, you’ll probably notice that I did a really lame job of actually doing it properly.)  Don’t be scared by the fancy word though: the idea is just that you’re cutting the cucumber and onion into teeny pieces.  If you don’t want to, just shred it.

Makes: 14 pints

Cook Time: ha! hours.

Ingredients:

  • 12 lbs. pickling cucumbers, brunoised
  • 2 onions, brunoised
  • 3/4 c. kosher salt
  • 6 c. water
  • 3 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tsp. celery seed
  • 1/4 c. chopped dill fronds and blossoms
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 6 c. white vinegar

Combine the cucumbers, onions, water and salt in a nonreactive container.  Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Prepare boiling water canner, jars and lids.

Drain the cucumber mixture and then rinse it thoroughly with cold water.  Transfer the drained mixture into a large, nonreactive pot. Add the vinegar, turmeric, celery seed, dill and sugar and bring to a boil.  Turn heat to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Ladle the hot relish into hot, clean jars leaving 1/2″ headspace.  Use a wooden chopstick to remove air bubbles and adjust headspace. Process for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath, adjusting for altitude as necessary.

PS: I didn’t remove the air bubbles as well as I should have, and ended up with a couple jars that have way too much headspace.  Don’t skip this step!

Carrot Cake Jam

We’ve been harvesting a lot of carrots this week…carrots and basilAnd even though I really can go through all of them fresh without any problems (carrot soup with coconut and ginger), I made a few jars of things to stash away for later, the most important of which is this carrot cake jam.carrot cake jam It’s kind of a ridiculous recipe; I made it last year on a whim just because I had a ton of carrots and kind of didn’t think much about it at the time, but it’s one of my little brother’s favorite flavors that I make.  He’s crazy about it, so I made more this year.

The original recipe is one of these charming, vaguely retro recipes from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.  It’s got a great color and a surprisingly delicious flavor that does taste vaguely reminiscent of carrot cake.  With six cups of sugar, canned pineapple and powdered pectin all on the ingredient list, though, it was due for a bit of updating. I tried two different ways, one with low-sugar pectin and the other with no pectin in at all (for a looser, less jello-y set on the finished jam).  After tasting them both, I actually really prefer the one with low sugar pectin.   The set is much firmer than I’d ordinarily like, but the longer cook time on the no-pectin version made the whole thing basically just taste like pineapple. (Which is okay, but if that were the plan, I’d rather just make a jam from pineapple without a bunch of other junk in it.)

I almost never buy fruit from the grocery store, but you have to compromise your morals every once in awhile.  Please note the plastic tag attached to the pineapple, a telltale sign of incredibly high quality produce. *ahem* pineapple

If you have a bounty of carrots, you should absolutely give this one a try…. It’s great on a toasted bagel with cream cheese, as an ice cream topping, and as a super unique filling for pb&js.

CARROT CAKE JAM:

Cook Time: an hour or so, if you including washing and grating carrots

Makes: 5 half pint jars

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 c. grated carrots
  • 1 3/4 c. diced fresh pears
  • 2 c. diced fresh pineapple
  • 1 tbs. lemon juice
  • 1 c. water
  • 1/2 c. sugar + 2 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 box of sure-gel low sugar pectin
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 5 cloves

Prepare boiling water canner, jars and lids.

Combine the carrots, pears, pineapple, lemon juice, water and spices in a large, nonreactive pot and bring to a simmer.  Cook for 30 min. on low to soften everything up. In a separate bowl, stir together 1/2 c. sugar and the box of low-sugar pectin. Stir the pectin mixture into the carrot mixture and bring to a full boil.  Quickly stir in the 2 1/2 c. sugar and bring back to a full rolling boil. Boil hard for one minute, stirring to prevent the carrots from sticking, then remove from heat.  Remove the cinnamon stick and discard.  Ladle hot jam into hot, clean jars using 1/4″ headspace.  Process for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude as necessary.

Quick Beef Stroganoff

Earlier this week, the San Francisco chronicle posted an article that claimed that it’s hard to find fresh, affordable food in Mendocino County. It was a ridiculous article, written by someone who ignored all of the local farmers markets which are filled with … um….. fresh, affordable food.  The girls at Eat Mendocino have already written an excellent response to the article, explaining why the Chronicle was completely wrong, so I won’t rehash what they’ve already written.  Their whole conversation made me want to share this beef stroganoff recipe with you.

This whole blog is about cooking with fresh, local, affordable foods, but a lot of the time I make the recipes affordable by making them vegetarian, since a lot of locally sourced meats can be prohibitively expensive. I love eating all this hippie crunchy food, but sometimes it’s nice to have something a little bit more… meat and potatoes.  Maybe you’re cooking for picky eaters, maybe it’s cold out an you want some comfort food, maybe you’ve been slaving away all day in the garden and you’re craving something with protein and carbs. Whatever the occasion, this beef stroganoff is delicious.  Since this recipe makes a flavorful sauce to serve over mashed potatoes or noodles, you really only need a pound of meat to make a big pot of food.  Also, it cooks up in a flash. Also it’s cheap. It’s easily adaptable to different ingredients.  The leftovers (if there are any) make a great lunch the next day. beef stroganoffOh, and I realized after I started writing about this…. it’s basically just a homemade version of hamburger helper in the stroganoff flavor.  Because we like eating classy stuff like that.  beef stroganoff 2There are several ways you can adapt this recipe.  First, the meat: the cut doesn’t really matter. You can use ground beef, which is almost always one of the cheapest meats at the farmers market.  If you use a steak that’s more on the tender side (sirloin, ribeye, strip) keep the cooking time to 30 minutes.  If you want to use stew meat, an add extra cup of stock to the recipe and cook it for an extra hour or more. You can substitute mushrooms for the beef if you want something vegetarian. You can add all kinds of vegetables while you’re browning the beef: shallots, leeks, onions, some chopped swiss chard, peas, mushrooms. Whatever looks good at the farmers market that week will be great.

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. sirloin steak, sliced into thin strips, or 1 lb. ground beef
  • 2 tbs. butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1/4 c. whole wheat flour
  • salt and pepper
  • a big splash of cognac or brandy, if you have it on hand
  • 2 c. beef or vegetable stock
  • 16 oz. sour cream
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • a few sprigs of fresh tarragon (or parsley is fine too)
  • optional add-ins: sliced mushrooms, sliced shallots, peas, chopped spinach, etc.
  • for serving: buttered mashed potatoes or egg noodles

Heat the butter in a large skillet.  Add the steak and garlic and cook for a few minutes on medium-high heat to brown the steak.  (If you want to add extra vegetables, now’s the time).  Season everything with salt and pepper.  Once the steak is browned, add the whole wheat flour and saute everything for another minute or two. Deglaze the pan with a splash of cognac, if you have it.  (If you don’t, it will taste good without it.  Just deglaze the pan with the stock instead). Add the beef stock, sour cream, paprika and tarragon and stir everything together. Turn the heat down to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes.  Serve over buttered egg noodles or mashed potatoes.  We like having this dish with a big green salad or sauteed green beans.

White Nectarine Preserves

A  friend of mine gifted me a box of white nectarines from his farm.  They’re sweet, ripe and juicy, and once we ate as many as we could, we turned the rest into this simple, lovely preserve.  white nectarines

I’ve been playing around with a couple different variations on this recipe.  I think my favorite is spiced with vanilla bean, but I also really enjoy a version with warm pie spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, some ground ginger.  nectarine jamWHITE NECTARINE PRESERVES

(Makes: I forgot to write down how many half pint jars. 7? I think it was 7.)

Cook Time: an hour, plus overnight to macerate the fruit.

Ingredients:

  • 4 1/2 lbs. white nectarines, pits removed and sliced into quarters
  • 2 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 1/2 oz. lemon juice
  • optional: 1 vanilla bean

In a large, nonreactive pot, combine the sliced nectarines, sugar,  and lemon juice.  If you want to add the vanilla bean, scrape the seeds into the fruit mixture and then nestle the pod in with the sliced fruit as well. Cover with saran wrap (right up against the fruit to prevent browning) and refrigerate for around 24 hours.

Bring boiling water canner to a boil and prepare jars and lids.  Cook the jam, stirring to prevent burning, until it gels (click here if you don’t know what I’m talking about) or reaches 220 degrees on a candy thermometer.  About half way through the cooking time, I mashed the fruit up with a potato masher to make it more of a jammy consistency.  You don’t have to; you could leave the fruit in bigger pieces to make it more like a preserve.  Alternatively, run half of the cooked jam through a food mill to remove the skins and really make it like a jam instead of a preserve (thicker, with fewer big chunks of fruit). It’s up to your own personal preference.

Ladle hot jam into hot, clean jars leaving 1/4″ headspace.  Process for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude as necessary.

P.S. You could make this recipe with yellow nectarines too, but you might not need as much lemon juice since they’re more acidic than white nectarines. Taste them and see.

Honey Sweetened Blueberry Butter

I’ve been trying to write some recipes that don’t use refined sugar.  I really don’t like the taste or how it makes me feel after I eat it….  and it seems like there are a lot of other people out there that are on the same page as me.  I don’t like looking at my pantry and seeing all this beautiful fresh fruit I’ve preserved drowned in a ton of sugar.  Organic or not, I don’t feel like I can incorporate it into a healthy diet.  My most recent attempt came out pretty darn good ….

The little market right near where I live has been selling these amazing blueberries from one county over, and even though I don’t usually by fruit at the store, I’ve been buying huge bags of them several times a week.  My favorite way to eat blueberries is with milk and cornflakes, which is boring but insanely delicious.  cereal and berriesMy family used to go to Cape Cod every summer for vacation, which sometimes involved a trip to a local u-pick blueberry farm.  I have such distinct memories of being in our little rental house eating this for breakfast. I loved it then and I love it now!  It’s the perfect way to start off a gorgeous summer day.

The blueberry season is short here in Northern California, so I made this recipe hoping to preserve the flavor of these sweet berries for another few months.  The idea is from the Food In Jars blueberry butter recipe; I just changed the amounts a little and used honey instead of sugar.  Since this is a low-sugar preserve I’m not 100% sure about the shelf life…. I’m going to say that it should be used within three months of canning. blueberry butterI’m sure this would be great in all kinds of tarts and baked goods (it would be epic as filling for a donut) but right now I’m just mixing some with plain yogurt to have for breakfast.  It’s not very exciting to look at, but I feel like it’s an actually real thing I can eat whenever I want and still be healthy, which is incredibly exciting for me. breakfast

BLUEBERRY BUTTER

Makes: 8 half pint jars

Cook time: a few hours, but it’s really easy

Ingredients:

  • 5 lbs. blueberries, washed
  • 1 c. water
  • 2 c. honey
  • zest and juice of 2 lemons

In a large, heavy bottomed pot, bring the honey and water to a simmer.  Stir to melt the honey.  Add the blueberries and keep simmering.  Once they’re soft, puree the mixture with an immersion blender.  Turn the heat to low and cook until it’s thickened (just like making apple butter….) It will need several hours on the stove to get to the right consistency.  Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Once it’s gotten to the right texture, add the lemon juice and zest.

Transfer the blueberry butter to 1/2 pt. jars leaving 1/4″ headspace.  Process in a water bath for 15 minutes.